Penn-Northwest Plans Mercer County Economic Summit

HERMITAGE, Pa. – Penn-Northwest Development Corp. will use information provided during a summit later this month to inform its upcoming work plan, Executive Director Rod Wilt said.

On July 28, Penn-Northwest will host its inaugural Mercer County Economic Summit at Grove City College, the organization announced in a news release Friday.

“What I hope to take away is that we get kind of a realistic snapshot of where we are, and we also leave with a very hopeful vision for where we can go together,” Wilt said.

Every November, Penn-Northwest presents its program of work, the organization’s comprehensive economic development strategy for the upcoming year, and what is discussed later this month will be “an integral component of how we craft our strategy to what we’re going to be working on in 2023 and 2024,” he added.

“Do we create a new goal based upon what we hear? Do we put more emphasis and resources behind a particular goal or recurring theme?” he asked.

The morning-long program, which will begin at 8 a.m. at Staley Hall of Arts and Letters, will feature six panels of local experts discussing topics ranging from manufacturing to tourism and recreation, according to the news release announcing the event. Rick Siger, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, will keynote the event.

Wilt, who was hired in September 2020 to head Penn-Northwest, acknowledged he was inspired by reading an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times about a similar event in Washington County.

“As is the case with many of the things that I see out there, the best ideas are stolen,” he remarked.   

The six panels will focus on key segments of the Mercer County economy. Each will feature community leaders representing education, manufacturing, health care, recreation/tourism, workforce development and elected officials.  

“As we looked through our program of work, which is our comprehensive economic development plan, we focused on these five or six different areas of the economy where we felt it would be interesting for the community to hear from,” Wilt said.

According to a December 2022 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, health care and social assistance represented 20.9% of employment in Mercer County, followed by manufacturing, which represented 18% of those working in the county.  

Panelists will be asked two key questions, Wilt said. The first is their perception of the current state of affairs in Mercer County – whether they see the county moving forward, falling back or just treading water. The second is how they feel about the future, including what obstacles they face and what areas of the county need to be improved to make it a more attractive place to live, learn, work and play.

“Because the panels are only a half an hour to 40 minutes in length, I don’t want to get bogged down with a ton of questions. I really want people to hear from our leaders in those various sectors,” he said. “And I want people to kind of leave with a realistic sense of how things are, but also be uplifted about the future in the county, because I think we’re going to hear a pretty bullish message about the various sectors of our economy and how they’re feeling.”

Tickets can be purchased here. Admission includes continental breakfast, snack and lunch. Tickets are $50 for Penn-Northwest members and $100 for nonmembers, with all proceeds going toward the Homegrown Initiative.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.