- COMMUNITY LINKS
KERSEY â€“ North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission [NCPRPDC] officials called to mind highlights of fiscal year 2010 Wednesday during their executive committee meeting and annual dinner at The Red Fern in Kersey.
For Joe DeMott, a McKean County commissioner serving as chairman of the commission's board of directors, several growing factors have created new challenges and opportunities for the country, including global economy, our aging infrastructure, the national debt, the automation of manufacturing, advancements in data management and new telecommunications systems.
"Planning is preparation for change," DeMott said. "The task of [NCPRPDC] is to anticipate change and use that change to our best advantage.
"As an organization, we must use the talents and insights of our board members, volunteers and employees to the greatest extent possible."
For DeMott, identifying the changes is vital to the advancement of the commission's region as well as to the commission itself.
"Working together, we can develop programs tailored to meet our needs and manage those programs in an effective and efficient manner," DeMott said. "The future of the North Central region is bright if we manage our change."
One of the biggest changes to impact the area has been the Marcellus Shale gas exploration.
"[Marcellus Shale] will be an economic boost for our area and make America more energy-independent," DeMott said. "Our tasks as a planning and development agency are to provide a well-trained workforce to develop the infrastructure needed by the industry and to minimize environmental and social damage."
With the region possessing a rich and continuous history of oil and gas exploration, DeMott said he hopes officials will use this experience as guidance as all those involved shift into a new era of natural gas development.
However, DeMott said he "personally" believes that decreases in federal and state funding will continue for the "foreseeable future."
"This cash crunch is forcing us to evaluate our priorities and operations," DeMott said. "Regional organizations, counties and municipalities need to become more self-reliant. The board is comprised of bright, competent members with the ability to guide us in this changing environment.
"I am proud of our talented employees and volunteers, and I am confident that our organization will lead us to a prosperous future."
In discussing the commission's future, Eric Bridges, who serves as the commission's executive director, said that despite the increasing scarcity of economic development resources, public demand for and expectations on the economic development system are at an all-time high.
"Clients still want access to the services they need," Bridges said. "Businesses and employers still want the services they need.
"As policymakers, we must continue to look for solutions in today's fiscally-constrained environment, and those of us in the service delivery system must share equally in that responsibility."
Despite the resource constraint and heightened performance, Bridges said it is a perfect opportunity to be the "custodians of a brand-new regional service delivery system."
"One in which we're no longer competing against our partners for entitlements that no longer exist," Bridges said, "but in unison toward a new set of performance standards that as a coalition, we've helped define."
One of the changes facing the commission in the new fiscal year is attaining necessary funding; the state budget cut the funding statewide from approximately $16 million down to $12 million.