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Hard work ethic can build future, Armstrong residents say at Power of 32

| Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SOUTH BUFFALO — A few of Armstrong County's business, industry, education and government leaders added their ideas to a regional visioning initiative Tuesday morning.

The 15 who attended the special session held by Armstrong County officials at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus in the Northpointe Industrial Park did what thousands of people across 32 counties in Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have been doing this summer — they joined in the conversations of the Power of 32.

Through the Power of 32 project, citizens are creating a shared picture of what the region could be like 15 years from now.

Each of the 4.2 million people in the region can participate and have their ideas heard as they work together to make positive change.

The initiative begins with "community conversations."

Conversations about the region's challenges, strengths and possibilities are going on right now in every county.

Armstrong County took a two-fold approach. Officials here decided to get together a special focus audience for a community conversation to hear its input and then a second event Aug. 25 at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin which will be open to everyone in the community.

"This is a good point of contact for them," Lori Harvey, community relations coordinator for the Penn State Electro-Optics Center in Northpointe, said of the purpose of a meeting for the special focus audience. "It brings together these entities. It takes the discussions that go on inside their walls and opens it up. It will get organizations to work together. It connects those dots that develop that network of collaboration."

Power of 32 presenter Laura Pollanen began by telling the attendees that everyone has their own ideas for what they want the region to become.

She asked the group for the reasons that motivated them to come.

A participant said he hoped the Power of 32 would "turn into one of those special ideas that makes big changes."

"I care about the area," said another participant, Scott Frankowski, the executive assistant for state Sen. Jim Ferlo. "There are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of possibilities."

Attendees wrote out their responses to discussion questions on yellow stick-em notes which were posted at the front.

The key strengths included: higher education system; strong work ethic; recreation resources; environmental diversity; and health care systems and research.

"We need to transfer some of that (work ethic) to the younger people," a participant said.

The key challenges to be addressed for the region to thrive were listed as: empty spaces; drugs; attaining and keeping new businesses to create jobs; taxes; transportation; and job prospects to retain young people.

"Create the jobs that will keep our youth here in the area and get them to come back," someone said.

The possibilities that must be pursued to ensure the region thrives list was the longest. Possibilities included: incentives for local businesses to stay versus incentives to build elsewhere; upgrade public transportation; develop the public education system; personal responsibility; lifelong learning; redefine the blue collar identity; and make the area globally competitive through the education system.

In closing, the participants agreed that staying engaged was the best way to create a better future for the region.

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