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County’s ‘Project 2025’ Charges Out Of Starting Gate

February 23rd, 2020

A strategy to address two of the most serious challenges facing Potter County has moved quickly into the implementation stage. “Project 2025” was unveiled last month by Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman. It’s a blueprint to reverse the steady descent of the county’s population, coupled with the growing outmigration of young adults. These trends have serious implications for the future vitality and quality of life in Potter County. Most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures reflect another 5-percent drop in population, from 17,462 in 2010 to 16,622 as of June 2019. At the same time, the county’s median age has gradually risen to 47 years, far above the statewide median of 41. The commissioners have assigned two of their department heads, Planning Director Will Hunt and Community Development Director Ellen Russell, to develop and implement Project 2025. Its lofty goal is to assemble stakeholders, conduct intensive research, and implement a strategy to reverse the population loss and median age growth by the end of 2025. Some of the options are spelled out in the 2020-29 Countywide Comprehensive Plan. That document reflects input provided by hundreds of community leaders, business owners, conservation advocates, education and tourism officials, and others with an interest in the county’s future. A website will be developed to serve as a clearinghouse for Project 2025. It will include progress reports, links to helpful resources and other features.

Director Russell shared some details as guest speaker at the Feb. 17 Coudersport Rotary Club meeting.  “Project 2025 is going to require a real team approach and some changes in culture,” she explained. “Too often we hear the words, ‘because we’ve always done it this way,’ and that is a mindset that will have to change if we are going to succeed.”

Among the initial objectives that have been identified are:

  • more effectively seeking input from teens and young adults on the future of their communities;
  • encouraging a complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census (each resident equates to about $21,000 in federal and state funding coming to the county during the new decade);
  • capitalizing on the emergence of high-speed internet service in marketing Potter County as a place to live and start or expand a business;
  • enhancing promotion of state parks, attractions, and natural resources for tourism and relocation to the county;
  • implementing business and economic development strategies (on March 12, the Project 2025 team is hosting a Small Business/Entrepreneur Workshop at the Gunzburger Building)
  • developing innovative strategies to enhance career exploration for both high school students and adults.

(Here, Coudersport Rotary Club President Ruth Sallade, left, welcomes Ellen Russell to the Feb. 17 meeting.)

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