The Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the economy and the quality of life in Lawrence County through the delivery of public/private resources for the purpose of expanding and retaining employment opportunities for the citizens of our community.
Businesses in the New Castle area began to flourish in the early 1800s with the construction of the canal system, drawing numerous manufacturing plants to New Castle because of its availability of transportation facilities and ready access to raw materials. The canal system was later supplemented and then replaced by the railroad system offering year round service, greater speed and capacity for freight.
By the turn of the century, New Castle was one of the fastest growing cities in the country as it became the tin plate capital of the world. New Castle's population swelled from 11,600 in 1890, to 28,339 in 1900, to 38,280 in 1910, as immigrants flocked to the city to work in the mills. In the 1920s, New Castle enjoyed its greatest prosperity with the building of many beautiful structures including The Scottish Rite Cathedral, St. Mary's Church and the Castleton Hotel – each of which still stand today.
In the 1930s, Lawrence County suffered through the Great Depression. As many businesses closed, members of the community lost their jobs and homes. In 1935, the federal government established the Works Project Program (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These programs offered jobs to many displaced workers whose efforts can be seen today in the stone walls they built around the area.
During World Wars I and II and the Korean War, industry enjoyed a temporary reprieve. In 1950, the population peaked at 48,834. The 50s saw the City of New Castle and the surrounding area of Lawrence County as quite a thriving place. During that decade, New Castle was home to three movie theaters, four jewelry stores, J.C. Penney’s Department Store, a Woolworth’s, Strouss-Hirshberg's, Kirk-Hutton’s, and the New Castle Store (Troutman’s) among many other successful, privately-owned commercial and retail businesses.
Steel was king and its manufacture and process was New Castle’s specialty. United Engineering, Pennsylvania Engineering, Standard Slag, and Rockwell employed thousands of workers. The Aluminum Company, Shenango China and Universal-Rundle were also major employers of the day.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened from Irwin to the Ohio line and the Greater Pittsburgh Airport became a reality during this decade. The average per-family income had risen from $2,320 in 1939 to $5,185 in 1951. The number of manufacturing plants in Lawrence County increased from 96 to 145 and the number of employees from 9,635 to 12,875.
Though the 50s was indeed a boom time for Lawrence County, community leaders foresaw the need down the road for the development of an organization that’s only function was to spur the growth of business in order to create and retain jobs for the greater New Castle area. This was, in part, a result of the trend for retail, entertainment and commercial businesses to begin moving out of the city to the suburbs. Toward that end, a private non-profit group was formed in January of 1955 that would do just that; thus the Greater New Castle Development Corporation (GNCDC) was born!
GNCDC’s first president was Mr. Norman Clark, then president of the First Federal Bank, and its first office was located in the Castleton Hotel still standing on the corner of Mercer and Fall Streets. In order to raise capital for this new venture, the initial 15-member board of directors sold “stock” in the organization at $25 per share. This fundraising tactic was quite successful, raising more than $200,000 for the corporation.
In 1961, the GNCDC along with the Chamber of Commerce, had outgrown the Castleton office space and moved into a second floor suite in the newly renovated First Federal Plaza building where they remained until July 1986. Though the two groups would remain under one roof together, they decided that they would each have their own identity. In 1987, the NCDC changed its name to Lawrence County Partners in Progress and hired its first Executive Director.
As the story goes, Lawrence County Partners in Progress did eventually become the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation but the mission and purpose hasn’t really changed much over the last 50 years.
One of the first projects undertaken by the Corporation was the construction of a speculative, industrial shell building on Cedar Street that became the home of Consolidated Glass Corporation. Just as we do today, the Corporation works with businesses to secure loans, grants and bonds, we are still involved with the construction of speculative buildings, construction of new business parks, brownfield site redevelopment, and industrial site inventory and marketing.