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Economic report topic of summit

| Sunday, May 6, 2012, 7:19 p.m.

Three different perspectives on the state's economic future will highlight the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County's Fifth Annual Summit next week.

Set for Sept. 16 at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, the summit's slate of speakers "will be very provocative and will get people thinking about how to make Pennsylvania more competitive," said Alex Graziani, the partnership's executive director.

The forum will focus on issues related to the response to "Back to Prosperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania," a report produced and released in December 2003 by the Brookings Institution.

One of Washington, D.C.'s oldest think tanks, the Brookings Institution is an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to research, analysis and public education with an emphasis on economics, foreign policy and governance.

The 121-page report contends that the economic future of a major rust belt state depends on revitalizing its demographic mix and curbing some of the nation's most radical patterns of sprawl and abandonment.

Further, it asserts that Pennsylvania's highly decentralized growth patterns are weakening the state's established communities, undercutting the very places whose assets the state needs to compete in the knowledge economy.

Gov. Ed Rendell has used the report "as a game plan for economic development in Pennsylvania. But it has also ruffled a lot of feathers," Graziani said.

He added that the summit "will profile three different responses to the report, as well as plans for action to meet the economic challenges facing Pennsylvania and Westmoreland County."

Speakers include Wendell Cox, Dr. Michael Young and Ronald Bailey.

Cox, a world-renowned expert on sprawl, smart growth, government consolidation and transportation, is the principal of Wendell Cox Consultancy, an international public policy firm. He was recently commissioned by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors to refute the theory that bigger government is better government.

The result was a report Cox authored, "Growth, Economic Development and Local Government Structure in Pennsylvania," which PSATS recently released.

Young, managing director of Michael Young Strategic Research, has been a university professor and a consultant to more than 100 public and private agencies.

He is the primary author of the "Forward to Prosperity" report and represents the PA Prosperity Coalition -- members of which criticized the Brookings report because of perceived shortcomings in its research methods and policy recommendations.

Young's report provides nine concrete recommendations for government leaders to follow in restoring the state's economic vitality.

Bailey is the executive director of the Campaign to Renew Pennsylvania, a network of organizations and individuals committed to thoughtful actions to restore economic competitiveness, government effectiveness and quality of life in Pennsylvania's communities.

The author of numerous publications and articles on planning, Bailey served as executive director of the Lancaster County Planning Commission and that county's Transportation Coordinating Committee Commission from 1988 to 2004.

He also instituted and supervised an innovative smart growth initiative that helped to protect agricultural land and revitalize urban communities, focus economic growth and link transportation with land use.

The upcoming summit "is not a debate," Graziani said. "But it is the only place in the commonwealth where all three sides will get a chance to talk."

The program starts at 8:30 a.m. in Ferguson Theater at the Hempfield Township campus' Smith Hall. Cost to attend is $35, and registration may be made by calling the partnership at 724-836-7048 or paying at the door.

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