One thing that hasnt changed in Centre County is its prominence in education.
And Penn States growth is the driving force behind Centre County economy, according to area labor market analysts.
University Provost Rob Pangborn and spokeswoman Lisa Powers said a group known as the Blue & White Vision Council is discussing the future of Penn State and the many national issues that will impact it well into the future.
One issue is technology and online learning.
According to members of Penn State Outreach, one way to enhance online learning is through MOOCs Massive Open Online Classes open to anyone free of charge, aimed at large-scale learning and taught by university faculty. This, they said, will help promote Penn State, increase enrollment and allow people from around the world to study at an American institution they otherwise would not have the chance to learn from.
In 1987, similar to now, both Penn State and the State College Area School District made the top five list of employers in the county.
Between then and 2002, health care boomed. And in the past 10 years, statistics from Pennsylvanias Labor and Industry Department in Harrisburg showed that the construction and hospitality industries also were on the rise.
Steven Zellers, astate labor market analyst for the State College area, said a look into the future will continue to show increases in both education and health care, but construction should hit a plateau.
The vast majority is simply demographics. The population has gone up in the area, and the size of education and the medical sectors will increase, Zellers said. Of course, we have the outside proportion involved in Penn State, and as the university has grown, that helped the general economy. You see a present need for development in terms of hospitality for guests and transportation development with new road and highways.
On the other hand, Zellers said there is only so much need for development locally. However, some local firms, such as Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., have expanded outside of Centre County to keep up with the state and national growing trend.
Hawbaker performs heavy construction, concrete construction, utility work, asphalt production, and heavy equipment rental and sales throughout Pennsylvania and parts of upstate New York. It provides services to Marcellus Shale drillers as well.
But in the long run, Zellers said, education and health care would have the most prominent impact on the county.
Before 2002, Mount Nittany Medical Center was called Centre Community Hospital. And the name shift near the start of the millennium was the least of its changes.
Nichole Monica, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said before the name change, it acted as a community hospital rather than a regional medical center. The name was chosen to recruit physicians and clinical staff from neighboring Penn State.
By 2006, Mount Nittany Medical Center signed its affiliation agreement with Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Penn State.
Steve Brown, president and CEO of Mount Nittany Medical Center, said this partnership initiated new programs, including telestroke, vascular surgery and electrophysiology. And with new programs, more jobs are created.
Monica said from that affiliation, it also added interventional cardiology, and became a member of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. Clinical trials started the development of a Family Residency program with Penn State, which is expected to be completed in 2015, and the hospital continued to partner on a number of services to align and localize health care services.
In 2008, the hospital opened its east wing a $30 million expansion. All rooms, Monica said, are single-patient rooms with special comfort amenities for patients and families, as well as many patient safety and staff efficiencies designed into the space.
The hospital grew to a health system in 2011 with the development of Mount Nittany Physician Group, which included physicians from the former Guillard Medical Group, the former State College Urology center, and Centre Medical and Surgical Associates, Monica said. Mount Nittany Physician Group now employs more than 70 doctors in Centre and Mifflin counties.
Last year, Mount Nittany expanded the footprint of its emergency department and opened the Lance and Ellen Shaner Cancer Pavilion and the Sieg Neuroscience Center to improve access to care. Monica said the emergency department would complete its second phase of construction by April.
Also last year, it became the only hospital in an 80-mile radius to provide the da Vinci Surgical Sytem for its gynecology and urology surgeries. Monica said the advanced technology of the robot provides many patient benefits, including smaller incisions, which means smaller scars and faster recovery times.
Mount Nittany also approved its strategic plan and updated its mission to better reflect its core value to keep people healthier and to change to an infrastructure planning system. she said. By June, the health system will be fully electronic, enhancing patient safety by ensuring that every patient has one electronic health record, Monica said.
Brown told the CDT that he has a goal to develop a full-service academic teaching hospital in partnership with the Penn State College of Medicine. This, he said, would bring more research, education and clinical programs and services to the community.
Well accept more of those students next year so were already a teaching hospital, Brown said.
In the long-term, Brown said his goals are to establish a family medicine residency program, work with Penn States College of Medicine and become a formal academic teaching hospital.
And while Mount Nittany Medical Center and Penn State are in the works to partner, other educational institutions such as State College Area School District are making their own strides.
Despite budget cuts, the school district still has a big impact on the area, making it the countys largest public school district, serving more than 7,000 students.
Julie Miller, public information specialist for the district, said the school has not changed in size in the past decade, but its focus on education has shifted.
We are seeing a greater interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and many other interdisciplinary studies across the board, Miller said.
The tools and skills our students need to possess now and in the future are very different from those in the past, and we are committed to providing 21st century skills to our students, she said.
By doing this, Miller said the schools continue to have a thriving Career and Technical Center program where students can enroll and specialize in a specific content area, or take some classes in the CTC while also maintaining a core academic course load.
The district is also working on its comprehensive plan for the next school year that will enable the district to create the first phase of a six-year cycle that will provide the district with clear goals, Miller said.
Our educational mission remains to prepare students for lifelong success through excellence in education, and the core goals of the district will continue to focus on teaching and learning for every student, ever yday, Miller said.
Miller said the district also is engaging in a planning effort with the community regarding high school facilities that will serve the community in the next 50 years.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on twitter @brmilazzo.