Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Working for a Living


It is the word that was most notably missing from last night's public input session on the new up-and-coming Montgomery County Comprehensive Plan.

There was a good turn-out Monday night, about 70 people and Pottstown's interests were well-represented in the discussion.

I'll have a formal news story for Wednesday's or Thursday's paper, whenever we can make room for it.

But before we get to the official coverage I just wanted to touch on a point that seemed, to me at least, to be glossed over.
The trends in this report on the county today, will determine the 
plans for tomorrow. Hopefully those plans will include strategies
to bring living wage jobs to Pottstown.


Sustainable, jobs.

Jobs which pay enough to raise a family.

Jobs which allow you to save for college, pay your taxes, support your local business and not work you into the ground so that you have no time or energy to be a productive member of your community.

If that is not goal number one of this "comprehensive plan," it is neither much of a plan nor comprehensive enough to ensure the success of Pottstown and the environs.

It is only so much effort to make another plan for another shelf if it does not make sustainable jobs its first priority.

These days, "jobs" all too often falls under the mantle of "economic development."

But "economic development" can often mean a new McDonald's; a new retail strip mall; or a new shopping center that does not represent growth but theft, theft of a store from one taxing jurisdiction to another, leaving a gaping, vacant hole in its place and in that municipality's tax base.

Yes, such developments create "ratables," tax base which supports both municipal but particularly public education without putting too much stress on services.

But they do not create healthy communities.

Once again as people talked about Pottstown Monday night, the subject of its late-lamented
Pottstown's Bethlehem Steel plan is not the job engine it once was.
manufacturing base was raised.

That those jobs are, for the most part gone, is a foregone conclusion.

But it is not those jobs that we need back.

We know they're gone.

It's those livelihoods we need back, and the self-sufficient community it supported.

It can be done.

There is a new lifestyle dynamic, "millenials" willing to live in the smaller, more efficient spaces in which Pottstown abounds.

But they still need jobs. They still need to work somewhere. We would like them to work in Pottstown. And live here too.

What is less certain is where the new jobs will come from. Not jobs flipping burgers or jobs running a leaf blower, but jobs with sustainable salaries, that families can live on, save a little for college and go out to eat every once in a while.

The people needed to shop in the stores we want to attract to our downtowns need to have enough money to spend in those stores.

Those are the trends we should be studying. That's where a comprehensive plan that leads the way to that end would be the most help.

Capture a portion of the 38,000 new jobs the county predicts will come to Montgomery County and we're getting somewhere.

So many of the other things we talk about in these meetings, land use; infrastructure; transportation, protecting the environment -- all revolve around and are made possible by one simple thing.


And what we need in Pottstown is not more once-and-done grant money; not more one-time partial hand-outs from Norristown. Like the manufacturing jobs, they are gone.

What we need are good, sustainable jobs that can allow us to determine our own fate.

That is what the manufacturing jobs of the past provided and THAT is what we need help re-capturing -- jobs that allow us to live real lives.

Help us get that Montgomery County, and we can handle a lot of the rest ourselves.

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