Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Questions & Answers

Session: Toward a Research Agenda


Antonio:

Before I open it up for questions from the audience--and we have about twenty minutes before the official closing time--I myself would like to reiterate something that Tom said and with which I agree; and that is the fact that, indeed, we do need to be careful  with statistics; we need to be very careful about how we interpret them; and we need to have a conversation about what those statistics should be, what they mean and what their proper context is, because the numbers by themselves don’t do the job—they are difficult to get, and they don’t do the job by themselves. That’s the idea behind the Center as we are proposing to operate it. We will not just collect some numbers but process them, and we will advertise them, even if the newspapers might not do it fully in this particular case. But, if we set up a process to work as we intend, we will do the job mindful of all of the precautions that you have laid out. I was very impressed when you brought up some of these very important issues—as I was with all the other issues this panel raised—but you spoke directly to one of the most important challenges the Center has to negotiate. So, I just wanted to say that we agree with you on that point. Well, then, the floor is open.

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

This is kind of a random question, and I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m wondering why we don’t have more Community Development Corporations in this city and central metro region. I see them in other places. They seem to be doing good neighborhood work. I know that there’s publicity about them and the opportunities that they represent for community development. We talked about them 15 years ago, when we were working on a plan for the City in the early 90s, but I don’t think I’ve seen very many of them really develop and do something.

Charles Maneval

That’s a good question. We’ve never been approached, to my knowledge, about helping to start a CDC. In other cities it’s done. Athough I think that SACA Development Corporation might be what we know as a Community Development Corporation; I think they are, because they get multiple streams of funding into their corporation.

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

Yes;, and I’ve heard that a few churches have either started or plan to start to do that …

Charles Maneval

Well, I don’t know. We work with the CHODOS (community housing development organizations) that Dan mentioned through our Community Development Block Grant program, and its even hard to get them going. We did get a new one going this year and now there are four or five of those, but that’s an area that you brought up on which we need to work in the city.

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

What do you think is missing? That’s what I’m looking for. What does anybody else think? Is it just funding? Is it folks knowing about it? Is it communication? Is it leadership?

Charles Maneval

Well, it’s interesting, we have the East King Improvement District beginning; and they have funding, and they have a couple staff members, and four or five committees, and they’re working toward an agenda, an economic agenda. But they don’t, for instance, call themselves a CDC, but they want to go up and look at the Harristown Development Corporation (in Harrisburg), and other corporations like that, to see if that’s the direction in which they want to go. So there’s an example of one that’s thinking that…

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

Well a big thing…is that they have .. what, a $700,000 private foundation grant?

Charles Maneval

Who, East King?

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

Yes!

Charles Maneval

Yeah, they did, I think, they got a Wachovia ..

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

So that’s the key, right? So, now, the interest was obviously there. It didn’t develop because the money came, but …

Charles Maneval

Right.

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

So, is that the piece that’s missing, other interested parties?

Charles Maneval

Others have been started with large bond issues, in cities of this size, they have started with 4 or 5 million dollar bond issues.

From the floor (Eugene Aleci)

But not here.

Charles Maneval

Yes. And that’s the way to develop or redevelop a whole downtown over a period of twenty years. Selecting sites where new projects will go, and thinking of the redevelopment authority as the title holder, and of the new development corporations as the equity entity.

Ron Bailey

Maybe one additional thing to add to that, though, is that, because we already have so many not-for-profit and other organizations, it is very difficult to start anything new. One of the things I think we need to look at in Lancaster County is consolidation. Because we have a lot of silos, a lot of turf issues, and you know, that’s one of the impediments, not only within the City of Lancaster, but within the County as a whole. There are already are too many entities, diverting too much funding and effort.

From the floor (Jim Weaver)

This is going to be a question about center city, I know the EKID (East King Street Investment District) is looking into what they can do with the first two blocks of East King Street. There’s quite a bit of opinion that I hear, as I listen while going to meetings like this, that would suggest that we have failed to consider the option of a range, an array, of small businesses in the downtown that would, taken together, serve the current residents in the downtown, the current workers--and maybe a new set of residents--because they (these businesses) would be based upon local wants and needs; as opposed to having a very large convention center and a very large hotel, which would, yes, capitalize on some of Lancaster’s attractiveness--but for a set of outsiders. At this point in time, it seems that we have gotten to a level of public-private partnership where it looks like public is putting up to, what 90 cents?, of a dollar, or more. Does it make sense to any of you to revisit that mindset, that concept of what should happen down there? Perhaps we should have more expression of local wants and needs before trying to create a monolith to outsiders.

Ron Bailey

Well, let me say this. That when we did what we call the LDR plan, the economic agenda for the City of Lancaster…the consultant was talking euphemistically about the so-called "the aquarium"—which is an anchor project that would allow for significant public and private investment with a bunching of very similar businesses --like, if you go to a shopping center, you have all your individual stores, your boutiques and things like that, but if you don’t have the anchor tenant, if you don’t have the Boscovs, if you don’t have the Sears, then the rest of those stores aren’t there. And so the idea was to create something in the downtown that would create economic activity that would then allow all of these other things like you’re talking about, that would serve local needs, to fill out the street. And that’s still the hope! There are a lot of things besides just the convention center going on in the city of Lancaster. There is a phenomenal amount of activity…in fact we’ve just put up on the Lancaster County Planning Commission’s website a listing of what we call Team Lancaster—if you go on the website and look on What’s New you’ll find it there; it’s an inventory of all the initiatives and all the projects that are going on in the city of Lancaster, and it’s astonishing, it is absolutely astonishing. We have it in the form of a spreadsheet and I don’t know, it’s four or five pages long, and then all the projects on top of that. So there is a lot of activity.

The other thing to focus on is that the convention center was a scheme, a strategy focused on restoring and rehabilitating the landmark structure of the Watt & Shand building. Which is a big structure, and we have to find some kind of big use to be able to retain it. And much of what we’ve designed there has been with the idea of being able to preserve that structure, not seeing it torn down and lost because that is the presence of Penn Square in the center of Lancaster. Directly opposite of the market--and the market and the Watt & Shand building define the Square. So that is what was behind that. It provides a big type of use that is necessary, , which we could not do through simply small retail businesses. We want the retail, and in fact the good news is that retail businesses are prospering very well in downtown Lancaster. They’re niche businesses and they’re defining their niche, and some of those businesses are doing very well, so we want to build on that. The convention center itself has its problems. I have to be honest with everybody and say that one of the drivers, again state policy is that the state would be willing to put up $10 million to finance a convention center.

Tom Baldrige

$15 million!

Ron Bailey

$15 million, thank you Tom! $15 million to finance the convention center, but not other things, so you have a very limited menu to choose from, and that was a major driver.

Tom Baldrige
I just want to add another perspective to that as well. Well, maybe two. First of all, the convention center/hotel project has not been a poster child for public-private partnership in our community for a whole host of reasons. But we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater either. I think that the stadium is an example, and as indicated in last week’s Sunday’s news, it is the poster child for public-private partnerships and what we can do in Lancaster with what is now a $29 million stadium generating $200 million in additional economic development around it. But the other element that I think is important about the convention center is that while frequently the focus is on its geographic location, that one square block area, and how it will impact that; the fact of the matter is that there is an element of the tourism economy that is not just county wide, but region wide which is stagnant and is losing its ability to compete; and that if we don’t do something to invest into that, and take it to a new level, it will continue to lose market shares as it’s doing. So, this is not just about what we do with our downtown and how we revitalize it. This goes much, much farther than that. This is a hotel that is purposely sized smaller than the convention center can handle so that it forces spillover rooms into surrounding hotels throughout this county, to therefore help revitalize the whole. So I just want to be clear that it’s not just about the geographic block that it’s on, it’s about whole lot more than that, and it needs to be thought of in that perspective.

Ron Bailey

Yes, and to add to that, the reason that a new economic center would be so important is that we tend to form our opinions largely from what we read in the newspaper; and I’m not saying anything negative about the media. It’s just that, as Tom said, you get just a snapshot view of what’s going on from them, and it tends to focus on the negative. And yes the convention center has had its rocky times, but what we should be focusing on is the positives, like the stadium, like the $40 million investment on this campus for a new life science center. Look at what’s going on with Lancaster General hospital; that hospital is not packing up and moving out of the City; it’s expanding; it’s expanding its teaching facilities. Look at what’s going on in the northern part of the city, with the redevelopment of the Amtrak station and the Amtrak line, and the investment that that’s going to bring in. And the plans that are being put in place. As Tom mentioned, the convention center is part of a strategy to develop tourism in this county. And the new product for tourism is going to be in the City of Lancaster. That’s going to be the key to expanding the tourism industry in this county.

From the floor (Will Lyons)

Since knowledge is the engine of the future, and since universities and colleges bring in a multiplier effect on the community, wouldn’t we do well to soup up Stevens Technology into a real institution that would bring forth the education and the multiplier effect into the community?

Tom Baldrige

I would suggest that under, the leadership that Bill Griscom, it is well on its way to doing just that. It’s incremental, but it’s well on its way. And it is a state institution so it does have certain restrictions that I think would limit its unrivaled development, but it’s an excellent resource that has been under-utilized for years and years, and that has changed significantly over the past five years.

Charles Maneval

I was going to add that also they have done a really excellent job down here, they’re really progressing, they are widening their curriculum; they brought in the Kutztown University Small Business Center among other things. I think they’re doing a wonderful job.

From the floor (F&M student)

Someone said earlier that Lancaster was an excellent example for private businesses reinvesting in the community. I just want to know whether government is, somehow, helping to bring this about. How exactly can government help private businesses reinvest in the community? And is there something that you wish you could do, but you can’t because of the circumstances you are actually facing?

Tom Baldrige

I love this question, because my answer is, maybe, not what you want to hear. And it’s radical to the extreme just to make a point. The best thing the government could do is just get out of the way. So often when they say, what do you need, what programs can we provide, what low interest loan rates, what this, this, and this. The fact of the matter is it’s still all tax money that is being shifted one way or another, and I would contend that the more you can keep the dollars in the private sectors, the better off you’ll be at charting your own course. Now, that’s very overly simplistic to make a point. There are certainly significant checks and balances that do need to be relative to the environmental policy and responsibility of local corporate community, zoning issues so that there is a compatibility, and a protection of property rights and values, but the stereotypical answer is a low interest loan program that’s going to be targeted to xyz or something like that, and I suggest that those things are just competing against themselves. If I could take just one second to say this, it’s a perfect example of this, David Nikoloff earlier today mentioned that there was a company in Lancaster county with 1000 employees. And they want monies to modernize themselves, consolidate themselves, and become a company with 500 employees. Well what government is going to give monies for people to halve their workforce? It’s not going to happen! However—and I don’t want to pick on any one state--you don’t think that North Carolina isn’t going to be interested in a net new 500 jobs, and that they’re not going to offer their government resources to try to encourage what is our 1000 jobs, knowing it’s going to be 500, with a program that’s going to say: locate down here, and we’ll take it. So, really, it’s a rock and a hard place situation, but these government programs do create an effect that, I think, can be really debilitating on the whole.

From the floor (F&M student)

So why would you say that individuals here, like the owners of the firms, seem to be so giving? Why Lancaster so specifically? Is it because of the people…

Tom Baldrige

What makes us different?

From the floor (F&M student)

Yes, like, is it the people of Lancaster, or just the overall sense of the community

Tom Baldrige

I think that’s part of it, but I wouldn’t want to overplay that. I think there is some real value in being in this community. Lancaster as a city has more people within 250 miles of it than any other city in the United States. Within 500 miles we have 40% of the US population, and—now, this floors me--60% of the Canadian population. Although companies can really locate anywhere they want to—or, at least, that’s the way it’s portrayed in this day and age--the fact of the matter is there is still a proximity to market issue, particularly in the manufacturing sector, that drives costs and does make location decisions relevant. And we are uniquely located, and that has enhanced us. Coupled with the fact that there is an ethic in the private sector here that is a little more, that leans a little more toward helping out in the community. We have historically not looked to the government to be the answer as some other communities might have. We look more to the private sector to be the answer.

Ron Bailey

Let me go back and respond a little bit to Tom’s provocative comment about government getting out of the way.

Tom Baldrige

I thought you would!

Ron Bailey

That is a philosophy of Lancaster County. And that’s a good philosophy because Lancaster County is renowned for its entrepreneurial experience, and its entrepreneurial initiative. At the same time we need to recognize that we have to level the playing field, and that’s what programs like Community First Fund, which does have government dollars in it, is--that is: giving opportunities for new businesses to start up. We’re doing a program, a partnership with the library system, county government is doing it with the library system, providing information to small businesses, because we find that a lot of businesses start out pretty good, get to the point, two, three years down the pipe, where they need to expand by three or four employees, and they go under in about 5 years. We’re trying to increase, or lessen the mortality rate of small businesses, and get them to survive, and become members of the Chamber of Commerce, and become productive parts of our corporate community. But the real role of government that we do have to focus on is that government has to build the platform. Tom mentioned the statistics of how important our location is in proximity to major metropolitan markets, but we have to have the transportation system to get the products to those markets. And that has to be funded by the government. We have to provide things that really are the things that make the economy happen. Things such as educational institutions, such as a good solid crime-free area, good fire protection, good water supply, good air, all of these things are critical to economic development. So when you look at economic development, it’s a much bigger picture, much bigger picture than just talking about an assistance program. And maybe the one thing that I would respond back to David Nikoloff is we’re beginning to see some movement in terms of thinking with economic development programs, to where we look not only at jobs, but also capital investment; and if the capital investment is significant enough, then it justifies public assistance. For example, I’m working—or, I’m doing my part--on a project in Elizabethtown, right now, with an existing firm, and they are not going to add that many new jobs! But it’s going to make a huge capital investment and it’s going to save those jobs that are already there, and you need to keep that in focus too. And so these things very much link together. The idea that growth in the economy is not going to be done by the government. But growth is also not going to happen without the government providing the platform on which it can occur.

Antonio

We have time for one more question, which I’m going to reserve, to be gracious, for one of our distinguished guests, and that’s Julie Graham. Before I turn it over to her, I’d like to remind you that there is, well not a free lunch—we have already had that—but a free dinner as well, and there is plenty of food there, so I hope that all of you will join us. It’s in Booth-Ferris, you can follow me and Linda there, we’re going that way--and the posters that we have here, we will move them there, so if you want to join us for dinner, you can peruse them a little bit more as well.

From the floor

Can you put those on the web?

Antonio Callari

We’re going to. We’re going to try to put this whole thing on the web, because, I must say, it has exceeded even my expectations. I was expecting something good, but this has really gone beyond my expectations.

Linda Aleci

Also, during the course of the day, many other people have asked if we could make these available, So I guess I would ask if you could either talk to me, or Antonio if you haven’t done so already, we’ll collect names and contact info, so we can respond to requests.

Antonio Callari

So, do I call you first, Chuck!?

Charles Maneval

I just wanted to mention one thing that plays off of what was said about the activity in the city. There is a lot of economic activity in the city, and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us that are here, and the Local Economy Center at F&M, to really look at how we capture the jobs for the city residents, how we keep the wealth in the city, or in that particular neighborhood, and make it work around those projects. Because just having those projects is one thing, but really doing something with those projects to a further level is what’s important I think.

Julie Graham

Yes, this is a question for Tom. One thing that’s happening throughout the economic development field is the involvement of a lot of non traditional organizations and agencies. Everybody’s taking on economic growth, … the churches are getting involved in economic development, all kinds of organizations that you wouldn’t expect. The government, on some levels, has had a lot of problems with having a lot of other entrants in the field. For example, I just came back from a conference in Racine, Wisconsin, where it was all about multi-national corporations getting involved in economic development through their social responsibility initiatives, extending that to economic development—and, I’m in there with these multinational corporations, and the arena in which they’re trying to work is the world. I’m wondering, just as a curiosity, about your Chamber of Commerce. I know they give a lot, that you have a very lively private sector here, and they give a lot to nonprofits. But do you have a vision of your organization becoming involved in local economic development as an actual project itself? Have you started discussing that?

Tom Baldrige

We feel we are very involved in economic development already, although not in any way, shape, or form in bricks and mortar projects. What we’re about, and what we’re unique in what we do I think, or what makes us unique in the community is that we represent all the aspects of the business community, and we provide connections and opportunities to learn from each other, and opportunities to do business with one another other. People scoff at things like chamber mixers, but the fact of the matter is there’s 150 people there doing business with each other and taking that one person business to, may be, a two person business because of the contacts they made there, and those are the types of the things that we as a chamber do, we try to network and bring the community together better. I’ve been the president there for 5 years, and my mantra has been, we’re not just about the business community, we’re about the community’s business. The things that we’ve gotten into over the past 3 years, are: member services, advocacy, and community leadership. We will not compete with the other organizations out there doing things like work force, economic development, EDC, financing organizations like the Community First Fund and other things like that. But we can be the network where stuff can come together a little bit and be a little more cohesive.

Antonio Callari

Thank you everybody!