Last updated: February 19. 2013 6:54PM - 308 Views

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Utilizing her position at an area networking and business development organization, Pittston native Lori Nocito proudly showcased the city's improvement explosion to executives from the Wyoming Valley and outlying areas.

Nocito, Leadership Wilkes-Barre's executive director, collaborated with Pittston Redevelopment Authority leaders to feature Pittston in one of Leadership Wilkes-Barre's final Executive Leadership program soirées on Nov. 19.

Executive Leadership integrates relocated executives and professionals into their communities, but Mountain Productions Sales Manager Jim Evans Jr. has lived in the area his whole life and, through the Leadership Wilkes-Barre program, discovered culture pockets he never knew of before.

Evans used the historic Stegmaier Mansion in Wilkes-Barre as an example. He said he never knew about the repurposed brewer's home. Now, when he brings potential clients in for sales meetings, he can recommend the bed and breakfast as a place bursting with local history that offers fine accommodations.

Executive Leadership members met first in Main Street's Art Seen gallery to browse the artists' wares, drink wine and mingle.

Jeff Walker, Mohegan Sun's vice president of table games, moved to the area in 2010 after helping start the flagship casino in Uncasville, Conn. He sipped wine and told of how the Executive Program has exposed him to the history of his new assignment and helped him to feel more at home.

The group moved next door to Open Space and heard from former Pittston mayor Mike Lombardo, a director at Quad 3 Group engineering firm.

Lombardo, a Pittston Redevelopment Authority vice chairman, described the 18-year journey that has only begun to show fruit in the last year or so, most notably on the city's Main Street.

Fielding questions from his audience, Lombardo said after years of planning, the Redevelopment Authority began making great strides with the Open Space building where everyone was sitting.

He said with a grant from state gaming revenues and its own volunteered labor and expertise, the company was able to transform the Open Space into a desirable storefront for international clothier, Boden, to set up shop.

From there, he said, gravity took over.

Success breeds success, Lombardo said. People are calling us to turn space around… we just don't have the space.

He said many projects are underway, including a loft apartment building near the fire department and a condominium complex near the river.

Redevelopment Authority's Main Street Manager Rose Randazzo stressed the importance of restoring and preserving the city's historic buildings, adding that fine living space and attention to detail like art and clean streets draws people into the city.

Though Lombardo emphasized success, he did not ignore the city's need for infrastructure improvements, including a sewer system overhaul and incentives for members of the older population who have worked their whole lives to own their own homes. He lauded city government officials for finding ways to improve these trouble spots.

After the program moved the business leaders to Palazzo 53 for dinner, Nocito lingered behind at Open Space, talking with stragglers and closing up. She said she believed the event sparked interest in Pittston as a place to live and do business.

It shined a spotlight on Pittston, she said.

She said business leaders desire culture, a high-caliber working environment and strong community.

We seek these qualities, Nocito said. Pittston has them and it's getting better.

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