Vern Squier thinks the future of Centre County’s economy is bright if the business community sticks to a few key principles.
Those, he said, include fostering partnerships, developing the workforce and branding.
Squier, president of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, discussed the chamber’s economic development plans for next year before about 200 CBICC members Tuesday at the Nittany Lion Inn during the CBICC’s annual Vision Luncheon. It’s the largest membership event the CBICC organizes.
Fostering partnerships struck a chord with Centre Foundation Executive Director Molly Kunkel.
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“One of our goals, and one of the things that we think is vital to community success, is bringing together the value of the work nonprofits do with the value for-profits do, because community engagement and enhancement benefits everybody,” Kunkel said.
An important partnership for the CBICC in 2015 will be with Penn State, Squier said.
“We have a fantastic relationship with Penn State, and we’re going to do a lot there in the way of entrepreneurial development,” he said. “That is going to be a huge arena for us.”
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, who attended the lunch, said afterward that retaining university graduates is important for economic development in the region.
“It’s about entrepreneurship and investing in our resources here,” Goreham said. “I think the best thing we can do to help economic development and to help businesses grow is help people who have gone to Penn State to implement their ideas here.”
Squier said communicating with Penn State and local institutions such as the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology will be instrumental in developing the workforce.
“They have to know what we need in our workforce, from broad-based professional training to developing specific skill sets, whether it’s welding, carpentry or becoming a controller technician,” he said.
Squier said CBICC will continue working with Penn State next year to raise Centre County’s profile, with possibly “some sort of joint brand” between the two.
“I can’t really say what it will be, but we’re searching for that brand and always marketing in terms that we can,” he said. “We have a world-class institution here and a high quality of life, but to singularize it to a phrase or term, we haven’t done that yet.”