By Howard J. Grossman, AICP
A book written in 2009 titled “ The Atlantic Century” by Kenneth Weisbrode, should be required reading in today’s controversial times about the European Union and the role and impact on regions such as the Pocono-Northeast.
This 470-page treatise talks about key figures during the height of post war Europe and the entire Atlantic discovery of America and the alliance with Europe through NATO and the European Recovery Plan, better known as the Marshall Plan. The opportunities which opened up for trade, for taking vital steps to help other nations rebuild, to accomplish reconstruction and allow allies and others to become deep trading allies is traced in this responsible book about the people who became well-known figures in recovery.
The four generations that have taken place since the end of World War II forged factors that have engaged the region and helped create “ the greatest regional economic comeback in the history of the United States.” While this statement is bold and creative, think of what the region was like in the 1950s and ’60s, and see what economic diversification has meant to regional economic life. While there have been ups and downs in the economy during these generations, the Pocono-Northeast has survived and been a major component for community growth and economic development. The Marshall Plan contributed to not only European recovery but also American economic improvement by the investment of funds overseas, thus building opportunities to enhance the business community of regions such as ours. During the time of the Marshall Plan, there was a prayer which was cited in the book and goes something like this:
“Our Uncle which art in America, Sam be thy name, Thy Navy come, thy will be done, in London as ’tis in Washington. Give us this day our Marshall aid, and forgive us our un-American activities, as we forgive you your American activities again. And lead us not into Socialism, but deliver us from Communism, for thine is our Kingdom, the Atom-power and the Tory, for ever and ever, G-men.”
Think of those days and years and what the nation went through with McCarthyism and other events and what we had to overcome to reach an economic destiny, that is as yet incomplete, but better than what the region faced in the years following 1945. The economic picture is yet to be fully implemented, and the issues currently being faced still makes economic development a No. 1 regional priority, and more attention needs to be placed upon exporting and importing of products and services, especially those relating to European countries, and now Asia and the remainder of the world. The global economy is an important element in nurturing the ability of this region to be competitive and have a strong capacity to overcome difficulties. One of the major needs is to have a national posture that is not constantly at odds with the leaders of world life, especially in nations found in western and eastern Europe. It is why books and policies discussed, such as “ The Atlantic Century,” need to be a reminder of history so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and the positive assets of history can be replicated.
To focus on this process, here are a few steps that can be taken in coming months and years in the region.
Coming out of World War II were regional business people who became heroes of regional recovery such as Tom Shelburne, Roy Morgan, Sandy Sutherland, Ernie Preate, Sr., Dr. Ed Dessen and others. These monumental leaders should never be forgotten and a history of their economic development contribution should be written and memorialized as a means of remembrance and creativity for this and future generations.
An Atlantic community of organizations within the region should be developed as a way to further economic performance that benefits this region and focuses on how to advance economic trading, business development and community enhancement. Such an entity would establish new approaches to this century and the years ahead in expanding all types of business opportunities.
In similar terms, an Asian consortium of organizations should be established so that the region can take advantage of economic activity between the Pocono-Northeast and the growing economy of Asia.
A regional diplomatic corps should be considered just as former Gov. William W. Scranton was a United Nations ambassador and became a leader in this field, current regional leaders should become involved in helping to train appropriate regional personnel in becoming part of the diplomacy factors which can be designed for participation in global events. Perhaps such training can be advanced by one or more higher education institutions inside the region.
Leaders such as Tom Friedman , should be invited to speak at regional assemblies, and help promote a global view of business development. Sandy Unger, who is a writer, educator and journalist from this region, could be asked to speak to groups inside the region. There are others who come from the region, have made it elsewhere, and should be invited to help develop some of these ideas.
Exporting and trading products and services was advanced by the then-Economic Development Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania (EDCNP), and now the NEPA Alliance, and this featured program should be a major focal point for accelerating these ideas and recommendations.
“The Atlantic Century” brings history and the future together, and the leadership of this region should always consider our historical background, how this fits into national perspectives, and develop creative aspects which focus on the ability of the region to utilize all appropriate elements, historical and current, for the benefit of regional economic advancement.