The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

November 17, 2011

Colleges, universities paying dividends for entire region

— That St. Francis University has played a prime role in this week’s announcement of yet another major wind farm for our region serves as a strong reminder for residents. For a relatively small area population-wise, ours is so very fortunate to have an abundance of top-notch colleges and universities.

We all realize their benefits in providing what in many cases has been nationally recognized educational opportunities for our young people. But perhaps not everyone is aware of their missions in providing economic and research assistance to our communities and workplace training to fill specialized positions in demand by our businesses and industries.

In case you missed reporter Kathy Mellott’s story on Monday, wind testing initiated by St. Francis at a Patton-area farm in 2006 set the groundwork for a proposed wind farm covering about 10 properties.

Called Patton Wind Farm, the project is being developed by EverPower Wind Holdings Inc. Wind turbines are proposed for Elder, West Carroll and East Carroll townships.

When fully operational, the farm should produce enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

That’s huge.

“This is the first of the projects that is going to actual development,” Gwen Andersen, director of the Renewable Energy Center at St. Francis, said.

The center, involved in wind testing at 12 sites statewide, makes its results available on its website and that in turn opens the door for potential wind farm developers to step in.

“This is part of St. Francis’s commitment to improving the environment and serving our community,” Anderson said.

That commitment pays dividends for most of us residing in this area.

Our schools of higher learning have over the years developed specialized entities such as work force development centers and business incubators. Many have met with our business and industry leaders to hear about employee needs and then went about setting up programs to provide graduates with the skills necessary to fill those positions.

Often we’ve reported about economic surveys and other studies provided to our business leaders by UPJ associate professors John McGrath and Ron Vickroy and their student assistants.

Our hats, as always, are off to St. Francis, Pitt-Johnstown, Mount Aloysius, IUP, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, Allegany Community College of Maryland’s Somerset campus and Cambria-Rowe Business College.

Their work makes our region proud – and stronger.

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