By Steve Harmic, Penn State DuBois
DUBOIS – Penn State DuBois played host to the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission’s (North Central) annual conference on May 18. Known as the North Central Communities Conference, the yearly event is designed to bring together businesses, elected officials and other civic leaders.
Representatives from the various camps hear presentations on economic issues and collaborate on ideas to improve the overall economic health of the region. This year, Marcellus Shale drilling was widely discussed.
“One of the things we try to do at North Central is bring these different groups together to engage in dialogue,” said North Central Executive Director Eric Bridges.
“We recognize the importance of responsible civic engagement for regional organizations, and this provides a venue for advancing that engagement and networking.”
“The activities associated with the conference provide the opportunity to share information with organizations and agencies committed to the well-being and growth of our region,” said Assistant Director of Penn State DuBois Continuing Education John Blasdell.
In all, more than 20 presentations were made throughout the day-long conference. They focused on topics from workforce development and education to improving communities.
However, a large focus of the conference was the Marcellus Shale gas industry. Bridges said gas drilling came to the forefront of the conference because of the emerging impact that it has and will continue to have on the region.
“There was a prevalent energy theme for obvious reasons,” Bridges said, explaining that presentations on the industry varied. Some focused on the benefits Marcellus Shale could bring to the area, while others outlined the risks involved with the drilling process. “Presentations covered the economic perspective, local development and opportunity to the costs associated with it.”
Clearfield County Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen offered opening remarks for the conference. She said, “There is opportunity with Marcellus Shale, but it comes with responsibility. We want to stay ahead of new opportunity, but we need to use our dollars wisely to do the best we can for our local economy.”
Congressman Glenn Thompson, of Pennsylvania’s Fifth District, also offered his insight on Marcellus Shale during the conference. “I’m confident that history is being written today as we witness Pennsylvania’s next big energy boom,” Thompson said. He, as well, said it will take work, vigilance and education to assure the boom happens responsibly.
“We are going to find alternative energy sources that work. There are a lot of smart people working on this, many work at campuses like this one and at University Park.”