Warren Worx effort lacks definition

It’s kind of rewarding to see some formal actions to attempt to address the challenges of the Warren County community, with its decline in population as the stated key reason. Although the intent is recognized, the questions of the structure, process, and management of such an endeavor are highly questionable, at least with the available info (mostly from news media) sources.

No one can deny or ignore the decline of the population of Warren County, and the surrounding region.There are a lot of reasons, causes, failures, etc that have contributed from being at one time a leader in certain industries and technologies to where it stands today . . . but the time lapse from its “height” to today has appeared to be terribly damaging, and will require an entirely new process to rebuild. And it’s NOT exclusive to Warren County, or just Northwestern Pennsylvania. But it is a much wider matter than what Worx is perceived to include, or be capable of addressing. But at least something is underway. But, with all due credit to the April 22 Times Observer view, “Why Rush With Warren Worx? Will It Work ?” The editorial begins with . . . “The concept seems ill-defined and fuzzy …” That’s clearly clear.

With no question, new, modern, and proven strategies and actions are absolutely necessary to defend against further decline in not only population, but also foundation industry and employment, infrastructure maintenance and modernization, education, and more needed to stabilize the city, county and general area. Do the so far advised structure and resources have the experience, ability, time, and independence from the current duties necessary to accomplish such a highly challenging and complex objective? It’s my guess that the goals of such an endeavor are at a minimum five years to begin to see solid results, and more like 10 to 20 years to complete.

WCCBI has long been the quasi-public entity recognized as the primary organization for such community development, for decades. What’s different today from any of their former purposes of their existence? From what I have learned, the city and the county have both approved $100,000 each for the effort. Part or all of this amount is to search for focus on “Branding” and also trying to locate an experienced person to be hired to lead the effort. And that they hopefully move to Warren . . . And “Branding” . . Isn’t that “Warren Worx”? That much should have already been done before asking for money!

In a recent article about a recent public meeting to introduce their Worx initiative, WCCBI stated “Worx is a new way of collaboration across Warren County for municipalities, municipal governments, businesses, non-profit organizations, across the board to come together . . . to look at opportunities and challenges and projects that need to get completed in Warren . . .”

Well, hasn’t that been the objective of that organization, and its predecessor and national organization “Chamber of Commerce” purpose anyway? And the great majority of WCCBI Executive Committee are and have been the roles and positions in such activities for decades. Add to that the proposed positions in the core committee described below. . . What’s different today from five, 10, 20 or 50 years ago? Or is it the definition of “Insanity – – Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results?”

If I understand the format proposed by WCCBI at this point, the committee or commission will consist of the mayor, Warren city manager, two county commissioners, Warren County Visitor Bureau Executive Director, two WCCBI execs, Council of Government and one At Large for a total of nine. Of those, I see the potential of only one (1) having a totally independent role in any and all objectives, strategies, and implementation decisions.

With all due respect, the eight (8) others have current demands, duties, responsibilities, and investment in their core roles as public servants and private/primary employment duties. I fully acknowledge that all should be involved in the process, but in my opinion, the development, establishment, and execution of the Master Plan should be managed by as dedicated and independent a team as possible, and a team of members that have extensive experience in private sector business, finance, and process management in varying and wide scopes, such as national and beyond.

What industries and other key factors should be the goal of the effort? If the goal is to halt population decline, what brings a new, productive, and growth-oriented population? Industries, technologies, products and services in demand and with growth ahead .. . and along with that comes the service, retail, and support mechanisms that help formulate a comprehensive growth plan ! Warren has growth opportunity land, Warren has infrastructure and resources to partner with firms . . . how you put that into actions and resulting growth and success is a key fundamental necessary to address the singularly stated goal, “trend of population decline”. It’s a hell of a lot larger and more complex problem than just “combatting the decline in population” ! It should be one of several and equally demanding goals and objectives in order to keep Warren, Warren County, and the Western Pennsylvania region stable, and better yet, growing and prospering.

In my opinion, the “Goal” of stabilizing Warren, Warren County, and the nearby region are huge challenges. And not one organization or agency, government or quasi-public, is capable of achieving the needed success. But the initiatives must start locally! And the team should have members with extensive experience in the private sectors, and not compounded by their core public service roles in existing public service positions.

I care about my hometown community and region. I was born and raised there, I still have family and friends living there. My career, which began with Warren-based companies that took me to roles and assignments in five states. These roles moved my family and I to five states and eight different communities, with each having both common and unique problems, with some prospering and others struggling. I enjoy visiting the Warren area when I can, but I am saddened when I drive around and see the vacant industrial buildings, the closed retail ops, the empty lots where once homes of families once were, and more.

To see the Warren Mall (enough said on that !), the core retail downtown section, and former leading industry names fading away. Yet, I’m thankful that companies like United Refining, Betts, Superior, Whirley, and more strive to keep the community and region alive and prospering as best possible.

I strongly recommend that the powers to be in the City, County, industry, and truly concerned citizens start by establishing as independent as possible team collaboration of highly experienced, private sector business and industry volunteers, and supportive service from the local governments and quasi’s to unify all the efforts, objectives, needs, and opportunities into a singular and unified foundation of growth.

Doing the “same thing with a different suit ain’t gonna cut it.

Warren native Paul Borger is a Tecumseh, Mich., resident.


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