LEWISTOWN - Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, C. Alan Walker, spoke about the future of Pa. at the 2012 Annual Dinner Meeting of the Mifflin County Planning Commission Thursday night at Lewistown Country Club.
During his speech Wednesday night, which marked the one year anniversary of his being appointed to the position, Walker emphasized the need for strategic planning and commended the Lewistown and the Mifflin County Planning Commission for its dedication to making the area a better place to live and thrive.
Walker began his speech with a personal anecdote relating to prayer, having been impressed that the dinner had started with an invocation, and sharing that he doesn't see much praying in Harrisburg.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development secretary C. Alan Walker speaks during the Mifflin County Planning Commission Annual Dinner Meeting Thursday evening at Lewistown Country Club.
He moved on to his early memories of Lewistown, sharing that as a young man he often took the Broadway Limited - Pennsylvania Railroad's premier named passenger train of the time - to New York City. On the trip back, when the train stopped in Lewistown he knew he was "almost home." Even today, traveling back and forth between his current home in Clearfield and his office in Harrisburg, Walker marks the town as reminding him of home.
In regard to the future, the DCED secretary started with reminding his audience of the past. In 1920, Pennsylvania boasted the 4th largest economy in the the world, he said, but no state suffered more during the Great Depression.
Though there was economic recovery that came with World War II, Pennsylvania's growth rate is less than half the national rate. Walker sees the same sort of trends in Mifflin County. He said Lewistown used to be a transportation hub. Boasting the presence of both the Pennsylvania Canal and the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was a thriving community.
However, the county lost its place, he said. Walker believes that with the current efforts and changes made by the planning commission, along with the support of the community, the county has the opportunity to thrive again.
He reminded attendees of a famous Charles Darwin quote, stating "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."
Walker commended the planning commission, sharing that he felt its mission statement - which states, "The mission of the Mifflin County Planning Commission is to provide strategic, coordinated, and objective guidance and oversight to the growth, planning, and development activities of Mifflin County" - is crucial to the rebuilding of the community.
He also shared that his hometown of Clearfield was much like Lewistown, and by putting the same ideals into practice, Clearfield has greatly improved in the past few years. With his in mind, he sees "optimism for the future of the area."
After touring the area earlier in the day, with stops including GE Inspection Technologies and several different parks and buildings, Walker remarked, "Lewistown is really starting to look good!"
He urged those in attendance to stay focused on the main goals, reminding them that with location, labor, and recreation, Lewistown could be the place it once was again.
In regard to the possible Utica Shale that may be under Mifflin County, he stated, "All I can say is I hope it's there."
He also shared that with the Shell Oil Cracker plant to be placed in Beaver County, job promises and the potential to change the economy are just the beginning for the commonwealth.
Walker ended his speech with, "The best is yet to come for Pennsylvania."
Also included during the program was the presentation of the 2011 Annual Report of the Mifflin County Planning Commission.
Director William Gomes highlighted several projects that took place during the year, including the formation of the Mifflin County Parks and Recreation Council, and Phase IV of the Monument Square Streetscape Project.
This project, which will assist in the redevelopment of downtown Lewistown's commercial area and encourage reinvestment in the historic areas, was awarded $1,473, 400 by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on Jan. 6. Phase IV construction is anticipated to begin later in 2012.
Gomes also highlighted the Community Development Block Grant Program for both Mifflin County and Derry Township, reviewing the different housing and public facility improvement projects that were taken on during the 2011 year.
Also presented during the dinner was the 2011 Community Planning Award, given to the Veterans Memorial Park in Granville Township, for its various efforts in improving the park.
The next planning commission meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 26.