Having received disappointing news out of the governor's office Monday, some York City officials said they are looking ahead to 2016.
Despite an all-hands-on-deck attempt to win a coveted economic-development designation that could have poured millions of dollars into York, state bureaucrats and Gov. Tom Corbett decided to create two City Revitalization Improvement Zones elsewhere.
Five Pennsylvania cities competed for the zones. Lancaster and Bethlehem emerged the winners.
"It's good for those cities. It's unfortunate for us," state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said. "But I still stand by the merits of our application and our readiness to go. Hopefully we can best position York for the next round of designations as soon as possible."
Schreiber, who served as the city's economic-development director until he was elected to the state House in May, had been one of York's most vocal advocates throughout the CRIZ process. But the support extended to York County's
Republican delegation, most of whom attended a presentation city officials held Dec. 19 to create some buzz around the idea of a York CRIZ.
Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, joined Schreiber at a York City Council meeting in October to express his belief that a CRIZ is "perfectly suited for York."
"I think the best thing that, I guess, came out of this - it was a model example of everyone working in the same direction for a common cause," Schreiber said Monday.
The decision: Seven cities were eligible for a CRIZ. In addition to Lancaster, Bethlehem and York, Reading and Erie submitted applications, said Steve Kratz, a spokesman for the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
The process was unusually quick. The state released its guidelines Oct. 31 and set a Nov. 30 deadline for applications.
During that time, the council created and appointed seven people to a new authority that would have overseen the CRIZ program in York.
A committee of representatives from the DCED, the state Department of Revenue and the Office of the Budget reviewed the applications.
"Eventually, all eligible Pennsylvania cities that develop quality proposals could have successful economic development projects. I have directed DCED to work with cities that did not receive designations to help them improve their applications," Corbett said, according to a news release. "We want to inspire our cities to start thinking creatively about spurring new growth through economic development strategies and the CRIZ program has certainly helped in that effort."
Kratz said the state received "several good applications," but could select only two.
"Bethlehem and Lancaster were the strongest applications that really met all the qualifications and the guidelines and also were deemed most viable by the review committee," he said.
The applications: The York Dispatch submitted a Right to Know request Dec. 6 to the state for copies of all cities' CRIZ applications.
On Dec. 13, the state invoked a 30-day extension to fulfill the request, giving the state until Jan. 12 to respond.
In early December, York officials released the city's application in response to a Right to Know request from The York Dispatch.
The document revealed plans for several major projects that could have been helped along by a CRIZ designation, including a $40 million data center at the old York Prison site, an $18 million hotel near the York fairgrounds and an $8 million renovation of the former York City Post Office building on South George Street.
The CRIZ program aims to attract business and jobs to cities by offering developers state and city tax revenue to pay off project debt. In other words, instead of paying certain state and local taxes, developers of approved projects will be allowed to use that money to repay lenders.
Next round: A second round of CRIZ designations is tentatively scheduled for 2016, but officials have repeatedly said that's not guaranteed.
Kratz said DCED will work with Erie, Reading and York "to make sure that they can strengthen their applications for future rounds."
On Monday, Mayor Kim Bracey said the governor's announcement was "unfortunate news."
"But I stand by the merit of our application," she said. "We'll make sure we're in the best position for the designation next round."
- Reach Erin James at email@example.com.