Grow PA has plans to live up to its name

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Robert Wonderling cares about the future of Pennsylvania.

The former state senator and current president/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia stopped in Blair County Wednesday to pitch his Grow PA plan to members of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce CEO Roundtable.

Grow PA is an initiative that the Philadelphia chamber has developed over the last two years through collaborating with myriad economic interests, local chambers of commerce, organized labor and various professional associations.

Its purpose is to convene people and organizations throughout Pennsylvania to establish a modern economic growth agenda centered around three pillars: transforming post-secondary education, modernizing infrastructure and accelerating innovation in health care technology and delivery.

Wonderling started the initiative after the budget impasse of 2015. He said between 2010 and 2015, the population had dropped in 42 of the state’s 67 counties.

“The question is how can we reset Pennsylvania and grow. We need to show ways to create growth,” Wonderling said.

Wonderling calls Grow PA an orchestrated movement.

“Our role as a chamber is to be a catalyst to propel movement that gets things going in the long term. A movement needs leaders. We need catalytic leaders to propel people and to organize. We are working with local chambers to cultivate regional leaders,” Wonderling said.

Transforming education and attracting people to Pennsylvania are important steps.

“The key to our success is connection to the future needs. We need to have our ear to the rail to find out what jobs are available and what are the needs of industry. We in education need to rethink and change to provide the skill sets so kids are flexible so they can change to what is needed,” Bellwood-Antis School District Superintendent Thomas McInroy said.

“We made a shift at Bellwood-Antis from doing what has been done for 200 years to creative problem solving. Kids need broad based exposure to various skill sets. How do we maximize our existing resources to come up with an approach to the problems we are facing?” McInroy asked.

Providing a good education system can help attract people to the area.

“We need to look at everything we can do; we have a window of opportunity,” said Altoona Area School District Superintendent Charles Prijatelj. “We need to draw people in. People don’t come to a ghost town.”

“If we are to attract people to Pennsylvania, we must start by growing our economy and providing the jobs needed to keep them here. We need to figure out how to reset the commonwealth as a magnet to get people here. There are opportunities here. If we play our cards right, we can draw people,” Wonderling said.

Wonderling is hoping some local leaders step up.

“I hope you will become catalytic leaders for Grow PA. We are encouraging people to sign up with good ideas for growth. We are looking for big ideas to grow the commonwealth,” Wonderling said.