EDITOR’S NOTE: On the PULSE asked the Lycoming County commissioner candidates three questions pertaining to the county deficit, the drug epidemic and local opportunities for youth. We have published their responses to one of the questions each week leading up to Election Day. This is the final week:
Young professionals are leaving Lycoming County in search of better jobs and more options in entertainment, social environment and housing. What can Lycoming County do to ensure the county’s young residents don’t continue to leave?
“I think it’s important for us to focus on job development and on infrastructure development …
The bridge bundling program that we passed is important for economic development …
Infrastructure is an effort to develop the economy to foster a place where people want to live.
By having many (recreation) options we create a quality of life that people are attracted to. The challenge we have is how do we do that without putting a burden on property taxes? … We can use the hotel tax and Act 13 (natural gas impact funds) to enhance the quality of life.
… We are a great place for people who are looking to retire. What we have is a beautiful outdoor recreation area that is easily accessible within 20 minutes.
Our economy has to be based on more than just Little League. We need to attract people who want to work from home …
We need to build this area with people we can attract who have discretionary income and disposable income.
The health care system is an important part of jobs. In all of rural pa, 47 counties, the largest driver of jobs and economic growth are the health care systems … We have to realize that the quality of life is No. 1.
We’re not going to end it overnight but we have to really look at what we are doing as a community and see if we are doing all that we can do to enhance the community …
The state needs to devote a serious amount of money to rural Pennsylvania for broadband and scholarships … it can help with small businesses through grants…. We need a concerted effort. We have a report that says we can deliver broadband for less than $3 million to our communities. We have to look at where our resources are going.”
“It is a concern. I have two daughters who are young and have moved out of the area. I’d like to get them both back to town …
For the planning department, we work hard to ensure there are recreation opportunities here … We need somewhere in the county where there is another development with affordable homes for young people to buy.
We need the jobs. I do think the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce is making a concerted effort and looking for a big win. I bet they’re getting inquiries every month and one of the things businesses ask is do you have a work-force.
We believe we have the work-force with local colleges. The arts community is doing real well and it’s great to see the new airport terminal … We have to work on our airport terminal. People need to be able to come and go from here … I think within the next 12 months we’ll see an action plan put together on air travel throughout the community.
… Our future means getting young people to want to stay or come back here. It’s important for UPMC, we want young professional medical people to want to come here and stay.
Right now the gas industry is on the downside… we need to support that industry as much as we can. At some point, that will come back. With the jobs and wages that industry provides it sure can help the community.
If the right opportunity comes, we can make a difference … We have a new planning director. I’m hoping she’ll come with some ideas.”
“That’s a very serious concern. We went from a population of 113,000 down to 110,000 (projected for the 2020 census). We are on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution. We have to bring those businesses here. We have a fantastic program at Penn College. Those kids get their degree and they leave. We have to encourage businesses to stay here. We have NeWeld, Inc. Look at what they have done and how they’ve grown.
We have to encourage activities that the youth want to participate in.
We have an amazing art community and downtown area.
We have beautiful value with nature and hiking.
We have to be able to promote our county more.
As a county, we don’t promote and market the good things … Talk to the people who are doing it right and see how they are doing things.
We can start with the city and expand out.
Volunteerism. You get people involved with volunteerism, they make friends and they want to stay here. They want to be involved in those organizations. We have to stress volunteerism. We have to stress that.”
“One of the biggest issues facing Lycoming County is stagnant real estate appreciation and that comes from a variety of reasons. We’re in a rural community and there’s not a whole lot to do, but we do have a great quality of life.
I’ve seen many people who have left this area to pursue great careers in big cities come back and retire here.
What we have to do is make sure that we emphasize the tourism, continue to try to support economic development and support the housing stock.”
“The major source of young people leaving is (not) providing necessary opportunities for them here. It’s important that we have good paying jobs that are challenging jobs … Right now, our population has gone from 120,000 at the turn of the century down to 113,000. A lot of that has to do with people leaving for better jobs outside of the area.
We have a lot of things and opportunities that would attract people for our area, what we need is jobs. And they have to be quality jobs that entice people to want to stay and work here. Since the oil and gas business has left, we’ve done nothing in the past 10 years.”
The candidates responses were copied verbatim, with the exception of paraphrasing for the sake of clarity and cutting excess verbiage to provide concise answers.