The Centre Daily Times Users’ Guide is a valuable information source for folks living, working, learning and seeking entertainment and recreation in Centre County.
This is our 15th annual section, and in many ways the Users’ Guides have been consistent through the years. In these pages, you can learn more about your community, your school district, local government, the economy and places to exercise, socialize or worship.
But Users’ Guide is also a reflection of the county it describes, tracking the evolving nature of living, playing and doing business in Centre County.
The region and its people have undergone many changes during the years of Users’ Guides.
There are more of us living in Centre County than in 1999, and we’re a little bit younger, on average. We make a bit more money, but our homes are much more valuable.
Our transportation opportunities have expanded, our sports venues have increased and our jobs base has shifted significantly.
Consider this from the world of sports: That first Users’ Guide in 1999 welcomed a brand new team — the Altoona Curve — to the region, and celebrated the expansion of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium for football fans. In the 2013-14 edition, we offer a seating chart for the new Pegula Ice Arena opening on campus, and we celebrate the eighth season of the State College Spikes minor-league baseball team playing at beautiful Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The economy has shifted dramatically through 15 years of Users’ Guides, although Penn State was and remains by far the top jobs producer in the area.
The 1999 issue included three manufacturing companies among the county’s top 10 employers: Corning Asahi, Murata Electronics and Cerro Metal Products. Combined, they boasted about 3,000 employees. But all three are now gone, replaced on the list by health care and retail organizations.
Centre Community Hospital became Mount Nittany Health System and jumped from No. 6 to No. 2 on the list. The hospital is joined in the top 10 by the Meadows/Universal Community Behavioral Health and Geisinger Medical Group.
Wal-Mart, Weis Markets and Wegmans Food Markets rank among the leading jobs-providers, and construction companies Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. and HRI Inc. have climbed the list.
Users’ Guide once dedicated a page to agriculture. While farming remains important locally, a full page is now reserved for Marcellus Shale natural gas.
Here are some noteworthy changes you might see if you’ve been reading Users’ Guides for 15 years:
• Centre County population: 135,067 in 1999; 154,722 in 2013.
• Median age: Dipped from 31 to 29.1.
• Household income: Holding steady at just under $50,000.
• Median home value: Leaped from $97,523 in 1999 to $187,800 this year.
If you’re into outdoors activities, you might find this interesting:
A resident adult hunting license would run you $20 in 1999, while a resident adult fishing license was $16.25 (plus $5 if you wanted the trout/salmon permit).
In 2013, a resident adult hunting license is a bit more, at $20.70, and a Pennsylvania fishing license now goes for $22.70. The price of the trout/salmon stamp has nearly doubled, but is still something of a bargain at $9.70.
Have a dog? In 1999, you’d pay $8 for the required standard license, or $4 if you’d followed Bob Barker’s advice and had the pet spayed or neutered. Now you’ll pay a little more: $8.45 or $6.45, although it’s cheaper for senior citizens (the owners, not the dogs).
In terms of getting around, that first Users’ Guide told readers that a huge highway project was about to roll through Centre County, connecting our region to the world. Now, we almost take Interstate 99 for granted, even as it carries us swiftly to work and shop and as commerce sprouts along its path and especially at its interchanges.
Here’s some very good news: Many aspects of Centre County life are as significant and meaningful as they were all those years ago.
The Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair remains the best agricultural fair around, and the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is still a jewel of our community. Both are bigger and better than ever.
We still boast numerous great parks and hiking areas, museums and historical sites, music and stage venues, sports teams and natural wonders.
And the Centre Daily Times was 50 cents on the newsstand most days in 1999, and still is — although you can read us now on your computer, on your tablet device, on your phone ...
Who knows what the next 15 years will bring?
Welcome to our annual Users’ Guide.
Or, welcome back.
Chip Minemyer is the executive editor of the Centre Daily Times. He can be reached at 231-4640. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.