Business, municipal leaders come together, hope to spark economic growth

The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County is looking to increase its reach by collaborating with local officials to spark economic growth.

A Wednesday meeting was the first step of that process.

The CBICC organized a presentation and discussion with leaders in the town from business to politics to management to get started on a collaborative process that chamber President Vern Squier is hoping will attract more businesses to Centre County.

“We just wanted a countywide discussion about economic development,” he said, adding that he thought the turnout was excellent.

The main speaker at the event, economic consultant Dennis Donovan, said the county isn’t yet on the map of potential places for large businesses to look at, but it has potential.

He said the geographic location, proximity to Penn State, strong public education systems and reasonable cost of living all work in favor for potential growth.

But in order to get there, the county must market itself better, Donovan said.

Putting more money into marketing will allow some of the businesses looking to expand or relocate to see those positives about the community. He suggested possibly marketing Centre County as the “greater State College area.”

Though he knows the county has more than just State College, he said the name recognition will go further.

Donovan suggested the chamber go after small to midsize businesses in industries like manufacturing, science, medical diagnostics and biotech.

Squier agreed that focusing on all the positive aspects of the county will be a key for marketing.

“We want to appreciate all the good things that are here in the community,” he said. “We want to market that.”

State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, one of several municipal and county officials who attended the meeting, said a challenge is the number of municipalities that are fragmented within the county.

She said the individual municipal entities need to work closer together to get everyone in a cohesive frame of mind.

“It’s obvious that the only way we can be successful is to work together more closely,” she said.

Squier and the chamber board will be looking to build off the momentum generated at Wednesday’s meeting and hope to have more in the future.