Wolf tours city, redevelopment

Out-of-county trips discontinued

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Gov. Tom Wolf, accompanied by Steve McKnight, president and CEO of the Altoona-Blair County Development Corp., starts his tour of downtown with a stop at the Mishler Theatre.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday toured downtown Altoona, stopping to see the results of financial cooperation between the state and local businesses — his soft-spoken manner contradicting the political stereotype.

Along the way, a young man crossed the street to introduce himself to the governor, hoping by his action to break a couple of stereotypes, while signaling his support of cooperation — rather than contention — as the best way to go about the business of life.

Wolf visited the Mishler Theatre, The Clay Cup coffeehouse, the Lord’s Dress Shoppe building, the Gables building and the J.J. Hadley building, all of which have or will benefit from a state grant or loan coupled with ownership’s infusion of funds, a cooperative formula that has led to a renaissance for the downtown, according to Steve McKnight, President and CEO of the Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.

Rian Slade-Bowers, the young man who crossed 11th Avenue from the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence to interrupt Wolf’s walk down 11th Avenue, is a Penn State Altoona sophomore business major who sought to demonstrate that not all young people, not all college students, and especially not all black people from places like Harrisburg, are loath to show traditional respect and even enthusiasm when interacting with older figures of authority.

Some years ago, Slade-Bowers spoke to Wolf at an event in Harrisburg, and he knows Patty Kim, a state representative from Harrisburg — but still “you don’t get many opportunities” to talk to someone with that kind of power, he said.

Unlike many people in his generation, unlike many students and unlike many “minorities,” Slade-Bowers isn’t inclined to be disruptive or to withdraw from the effort to make something of himself.

“I’m striving to do better,” he stated.

People say he “talks white,” but he has ingested the lessons on behavior and “how to carry yourself” imparted by his mother and the teachers at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and Bishop McDevitt High School, a Catholic institution, he said.

People in Wolf’s position might tend not “to expect much” from minorities, but said actions like his on Thursday may help change that expectation.

He plans to spend the last half of his undergraduate life at University Park, at the Smeal College of Business, he told Wolf.

It seemed like Wolf was interested in him during their brief encounter, he said.

Maybe the governor will remember it, maybe not, he said.

Regardless, he hopes someday to become a business consultant and eventually a business leader — maybe even a CEO, he said.

His rejection of disorder and violence has a good precedent — Martin Luther King Jr. and the great man’s followers, Slade-Bowers said.

“People beat them up, and they kneeled,” he stated.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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