Potter County to unveil ‘Project 2025’ to stop population decline

It’s been an ongoing problem for rural Pennsylvania: young adults leaving the area to find better jobs. In Potter County, the population went down nearly 5 percent in just a few short years between 2010 and 2018.

County officials are making a plan to flip the trend.

Potter County commissioners announced that on Thursday they will unveil “Project 2025” — “a blueprint to reverse the steady descent of the county’s population, coupled with the growing outmigration of young adults. These trends have serious implications for the future vitality and quality of life in Potter County.”

The unveiling will take place during the commissioners’ next public meeting at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport.

Commissioners identify decreasing population and high median age as “two of the most serious challenges facing Potter County in the new decade.”

The commissioners illustrate this using Census data.

“Most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures reflect another 5-percent drop in population, from 17,462 in 2010 to 16,622 as of June 2019,” they reported. “At the same time, the county’s median age has gradually risen to 47 years, far above the statewide median of 41.”

The commissioners — Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman — have tasked two department heads with development of Project 2025. Planning Director Will Hunt and Community Development Director Ellen Russell will implement the plan.

“Its lofty goal is to assemble stakeholders, conduct intensive research, and implement a strategy to reverse the population loss and median age growth by the end of 2025,” commissioners stated.

County officials have not yet specified what steps make up the strategy, but commissioners said some options can be found in the 2020-29 Countywide Comprehensive Plan.

“That document reflects input provided by hundreds of community leaders, business owners, conservation advocates, education and tourism officials, and others with an interest in the county’s future,” they explained.

The Comprehensive Plan outlines a 10-year plan for improvements in areas including workforce development, economic base, quality-of-life enhancement in communities, infrastructure/environment and public health. For instance, goals listed for workforce develop including adding workforce training, enhancing marketing and employee attraction and promoting student interest in technical training.

The Comprehensive Plan — a link for which can be found on the planning commission department page at pottercountypa.net — lists 36 actions, along with the agencies, organizations, businesses and individuals who can help with each step.

Project 2025 participants will create a website to provide information such as progress reports, links to resources and more.