This article was originally published as part of the Grow PA solutions journalism project, published by Technical.ly and underwritten in part by The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.
Altoona Blair County Development Corporation President Steve McKnight says the county never had a distinguished identity. Until it embraced its history.
Blair County is embracing its roots.
The county, which has largely come to be known as the home of Sheetzheadquarters and Penn State Altoona, is trying out a fresh take on its history as a frontier town where nature-loving millennials can settle down, start businesses and enjoy a peaceful mountain lifestyle.
And it seems to be working.
“We are seeing this bump up in demographics relative to the 20-30 age group,” said Steve McKnight, president and CEO of Altoona Blair County Development Corporation (ABCDC). “They all tend to be concentrated in the urban center, which is great. We think the arrow is pointing up.”
McKnight is a Blair County native who returned to the area and ABCDC in April of 2016 after 10 years working as an economic development consultant at Fourth Economy, the Pittsburgh-based firm he founded alongside fellow economic development wonk Rich Overmeyer.
McKnight’s first move was to begin rebranding the county. His inspiration? Levi’s 2010 Braddock-based ad campaign.
“It truly was one of the best commercials I’ve ever seen,” McKnight said.
Soon after McKnight came onboard, ABCDC launched its new “First Frontier” brand, complete with a flashy, user-friendly website and the video bel