-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By James Hogan
Where there is no vision, the Bible says, the people perish.
I thought of this verse last year when I had an off day from work and went fishing with my friends John Force and John Dombroski. We had parked on the street to the side of Heinz Field facing PNC Park and walked down near the Fort Duquesne Bridge to put in our lines.
An old Army buddy of mine, Kim Moser, met us up by Bettis’ restaurant. He was passing through town as a construction foreman moving from a job down south to a job near Buffalo.
“Wow,” Moser, who lives on a hunting ranch in South Dakota, said. “They sure did pack a lot of stuff on this land.”
“Believe it or not, my brother,” I told him. “This was all just parking lots when I moved here in 2005.” Looking around, I could barely remember what it had looked like then, the place was so packed with restaurants, hotels, venues and clubs.
“Boy, someone had a vision and the gumption to get after it,” he said.
That someone was the Rooney family, and going all the way back to 1933 when Art Sr. took his horse betting winnings and invested in a football club he would name the Steelers, they’ve been impacting this region ever since. Some say his Super Bowl-winning teams of the 1970s are why Pittsburgh survived the steel industry collapse of that era, then grew in a technological rebirth while other places like Youngstown stagnated.
Robinson Township turned farmland into a modern shopping destination with every imaginable type of store, market, restaurant and entertainment venue, and it started with a vision from some folks about how to best serve the residents of the area, how to drive the tax base to provide a safe and clean environment, how to ensure that today’s generation would have great schools, great opportunities and a great chance to give their kids an even brighter future.
Someone’s casting a vision that’s bringing about a new birth in Coraopolis now, and it’s been a thing to behold.
Several years ago I asked a local McKees Rocks politician, now gone – all of that era’s crop of pols are gone now – what the borough was going to do with a seven-figure federal grant for improvements and he said, “Pastor, that’s three-plus years of snow removal.”
I balked at that answer as shortsighted, so he asked what I would do with it.
“Maybe put it in escrow to develop business tax incentives to lure some jobs here?” I asked.
“That won’t work, folks don’t want to come here.”
“They might not now, but that’s why you make incentives,” I said. “How about buying [Vic’s Boat Dock] and the land [Frank Bryan, Inc.] owns on the river, start moving toward a nice riverfront park and shopping area?”
“[They] won’t sell, and [the concrete company] is keeping that land in case they ever lose their lease upriver under the Liberty Bridge… they need river access to move their aggregates.”
“You don’t know if Sutey will sell until you make an offer,” I said.
“And if all Frank Bryan needs is backup access somewhere in the pool between Neville Island and Kennywood, go find them some land and use the grant to buy it and make a swap.”
“Ah… you don’t understand, Reverend. People want the snow plowed on their streets and this’ll guarantee it for a while.”
“You know that new businesses, new homeowners and progress will bring in money to plow these streets, don't you?”
“You should stick to ministry, Reverend. You’re doing good work there, but you don’t understand this stuff.”
He was right. I don’t understand.
But I do know that where there’s no vision, the people perish.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.