- Grove City, Pennsylvania

Local News

January 27, 2014

USIS called an asset to town, but little known of its work

GROVE CITY — Residents of this close-knit community of 8,300 that's a little less than an hourís drive north of Pittsburgh, say the town has benefited economically from USIS hirings.

But they agree there's always been a veil of secrecy about the inner workings of the background-check company.

Residents say thereís always been an unspoken rule that USIS employees shouldn't be asked prying questions about their jobs. A hush-hush code permeates among employees.

In essence, USIS is the Area 51 of Grove City.

While cutting hair at his downtown barbershop on Friday, Frank Lapa said USIS employees are regular customers.

"They sure don't go around blabbing about the company," Lapa said.

"You might have one of them say, 'I had a lot of tough cases this week.'  "But you never, never heard anyone talk specifics," Lapa said.

One of Lapa's customers, flooring installer Wayne Lightner, said he did work in one of the company's buildings.

"They had someone following me wherever I went," Lightner said.

Another man getting a haircut, who didn't want to give his name, said his daughter worked at USIS for a couple years and quit after the job became too stressful, due to a quota system to clear background checks off her desk.

He also remembered when a town resident, known for having psychological problems, was found by company employees slumped over against one of their buildings, crying. An ambulance was called to get the woman medical care.

"But a week later a fence was erected at the building to prevent people from getting that close," he said.

Grove City Borough Manager Vance Oakes said the only request the townís ever had from USIS was a request for utility services to be hooked up.

"They are very quiet," Oakes said. "There's never been any concerns or issues addressed to us by them. Obviously, they are a larger employer in the community and weíre happy to have them."

Listed as the town's biggest employer, second only to the General Electric Transportation locomotive engine plant which employs around 1,000, getting a handle on a specific number of USIS employees working in the area has been elusive.

USIS employees work out of the former Cooper Bessemer office in Grove City or the former Ames retail storefront in Pine Grove Plaza in neighboring Pine Township.

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry said based on late 2013 figures, the company is Mercer County's ninth largest employer with between 250 and 499 workers. Labor and Industry didn't have a specific figure on employee numbers, and companies arenít required to publicly release the number of employees they have.

State Rep. Richard Stevenson, R-8th District and a Grove City resident, said the 250 figure sounds way too low. He added the company has never requested anything from him.

"They've been a good community citizen," Stevenson said.

He wasn't sure if the state ever used their services for background checks. But representatives of several state agencies contacted Friday, including the state Inspector General and Attorney General offices, said state police do background checks for them.

The last employment figure Oakes had, from 2006 tax data, showed 658 worked with USIS in the borough. Current tax records weren't immediately available Friday.

Beth Black, executive director of the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce, said her office was told last year by the company that it employed 1,000 in the area.

However, it's possible that figure may include employees at the companyís Boyers operations located in an former underground mine in Butler County.

USIS employees served on the chamber's board in recent years but no one from the company does so currently, Black said. Company officials never asked the chamber for anything, she said, adding USIS paid for a sign welcoming travelers to Grove City.

A spokesman for the company said he didn't know the employment figure in the area and that the information wasn't immediately available.

Getting hired by USIS isn't a slam dunk, everyone agreed.

"They're really picky. They just don't take anybody," Lapa said.

Company representatives showed up at Lapa's doorstep to conduct background checks on someone he knew seeking employment with the company.

"It was three people who came to talk to me," he recalled. "They were all dressed up in suits. I'm sure they spent several thousand dollars doing this research."

Lincoln Larsen, a Grove City resident getting a haircut at Lapa's shop, said he has several friends who work at USIS. He was used as a reference for them and was asked by the company to fill out a form verifying their work history and personal information such as where they lived.

"They do extensive background checking for the people who do the background checking," Larsen said.

Tom Burdick, owner of Burdick's Men's Clothing store in the downtown, said hearing about the allegations leveled by the Justice Department against USIS came as a shock.

"They employ so many, it's devastating to hear they have this trouble," Burdick said. "For the county and city, it was heartbreaking to hear about that."


Text Only
Local News
  • live united fire merkel.jpg Local live United

    The Grove City Area United Way is kicking off a summer campaign that features locals who are examples of how to "Live United."

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • gina burger-file.jpg Police: 'Cool customer' arrested in girl's murder

    An Ohio man charged in the murder of Gina Marie Burger, 16 - whose body was found at Tri-County Industries waste transfer station in Pine Township June 25 - stuffed her body in a playpen bag and carried it past her mother before disposing of the remains in the trash, police said.

    July 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • Public questions Rock band director's position

    Slippery Rock school board members on Monday heard from several people who were concerned about the marching band director's position, which has been opened up for anyone to apply.

    July 11, 2014

  • Budget includes tax hike for new teachers

    Property taxes in the Slippery Rock Area School District are going up by 3.62 mills for the 2014-15 school year to cover the cost of hiring four new teachers.

    July 11, 2014

  • Twp. running out of capacity

    Springfield Township is running out of wastewater capacity.

    July 11, 2014

  • cat with owner.jpg Mobile cat clinic curbs overpopulation

    For the sixth year in a row, Grove City Area Pet Rescue has teamed up with Animal Friends of Pittsburgh to offer a low-cost spay/neuter clinic for cats through a mobile unit set up in Plain Grove Township.

    July 10, 2014 3 Photos

  • rock fairy read bloom fair.jpg The Rock blooms under judges' eyes

    America in Bloom judges Katy Moss Warner and Barbara Vincentsen liked what they saw in the Slippery Rock area, where they spent three days evaluating a year's worth of work done by Slippery Rock in Bloom members and volunteers.

    July 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • Boomtown hears young voices

    Students from the Mercer Area School District were among the 20 participants at the June 17 Mercer Boomtown meeting held at the Mercer County Career Center.

    July 3, 2014

  • Rock trash talk touches on billing, BigBelly

    Slippery Rock council members are still working through a number of garbage-related issues, including a detailed revision of the solid waste ordinance and a proposal to bring solar-powered trash compactors to the borough.

    July 3, 2014

  • ali shawn miller prelim.jpg GC area child assault case heads to county court

    The Grove City-area man accused of grabbing a young boy in the bathroom of the Pine Township Walmart will have his case heard in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide