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Council aims to bridge tech gap

November 19, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Cumberland Valley will never rival California's Silicon Valley, says development official L. Michael Ross, but he and a group of Franklin County business and education leaders are forming a technology council to attract and showcase higher-end jobs.

The Cumberland Valley Technology Council aims to create a diverse economy that will offer more opportunities to young professionals.

"We're never going to be the Silicon Valley. But we do have a lot of businesses like Grove Worldwide who are very sophisticated and using applied technology, and we need to recognize that," said Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corp.

The council formed through periodic conversations among people in business and education circles. Its steering committee includes representatives from area schools and businesses.

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"We talk about the need to try and attract higher-end employers and knowledge-based companies into the area," Ross said. "What started to emerge from the conversations is the realization we have a more developed technological infrastructure than we give ourselves credit for."

Ross said the council will promote technology-based companies and forge relationships between those businesses and educational facilities to get more youths interested in careers in technology.

The local council looked at successful ones in Harrisburg, Pa., and Frederick, Md., for ideas. Sandwiched between those two booming areas, Ross said he believes Franklin County is in line for more growth and needs to have technological infrastructure in place to attract young professionals.

Marge Taylor, director of Institutional Advancement at Penn State Mont Alto, said the campus was thinking of forming its own advisory board for its technology center at the Chambersburg Mall at the same time the idea for the technology council began to take root.

"We realized our goals could be achieved with the creation of a council that would promote technology education and the creation of technology jobs in the county," Taylor said.

She said the Center for Continuing Education at the mall is a prime example of how technology is permeating society.

"We have had adults that found themselves laid off, and rather than look for another job as a welder, one gentleman went back and took a Microsoft program at the mall and became a certified technician," she said. "At 40-plus years old, he realized this was the future."

On the Mont Alto campus, students partnered recently with IBM to test some of the computer giant's software.

"Our students went through the software and determined what the glitches could be or were for IBM," she said.

Taylor said similar scenarios are happening throughout the county, but people aren't aware of them. The technology council can provide visibility, which may lead to more partnerships like the one with IBM.

The technology council will have a reception today from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Summit Health Center, 757 Norland Ave., Chambersburg.

Guest speaker Joseph Hogan, president of GE Medical Systems, will speak on "GE's Global Approach to Technology."

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