OPED: York's pioneering spirit could once again strengthen our economy

Kevin J. Schreiber
York County Economic Alliance

York recently made national news. To be fair, York-Harrisburg-Lancaster made national news. As a region, our three communities partnered together and secured designation as a 2017 Rise of the Rest metropolitan area. Rise of the Rest is a national initiative powered by iconic investor and co-founder of AOL Steve Case and his D.C.-based Revolution. Case recently authored “The Third Wave,” which suggests that as technology becomes seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, innovation can occur much more rapidly. Further, that innovation is not geographically confined to places such as Silicon Valley or New York City but rather can occur anywhere, with secondary markets such as ours having considerable potential.

Rise of the Rest is coming to Central Pennsylvania on Oct.10. We pitched our region because collectively, we are 1.2 million strong in population. We have diverse industry and educational opportunity. We have impressive history and culture, along with Pennsylvania’s seat of government. We have a strong culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation. We can all be proud of the innovation that occurs daily in Central PA industry. Although we should be asking ourselves the question “What happens next?”

There is a reason why Politico recently dubbed Steve Case “Washington D.C.’s tech whisperer.” For decades, Case has blazed a trail in American entrepreneurship, innovation, public policy and now philanthropy and investment. Case is an icon. He brought “You’ve Got Mail,” into the American lexicon. He was a technology pioneer in bringing connectivity into every household. Now, as an iconic investor, his Rise of the Rest initiative is in its sixth year and has visited dozens of cities. In each, he has invested time and dollars. He and his team have worked to strengthen the support ecosystem available to innovators, entrepreneurs and established businesses.

Rise of the Rest will launch its 2017 tour in York and Central PA on Oct. 10. As part of this designation, Steve Case will invest $100,000 in an innovative startup company. The deadline to apply for this pitch competition is Aug. 15; apply online at www.RiseofRest.com. If you think you should apply, apply! Ben Franklin Technology Partners is a longtime partner to the region and will assist any companies interested in the pitch. Previous investments have been made in FoodTech and AgTech, as examples, so it need only be an innovation that has the potential to advance a business and alter an industry.

Ultimately, our region will continue to be successful due largely to our diverse industries, our workforce and our proximity to major metropolitan areas. It is altogether fitting to have a regional dialogue about how we can pivot our regional economy toward providing more support of start-ups, greater access to capital, shared research and development, collaborative mind-sharing, problem solving and a fully engaged partnership between industry and education.

The Third Wave is upon us; regions like ours are poised for success. Nationally, millennials are moving to smaller cities, such as York, Harrisburg and Lancaster. If we look to the past to inform on our future, York’s pioneering spirit and corporate leadership changed the world once before. The York Plan was created in the 1940s as community leaders developed a plan to convert manufacturing to munitions to assist the war effort. This “York Plan” was replicated across our country, and ultimately our American industrial might played a key role in turning the tide toward the Allies in World War II.

We can do that once again. York can lead by example to reshape our American economy by creating a York Plan for the 21st century that redefines the relationship between industry, innovation, community and entrepreneurship. Rise of the Rest is just the beginning of a new national relationship with Steve Case and Revolution, it is just the beginning of an unprecedented regional partnership, and it is certainly just the beginning of an ongoing effort to strengthen our regional economy and position it for future success.

— Kevin J. Schreiber is CEO of the York County Economic Alliance.