On Monday, I embarked on a week-long tour of the county and took some time to introduce myself to CBICC members.
From Philipsburg to Bellefonte, I spoke with business owners and community members – each beaming with pride in their work and their communities. I heard from companies that are agriculture-based, solar-powered, and that represent manufacturing, government and retail – just to name a few. All were mission-driven, bursting at the seams, and ready for a second or third expansion. They have retooled the local workforce, yet their growth pace continues to provide ample employment opportunities.
I was born in Bellefonte, and I’m a graduate of Bald Eagle High School and Penn State, so this was also somewhat of a homecoming week for me as I explored our communities, spoke to business leaders, and happily reconnected with people I know.
I routinely ran into former classmates who are now business leaders in their communities. Among them was Mike Etters, the Plant Director at Niagara Bottling, just outside of Milesburg. Mike explained the many career paths available in their facilities to high-school graduates, as well as ideas for the future of the local facility.
Through these on-site visits and conversations with three of the five area school superintendents, the connection between schools and industry came into sharp focus. The superintendents voiced a desire to collaborate more frequently — building on the foundation of the CentreREADY program that was launched a few years ago. Tending to the needs of our workforce is critical, not just to keep economic engines running, but also to ensure that every student crossing a graduation stage is walking into the brightest future possible, regardless of their chosen path.
Economic development can take many forms. Sometimes it looks like a brand-new company that arrives in the area to much fanfare. But more often than not, a healthy economy is fueled by the quieter and steadier growth of local enterprises that add jobs and expand operations each year.
The CBICC’s position in the community and the make-up of its members underlines the twin ideas of intersection and collaboration. Business, education, non-profit, and government entities all convene at the “Chamber,” making it the headquarters of opportunities for partnership and economic development.
I look forward to putting my local connections, administrative skills, and goal-oriented mentality to work for our county.
Thank you to everyone who took some time this week to show me around, to stop by one of the CBICC events, or to send a message of encouragement.
I am excited to partner with you as we embark on an exciting new chapter for Centre County!