Top 5 stories of 2021: Economic development a mixed bag | News

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a five-part series focusing on the five best Mercer County stories of 2021.

After more than a century as one of the iconic retail outlets in the Shenango Valley, the executives of Reyers Shoe Store announced the departure of Sharon’s store, wowing residents and elected officials alike.

The store, once known as the world’s largest shoe store, would move later this year to the Eastwood Mall in Niles, Ohio.

“It’s a very painful call for us,” said Mark Jubelirer. “But in the end, we were forced to make this very difficult business decision. “

Jubelirer cited decreased foot traffic in downtown Sharon and increased online sales as the main factors in the move.

In a year that could be seen as a mixed bag for the local economy, Reyers’ departure was a low point, especially for what the store represented for the Shenango Valley community.

But there was also good news, especially with industrial investments in eastern Mercer County.

In late spring, Hall Industries, an aerospace manufacturing company based in northern Beaver County, announced an investment of approximately $ 12 million in public and private funding to purchase and renovate the former Cooper Industries in Grove City.

The company, which had about 30 employees at its plant near Ellwood City, plans to add about 60 more workers, including at its Grove City operation.

Nearby, Wabtec, which acquired the former General Electric locomotive plant, deployed a prototype electric locomotive in September. The Grove City plant, which now manufactures diesel locomotive engines for the rail industry, may be involved in the new engine.

In 2021, Mercer County’s retail and hospitality industries began to rebound after a COVID-ravaged 2020, as much as a labor shortage would allow. Businesses were forced to reduce hours of operation because they did not have enough employees to stay open during their traditional hours of operation.

The local impact reflected a national trend, widely known as “The Great Resignation”.

Another ripple effect of COVID – disruptions in the supply chain – has forced Mercer County retailers to think globally while selling locally. Matt Drobney, owner of the Happy Eggplant Gourmet Food and Kitchen Shoppe in Hermitage, said he heard in March that some of his supplies might be hard to come by later in the year.

So he stocked up, ordering items for this Christmas in March.

“And some didn’t arrive until September and October,” Drobney said. “And we have placed large orders. That’s why our closets are so full. ”

Business at Grove City Premium Outlets was healthy, with nearly all storefronts occupied, even as store owners faced supply chain issues and labor shortages.

However, a once common sight – Ontario license plates – was missing in the mall’s otherwise crowded parking lot, due to the recent lifting of COVID travel restrictions across the border and the weak Canadian dollar. .

But with the onset of the 2021 holiday shopping season, local retailers have reported strong sales, possibly the result of pent-up consumer demand after being denied in-person purchases for nearly two. year.

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