The 2013 annual report by The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development indicates Northeastern Pennsylvania is showing signs of an economic turnaround.
The eighth annual Indicators Report, to be released and discussed at a forum Thursday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, tracks the region’s performance on an array of categories, including demographics, public safety, jobs and the economy.
“The annual Indicators Report serves as a yardstick for measuring growth and trends in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Patrick Leahy, Wilkes University president and chairman of the institute, which is a partnership among Keystone College, King’s College, Luzerne County Community College, Marywood University, Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, The University of Scranton, and is owned and managed by Wilkes.
Reports covering more than 120 indicators for Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, as well as statewide data, will be discussed next week. And reports from the institute’s five task forces also will be provided to show data on health and health care, jobs and the local economy, education, housing, transportation and land use.
Teri Ooms, executive director of the institute, said the 94-page report “brings primarily good news.”
“It appears that many of the indicators are stabilizing and showing signs of improvement,” said Ooms. “The regional (gross domestic product) is growing. Unemployment is slowly decreasing. Population has grown. The region still has a few issues — slow job growth and lower incomes are the most concerning, as they impact many other indicators.
“For example, slow job growth keeps unemployment high, limits the number of college students the region can employ after graduation and impedes overall population growth,” said Ooms. “The lower-than-average incomes causes stress on social service agencies to deliver more services on less funds and the same with local government. Tax revenue is needed to meet basic public safety and services, and reduce debt. With lower incomes and limited new jobs, government revenue is challenged.”
But the ailments can be best tackled through cooperation between the two counties, Ooms noted, adding that one of the points of the report and the forum is to bring people from the region together, rather than allow an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality to continue.
“We have been trying to demonstrate since the first report that Lackawanna and Luzerne counties have followed similar trends overwhelmingly in a large number of indicators,” said Ooms. “This means, both counties have the same strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges.”
She said what has also become apparent is that past efforts to bring the two counties together haven’t been so successful.
“The institute is willing to facilitate such discussion and provide data and best practices to help them identify strategies,” said Ooms. “It should be apparent that past strategies have not worked and it is time to step out of the box.”