As we just mentioned, Prosperity Blog is all about regularity these days, giving you something to look forward to in your otherwise dreary days and weeks. Much like Random Economic Development Email of the Week, this new feature – Best Meeting of the Week – chronicles our adventures in the world of economic development, sharing the most interesting, exciting or unique things that the Prosperity crew is doing. This week’s B-MOW? Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
We flew to Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Monday for a Tuesday meeting with Concurrent Technologies Corporation. Sort of like the Department of Defense equivalent of Battelle (which manages a lot of federal energy labs), CTC does product testing for potential DoD applications. We were there to tour their lab/testing facilities and learn things that will be relevant to the testing capabilities that BETI will have for energy efficiency products. CTC has an office in Bremerton (doing work for the Navy), so there’s a strong local connection already.
The meeting was very useful, but the most fascinating part was going to Johnstown. Most famous for a disastrous flood, this former coal and steel town in southwest PA is transforming itself into a high tech center thanks in large part to defense contracting work…which is thanks in large part to former Congressman Jack Murtha’s position as chair of Defense Appropriations. I flew into Murtha Airport, and then met with CTC at the Murtha Technology Center.
To the question of “Earmarks: Good or Bad,” that’s a topic for another time, but the really interesting question for me is – even with all that federal investment and contracting – how you get all those educated workers to live in Johnstown, since we talk a lot about the role of quality of place in talent attraction and retention. And I got two interesting answers when I asked about that: 1) “I’m born and raised here (and/or educated at University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown),” or 2) “It’s a great place to raise a family” (which, for the most part, translates to affordability). Clearly, the first answer reinforces the argument I’ve been making about why Washington needs to fund higher ed (point #2), which is that local kids are more likely to stay and take local jobs. And the second one just indicates that “quality of life” is different for different people; believe it or not, just because you have a STEM degree, doesn’t automatically mean that you groove to the beat of urban living.
By the way, I’m now “the mayor” of John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport on foursquare. Take that, local foursquare master/economic development notable Alex Pietsch!