Business and government officials came together Monday to ponder the county's economic future during what one called the "most unsettling" of times, but also among the "most exciting."
It marked the first of two sessions to discuss the county's progress with community development as a whole, part one of an economic development summit.
The focus of the meeting was to bring awareness to the different roles associated with industrial and business development in the county, efforts at sustaining and creating jobs and promoting good relationships with everyone involved.
The bottom line of economic development is to create and retain jobs, according to Dr. Vincent J. Matteo, president of the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.
"The focus of today is to get us together. We are facing some of the most unsettling economic times in the nation. But, luckily we are also facing some of the most exciting times - obviously with gas exploration and the impact that is going to have on our economic development efforts," Matteo said.
The chamber does not favor one community over the other. In fact, the chamber does not even care which community gets the business, so long as it is within the county, he said, reiterating that the number-one goal is to create and retain jobs within the county.
Jeff Bower, center, with Mericle Commercial Real Estate presents a question at the Lycoming County Economic Development Summit at Penn College on Monday. Also shown are Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, left, and Jeff C. Wheeland, Lycoming County commissioner.
RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
According to Jason Fink, the chamber's executive vice president, it is important that everyone involved work together by sitting down and capturing a better understanding of all of the players' needs and roles.
Some areas that should be understood, according to Fink, are retention, land and building management development, and understanding how to obtain finance and incentive programs.
"No growth will occur without maintaining what we already know. Retaining what we have is better than what it would cost to find new business," Fink said.
It is also important to manage current property while seeking other sites, according to Fink.
Steven Johnson, chairman of the chamber's board and president and CEO of Susquehanna Health, said Lycoming County is a great place to live and there is no grass that's greener in the commonwealth.
According to Johnson, Susquehanna Health's modernization project focused on infrastructure improvement of the older buildings because many feared the less expensive option, to move from the city and rebuild at another location outside of the city, would be detrimental to both the city and the region.
"You were successful in communicating that point. The decision our board of directors made was to re-invest in the infrastructure as it exists. That is a road far less travelled, I will tell you. We did that because you told us that was the right thing to do. Now, I want to call on you all to finish anteing up," Johnson said.
The summit was followed by work sessions focused on topics such as infrastructure, land and buildings, developers, gas exploration, financing economic development and planning.
Those involved with the groups came up with suggestions and ideas to improve within their topics.
One buzz word repeated throughout the work group reports was "regionalization," which proponents say would allow all municipalities to have representation on a unified front.
"We will take all of this information (gained at the work sessions). We will compile it into a written report. Everyone will get one," Matteo said, promising to release it to the media as well.
Plans are to hold the next session, which will focus on commercial and retail development, in early November, Matteo said.
"What we need to do overall is to continue this process. This cannot be a one and done. It's great to come here today. It's great to get issues on the table. It's great to exchange ideas. But, we have to follow up as a community," Matteo said.