Wednesday, March 08, 2006
By MEGHAN SMITH The Express-Times
ALLENTOWN - What the Lehigh Valley is -- and what it has the potential to become -- are two very different things, according to a fledgling group aiming to revitalize the region.
Members of Renew LV, a Campaign to Renew the Lehigh Valley, announced its formation Tuesday at a news conference in the Pennsylvania CareerLink offices on Union Boulevard.
The group's mission, according to Co-chairwoman and Emmaus Councilwoman Joyce Marin, is to "transform the Lehigh Valley into a vibrant community" by sprucing up cities, cutting back on suburban sprawl, retaining young college graduates and improving local government.
Through various initiatives, she said, Renew LV will seek to reverse "troubling trends" detailed in the Brookings Institution's 2005 study of the Lehigh Valley that put the region behind state or national averages in key categories such as farmland preservation, college-educated residents, income level increases and job growth.
The group, which includes community leaders, businesspeople and government officials, has zeroed in on two objectives this year -- to study municipal consolidation options for water and sewer, and to devise a strategy to keep young adults living and working in the Lehigh Valley.
Renew LV Co-chairman Andy Daub of Brown-Daub dealerships said the group plans to embark on a $150,000 grant-funded water and sewer consolidation study as the first of many potential services that could be regionalized to the benefit of local communities.
"It's worth investigating," he said of the consolidation, citing regional police forces and county-wide school districts as other opportunities for mergers.
Spearheading the effort to attract and retain young professionals, first-year Emmaus Councilman Wes Barrett, a member of the target age group, said an interactive "Live LV" Web site is in the making.
The site, he said, would serve as a virtual gathering place for the Valley's professionals in their 20s and 30s, where visitors could view community information and post announcements on an online bulletin board.
Live LV is coordinating efforts with College Valley, an online forum and information hub for the region's college students, and the Network of Young Professionals, a society for the area's young, working adults.
The first in a series of five Live LV-sponsored community forums is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, at the Hotel Bethlehem. The group hopes to get feedback from young professionals about the benefits or drawbacks of living and working the Lehigh Valley.
At the news conference, Northampton and Lehigh County executives voiced support for the new organization, currently based out of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley's Bethlehem office.
For Northampton County, Executive John Stoffa spoke of the importance of long-range community planning and the continuous improvement of resources in the Valley.
"We could probably do better than what we're doing," he said of the Valley's current state.
Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham said achieving the group's high goals will take work.
"No one holds a magic wand to decree all this to occur," he said. "It takes everyone This effort -- Renew LV -- will lead the charge."
How Can We Make Our Region Better?
Renew Lehigh Valley is a grassroots initiative spawned from the issues introduced by the Brookings Institute Report, Back to Proseperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania. Our campaign is supported by a strong Leadership Council consisting of Community Leaders, Community Members and Community Organizations and steered by our Organizing Committee.
Renew Lehigh Valley, College Valley and The Network of Young Professionals are sponsoring a community forum titled "How Can We Make Out Region Better?" on Tuesday, March 14th at the Hotel Bethlehem. This community forum is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.
We want to know what you have to say. Young Professionals, like you, are the future of the Lehigh Valley.
Date: Tuesday, March 14th
Place: The Terrace Room - Hotel Bethlehem (437 Main St, Bethlehem)