Talks of a new regional approach to development came to Weirton as Allen Kukovich, Regional Visioning Project executive director, spoke at the monthly Downtown Business and Civic Association luncheon Tuesday.
Kukovich served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly for 27 years representing portions of Westmoreland County and most recently served five years as the director of Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell's southwest regional office, based in Pittsburgh.
During the "Lunch and Learn" program sponsored by the DBCA, he stated that the Regional Visioning Project was formed by a group of business, non-profit, government, and philanthropic leaders. The project is a two-year process to provide an opportunity for every resident of the 30-county, four-state region in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia to participate in creating a "shared vision for the region's best future."
PUSHING?REGIONAL?DEVELOPMENT — Regional Visioning Project Executive Director Allen Kukovich speaks to area residents and leaders during Weirton’s monthly Downtown Business and Civic Association luncheon. Kukovich spoke of regional planning and development as well as establishing regional partnerships between cities and counties. -- Angelina Dickson
Kukovich discussed how the five eastern Ohio counties, 10 northern West Virginia counties, 14 western Pennsylvania counties, and Garrett County in Maryland could be an area that is able to be a leader in the nation by combining efforts in the Regional Visioning Project to promote growth, expand commerce, and address local and regional issues.
Kukovich stated there are four goals for the visioning process. He said creating a shared vision for the region's best future that is distinguished by concrete strategies and actions is the first of these four goals, adding that a large amount of public participation is necessary for success. The second goal, he stated, is to instill a sense of realistic optimism based on commitment to achieve established goals.
"Next, we must inspire public determination to solve the region's problems so that we can claim our best future and finally, to connect people, communities, and institutions in new and effective ways to solve problems and seize opportunities," he said.
Kukovich explained there is a three-step process to meeting these goals over the next two years. He said the first is to engage and listen to the public; second, refine regional challenges and opportunities; third, create a regional to-do list and follow through.
During the question and answer portion of the meeting, John Brown of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission asked if Kukovich had any idea of the end product they expect at the end of two years.
"There are many issues such as water system upgrades, energy, health care and as much as we'd love to tackle all of them, we'd sink if we tried," he said. "Situations are different everywhere even though they are all interconnected, but if we already had an agenda before coming to speak with anyone, that would defeat the purpose of this meeting and others."
He added that there needs to be a collaborative effort to come together and begin to tackle these issues or they may never be solved.
Victor Greco asked if Kukovich sees any further use of the Ohio River to which he replied he was not sure of anything that immediately came to mind but would like to hear more suggestions.
Dan Guida, chairman of the DBCA, stated that the 2010 census is going to show that 8,000 residents in the local area are going to be working in other states, mostly in the Pittsburgh region.
"What happens in Pittsburgh affects us whether we know it or not," he said. "We'd rather have the jobs here but having them regionally is better than seeing them move to California or other far-reaching areas."
Guida said there are going to be skeptics and those who are going to put the idea aside and have the attitude that they've already heard this and nothing's happened.
"But what are our options? We can't keep doing things the old way because it's just not working. Commerce and technology is changing and we have to change too."
There is currently a contest being held to re-name the project. The name "Regional Visioning Project" is a temporary name and they are looking for a permanent one.
Entries will be accepted at: email@example.com.
Entries will be accepted until June 30 and the final name will be selected by the project's steering committee. The winner will be awarded a family four-pack to some o the region's historic destinations, such as tickets to the Youngstown Historical Center of Labor and Industry, an overnight fun package at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, tickets to the Senator John Heinz History Center and Sports Museum in Pittsburgh, and Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Museum of Rural Life in Avella, Pa., and an overnight visit to Deep Creek Lake and the Spruce Forest Artisan Village.
For more information, log on to www.regionalvision.org.
(Dickson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)