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September/October 2002

Inside This Issue:

 

Welcome Back Downtown!
Across America and throughout Pennsylvania, small communities are taking another look at their downtowns. Businesses, activities, events and people are now replacing empty buildings, storefronts and sidewalks. Small town residents are taking back their streets; actively working to remake and revitalize their downtowns to become the hub of activity they once were.

Downtown revitalization efforts mean improved livability and quality of life for small town residents since these efforts focus on expanding and attracting employment, shopping and social activities.

To understand how small town revitalization efforts are working in Pennsylvania and to share strategies and success stories with other small towns that want to begin the revitalization process, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has released the guide, Welcome Back Downtown: A Guide to Revitalizing Pennsylvania's Small Downtowns.

The guide is based on a research project conducted by Martin Shields and Tracey Farrigan of Penn State University and sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. The how-to guide for small downtown revitalization is specifically geared to helping small towns start their revitalization efforts. Building on several basic principles, the guide provides Pennsylvania's small communities with a variety of low-cost tools and strategies that may help them welcome their downtowns back to a more vibrant existence.

Organizing and planning
The first chapters of the guide focus on organizing revitalization efforts and emphasize the importance of volunteerism and coalition building. Many small towns have limited financial resources so volunteers will play a large role in the revitalization efforts. In general, communities are encouraged to form a downtown organization and to choose a board of directors.

During the planning process, small towns are encouraged to consider the four basic components of planning: assess current conditions, develop a vision for downtown, identify strategies and develop an action plan, and evaluate and update the plan. More information on the planning process and developing a vision is detailed in the Center for Rural Pennsylvania publication, Planning for the Future: A Handbook on Community Visioning. Like all Center publications, Planning for the Future is available to the public at no cost.

Techniques for revitalization
The guide also provides low-cost techniques that communities may consider using to revitalize their downtowns. The techniques listed may not suit every community and should be employed based on feasibility. The techniques focus on:

  • improving the downtown's appearance,
  • strengthening local businesses,
  • identifying new opportunities, and
  • promoting the downtown.

Case studies describing how three small towns across Pennsylvania are working to revitalize their main streets are also presented.

While each town had different goals for its downtown and used different methods to achieve the goals, they used similar strategies. The "lessons learned" by these small towns and others are presented in the final chapter of the guide. Some of the lessons learned are listed below.

Want more info?
For a copy of the guide, Welcome Back Downtown: A Guide to Revitalizing Pennsylvania's Small Downtowns, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Lessons Learned on Downtown Revitalization
Downtown revitalization may be accomplished by using a variety of strategies. While no one strategy has been found to be a sure-fire winner for every downtown revitalization effort, there are some great lessons that have been learned on what can make or break the effort. Here are just a few:

Organize early. Take the time to develop an enduring organization. Establish a board of directors. Bring in both public and private sectors. Obtain 501-C3 status if it seems reasonable.

Enlist the community. Hold several well-publicized meetings early on in the process to generate community interest and secure additional volunteer support.

Enlist state agencies. A number of state agencies can help you with your efforts. Contact the state Department of Community and Economic Development, the state Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, and Penn State Cooperative Extension for possible assistance.

Enlist the media. The local papers are looking for stories! Send out press releases to advertise meetings. Call reporters with story ideas.

Get local government support. Only local governments can apply for many of the appropriate grants. Recruit supervisors and council members to serve on the board. Understand that local governments operate with very tight budgets. When pitching your ideas, make sure officials know exactly the role and resources you hope they provide.

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Chairman's Message
As chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania's Board of Directors, I have made it a policy to conduct our summer board meeting on the road in rural Pennsylvania. It's a time when the board can get a first-hand look at some of the success stories in different regions of our commonwealth.

This year's August meeting found our board and staff traveling to Franklin, Venango County - home of board member Sen. Mary Jo White. After our business meeting, we strolled through downtown Franklin, an absolutely captivating city, with its delightful main street that serves as a shopping district and leads to the county courthouse, with its manicured lawns and sparkling fountains. The pride that Franklin's residents have for their hometown was evident as we walked along sidewalks free from litter. Citizens of the community sponsored engraved bricks that bordered the tidy curbsides, along with hanging flower baskets that decorated each light pole, a true reflection of the local color that makes this picturesque and historic community a visual treat for anyone who stops by. The hospitality of the local businesses in showcasing their success stories was appreciated and gave each of the board members many ideas on how Franklin's concepts could be shared with other rural communities in Pennsylvania. It was a great example of how downtowns add to an area's quality of life. Thank you to all who made this board meeting a memorable and productive event.

Unfortunately, not every small town is the hub of activity it used to be. If your town is facing the challenge of turning things around, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has a new publication that might help you get started. Welcome Back Downtown: A Guide to Revitalizing Pennsylvania's Small Downtowns, shares strategies on how small towns can begin the revitalization process. Read more about the guide on page 1.

Since last year, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has been participating in a task force established by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to discuss policy options on economic development, agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure for rural areas. The Center was asked to participate on the task force because of its 15-year history of studying a wide range of rural issues and presenting rural policy suggestions to the General Assembly.

Through its work, the task force developed 10 draft Principles for Rural Development, which will be presented to the NCSL Executive Committee for approval this fall, and helped the NCSL to realize a restructuring of its Agriculture Committee to become the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. In July, Barry Denk, director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, was appointed as staff vice chairman for the upcoming year for the newly restructured committee. He has received the full support of the Center's Board of Directors in this most important role.

Barry's appointment and the Center's involvement on this committee will give us an additional opportunity to focus on rural policy development at the national level. For more information, turn to the article on page 4.

The Center's Board of Directors is also pleased to welcome its newest member, Senator John Wozniak. Senator Wozniak is a strong supporter of rural Pennsylvania and we look forward to his participation on the board.

We also look forward to your participation at our Rural Definition Forums, set for October. The sessions are being held in various locations across the state, so we hope you'll have the opportunity to attend one closest to you. For more details about the rural forums, turn to page 5. We hope to see you there.

Representative Sheila Miller

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Senator John Wozniak Joins Center's Board of Directors
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania welcomes its newest board member, Senator John Wozniak. Sen. Wozniak was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1980 where he served until his election to the Senate of Pennsylvania in 1996. He currently serves the 35th Senatorial District, which includes Cambria County and parts of Somerset, Westmoreland and Clearfield counties. Sen. Wozniak serves as Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and is a member of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Communications and High Technology, Community and Economic Development, Game and Fisheries, Intergovernmental Affairs and Legislative Budget and Finance committees. He also serves on the advisory board of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and is a member of the Cambria County Community Action Council, the Johnstown Area Regional Industries, and the Greater Johnstown and Clearfield County Chambers of Commerce.

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NCSL Expands Work on Rural Development
In just one year, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the preeminent bipartisan organization serving lawmakers and staff of the nation's 50 states, has made substantial progress in broadening its work on rural development issues. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has been a part of that effort from the beginning.

At the 2001 NCSL Annual Meeting, legislators interested in the challenges and opportunities facing rural America initiated the Rural Development Task Force. Membership included legislators and staff from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania. Barry Denk, director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, was named to the task force.

Over the course of a year, the task force met to discuss crosscutting policy options on economic development, agriculture, education, health and infrastructure for rural areas. In its discussion, the group explored the role that states play in rural development, considering such questions as: How can state legislatures develop mechanisms to address rural issues in a sustained way? How can states help bridge and enhance federal and local development efforts? What are examples of state efforts that work toward these concerns? How can NCSL collaborate with other state government organizations so each can leverage the other's work on rural development?

In its work, the task force looked at existing state efforts and best practices focusing on rural policy development. Pennsylvania was identified because the General Assembly established the Center for Rural Pennsylvania in 1987. In a future NCSL publication, the Center and other agencies from North Carolina and Texas will be highlighted in case studies.

The task force work resulted in the development of 10 draft Principles for Rural Development.

The principles are being presented to the NCSL Executive Committee for approval in the fall of 2002 and address such areas as:

  • fair and equitable rural policies, governance and taxing structures,
  • a dedicated agency to consider the full array of rural issues,
  • human capacity building,
  • appropriate financing for rural projects,
  • coordination within and among rural communities, and
  • economic development efforts that foster and preserve rural America's natural assets.

The work and progress of the Rural Development Task Force was recognized at the NCSL Annual Meeting this past July in Denver, CO. At that time, the Executive Committee of NCSL approved a restructuring of its committees and the Agriculture Committee was expanded to become the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. Membership on the committee was also expanded and Center Director Barry Denk was appointed as staff Vice Chairman for the upcoming year.

Concerning his work to date with the task force and his continuing efforts with the committee, Denk said, "Pennsylvania is clearly recognized as a key state in rural policy development issues. With its large agricultural base, diversified manufacturing and tourism sectors, coupled with growth issues facing eastern and western Pennsylvania, the commonwealth is a natural test-bed for policy innovation on a variety of issues.

"I have learned so much in just one short year about the national scene of rural development," he said. "And the national recognition of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania's work is certainly reinforcing and a compliment to our state legislature."
The first meeting of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee is October 1-2 in Washington, DC, with follow-up meetings scheduled for December 2002, and April and July 2003.

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Did you know . . .

  • According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, enrollment in rural schools increased 4 percent during the 1990s. Urban schools had a 10 percent increase.
  • The average rural school district spent approximately $7,677 per student during the 2000 school year. In urban areas, the state Department of Education reported that the average district spent more than $8,445 per student.
  • During the 2001 school year, rural and urban areas had almost the same proportion of students eligible for the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program - 30 percent.
  • School enrollment projections by the state Department of Education show rural school enrollment declining 8 percent between 2000 and 2010.

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Data Users: Let's Talk Rural
Ready to talk rural? The Center for Rural Pennsylvania will hold a series of six forums across the state in October to determine the best way to designate counties and other entities as rural or urban according to Census 2000 data.

Through these sessions, the Center hopes to formulate a plan to identify counties as rural and urban, and is looking for as much input as possible from municipal officials, planners, hospital administrators, grant writers, researchers and other data users around the commonwealth.

At each discussion session, the Center will explain the new Census 2000 definitions of urban and rural and compare them with the 1990 definitions. The Center will also provide information on a number of potential ways to classify areas such as counties or municipalities.

Attendees will be encouraged to share their uses of rural and urban data and their ideas on the best method of designation for their purposes. Session dates, locations and times are listed below.

A focus on rural health
Prior to the first session, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on October 8 in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Association will hold a forum to discuss rural health issues at the state and community level. Participants will also be asked to provide input on using the new federal definitions to develop rural and urban classifications for counties and municipalities. While the hour-long forum is specifically aimed at health and human service leaders, others interested in health and social services are encouraged to attend. The Center's rural discussion will begin immediately after the rural health forum.

Board members host sessions
Two of the rural definition forums will be hosted by Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board members. Senator Mary Jo White will host the October 10 session in Franklin, Venango County, and Representative Mike Hanna and Lock Haven University President Dr. Craig Willis will host the October 11 session at Lock Haven University, Clinton County. Other session hosts include the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, in Greensburg, Westmoreland County; the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission in Towanda, Bradford County; and West Chester University's Department of Geography and Planning in West Chester, Chester County.

Want more info?
To receive a brochure about the sessions or for more information, or to register, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

Please note: There is no charge to attend the forums. However, we ask that you register for the session you would like to attend so that we may provide adequate seating and materials.

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October 2002 Schedule

OCT. 8th HARRISBURG
Location: Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, 4750 Lindle Road, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8600, phone (717) 564-9200.
Time: 9:30 a.m. to Noon.
Hosted by the Pennsylvania Rural Health Association. The discussion on rural health will begin at 8:30 a.m.

OCT. 10th FRANKLIN
Location: Quality Inn at Franklin, 1411 Liberty Street, Franklin, PA 16323, phone (814) 437-3031 or (800) 535-4052.
Time: 9 a.m. to Noon.
Hosted by Senator Mary Jo White, Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board Member.

OCT. 11th LOCK HAVEN
Location: Hamblin Hall of Flags, Lock Haven University, N. Fairview Street, Lock Haven, PA 17745, phone (800) 332-8900.
Time: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Hosted by Representative Mike Hanna & Lock Haven University President Dr. Craig Willis, Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board Members.

OCT. 15th GREENSBURG
Location: Fireside Lounge in Chambers Hall, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, 1150 Mt. Pleasant Road, Greensburg, PA 15601-5860, phone (724) 837-7040.
Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Hosted by Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.

OCT. 17th TOWANDA
Location: Clubhouse Dining Room, Towanda Country Club, Route 6, Wysox, PA 18848, phone (570) 265-6222.
Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Hosted by the Northern Tier Regional Planning & Development Commission.

OCT. 25th WEST CHESTER
Location: Room 113 Boucher Building, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383, phone (610) 436-1000.
Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Hosted by West Chester University, Department of Geography and Planning.

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Update: Census 2000 - SF3 Socio-Economic Data
The release of socio-economic profiles at the end of May provided some long awaited facts and figures, but only at the state, county, and municipal levels and only as an overview. The complete Census 2000 SF3 file to be released this fall is the meat of the Census. With this data, we will have statistics at any level of Census geography - those stated previously as well as tract and block group data. With that, files can be created to reflect school districts and legislative districts.

In addition, there will be many more details available than there were in the profiles. The type of information in the upcoming Census SF3 file includes:

  • labor force, income and poverty
  • education and language
  • marital status and grandparents as caregivers
  • veteran status and disability status
  • migration, place of birth, and ancestry, and
  • numerous housing characteristics.

Most importantly for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, we will have community level data on rural and urban populations.

This file is due to be released for Pennsylvania in late September. The next Census information release we'll be looking for is the SF4 file containing the socio-economic data crossed by detailed races. This file is due out between November 2002 and April 2003.

For more Census 2000 information, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's website at www.census.gov or call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555.

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Rural Pennsylvanians on the Move?
Until the detailed migration file from Census 2000 comes out next year, we will not have information about who moved out of the commonwealth to other states or about the demographics of movers and non-movers. But the Census 2000 data that we do have shows whether people living within the state and its counties have moved recently and from what area.

Overall, rural Pennsylvanians seem to be happy where they are living. Sixty-six percent of residents in Pennsylvania's primarily rural counties lived in the same house in 1995 as they did in 2000. An additional 19 percent moved but stayed within the same county. Nearly 145,800 people had moved in from other states, and more than 14,000 rural Pennsylvania residents moved in from abroad between 1995 and 2000.

While most of these "mover" categories changed only slightly since the 1990 Census, the non-movers were 62 percent of the population age 5 and older in 1990.

Rural Movers and Non-movers:
Persons 5 years old and older who moved and did not move from rural Pennsylvania, 1990 to 2000

Note: The 1990 and 2000 Census questionnaires asked where each person lived five years before if not in the same house. Since the question refers to five years earlier, it is only asked of those who are five years old and older.

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Broadband Grant Program Available to Rural Communities
The Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the availability of a pilot grant program for the provision of broadband transmission service in rural America. For fiscal year 2002, $20 million in grants will be made available through a national competition to applicants proposing to provide broadband transmission service on a "community-oriented connectivity" basis. The grant targets rural, economically-challenged communities and offers a means for the deployment of broadband transmission services to rural schools, libraries, education centers, health care providers, law enforcement agencies, public safety organizations, residents and businesses. This all-encompassing connectivity concept will give small, rural communities a chance to benefit from the advanced technologies that are necessary to foster economic growth, provide quality education and health care opportunities, and increase and enhance public safety efforts. The application deadline is November 5, 2002. For a grant application, visit the Rural Utilities Service website at www.usda.gov/rus/telecom or call (570) 788-0908 to talk with the eastern Pennsylvania RUS representative or (614) 860-9732 to talk with the western Pennsylvania RUS representative.

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Just the Facts: The Rural Five-0
A police officer's job is detailed and dangerous. In rural Pennsylvania, it can also be lonely. According to data from the Center for Local Government Services, in 2002, there were 91 one-person police departments in Pennsylvania. Located primarily in rural areas, these one-officer departments are typically found in municipalities with populations less than 1,000.

To provide 24-hour, seven-days-a-week service, a police department typically needs a minimum of five full-time officers. Of the state's nearly 2,600 municipalities, about 30 percent provide full-time police services. Excluding Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, these municipalities have a median population of 5,200 and an average annual budget in excess of $2.4 million.

Nearly 12 percent of the state's municipalities do not provide full-time police services, however. The majority of these police departments (77 percent) is located in municipalities with less than 2,500 residents and has an annual budget slightly over $602,000. In 2000, the typical municipality without full-time service spent nearly $73,000 or 13 percent of its total budget, for police service, including police salaries, uniforms, and supplies. On a per capita basis, this equals $40 per resident; the statewide average is $110.

Nearly one-half (47 percent) of Pennsylvania's municipalities have no police department. In many of these municipalities, police services are provided by the Pennsylvania State Police. On average, municipalities serviced by the State Police have less than 2,000 residents and an annual budget of less than $500,000. However, 22 municipalities served by the State Police have populations in excess of 10,000 and annual budgets of more than $4.3 million. Statewide, U.S. Census data shows that municipalities that rely on the State Police were the fastest growing municipalities during the 1990s.

From a financial and administrative perspective, providing police services can be challenging for smaller municipalities. To ease this burden, about 10 percent of the state's municipalities have entered into regional police agreements, where two or more police departments formally join together, or they contract out for service. Typically, municipalities with these types of agreements have less than 2,000 residents and annual budgets just over $400,000. In addition, these municipalities spend about $42,000 a year for police services.


 

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