From the Commish

By: Venango County Commissioner Vince Witherup as published in The Galena Signal

On Friday, March 25, 2011, the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce and the Future Lead­ers and Entrepreneurs Exchange (FLEX) joined together to recognize Ve­nango County’s “Young Professional of the Year”. This year’s recipient was, a very surprised, Renee Spence. Young people, like Renee and her col­leagues, are an integral part of our future eco­nomic growth.

Economic Develop­ment is the most impor­tant challenge that we face in Venango County. I have experienced the boom years when compa­nies like Pennzoil, Quaker State, United States Steel, Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company and others flourished in the County. They are gone. Our County population has dropped about 15% since I graduated from High School and the new U S Census predicts another 9% drop by 2030.

This trend can and must be reversed through aggressive economic de­velopment. We are blessed with smart, young entre­preneurs. We are blessed with hard working people with good work ethics. We are blessed with good water and abundant nat­ural resources, and we are blessed with a good geo­graphic location being half way between New York and Chicago.

Our first order of business should be to se­cure the existing compa­nies in our county. I know that this is not something that we can control but we must provide a busi­ness friendly environment and be attentive to their needs.

Second, we need to nurture home grown en­trepreneurs who will fol­low in the foot steps of people like Joe Joy, John Reib and other great en­trepreneurs of yesteryear. TO this end the Venango Chamber and FLEX are a critical part of this effort.

Third, we need to market our special as­sets to other compa­nies in other states and other countries and let them know that Venango County is a great place to locate. That takes a whole lot of work by a whole lot of people.

Too often in the past, it seems that our economic development agencies have tried to hit a home run by trying to go after big companies that need many employ­ees. I would much rather see 10 companies with 50 employees each than one company with 500 em­ployees. No one entity is solely responsible for a company’s decision to move here. It is the cul­mination of a lot of things ranging from the efforts of the various economic development agencies, local chambers, local gov­ernments, existing busi­nesses, and the attitude of the general public. There is no magic formula, just hard work and a belief that it can be done.