IF PUNXSUTAWNEY Phil had been at the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual forecast breakfast last week, his prediction would have been sunny days ahead.

The marmot metaphor aside, a whole lot of good news was announced at the gathering of more than 200 local business and community leaders.

Some of it was not a surprise. We already know about the development plans for downtown Sharon as well as the success of LindenPointe in Hermitage.

But it was nice to hear that there is a new project in the offing that will benefit another of the community’s resources, Penn State Shenango.

We have seen Sharon Regional Medical Center expand and improve its healthcare offerings and UPMC add to its specialty services as well.

We might not always like the consequences, but there will be a new and improved East State Street. A new, proud welcome to our community is already in place in the city’s new roundabout. And one of our star attractions, WaterFire, has been recognized as a top event in the state.

There are still going to be challenges. The future of the Shenango Valley Mall is the next concern.

There are a lot of people who will have to step up to make sure that portion of the community lives up to its potential.

There is new investment by a medical marijuana company in one of our communities, and there is even more potential investment down the road.

Our education offerings are stronger than ever, and we still have all the perks that make this region a great place to build or to grow a business.

But even with all that breakfast attendees heard, there is still one extremely important development, a piece of good news you had to listen closely to hear.

At long last, the leaders of the communities that make up the Shenango Valley are recognizing how much each is doing to improve the fortunes of this region and beginning to think about the strength their communities could have if they work together.

There is no better news than that.

This area has a lot to offer, and a lot of potential for growth.

But to get the attention we need to be players, we have to have a strong voice, and a loud voice. And we get that when we speak as one.

We are stronger together — now and always.

It is nice to know that those who have been entrusted with guiding the future of this county and its communities are moving in the same direction and getting ready to let not only state leaders, but potential investors, know that this area is ready for its next chapter.

If the cohesion continues, next year’s forecast breakfast ought to be nothing short of awe-inspiring.