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Steps forward: Stakeholders identify priorities at first public Warren Worx meeting

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Participants at the first Warren Worx stakeholder meeting were asked to select the objectives from the city and county’s comprehensive plans that they would most like to see Warren Worx prioritize. The first stakeholders meeting was held Wednesday evening in Youngsville.

There was a full house at the Youngsville Borough Buildings Wednesday night at the first stakeholders meeting for Warren Worx.

“It really is an exciting time for our community,” John Papalia, senior vice president with the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, said.

The general idea behind Warren Worx — to be administered by the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry — is the need to develop a central facilitating entity for initiatives and projects in the county.

Warren Worx’ first major assignment is the development of a county brand that can be used by existing organizations to enhance outreach efforts.

The WCCBI has contributed up to $140,000 as part of the effort while the City of Warren and Warren County each contributed $100,000.

Wednesday’s agenda included an overview of the program and explanation of next steps, a presentation by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and then some time for attendees to prioritize the various objectives laid out in the city and county’s comprehensive plans.

That prioritization, officials say, will be used to direct the projects undertaken by Warren Worx.

Papalia called the effort “coming together to fight some of the issues we’re facing, finding new ways to improve and collaborate.

“Warren Worx is about community collaboration.”

A host of entities were represented Wednesday including local, county and state government, the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, Warren County School District, Warren-Forest Economic Opportunities Council, Community Foundation of Warren County, Warren County Visitors Bureau, Jefferson DeFrees Family Center, Warren-Forest Hi-Ed, Northern Pennsylvania Regional College and the Farm Bureau, among others.

“One of the main steps we are going to focus on is a common brand for Warren County, so we’re all promoting the same way,” Papalia said, noting that the effort is “not to replace anyone’s individual marketing effort but complement it.”

The marketing that is done out of that brand, he said, will be aimed to “attract people to our area as residents.”

He said year one tasks include completing the branding piece and hiring a marketing director as well as establishing the executive and stakeholder groups and the projects that will be undertaken.

He called the branding “much more than just a logo and a tagline” but instead “getting down to what it is Warren County is and what it is we want to sell to people.”

Year two tasks would then “focus heavily on pushing the marketing piece out,” he added.

They aim to have the branding firm and marketing director hired by July 15. The branding work is expected to be completed — and projects identified — by Oct. 1 with the marketing plan to be delivered to the stakeholders by Jan. 1.

One of the first questions centered on how long Warren Worx would last.

“This is a generational change,” Papalia said. “I would like to say there’s a quick fix. … That’s simply not reality.”

The stakeholder meetings will be held the second Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. and the location will move around the county.

Papalia said moving the meeting is needed for the effect to be “effective” and to “capture as many people as want to be engaged as possible.”

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