Westmoreland County needs more, better branding, leaders say
Westmoreland County has used the slogan “There's More in Westmoreland,” but it needs to do more to brand itself in Western Pennsylvania and beyond to help spur growth, a top county business leader said Tuesday.
“We are promoting the Laurel Highlands (for tourism). We need to make sure regionwide and nationwide, we are promoting Westmoreland County,” Chad Amond, president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce, told more than 260 community, business and government leaders at Saint Vincent College in Unity.
Amond said after the annual Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland luncheon that he did not have a specific idea for branding the county. But the county needs to spread the news about its assets, including its parks system and recreational opportunities, he said.
“We're not sharing that with the rest of the region and the rest of the country,” Amond said.
Branding is part of a “legitimate discussion” to have in conjunction with the county's comprehensive plan that is being developed this year, county Commissioner Ted Kopas said after the program.
“It is part of a comprehensive effort to get people to live here,” Kopas said, noting the county has worked with the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau in promoting Westmoreland.
To get physicians to move to or remain in the county, Excela Health has found that the county's parks system is “the number one seller for us every time,” said Jennifer Miele, vice president of consumerism and innovation.
Over the past five years, Excela Health has added 100 doctors to its medical group through recruitment or acquiring medical practices.
The proximity to open space that the county has to offer was important to a group of Saint Vincent students who participated in a focus group, Miele said. Those students did not want to see “a nightclub and ‘Strip District' area,” she noted.
To make residential development more attractive, the county is working with a consultant to find what people want, said Jason Rigone, director of Westmoreland's planning and development department.
The county needs vibrant downtown areas that are surrounded by the suburbs, Rigone said.
To have a healthy economy for the future, the county must address its aging and declining workforce. The county's population has dropped by 30,000 since 1990, said James Smith, president of Economic Growth Connection, a Greensburg-based economic development organization.
How to attract people to the county has been a challenge.
Amond said it is not that people are leaving but that those of child-rearing age left Western Pennsylvania when the steel industry collapsed in the late 1970s and 1980s, taking with them families or creating families who grew up elsewhere.
“That's why you have all those (Pittsburgh) Steelers bars all over the country,” Amond said.
Noting that Westmoreland, like other areas, is experiencing “the graying of America,” Smith offered a succinct explanation.
“We're simply dying faster than we are reproducing,” he said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.