Monday, May 22, 2017

Indiana County Endorses Sustainable Energy, Manufacturing Economic Task Force

The Indiana Gazette recently reported the Indiana County commissioners gave their blessing to a new Sustainable Economic Development Task Force focused on developing regional initiatives in the areas of clean energy, sustainable agriculture, eco-tourism, energy efficiency and the emerging field of using green chemistry to transform manufacturing.
The Task Force came out of discussions in April at an all-day Sustainable Economy Summit.
The proposal for the task force was brought to the commissioners by representatives of six organizations: The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and Indiana County, the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Sustainable Studies Program, the Evergreen Conservancy and the Indiana County Center for Community Growth.
Indiana Commissioner Sherene Hess (photo) said the aim of the task force will be to help the county harness the tools that can contribute to a sustainable economy this year and beyond.
“A clean energy revolution is taking place across America, underscored by the steady expansion of the U.S. renewable energy sector,” Hess said. “The clean energy industry generates hundreds of billions in economic activity, and is expected to continue to grow. … There is tremendous economic opportunity for the counties that invent, manufacture and export clean energy technologies. Renewable energy and sustainable agriculture can play an important role in rural economic development and I am pleased and grateful that forward-looking citizens groups are leading the way.”
Tina Perdue, of the Indiana County Center for Community Growth, told the commissioners the task force will identify and promote sustainable economic initiatives that diversify the county’s economic base by attracting businesses and jobs in the renewable energy sector; that reduce costs for government, agriculture, business and private individuals; and that protect and restore the county’s natural resources.
Perdue said that to achieve those goals, the organizers are recommending that the task force develop an action plan with short- and long-term goals in three categories — economic development, education and job training.
The goals may include investigating ways to bring jobs in the renewable energy field into the county; identifying the needs of potential employers in the renewable energy field in order to expand or relocate in the county; identifying and supporting green energy entrepreneurs; planning educational programs to build awareness of sustainable energy opportunities for employment; identifying sustainable practices that will work in the county to contain costs and improve the management of natural resources; educating stakeholders in agriculture, business and government about sustainable practices that will cut costs; identifying current job training at local facilities that promote green technology jobs; and proposing partnerships with local educational institutions to train or retrain people for jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Perdue said organizers suggest that the task force include representatives from government, economic development, business, agriculture, educational institutions, community groups and interested citizens.
Perdue and Hess said it hasn’t been determined yet how frequently the task force members should meet. But there will be opportunities, they said, for more people to get involved with the task force efforts.
[Note: Indiana County ranks third in the production of coal in Pennsylvania with 10 underground mines and 13 surface mines (2015 U.S. EIA).  President Trump won Indiana County by over 66 percent of the vote in November 2016.]
Indiana Commissioners Discuss New Sustainable Economic Development Task Force

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