Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Ronald Bailey: Executive Director, Lancaster County Planning Commission

Session: Toward a Research Agenda

 

You just disappointed Dan Betancourt considerably. Earlier today Dan was saying Tom (Baldrige): "I certainly hope that we are on the agenda before Bailey," (laughter) so!

I’m the Executive Director of the County Planning Commission. There are a couple of things, I guess, I want to say. First of all, I’m going to differ from everything that has gone on today because I’m not really going to lecture. What I’m going to do is to issue a challenge! And the challenge is that we do need to have a center for economic studies in Lancaster County. I have operated an agency where we deal with development issues, we deal with transportation issues, we deal with environmental issues, we deal with historical preservation issues. And you would think that in my position I would be swimming in data, but the reality is that I’m not. In point of fact, here in this County, data are being created, but a lot of is proprietary; a lot of the data are being created by organizations that have specific applications for them, but they aren’t shared. Some of the best research, quite frankly, that is being done is being done by the Workforce Investment Board--you heard Scott Sheely earlier this morning--and by my own staff. I have staff that is devoted to doing research. But, I’ll be honest, I think that is appalling; I think it is terrible that I have to have staff devoted to researching. It is not a good place to have that work done, believe it: not in a County Planning Commission, because of the pressures, the political, pressures etc that we have: that’s probably the hardest thing for me to justify retaining. And yet, without it consider where we would be.

You know, we heard Dave Nikoloff talk a little bit, this morning, about the EDC and we heard how the emphasis is switching from creating jobs to creating wealth. Do you understand what that means? Do you understand what that means in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Because the mantra with the Commonwealth for years and years and years has been jobs, jobs, jobs! They are looking to create jobs. "How many jobs did you create?". Consider what that means to us, even if Lancaster County is an anomaly in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania--consider what it means to us to face the fact that, today in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the largest employer is Wal-Mart. That’s jobs, alright, but what is the future in them? Do we understand the significance of the fact that Lancaster County, southern Chester County, and York County along with Berks and Lebanon County comprise the largest area of prime agricultural land in the world. In the world! Do we understand that? What are state agricultural policies and how do they deal with farm preservation? Is it important that we spend the same amount of money, per capita, in Warren County to preserve agricultural land as we do in Lancaster? Do we understand the fact that, given the number of households that we create, we have to create new 2000, 2500 housing units every year in Lancaster County? Where do we put those, and what type of housing units are they? You know, we look at the fact that Lancaster County led the Commonwealth in the last ten years in economic growth and job growth and we can look at the fact that the wealth that is created in this County is phenomenal, but we can still look at the fact that, basically, in terms of the percentage of poverty that exists in Southeast area of the City of Lancaster very little has changed. Do we understand that? And that’s why we need a center for economic research. Because we have to start marshalling facts--facts so that we deal with those who are making decisions in Harrisburg and elsewhere that shape our future; facts that will allow us to make choices here on the local level. So the reason I’m here today is pure and simple; and it is to issue a challenge: let’s get this center together! We need it at an academic institution like Franklin and Marshall. We need to interact with Franklin and Marshall College, and with the students and with the faculty. This is a tremendous resource that we have not utilized in the past to the extent that we should.