Chamber hopes to invigorate growth in county, add billions to private sector revenues

bmilazzo@centredaily.comDecember 18, 2013 

Chamber of Business and Industry Centre County president Vern Squier speaks at the CBICC annual meeting at Mountain View Country Club on Wednesday.

CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE — CDT photo Buy Photo

— If 3B33, Gateway Group and Front & Centre don’t mean anything to you now, they probably will in the near future.

They are three components the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County focused on Wednesday during its annual end-of-year luncheon that members think will boost the chamber’s future and help with the economic growth of Centre County.

Otherwise known as $3 billion by 2033, 3B33 is a chamber initiative to bring private-sector annual revenue to $3 billion in Centre County by 2033. The current annual private-sector revenue is $700 million.

CBICC President Vern Squier said it’s a lofty — but doable — goal. The chamber also is hoping to increase the number of new businesses from 25 annually to 100 in the next 20 years.

Chamber member and Videon founder and CEO Todd Erdley, who delivered the 3B33 presentation, said that the way to help reach that goal is to focus on entrepreneurship, retention, and growth and recruitment, while working in collaboration with all CBICC members.

“We say we have a good quality of life here, but we want to keep and build on that,” Erdley said. “How do we do that? To focus on culture, network and use our resources.”

Penn State is Centre County’s biggest resource, he said.

“Penn State is our greatest economic engine, but we need balance. … If we don’t build on it, we’re crazy,” Erdley said. “With our members, we work collaboratively to help this work and accelerate and amplify the process. The Centre Region is a template to foster economic growth.”

The CBICC began to revamp itself in September, when it announced that it decreased the number of people on its board, increased the frequency of its meetings and began to focus on core economic components.

One of those components was the Gateway Group — a group of seven young professionals who act as the eyes and ears of the Centre County community to bring other young people to the area and keep them here.

Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe, who is also on the committee, said his job is to bridge the gap between the public and private sector.

Serena Fulton, member and New Leaf Initiative co-director, said that the Gateway Group is a place where young professionals can get help. New Leaf Initiative is a local nonprofit community center in State College.

“It’s to promote this area to live, work and play, and connect the university and the community,” Fulton said. “We want to retain young professionals and attract new ones.”

The Gateway Group will meet on a regular basis and come up with suggestions on how the chamber can improve its mission for local young professionals, Squier said.

To better communicate chamber news, the CBICC in January will launch Front & Centre, an initiative designed to showcase news that will give the public insight on how members are working with the public to increase economic growth.

“We have not messaged well, but this is the document to do that,” Squier said.

Coverage will include a behind-the-scenes look into business growth, development and updates on chamber projects.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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