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Panther Valley area becomes Blueprint Community

Four towns that comprise the Panther Valley have become the first regional community to be approved as a Blueprint Community.

On Wednesday, Nesquehoning Borough Council signed the resolution approving its participation in the 10-year program. The borough was the last of the four towns - with Summit Hill, Lansford and Coaldale - to sign the resolution.

Members of other boroughs, as well as state Sen. Dave Argall’s office were on hand at Nesquehoning’s monthly meeting to make the official announcement.

Argall addressed the officials and audience, congratulating them for becoming the first and only regional Blueprint Community in all of Eastern Pennsylvania.

He noted that the other participants are neighborhoods, like White Haven, which was announced as a Blueprint Community on Tuesday, as well as larger communities.

“You are the only one that represents an entire school district with similar goals to breath new life into Nesquehoning, Coaldale, Lansford and Summit Hill,” Argall said.

The Blueprint Communities Program was started by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh in 2005 as a way to help revitalize communities in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Argall pointed out that Tamaqua previously served as a Blueprint Community and had success in revitalizing the area in the downtown business district, some much needed housing and more.

“In some of the neighborhoods, when you drive down the street, you can really see the difference,” he said. “The best news I think is that this is not just a one time thing. It’s a 10-year program for all four Panther Valley communities.”

Some communities have used the program to develop tourism, create better housing options, support local businesses and redevelop historic buildings.

“That sounds exactly like what a lot of the Panther Valley communities have been talking to me about,” Argall said. “You will now have the ability to work with some real pros and develop more plans and the best part will be to connect to resources to make good things happen and to develop partnerships and turn these visions into realities.”

The four towns have already been looking at ways to revitalize, such as the train station in Lansford, the Summit Hill-Lansford-Coaldale Sewer Authority infrastructure and the private industry being developed in Nesquehoning.

“Already a lot of good things are happening here,” Argall said. “ ... Today is really an important next step in the long road of breathing new life into each of these four communities.”

Abbie and Joe Guardiani, members of the Blueprint Community team from Nesquehoning, said that this is something that will be good for the communities.

“The simplest thing I can say is with this team, there is no I or me,” Abbie Guardiani said. “There is only us and we. That is how we roll and that’s how we’re going to roll. It is a Panther Valley team plan and we are all going to work together to do our absolute best to make some contribution.”

She called the plan that will be created over the next 18 months during the extensive training sessions will be a “road map” to help lead the communities to better changes.

“We hope to make big changes for all of the Panther Valley,” she said.

Nesquehoning officials then welcomed and introduced the other town officials in attendance who are making up the committee. They included Dave Wargo and Joe Weber of Summit Hill Borough Council; Bruce Markovich of Lansford Borough Council; Kathy Henderson of Carbon County Economic Development Corp.; Gino DeGiosio, vice president of commercial lending at Jim Thorpe Neighborhood Bank; Jesse Walck, business manager for Panther Valley School District; Joe Bennett, developer; Eric Ramirez of Coaldale; and members of Argall’s and state Rep. Doyle Heffley’s staffs.

DeGiosio said that JTNB is part of the federal program.

The four communities joined forces to apply for this designation in November and a site visit from officials for the program visited the four towns in December.

The successful inclusion into the program now opens the door for the towns to utilize resources to create a plan and leverage public and private funding that has been earmarked for the program.

Members of one of the newest Blueprint Communities include the four towns of the Panther Valley. At Wednesday's Nesquehoning Borough Council meeting, representatives gathered to make the official announcement. Front, from left, are state Sen. David Argall; Nesquehoning Councilwoman Lois Kuba; Kathy Henderson of Carbon County Economic Development Corp.; Abbie Guardiani, Nesquehoning; and Christine Verdier, Argall's chief of staff. Back, Lansford Councilman Bruce Markovich; Summit Hill Councilman Joe Weber; Joe Guardiani, Nesquehoning; Summit Hill Council President Dave Wargo; and Gino DeGiosio, vice president of commercial lending at Jim Thorpe Neighborhood Bank. AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS