On Monday, during an economic summit hosted by the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce at Pennsylvania College of Technology, local officials detailed exactly what they have done and plan to do to make Lycoming County as business-friendly as possible.
According to county Commissioner Rebecca A. Burke, county government is involved in a wide range of programs and initiatives that impact the health, safety and welfare of county residents.
The county has helped improve the health of county residents by supporting recreational and other amenities such as the Pine Creek Rail Trail, Pine Bluff Recreational Area, Susquehanna River Walk, the Penn Township sewage treatment plant upgrades, and lighting at Elm Park and Logue Field, Burke said.
The county also has been involved in the Pathways to Health initiative, which will provide a gateway to Williamsport Hospital, she said.
County public safety initiatives include implementing the early flood warning system, county haz
ard mitigation program and 911 Center and helping to acquire technology for local law enforcement agencies, she said.
Welfare initiatives include county landfill programs such as recycling and a program that converts landfill gas into electricity for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Burke said.
The county's pre-release program provides community service for municipalities, Burke said.
In 2008, alone, the community service program provided county municipalities with more than 114,000 work hours performed by about 1,500 people at 68 sites around the county, Burke said.
That work was valued at almost $819,000, she said.
The county also has supported bridge building, including the Market Street bridge, which Burke described as a bridge "unlike any other."
The county has supported improvements at the Williamsport Regional Airport and affordable housing programs such as Homes in Need program, she said.
Burke said nothing the county has done would be possible without partnerships with municipal governments, local organizations and agencies.
For example, the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce did the "tough work" related to gaining the support of local school districts and townships for the Keystone Opportunity Zone program, Burke said.
The city supported the LERTA program, which defers taxes on improvements made to city properties, she said.
People from a wide range of sectors came together to work on Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy, Burke said. Although the county "had no dog in that fight," it could not sit by and allow local municipalities to deal with mandated regulations to clean up the Chesapeake Bay on their own, she said.
"We chose to take it on collectively," she said. "It's a very complicated process for everybody."
Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he believes city government's role is to "create a positive climate so business" can thrive.
Campana discussed initiatives the city is involved with to promote economic development, including the sale of the Kennedy-King property to Moran Industries for $310,000, road upgrades to improve access to the Reach Road Industrial Park and improvements to the city Web site so that it promotes programs that help business.
The mayor said he supports the LERTA program but believes it does not do enough for businesses.
Campana said he plans to propose extending the program's tax abatements from three years to 10 years retroactive to Jan. 1.
He praised a recent police mutual aid agreement, calling it a key to economic development because it allows municipalities to reduce costs by sharing resources.
Like Burke, Campana said partnerships are important to improving conditions that create a good environment for growth.
The county and city are working together on the Susquehanna River Walk and Pathway to Health, he said.
Campana and Chamber President Vince Matteo pledged continuing cooperation in their efforts to make the city a place where businesses would want to locate.
"The city is critical to the economic and industrial growth of the entire county," Matteo said.
Kurt Hausammann Jr., director of the county Department of Planning and Community Development discussed the county Comprehensive Plan and Corridor Plan and the roles they play in promoting economic development.
The Comprehensive Plan, which includes planning for the rural areas of the county, plus six multi-municipal "growth areas" that follow, roughly, the Route 220-Interstate 180 corridor "will guide future development for the next 20 years," Hausammann said.
Although the plan looks forward 20 years, it should be revisited every five years to keep it up-to-date with changing circumstances, he said.
"It's not cast in stone and should be revamped regularly ... to see that everything still applies," he said.
Work on the plan began in 2002, he said. Planning staff went out into the communities impacted by the plan to learn how local citizens wanted their communities to evolve in the future, he said.
It was discovered that people enjoyed the area's quality of life, particularly its small town ambiance, agricultural and wooded areas, school systems and health care system, he said.
The plan's purpose was then to help guide development so it could happen while enhancing and protecting those qualities, he said.
The plan is not intended to regulate, but guide municipal officials, he said. Zoning and subdivision and land development ordinances "put teeth in the (plan)," he said.
The Corridor Plan focuses on two specific areas in the county - the city of Williamsport and the Borough of Montgomery -in an effort to develop a road map on how to best use underused industrial areas of those communities, he said.
"We see both of those areas as the greatest hope for the two municipalities to reinvigorate," Hausammann said. "They are not even close to their highest use potential."