Community focus in York's State of the County address
Kevin Schreiber opened the State of the County address with a nod to the York Fair.
"It's fair week!" he said. "We do not have any funnel cake, but ..."
The president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance continued, joking that everyone could — and should — check out the fair later to try the classic treat.
Schreiber's celebration of a county tradition set the tone for the Sept. 12 address, which celebrated the county and all the programs that are, as President County Commissioner Susan Byrnes said, at "the heart of York County."
With more than 50 departments in county government, it's difficult for residents to always know what the county has to offer, said county communications director Mark Walters.
In an effort to make the government more accessible to the community, the YCEA partnered with the York County commissioners to highlight three different county departments in the first State of the County address in 10 years.
The presentation was held Tuesday night, following a reception at Spring Grove Area High School.
"This type of an event has been long overdue," Schreiber said.
"We can't just put an ad in the paper," Walters said. "We want people to know what they get — what's the value of their taxpayer dollars."
Commissioners have their meetings at 10 a.m., he said, making it hard for many in the community to attend so they can be aware of programming or have their voices heard.
Walters said he hopes that knowing more about government programs will encourage more civic engagement.
The address was also an opportunity for Schreiber to update residents on the economic outlook of the county.
"Friends, the state of our county is strong, " Schreiber said in the address.
The county's 4.5 percent unemployment rate is below the state average of 5 percent, and more than 5,000 new jobs were created in the past five years, with more than $500 million invested in the economy, he said.
York County's new Tourism Grant program awarded $826,000 to 18 projects, including Spring Grove's first Smoke in the Grove barbecue competition, in its first round of grants.
Schreiber both commended and recognized the unique challenge of having 18 percent of workforce employees in advanced manufacturing — twice the state and national average.
York County can look ahead to a regional partnership with Lancaster and Harrisburg that will bring the county national attention with Rise of the Rest, an opportunity for AOL founder Steve Case to invest $100,000 in a local business.
Case will be appearing in central Pennsylvania on Oct. 10. Case's venture fund, Revolution, is also seeking companies and communities with which to invest.
The State of the County also served to showcase three different county departments, Veteran Affairs, Pleasant Acres Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Parks & Recreation.
County commissioners Susan Byrnes, Doug Hoke and Chris Reilly presented each of the departments and talked about their accomplishments.
"We're not gonna give you a lot of facts and figures. ... We're gonna show you the heart of York County," Byrnes said.
Brief videos produced with the help of White Rose Community Television demonstrated special programs from each department. One showed a Rabbit Transit partnership with Veteran Affairs to shuttle veterans to the VA hospital in Lebanon, while another highlighted Penn State Extension Master Gardeners' work with Juvenile Probation to farm the land at a York County Parks garden and make deliveries to food banks.
Schreiber and the commissioners concluded the program with recognition of department staff: Claude Stabley of the coroner's office won the team player award, and Scott Lavis of the clerk of the courts office won young professional of the year — the first time the awards were given.
"We wanted to show the human side of York County government, and we wanted to recognize all the good work of our staff," Byrnes said.
Spring Grove played an important role in the day as well. The area high school provided its campus, and students volunteered — a way to celebrate another county community.
Students showcased their programs and projects during the reception, such as the Intergenerational iPad Program, which gives iPad training to older adults, and the Student Launch Initiative with the Team America Rocketry Challenge, in which students worked with NASA to build and launch their own rockets.
Walters said the county and the economic alliance plan to have future State of the County events in different locations in order to broaden their reach within the county.
Tuesday's address was about bringing everybody together for a common cause, and celebrating what to look forward to in York County, Schreiber said.