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January/February 2010

Inside This Issue:

 

Center Announces 2010 Research Grant Awards
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors has awarded research grants to five Pennsylvania State University and three Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university faculty as part of the Center’s 2010 Research Grant Program.

Most research projects are set to begin mid-January.

The research will focus on a wide range of issues to provide data and policy information to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

“The Center's Board of Directors, independent reviewers and staff are mindful of the issues that need more focused attention,” said Senator John Gordner, Center board chairman. “During the grant process, the board tries to choose projects that will build on the Center’s base of information and will offer policy considerations that the Pennsylvania General Assembly can use when considering legislation.”

The 2010 research projects will examine emergency medical services, criminal offenders, attitudes toward renewable energy, transportation services available to rural military veterans for medical services, the impact of gas drilling on water supplies, the aspirations of rural youth, the Pennsylvania Main Street Program, and the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers.

The Center’s traditional Research Grant Program offers a maximum funding level of $50,000 per project per year. Its Mini Grant Program offers a maximum funding level of $10,000 per project for a nine-month period. (For more information on recent changes to the Center’s enabling legislation as it relates to the annual Research Grant Program, see the Chairman’s Message on Page 2). 

The grant awards under the traditional and mini grant programs are summarized below.

Measuring the Financial Viability and Sustainability of Emergency Medical Service Providers in Rural Pennsylvania
Dr. Jill Schumann Rumberger, Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg
This research project will examine the viability and sustainability of rural Pennsylvania’s emergency medical services (EMS) providers. It will model the current and future staffing and financial health of EMS providers in rural counties. The researcher will use data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and resources from the Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council to complete the study.

An Examination of Criminal Justice Offenders in Pennsylvania
Dr. AnnMarie Cordner, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
This study will examine criminal justice offenders convicted between 1996 and 2007 to better understand crime in Pennsylvania. The researcher will use data from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing and the U.S. Economic Research Service to study offenders with regard to rural/urban differences, domestic violence, substance abuse and sex offenses.

Pennsylvanians’ Attitudes Toward Renewable Energy
Dr. Clare Hinrichs, Pennsylvania State University
This research will measure Pennsylvanians’ attitudes about renewable energy and their willingness to pay for it to increase renewable energy production in Pennsylvania. The researchers will survey rural and urban residents and will conduct focus groups in selected rural communities to explore local attitudes and factors affecting support for and opposition to construction of renewable energy facilities.

Examination of Transportation Services Available to Rural Military Veterans for Medical Services
Dr. Marianne Hillemeier, Pennsylvania State University
This study will examine the location of medical services available to rural Pennsylvania veterans in proximity to their home location, and the transportation services enabling their access to healthcare and other social services to identify service-shortage and service-efficient areas. The researcher will use state and federal data sets for veterans from World War II to more recent veterans and returning service personnel.

Impact of Marcellus Gas Drilling on Rural Drinking Water Supplies
Dr. Elizabeth Boyer, Pennsylvania State University
As increased drilling of the Marcellus shale may represent a contamination risk to groundwater in Pennsylvania, this research project will examine 250 private water supplies statewide to determine if groundwater contamination is occurring, and, if so, whether drilling is the cause. The results of this research may have implications for regulations to protect water supplies during gas drilling.

Rural Youth Education Project, Wave Four
Dr. Diane McLaughlin, Pennsylvania State University
The Rural Youth Education Project (RYE) is a longitudinal study of rural Pennsylvania school students to understand their educational and career aspirations and the factors influencing their aspirations. The research began in 2004, and in 2010-2011, the research will enter its fourth and final wave of data collection and analyses.

Sustaining Community Development: An Evaluation of Main Street Programs in Pennsylvania
Dr. Chad M. Kimmel, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
This research will evaluate Main Street Programs in Pennsylvania to learn what factors and elements are associated with the long-term viability and sustainability of Main Street Programs. The researcher will gather data through surveys, reports and interviews with current and former Main Street participants.

Analysis of Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Use in Pennsylvania
Dr. Simon Condliffe, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
This mini-grant research project will analyze the clients who have used an SBDC. The researcher will use SBDC data to compare and contrast the characteristics of clients from rural and urban counties, and will identify whether the pattern of use is changing over time.

Preparing for the 2011 Research Grant Program
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s board is currently identifying topics for the 2011 Research Grant Program. After the topics have been identified, the Center will issue its Request for Proposals (RFP).
While the Center’s grant program is only available to faculty at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities, Pennsylvania State University, and the regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh, the Center encourages cooperation and collaboration between these faculty and other public or private organizations.

For a copy of the 2011 RFP or more information about the grant program, call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Chairman’s Message
Happy New Year!  I hope you had a memorable holiday season and are well on your way to fulfilling all those New Year resolutions.

It is hard to believe we are entering the final year of this decade, when it seems like just a short time ago we were focused on the uncertainties of Y2K as the year 2000 approached. Time surely does march on.

Here at the Center, we are beginning a new round of research projects (see our feature story on Page 1) and the process of developing research topics for our 2011 grant cycle.

With the passage of time comes the inevitable challenge of change. For the Center and its grant program, change brings an opportunity to increase the considerable pool of academic talent that conducts our research.

The Rural Revitalization Act of 1987, the enabling legislation of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, was amended on October 9, 2009 with the passage of Act 52.

The legislation was spearheaded by board members Senator John Wozniak and Representative Tim Seip.

With the passage of Act 52, faculty members at the regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh are eligible to apply for research grants. The university has held a seat on the Board of Directors since the Center began operation in 1987, but faculty was not eligible for grant participation.

Effective with the 2011 grant cycle, faculty at the Pitt regional campuses of Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown and Titusville will be eligible to participate with faculty from Penn State and the State System of Higher Education in the sponsored research projects of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. The 2011 cycle will begin in March 2010 with the formal release of the 2011 Request for Proposals.

Another welcome change in the passage of Act 52 is the potential to increase the maximum grant award to $60,000 per project per year. Since 1987, the award limit was capped at $50,000. The $10,000 increase recognizes that over 20 plus years, the value of a dollar has been affected by inflation and the overall costs of doing business. The board retains control over when and how the increase is implemented.

Minor administrative changes in the operations of the Center were also provided for in Act 52: among them the specific listing of agriculture and rural health and welfare as eligible research subject areas. While many Center research projects have focused on these topics, their specific listing makes the focus on these issues more prevalent.

As we all welcome in the New Year with our individual goals and resolutions, let’s all join in the common goal of being part of the Census 2010.

This once-a-decade national data collection endeavor is critical for our country and Pennsylvania. The distribution of many public and private sector resources is based on Census data. Our voice in Washington is based on our population count.

You should receive your Census form by April 1, so please complete and return the form. Let’s all do our part to be counted.

Senator John Gordner

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Center Welcomes Dan A. Surra to Board
Dan A. SurraIn November 2009, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania welcomed Dan A. Surra to its board. Mr. Surra is senior advisor to the Pennsylvania Wilds in the office of Governor Edward G. Rendell and the executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation.

Prior to joining the Governor’s staff, Mr. Surra served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1991 to 2008, representing the 75th Legislative District, which includes Clearfield and Elk counties.
Prior to serving in the legislature, Mr. Surra taught Industrial Arts in the DuBois Area School District for 14 years.

Mr. Surra has a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University. He is the founder of Citizens Action for a Safe Environment and co-founder of the Pennsylvania Environmental Network.

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Sustainability of Rural Community Health Care Service Providers
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Certified Medicare Rural Health Clinics (RHC) are part of a larger system of health care providers that offer primary care services to vulnerable and underserved populations. These centers and clinics are sometimes called “health care safety nets,” since they provide services to people who may not be able to obtain care anywhere else.

To document the role of these health centers within the health care delivery system in Pennsylvania, Dr. Linda K. Kanzleiter and Myron R. Schwartz of the Penn State College of Medicine and Dr. Hleziphi Naomie Nyanungo of Pennsylvania State University conducted a study in 2007-2008 under a grant from the Center for Pennsylvania.

Research goal
The research goal was to describe these health centers with respect to their geographic distribution, the populations they serve, their role in the community, and their general institutional characteristics.

The research also looked to determine the role these health centers may play within the health care delivery system in the future. That role is largely dependent upon the sustainability of health centers with respect to their financial status, their ability to recruit and retain health care providers, and their ability to offer the health care services required by the populations and communities they serve.

The research also describes the experience of other states and offers policy considerations for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

To conduct the study, the researchers surveyed health center administrators from Pennsylvania RHCs and FQHCs. They also used secondary data from the 2000 Census to complement the survey findings.

While the focus of the study was on rural health centers, the researchers also surveyed urban health centers to compare the centers and to identify policy issues that affect both rural and urban areas.

To select the survey participants, the researchers used contact information for the 48 RHCs certified in Pennsylvania they received from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They also used contact information for the 137 FQHCs and 30 FQHC look-alikes, which provide services to a more restricted population than FQHCs, they received from the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers (PACHC).

The researchers completed a total of 49 interviews, 23 with administrators representing RHCs and 26 with administrators representing FQHCs.

Research findings
The research found that health centers function as safety net providers, providing health care services to underserved populations. They are widely distributed across the commonwealth, are located in areas of need and provide services to underserved populations.

The health centers’ safety net function in rural areas is primarily related to their location in areas of low provider supply. The health centers’ safety net function in urban areas is primarily related to their service to economically disadvantaged populations.

In general, rural health centers differ from urban health centers as follows: (1) they offer a more restrictive range of services, (2) they have a more restricted provider mix, (3) they have a less diverse revenue portfolio, (4) they experience more difficulty in recruiting and retaining providers, (5) they are economically more vulnerable, and (6) they have a greater probability of participating in the education of health care providers.

The research found that health centers function as more than a vendor of health care services; they are part of the culture of the communities in which they are located.

The researchers noted that the sustainability of these health centers is dependent on several factors including the ability to recruit and retain appropriately motivated providers, financial stability, and integration into the community.

Results available
For a copy of the research results, Study of the Sustainability of Rural Community Health Service Providers, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us, or visit the Center’s Web site at www.rural.palegislature.us.

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The Impact of Community Banks in Rural Pennsylvania
Community banks play a unique role in local economies because they tend to be heavily involved in community development projects and local businesses. Typically defined as locally owned and operated institutions with assets of less than $1 billion, community banks have been facing multiple challenges related to industry consolidation, competition from other bank and nonbank service providers, and funding pressures. 

Among the most important trends in the banking industry over the past 20 years is consolidation, which has significantly impacted the number of banks, especially small community banks.

To examine the impact of mergers and acquisitions on the structure of local banking markets, which includes the number of banks in local markets and the share of deposits in that market, in Pennsylvania, Dr. Victoria Geyfman of Bloomsburg University and Dr. Jonathan Scott of Temple University conducted research in 2008.

The research also compared the changes in market structure to measures of local economic health and examined the performance of banks operating in rural communities.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania sponsored the study.

Data used
To study community banks, the researchers used financial statements, or Call reports, provided by banks to their respective regulatory agencies. They also used deposit data from the Summary of Deposits collected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and county-level economic data obtained from the Bureau of Economic Analysis Regional Economic Information System.

Banks play significant role
The research findings helped to document the significant role of community banks in the economic growth of local communities in the commonwealth. The association is stronger in rural counties than in urban counties, confirming that community banks play a critical role in rural areas’ local economic prosperity. 

In general, the research found that trends in the Pennsylvania banking scene mirror those observed in the nation, with the total number of bank holding companies decreasing (from 369 in 1995 to 283 in 2005) and the total number of branches/offices increasing (from 4,439 in 1995 to 4,643 in 2005). The decrease in the number of banks was more pronounced in rural markets than in urban markets.

The rural banking markets in Pennsylvania are considered concentrated, but the level of concentration remained virtually unchanged since 1995, similar to the national experience. The most notable changes in the rural markets were the loss of in-market institutions (banks whose headquarters are located in the same market as their branches) and a decline in the number of local community banks. 

The research also found a negative association between market concentration and economic development in rural markets. The change in market structure is less important for economic prosperity in urban markets.

Community banks play a positive role in the economic growth of both rural and urban markets, lending support to a widely-held belief that community banks continue to perform an important function in the U.S. banking business.   

The study also documented the lack of diversification in the loan portfolio of rural, single-county community banks that derive most of their funding from local markets. The reliance of rural community banks on local markets for deposits and loans makes them potentially more susceptible to local fluctuations in the economy and the entry of larger, diversified out-of-market rivals.

According to the findings, however, one of the most valuable traits of community banks is their unique knowledge of the local economy and expertise in local business prospects, which results in their competitive advantage in making relationship loans.

This research found evidence that single-market banks in rural Pennsylvania have used this advantage to perform better in smaller rural counties. More importantly, in the current credit crisis, community banks are more likely to make the extra effort to work with their small firm customers.1

From these and other findings, the researchers offered policy considerations, many of which focus first on catalysts that can support rural lending by community banks. These include a proposed pilot program with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh to leverage its existing community development and small business programs for rural lending by community banks.

Report available
For a copy of the report, Challenges and Opportunities for Community Banks in Rural Pennsylvania, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

1 Phred Dvorak wrote about the experience of several community bankers in balancing the needs of their customers and regulatory pressure to write down loan balances in the Dec. 24, 2008 Wall Street Journal’s, “A Small Bank Juggles Its Roles.”

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Fast Fact: Number of Rural Pennsylvanians Eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) November 2007 to November 2009

Data source: Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Note: SNAP is the new name of the Food Stamp Program.

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Just the Facts: Cremation
According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, more Pennsylvanians are choosing cremation.

In 1990, 88 percent of Pennsylvanians chose traditional burial methods and 12 percent chose cremation.

In 2007, however, 69 percent of Pennsylvanians chose traditional burial methods and 31 percent chose cremation. From 1990 to 2000, the number of cremations increased 178 percent.

In rural counties, in 1990, 10 percent of residents chose cremation and 90 percent chose traditional burial methods. In 2007, 30 percent of rural Pennsylvanians chose cremation and 70 percent chose traditional burials.

In 1990, 12 percent of urban Pennsylvanians chose cremation and 88 percent chose traditional burial methods. In 2007, the percentages were 32 and 68, respectively.

Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, Carbon, Sullivan and Tioga saw the largest percent increase in cremations, with 30, 36 and 28 percent, respectively. In 1990, for example, 12 percent of remains in Carbon County were cremated; in 2007, 42 percent of remains were cremated. 

In 2007, Pennsylvania ranked fifth in the nation in the total number of cremations.

The states with the highest number of cremations were California and Washington. When looking at the percentage of cremations as the method of disposition, Nevada, Washington and Hawaii topped the list.

In 2006, the National Funeral Directors Association reported that, in the United States, about 34 percent of those who died were cremated. It projects that, in 2010, the percentage will increase to about 38 percent. 

Due to the shift in methods of disposition, the demand for crematoriums has increased.

According to the Cremation Association of North America, in 2004, there were 1,858 crematories across the nation; 80 were located in Pennsylvania. By 2006, there were 2,029 crematories in the United States; 88 were located in Pennsylvania. The United States saw a 9 percent increase in the number of crematories between 2004 and 2006, while Pennsylvania had a slightly higher increase of 10 percent between 2004 and 2006.

Cremation vs. Traditional Burial in Pennsylvania, 1990 and 2007

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