If you have $50, you can build a new Norristown. All of the elements for a dramatic renaissance are in place. Without political connections, without appeals to angel investors, Norristown (and thousands of other small towns across the United States) is on the cusp of an economic breakthrough that can change the entire world economy. If you are interested in making this transformation happen, keep reading.
One of the most important opportunities is the expansion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange. With increased traffic flow, Norristown continues to be the primary transportation hub in the northwestern suburbs of Philadelphia. Ridge Avenue/Main Street has the potential to become as prosperous a commercial artery as Baltimore Pike, Lancaster Avenue, and Church Road are in other parts of the region. Recent meetings with Norristown High School students demonstrated passionate interest in building new infrastructure and enterprises related to car, bus, and train transportation growth. The students brought more than $40,000 to the table to make their visions become a reality. Their determination and creativity should serve as an inspiration to older residents.
Temple University at Ambler, Arcardia University, West Chester University, and Villanova University all offer unique partnership opportunities to grow both national franchises and innovative new sectors within the local economy. Too often, institutes of higher education focus on conservative strategies that prioritize courses and skills that worked over the past century. It is time they transformed their liberal arts programs to lead the professional development and intellectual ambition of their students, faculty, and communities. Together, an organized commitment from local universities could leverage more than $500 million to create new businesses, jobs, and patents in the fastest growing sectors of the global economy. Are our local elected officials and community leaders interested in making this process happen?
One of the most unfortunate discussions to unfold in this context is the lamentation about Montgomery Hospital and its future development. The building should not be abandoned to create more senior-oriented town homes. Norristown has too much residential development already. Over the last three years, voices in the real estate and banking communities have pondered the possibility of breaking parts of east and west Norristown into smaller, independent municipalities to reduce the tax burden carried by local businesses. Fragmentation is not the solution, however. Using a site like the hospital to stimulate new commercial ventures will grow jobs, wages, and tax revenue throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. It will develop multiple industrial and service sectors, attracting global investment on the scale of tens of billions of dollars. It is the key to creating local economic revitalization.
How do you use your $50 to start this process? Come to attend the Enlightenment Youth Arts Festival in Freehold, New Jersey, on Saturday, May 17, 2014, from 10am-2pm. $10 for admission; $20 for gas and tolls; $20 for your lunch. You will see dozens of the youngest entrepreneurs visions for how to build new businesses and revitalize working-class communities. If you know a teacher or student (youth, ages 15 and under) who has beautiful drawings, paintings, or sculptures, contact the organizers at “NJHistory350@gmail.com” by March 31, 2014, to register their work for inclusion. There will be prizes and awards for the best work displayed at the Festival. Investors, artists, educators, and employers from New York to Baltimore will be there to glimpse a new future. You should be there, too.
Dr. Walter Greason is the Chief Executive Officer for the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (www.icmetrogrowth.com) and the author of Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey. His work is available on Twitter (@worldprofessor1), LinkedIn, Facebook, and by email (email@example.com).