by Howard J. Grossman, AICP
The two-word phrase, “force multiplier,” is used in military circles as a way to explain the extent to which a given expression of military might is available for use when needed. It can be used, however, to define regional economies as found in the Pocono-Northeast.
For example, within the three sectors of this region – private, public and nonprofit – are found leadership skills in abundance that are brought into play in both positive and negative times. This has been proven many times over as the region has experienced recessions as well as bright and healthy years. The latter bring a circle of economic development that creates jobs and responsible actions and removes negativity and showcases the assets generated throughout regional landscapes.
Another force multiplier is the creativity which led to funding programs that are used state-wide, such as the State Industrial Development Fund and other measures that have come from the brains and minds of regional leaders.
The region is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution that spread across the United States and is the locale that has been the greatest regional economic comeback in American life, as witnessed by the startling loss of 250,000 people in prior decades and the extensive economic diversity across the entire region. There are strong and specific non-governmental organizations( NGO) found in many areas of this region that take on responsibilities the government would have to accomplish, and these entities deserve much credit for, in many places, being downtown headquarters, that help bring business to central business districts.
They have become the heart and soul of regional life.
In fact, their role needs to be highlighted through a regional study that could showcase what these leading organizations provide to the economy and as well as reaching out to engender human services. The belief is that this research would add much value to knowledge that could be important to the force multiplier theme. It would be an awesome force for thinking of what this sector means to a better quality of life throughout the Pocono-Northeast.
Another force multiplier is represented by the print and electronic media which are giants of information, added to by the social media, and if this all could be identified by a special evaluation, it would become a new way to focus attention on their contributions to the overall economy of the region.
This region has a plethora of industrial and economic development agencies that add great strength at the local, county and regional levels. An examination of this strength would demonstrate the extent to which they contribute to job creation and economic advantage. Many of these entities started the battle to bring the region have being fully distressed to a fighting strength that caused a turnaround in the economy over several decades of recent vintage. They are a significant force multiplier and continue to offer new initiatives for the appropriate growth of this region. A support system exists to enhance the role toward regionalism as typified by the NEPA Alliance, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, Emergency Medical Services of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania and other similar examples. Sports and entertainment entities have changed the regional landscape of what this region was like thirty years ago with the addition of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, the Scranton Cultural Center, the Hazleton Performing Arts venue, the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Pocono International Raceway and more, including a substantial listing of arts and entertainment entities across the region.
While history may have said that “there is nothing to do in this region,” that is clearly no longer the case. These are all force multipliers for the benefit of the one-million-plus people who reside here.
The condition that exists where much of this region provides support and sympathy for needy people is a part of this region’s beauty when it comes to taking care of our own. Services are plentiful, and while some may be having monetary problems, the intent to meet needs has always been an important element of regional life. This force multiplier grows as new issues become priorities, and the likelihood is that more will unfold in coming years and perhaps lead to mergers and consolidations of such organizations, equipped to explore ways to handle situations that need addressing. One example is the Dinners for Kids program in the greater Wilkes-Barre area, which is expanding and was started without any governmental support by the former owners of Ollies Restaurant, David and Edna Tevet and provides hot meals for youngsters. It is expected that this type of service will expand in the future.
Another force multiplier is the abundance of community foundations that now exist in much of this region. They are a creative and critical factor in reaching many new initiatives they have organized as tool for helping nonprofits, and their role needs to be extended in the future by perhaps joining together in regional priority setting. The NEPA Alliance Nonprofit Community Assistance Center is another key asset for the benefit of many citizens and entities concerned with serving their clientele.
There are some activities that perhaps could add to the force mutiplier system inside the region. Here are some ideas:
■ Create a Regional Asset District similar to what exists in Allegheny County to help fund libraries, cultural facilities and other types of public entities.
■ Advance STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) across the whole region within school districts and other locations.
■ Enhance the Sister Cities program as a way to focus attention on global factors.
■ Hold a National-Regional Expo by identifying partners who could support such a venture.
■ Place a time capsule in the region that showcases what this region has to offer in this era and make sure the location is identified as well as encouraging this to occur in the future, perhaps every fifty years or so.
There are many other activities that could be defined as force multipliers, and an evaluation of others should become a part of our region’s future.