MILTON – If the Valley were to invest in its own community college, the economic possibilities could be endless. Those were results of a 12-year study presented Thursday by the Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project.
Executive Director Dr. Lenaire Ahlum says this would not be just a college branch extension already existing in our area – it would solely benefit Northumberland, Union, Snyder and Montour counties, “Number 1, we would have a local governing board of trustees. We can reduce the commuter costs. We want to develop and retain the talent right here. We want to keep the revenue streams here. We want to grow business in our area, and tailor to our local employers, and we want to raise the tax base.”
SVCEP was assisted with the study by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI). They say a new Valley community college could result in at least $78.5 million in additional total regional income between fiscal year 2022 and 2032.
Dr. Ahlum says a local community college would especially address a big regional workforce skills gap of 11,000 jobs per year, “This is where they’re (other community colleges in Pennsylvania) are clustered…around Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Luzerne County. These workforce development areas all have access to a workforce generator, and that is a community college. When we look at our central workforce development area, we don’t have that opportunity.”
But SVCEP Vice President John Shipman says the organization needs each county’s help, needing a $1.2 million capital tax investment from all four of them, “The $1.2 million that we are requesting…within three years, that return on investment is exceeded by the amount of economic activity. This is not an expense. Every business person knows you have to invest money to make money, and that’s what this is.”
However, Montour County officials say they can’t financially support this at the moment, but the organization still plans to present this study to them.