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Smart Growth Partnership Impact, Background, Needs and Officer Statements

Date: 10/1/2012

Impact Statement

The Smart Growth Partnership (SGP) has excelled as a convener of stakeholders and resources, and as a community advisor providing education and technical assistance to organizations such as WEDIG, DARCee, PEC, LHCC, LHCLI, SPC, VIP/FLAG, Trafford CDC, CommuteINFO Advisory Committee, and in municipalities such as Murrysville, Rostraver, Irwin, Trafford, Jeannette, New Stanton, New Kensington, Allegheny Township, and Greensburg. 

Smart Growth Partners work directly with multiple townships, municipalities and county agencies.

Marcellus education via a Penn State Extension webinar series and small group presentations have reached more than 35,000 program participants. Economic Exchange Day and Conservation Camp reached more than 150 middle and high school youth and community leaders each year.

SGP leads collaboration with Pitt-Greensburg and with Indiana University of PA (IUP) Dept. of Geography faculty and students to provide services in several communities. Pilot examples are GIS projects for the Jeannette Redevelopment Authority, a design project for the City of Latrobe, and Community Visioning Projects in New Stanton and New Kensington. In Jeannette and Mount Pleasant, data was gathered by class project students and summer interns. A series of GIS maps of the community will be used in future planning by the cities, community leaders, and their redevelopment/community development authorities and revitalization organizations.

The City of  Latrobe wants to be known as the "Smart Growth" model city for Westmoreland County by creating a more inviting and walkable downtown, and Smart Grwoth Partnership assistance there continues.

The partnership has also been engaged with with the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport on planning for the future and sustainablilty of not only the airport facilities, but also the communities and transportation systems that surround it.

As a direct result of SGP assistance. five municipalities in the WEDIG area are focusing on adding a climbing lane to Route 356 and studying the accompanying land use implications, as well as looking at implementing a number of Quality of Life community development projects.

Background Statement

The Smart Growth Partnership was founded in 2001 as a part of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. It was founded by a group of Westmoreland County leaders who shared a concern about poorly planned community growth in Westmoreland County suburban areas and the negative consequences of urban decline in the county’s core communities.

In June 2001, the partnership hired its first Executive Director, a community planner with experience in county, comprehensive and transportation planning. In 2002, SGP formed a partnership with the Westmoreland County Penn State Cooperative Extension to share a full-time community development educator.   As a part of a transition from the University of Pittsburgh to the Penn State Extension in 2008, the SGP incorporated and applied to the Internal Revenue Service for 501(c)3 non-profit tax exempt status.  Due to the overall declining economy, in mid-2011 the Partnership moved away from full-time staffing to staffing on an as-needed basis. 

Staffing a unique operation like the Smart Growth Partnership (SGP) requires a multi-disciplinary team approach. The SGP staff takes a holistic approach to community development and revitalization, engaging in all phases of development - education, visioning, planning, design and implementation. Beyond services provided by staff, the SGP leverages resources of partners, volunteers, collaborators, and sometimes utilizes the services of professional consultants.   SGP university partner faculty members, through focused class projects and student internships, are frequently engaged in community project development and implementation.

Community input and guidance are provided by the SGP Board of Directors and standing committees. The Board demonstrates positive involvement through regular meetings, monitoring the financial dealings of the Partnership and regularly reviewing financial statements. Board members work with staff and the committees to set program direction.   Board members have high visibility in the community, and promote the mission of the SGP.  The Partnership works where there is community need, interest, and good prospects for project implementation.

Needs Statement

Top five needs of the organization --

1.      Funds for sustaining the organization.  Base budget is $120,000 per year.

2.      Funding to cover the  travel and course credit costs of student interns who provide knowledge and talent to complete community projects that exemplify Smart Growth.  The cost to students for completing an internship is $1500-$2000. Smart Growth Partnership leaders would like to be able to cover these costs for them.

3.      Funding to sponsor educational events that build the capacity of community leaders to improve the growth of their communities. Each event costs between $100-$5000, depending on duration and focus.

4.      Funding to restore our previous level of staffing, to better assist Westmoreland Communities that request planning and plan implementation assistance

5.      Volunteers who are willing to fulfill the Smart Growth Mission and Vision with their own time, talent and treasure

CEO Statement

The Smart Growth Partnership can perhaps be thought of, informally, as a pseudo-planning entity for Westmoreland County and its communities.  It is unique, however, due to the make up of its board and committees. The organizations’ partners are able to conduct research on ever-evolving community issues, provide timely education about how those issues may impact our communities, and then assist communities to implement local projects based on this knowledge. When most effective, the Smart Growth Partnership acts as the convener of all relevant stakeholders and resources needed for project success.

The Smart Growth Partnership currently has two staff members - John D. Turack (me), Interim Executive Director/Community Development Educator, and Leanne Griffith, Office Coordinator

In partnership with the Penn State Extension of Westmoreland County, as the Economic and Community Development Educator I oversee the development and delivery of curriculum to be utilized in school districts, institutions of higher education, and for citizen planner and community capacity building education.   See http://extension.psu.edu/ecd  for more about this role.  

As Interim Executive Director, I manage the non-profit with its Board of Directors.  To contact me call 724-552-0118 or e-mail jdt15@psu.edu.

The office coordinator works to support Smart Growth Partners (partner organizations, consultants, etc.), manages the website, and is responsible for day-to-day accounting, scheduling and filing. To contact Ms. Griffith, call 724-552-0118 or email llg5120@ag.psu.edu.

Additional financial accounting services are provided by the staff of Penn State Extension, and by a consultant accountant, Richard B. Guskiewicz Associates.

Most funding for SGP activities has come from non-university resources. Over the past decade, contributions have come primarily from foundations, with government and corporate support as well. SGP recovers some of the cost of programming and technical assistance through registration and other fees. We welcome your support. 

Without you, the Smart Growth Partnership cannot exist.

John Turack, Interim Executive Director, August 30, 2012


Board Chair Statement


“For more than a decade the Smart Growth Partnership has played a key role in protecting and improving the quality of life of our communities by working with local governments and developers to preserve the natural beauty of our region.

Now  is an exciting and challenging time to work for the principles of smart growth as we face new economic, energy and sprawl related issues that threaten our open spaces and agricultural and environmental areas.

My daughter is the fifth generation growing up in our home in Westmoreland County. My hope is that what we love about our region will last for her and generations to come”


Allen Kukovich, President of the Board            August 1, 2012



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