AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

May 2, 2014

Mercer group is 'booming'

Ideas sought, next meeting is May 8

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

MERCER AREA — About 25 people -- residents, business owners and town officials -- brainstormed Wednesday night to work toward a "vision" for the Mercer area, just one of the "Boomtown" goals.

"Mercer's just sitting there, ready to boom," said Shane Nugent, president of the Mercer Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber hosted the meeting at the Mercer County Career Center, Coolspring Township, as part of their initiative to turn the Mercer area into the next Boomtown.

Greenville started the Boomtown process four years ago and members of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce have been helping Mercer get started; the project stems from Jack Schultz's book "Boomtown USA: The 7½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns."

This isn't about "re-inventing the wheel," said Nugent, who listed a number of things already in motion for the region, like two sewer projects and renovations at Brandy Springs Park.

Nugent, Dotty Pintar, the Mercer Chamber's executive director, and Randy Seitz, president and chief executive officer of Penn Northwest Development Corp., split the group into four committees, and more folks are welcome to join - agricultural/residential real estate; historical/beautification/art; light industry/retail; and quality of life and activities/welcome.

A fifth committee - youth - will be arranged by Mercer school officials and the Career Center and will include students.

"We really want to get the youth involved," Nugent said.

Seitz agreed, saying the population of the state and country are on the rise, but on the decline in Mercer County. Most of Mercer County's residents have high school diplomas, which means many of our high school graduates are taking jobs elsewhere, he said.

Boomtown can help increase the local population and attract those young people back to the area, and improve the unemployment rate, Seitz said.

"We gotta figure out how to keep the youth here and even bring people back," Nugent said.

Those part of the Mercer Boomtown group need to start thinking about how the area will change over the next 10 years, and how the group's input and ideas can be a part of that vision.

"We're looking for feedback," he said.

Each committee discussed Mercer's future, along with what the area already has to offer, and the results included quite a list of ideas to consider: how to attract businesses that will bring high-paying jobs; taking full advantage of the Route 19 corridor study and agricultural preservation programs; getting business owners to upgrade and maintain their properties; adding "Welcome to Mercer" signs; improving sidewalks; and using the Chamber's website to create an online directory of local businesses, events and activities.

Pintar could hardly keep up with the list of the area's existing assets - Brandy Springs Park, 4-H, the Grange Fair, concerts at the courthouse, two golf courses, a bowling alley, three fitness centers, four campgrounds, corn mazes, numerous churches of multiple denominations, the Historical Society, the Mercer Memorial Day 500, the farmers market, community organizations and groups, and more.

"You guys are gonna have to figure out -- what is your role gonna be in the entire county?" Seitz asked.

Keep thinking ahead, and think beyond the borough of Mercer itself, he said.

"I like the old saying 'all roads lead to Mercer,'" Nugent said, adding that's sort of how it appears when you look at a map of Mercer County.

The next Boomtown meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. May 8 at the Mercer County Career Center, 776 Greenville Road, Coolspring Township.

RSVP and questions, or to sign up for a committee: 724-662-4185 or mercerchamber@zoominternet.net

Published April 26, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.