Truly, the Pocono-Northeast is a region of strength and hope. It has survived many obstacles, has diversified its economy, come back from many recessions and inspired leadership.

Today’s focus on young leadership and inspired changes looks upon the issue of “nothing to do in the region.” Despite losing 250,000 residents between 1930 and 1970, a city the size of Birmingham, Alabama, the region’s population has grown over recent decades and is positioned to be competitive for economic growth as witnessed by new development and jobs in recent several years. In a global economy, the region seems ready to take off in positive direction and focus on the capabilities it has achieved. Not every year will be a strength, but looking at decades, much more should be expected in coming generations.

The economy should stabilize in meeting the needs of the million-plus citizens who live here. One strong feature is additional of assets that exist versus weaknesses. These have always been here such as worker productivity, proximity to major metro areas, geography, history as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and more. It has not removed all of the weaknesses, but the future looks bright and technology, biotechnology and other newer economics are significant players. A strength of significance include the 16-plus higher educational facilities in this region with an ability to work together to resolve development issues. Think of what it could mean if student bodies, administrations and faculties joined as a unit to work on one or more needs throughout the region. It would be a strong new feature that could advance the region accordingly. Think of various community leadership programs and community foundations doing the same thing. The advantages would strengthen the competitiveness for economic and community development immeasurably and be something that other regions would not have. Another asset is the people and social measures that exist to provide support to those in need. If a measurement could demonstrate this asset, it probably would show a great many ways that region has a heart. The number of nonprofits across the region registers in the hundreds and is a strong asset as new ones pop up periodically.

There should be a regional location of current activities and sources that can be found 100 or more years from now, showing what the region was like in the 21st century as compared to what it may be like many decades later. A history should be written about how the region came back from disparity, showing the reasons why this occurred and highlighting the role of regional leaders during the time positive change happened. Histories of the past have been written but generally they talk about the anthracite industry and not modern times. The need exists to not forget what and how the region changed and who were the modern pioneers such as Tom Shelburne, John Hibbard, Roy Morgan, Jack Walsh, Wes Simmers, Anna Cervenak, Sandy Sutherland, and others. These leaders should not be forgotten for they and others blazed a trail of redemption and action to make this region what it is today. While not all problems have been solved, the region is in a much better position to handle less than positive situations than it was in prior years. There is a need to use younger potential and new leaders effectively, such as those who formed the Wilkes-Barre Connect storyboard process. Such actions should be established elsewhere regionally. New economies such as gaming, natural gas, biotechnology and others now form a means to showcase what the region has to offer and make “hope” a pattern for the future. In addition, here are suggestions for the future.

— Continue to diversify the regional economy through enterprise development and other tools.

— Recreate Wall Street West as a methodology for adding new types of businesses and industries as a back up to Wall Street, as envisioned years ago.

— Prepare a regional constitution that spells out a framework for agreements and consensus on how the region can constructively compete in a global economy.

— Create a regional leadership program that supplements community leadership programs in the region.

— Build a meaningful symbol of recognition of the region much like the St. Louis Arch that dominates that city’s structure.

Over time, symbolic themes have been adopted, the latest of which is Discover NEPA and prior to that “The Pocono-Northeast: A Place to Grow.” Think of what might be needed 10 to 20 years ahead. Space age technology should be thought of as more attention is placed on Mars and rocket technology to space. Now is the time for regional steps along this line.

In other words, strength and hope means that thought about the future is a key to competition and whether or not the region can compete. All that is needed is wisdom, talent, new ideas, and a passion for making hope and strength meaningful words that respond to this and future regional generations.