SMETHPORT — The McKean County Planning Commission voted Tuesday to approve the Northern Pennsylvania Tri-County Comprehensive Plan, which forms a strategy for county initiatives and investments, and recommended its adoption by the county commissioners.

What makes this plan different is that McKean teamed with Cameron and Potter counties in comprehensive planning in which citizens had a voice in developing preferences for communities, public health, as well as workforce, economic and infrastructural development. County planning director Jeremy Morey noted that the public returned approximately 2,400 surveys in the three counties, which added valuable insight on a number of topics and issues.

In addition, the consultants also conducted one-on-one interviews with 13 companies that represented manufacturing, healthcare, mineral extraction and telecommunications.

On June 27, more than 50 people attended the public open house at Port Allegany High School that afforded residents to provide feedback and recommendations to the planning team, as well as establish dialogue with property owners and stakeholders.

Funding for the plan came from the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission with matching funds from the counties. McKean’s share was $11,500.

The planning commission’s Ok now begins the 45-day comment period for the plan, which is listed on the county’s website.

During Tuesday’s discussion, Morey said, “We must promote our area.” Commission members, in their discussion about the project-based plan, mentioned the importance of the area’s economic base, especially by expanding a trained workforce, which in part, means retaining youth locally due to the region’s aging population. Other important topics were transportation, quality of life, landlocked location and distances from major hubs like Buffalo, Cleveland, Syracuse and Toronto. Issues of taxes, zoning, taxes and tourism were also mentioned.

Kane Borough Manager Don Payne, also a commission member, said that while more focus should be placed on the employers who create the jobs, “There is still a lot of potential in our youth that we’re not cashing in on.”

Commission President Tony Clarke referred to the difficulty that many rural areas are having in attracting young professionals, such as doctors and attorneys.

Butch Schaffer, who represents Norwich Township on the commission, spoke about the importance of the work ethic and the trades in today’s economy.

Speaking of the overall plan, Hamlin Township’s Ron Keim said, “The matrix is well-thought out, and someone should be assigned to follow through with it. There are some really measurable goals.”

Commission members voted to recommend the planning director to monitor the action items.

According to Morey, this plan is to be reviewed annually.

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