DUBOIS – On Monday business and community leaders gathered at Lakeview Lodge to hear from Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary and Clearfield County native C. Alan Walker.
The event was sponsored by the Chambers of Commerce from: DuBois, Clearfield, Punxsutawney, Ridgway and St. Marys,
Walker discussed what Pennsylvania has to offer and what his vision for the state entails. Walker touched on the Marcellus Shale play going on and what that could mean for the state. He called it, “A real game changer.” Walker said that in June Pennsylvania became a net exporter of gas mined from the Marcellus Shale. He said the real ecomonic benefit of natural gas is where it is consumed, not produced.
“We don’t simply want our gas extracted an exported,” said Walker.
He also touched on the royalties and how to better keep the money brought in from the gas play in the region. He was asked later about impact fees on gas well drilling. He indicated that he doesn’t think impact fees are a bad idea. He stated that it essentially guarantees the money returns to local areas, versus a tax, which would go into the state’s general fund.
Walker pointed to his plan for the region.
“Communities do no stay the same,” said Walker. “They change or die.”
He said the area must learn to think as a region and engage in a superior strategic plan. He said residents must be more aggressive in talking about their area. He said we need to laugh about the things that make us different than the rest of the state. Walker said that policitics and economic development do go hand-in-hand. He pointed to politicians and leaders from the area who are in Harrisburg, naming Joe Scarnati, Sam Smith, himself and Matt Gabler.
“This region has never been better served in Harrisburg,” said Walker.
He said the area needs to make sure the school and healthcare systems can be the best they can be. He said that central business districts remain the core of communities. He said institutions need to be in place to keep wealth created in the area here. Walker said their must be a focus on bringing the area’s infrastructure up to par witht eh rest of the state. He said industrial parks that are site-ready are needed. Walker said a bright spot in Harrisburg is the Office of International Development. He said that exports make up 10 percent of the state’s economy.
Walker also pointed to his department and how they intend to go forward.
“It will not be business as usual for DCED,” said Walker. “We will do more with less.”
Walker noted that they will scrutinize things more closeley. He stated that when he came on, groups had an entitlement mentality that was a stagnant way of thinking. He pointed to two upcomong programs from DCED, Discover PA and Develop PA. He said they want people who want to take part in the programs to think outside the box.
“The best for Clearfield, Elk and Jefferson Counties is yet to come,” urged Walker. “Regions that think strategically will benefit.”