Aliquippa: Powered by Passionate People
For more than 30 years, the city of Aliquippa has been designated as financially distressed under the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act, more commonly known as Act 47. Administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Act 47 assists Pennsylvania municipalities experiencing severe financial difficulties to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens. We spoke to Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker to learn more about the community and how the city is working with DCED to build a brighter future.
Tell us about Aliquippa’s financial situation and Act 47 status.
In 1987, Aliquippa experienced a serious budget crisis and ultimately met criteria established by Act 47 to enter into the program as a distressed status community. For the last thirty-one years, we’ve been trying to recover and make our city a great place for folks to live and work.
Yes, we’re still facing hard times, but we’re taking Aliquippa to the next level. We established the Aliquippa Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), and our board of directors has been phenomenal. With its help, we’re taking our passion and love for our community — along with trust, communication, and collaboration from partners — to get this city where it needs to be. Aliquippa’s best days are ahead of it, and the renaissance of our future is coming.
How are you recovering and moving the city forward?
We’ve learned that transparency is key in building partnerships with DCED and local organizations. We need help to improve our city, and we’re not afraid to ask for it.
In 2015, we received a software and computer grant to upgrade our systems and a grant to improve our accounting processes. Next, we updated our website to be more user-friendly. Our latest award from DCED is our largest to date. In January 2018, through the AEDC, we received a six-year, $3.3 million investment for community revitalization efforts supported by DCED’s Neighborhood Partnership (NPP) and Keystone Communities Programs.
We’ve demolished 19 houses to remove blight and create sites for potential new housing, side yards, and amenities. We’ve partnered with the historic B.F. Jones Memorial Library to create a media lab and hired a part-time instructor to provide STEM classes to 150 students and adults. We’ve worked with Job Training for Beaver County Inc. to execute the Aliquippa Targeted Job Success Workshop, which prepared 100 adults for employment via customized resume assistance and job fairs. To date, 24 residents reported that our training assistance helped them secure a job.
We’ve filled the gap in providing essential food programs through the Salvation Army, with an average of 665 people receiving a monthly food box. Lastly, we demolished the three oldest-remaining structures in our city, which are located on the redevelopment site on the eastern end of Franklin Avenue immediately adjacent to PA Route 51 and the entrance to the Aliquippa Industrial Park. We’ve seeded the land, and the sites are shovel-ready for prospective businesses to break ground. We’re the only city that owns a bridge into the industrial park — it’s a perfect location for the right company to make an investment in the community.
What does the future hold?
We’re building on the current momentum in fighting blight, increasing employment rates, and making this city a place where folks want to build a life with their families. We’re looking forward to developing multi-family units and moving people back into the municipality. We’re less than six miles away from the Shell petrochemical plant, so there’s ample opportunity for new businesses and families to operate, work, and live here.
It’s comforting to know that we have state leaders who care about Aliquippa’s health and are willing to help. The open-door policy of the current administration has allowed us to move forward in ways we could only imagine. We have new systems, revitalized neighborhoods, and a city that has great potential all thanks to our relationship with DCED. We may be a city formed by steel, but we’re powered by passionate people.
Visit Aliquippa’s website to learn more about the city’s spurring renaissance. Continue to stay up-to-date on all Pennsylvania company news by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook or by signing up for our monthly e-newsletter or following us on.
In November 2011, Dwan B. Walker became the first African-American in Aliquippa’s 204-year existence to be elected mayor and only the second in Beaver County. As a lifelong resident, Mayor Walker’s leadership extends throughout the community. He enjoys mentoring children and counseling young adults in their skill enhancements, as well as listening and learning from the community’s senior residents. Mayor Walker is a graduate of Robert Morris University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications in 1999.