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Commerce showcase touts Allegheny Valley businesses

O’HARA: If it worked for Grove City, it can work here.

That’s the message of Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce President Mary Bowlin, who was a key player in helping to organize The Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce Showcase, which was Thursday at the RIDC Park Holiday Inn.

Thursday’s was the first such event to be held by the chamber since 1999. Bowlin said she decided to revive it because a similar event in Grove City in recent years was a huge success. Bowlin was with the Grove City Chamber until last year.

She compares the potential boom the Allegheny Valley may see due to the Pittsburgh Mills mega-mall with the boom Grove City experienced when the Grove City Factory Outlets opened in the early 1990s.

“It makes people aware of what businesses are in the community,” Bowlin said.

Thursday’s exhibit featured representatives from 52 businesses and non-profit organizations. She said that’s as many representatives as the rooms could hold, and some businesses even had to be put on waiting lists.

But the true test for the exhibit is how the public reacts to the event, Bowlin said.

“Until we’re able to get the public to come through, that will be the final piece,” Bowlin said.

Tom Kuhns, owner of West Interior Services in Fawn, said he had an exhibit at the showcase to reach both the public and business community.

Kuhns refinishes wood for homes, but also was there to let business people know that his company also does touch up work on furniture for commercial businesses.

Business leaders were treated to a brunch before the showcase with Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht as the keynote speaker.

Sports author Jim O’Brien also spoke. His new book, “Always a Steeler,” incudes a chapter on Ed Modzelewski who spent most of his NFL career with the New York Giants in the 1950s, but also spent one year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Modzelewski was a native of the West Natrona section of Harrison and graduated from Har-Brack High School.

Wecht stressed the importance of forensic science, and said DNA testing has come a long way in the past several years.

“DNA testing has truly revolutionized the field of criminal justice in a way which nobody could have predicted,” Wecht said.

He said 130 people who had been incarcerated for life, many of whom were on death row, have been released from prison since DNA testing became a law enforcement tool. The first to be freed was a 23-year-old Maryland man who was convicted of killing a 9-year-old girl in 1984.

Nine years after his conviction, DNA analysis of the girl’s clothing showed that the convicted man could not possibly have been the killer.

Wecht said DNA can be obtained from simple everyday actions such as a handshake.

The coroner also spoke about his involvement with cases including the John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations, the David Koresh Branch Davidians case in Waco, Texas, and the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

He said it’s important to use all of the technology that we have, and money should not be an excuse.

“We need to utilize all of the equipment we have,” Wecht said. “The failure to do those things when you have the scientific wherewithal is a disgrace.”


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