CLARION - With several retail store closings recently in the Clarion area, it could seem the local economic outlook is bleak. That might not be the case.

Clarion County is working quietly through the Clarion County Economic Development Corp. (CCEDC) to develop business in the area.

"Everything that happens there is confidential," Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan said. "We signed statements that we would not release any information about any projects the CCEDC is working on."

Tharan said Clarion County has reached out to other counties in the area to form a regional task force to promote economic development.

"All of the counties in our northern tier face the same problem in attracting industry to our area," he said.

Tharan said the county has spoken with representatives from Venango, Mercer, Butler and Jefferson counties.

Earlier in the year, Clarion had tried to attract the Food and Drug Administration to the area when it was announced the agency was seeking to relocate offices away from Washington, D.C. That effort ultimately failed.

"We are still trying to develop the Knox industrial park property, which is for sale, and the old McCauley Trucking property," Tharan said.

The problem with the Knox property, he said, is the availability of portable water, and that CCEDC Director Shannon Barrios has spoken with several people about the property.

"We are also looking at the manufacture of hemp," Tharan said. "There are other things that I am not allowed to talk about."

The mission of the CCEDC is "to work with existing and prospective wealth generating companies to create and keep family sustaining jobs in Clarion County."

The CCEDC assists existing companies, start-up companies, or a company looking to locate to Clarion County with financing, site location, workforce recruiting and hiring and locating business resources.

The CCEDC can provide labor market data, wage rate data and demographics, and match businesses to resource partners to meet employment needs.