Peter Greene's Editorial Regarding the Bosworth Plan

February 2003

When it comes to the Bosworth Plan, like most of you, I only know what I read in the papers. No doubt my invitation to the recent summit of NW PA movers and shakers was misplaced.

            Mr. Bosworth, for those who missed this, is the consultant hired by…well, I’m not sure whom, exactly, but at the urging of Congressman John Peterson, someone paid him $95,000 to do some economic consulting for northwest PA. I looked him up; he’s done foreign service work in Latin America, government eco-development work in Indiana, and consulting biz stuff for about fourteen years. I believe we didn’t find him comic book back page ads.

            His company, FutureWorks, does consulting in just this arena. They like “action learning networks” of leaders and educational institutions from different regions. Their website says, “We admit to a bias toward institutional capacity and leadership development.”

            Last fall we heard early sounds from Mr. Bosworth, translating roughly to, “You got trouble right here.” Now his firm has developed five concrete recommendations.

            1) Aggressively marketing the area to businesses. This means developing a clear picture of regional strengths and packaging it in a clear message.

            This makes sense to me. Mention New York City or the Poconos and people immediately have a clear picture of what that means, what those places have to offer. We have attractive location, culture, educational, housing and recreational advantages; we need to give them a brand name. People in Pittsburgh think of us as “up there somewhere” and people in Omaha don’t know where or what we are. It would help to change that.

            2) Strengthen the manufacturing and machining base that is here.

            Great idea. I would love to see the regional agency that can insure that no companies are taken over and run into the ground by opportunist greed-heads who know less about the industry than they know about soup or stock options.

            3) Start a two-year technical college.

            At last, a use for the Polk campus when the state finishes gutting it. I’ve never understood why everyone who wants a two-year degree has to go to Pittsburgh. I like this proposal, but then, I’ve always thought that education goes a long way toward solving these sorts of problems.

            4) Regional authority to run all this stuff and handle the loads of money.

            Bosworth’s point four actually mentions this in relation to infrastructure and telecommunication finance, but at the heart of this whole plan is a change in how development is handled. Right now we have more agencies, literally, than we know what to do with. Most of us can’t name them, nor can we name anything concrete or useful that they’ve done.

            But the consolidation is probably the hardest aspect of the plan to swallow. Remember, we’re talking about eight (count ‘em, eight) counties, and that includes Erie. Yes, Tionesta becomes a “partner” with Erie, which would be not unlike a snail partnering with an elephant.

            FutureWorks puts a lot of stock in leadership, and it’s easy to see why. This part of the plan requires big many local and regional leaders who can stand up for their own little corner while keeping an eye on the big picture. Picture a meeting of twenty-four county commissioners who get along as well as our three! The mind reels.

            Mind you, I believe that unified regional action is a must. But when I try to imagine making it happen, my head hurts. Where do we find the leaders to pedal that multiseated bike?

            5) The obvious. Giant transfusions of money will be needed to power this regional behemoth. A giant investment fund would be the ticket. It’ll need to be managed by “an experienced private firm that has appropriate incentives for performance.” I wonder if FutureWorks knows anyone they can recommend.

            There are other good parts. The idea that we need destination attractions, and not just festivals, makes sense to me. And while I don’t always agree with Congressman Peterson, I respect and appreciate his commitment to rural PA in general, and his determination to stand up for what he feels needs to be done in this case. It sure beats sending a congressman off to the capitol who sends nothing back but the occasional piece of junk mail.

            I’m not sure what we Ordinary Citizens can do right now. Write letters. Pay attention. I’ll start working on the regional label. America’s Heartland? (too mid-western) America’s Homeland? (pre-empted) America’s Home Town? Filet O’ America (just the good parts). America’s Town and Country (no, sounds like a car). Life in the slow lane? Brightest parts of the future and the best parts of the past? At home in Pennsylvania? All right. I’ll get back to you.