County leaders see comprehensive plan as key to bringing young blood into a graying Westmoreland
More millennials could soon call Westmoreland County home if things called for in a new comprehensive plan adopted by county commissioners come to fruition.
The plan, presented during Thursday’s 2019 State of the County luncheon, aims at making Westmoreland more attractive to young professionals by upgrading downtown areas and creating more recreational activities.
The goal is to fill a seemingly growing number of job openings in the area that are left vacant by an older population getting ready to retire, Commissioner Gina Cerilli said.
According to Cerilli, the average age in Westmoreland County was 45 in 2010, compared to a national average of 37. And that number is rising, Cerilli said. It is expected to reach 51 years old by next year.
“Once the baby boomer generation retires, we’re going to have a lot of open jobs,” Cerilli said. “Over the next 10 years, there’s going to be 70,000 open jobs in our 10-county region. And not to bring you even more bad news, but deaths outpace births in Westmoreland County by 1,000 every year.”
But with the county’s new plan, businesses, schools and governments can work together to attract members of the younger generation and keep the workforce going.
Starting with high schools, Cerilli said programs that allow students to see “critical” manufacturing and construction jobs available in the county will help to keep recent graduates in the area. With several colleges throughout Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, commissioners hope to create an attractive area that will entice students to stay after graduation.
To do that, events like restaurant weeks and downtown arts districts can be created, pertaining to millennials’ interests, as well as creating an attractive atmosphere for baby boomers.
“Arts, entertainment and culture are all defining aspects of a community,” Cerilli said.
To make the county more accessible, commissioners said they are working to improve trails and parks, and changes are planned to expand Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, including a larger waiting area and a second gate, making it possible to board two airplanes at once.
No monetary cost is associated with the plan, making it a collaboration rather than a requirement.
“We’re not going to implement, we’re going to encourage,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said. “Nobody’s forced to do anything.”
Cerilli said the plan will not be an instant fix; rather, some projects will take a couple of years while others could take decades.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Contact Megan at 724-850-1203, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MeganTomasic.