Williamsport Sun-Gazette: City 7th fastest growing in nation

By ALYSSA MURPHY

“We have a 7.8-percent growth rate,” Vince Matteo, chamber president and CEO, said. “The numbers are obvious. The driving rate is the Marcellus Shale.”

Williamsport became the seventh fastest growing metropolitan area in the country in 2010, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The economic growth ranking is measured by percentage change in real gross domestic product by metropolitan area.

“I’m very proud,” Mayor Gabriel Campana said. “I believe our plan to improve the city is working. It’s a comprehensive, hardworking plan. These results don’t just happen by themselves.”

Campana said the growth comes as a result of a collaboration between his administration and the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, which attributed the high ranking to the Marcellus Shale and the gas industry feeding off of it.

“We have a 7.8-percent growth rate,” Vince Matteo, chamber president and CEO, said. “The numbers are obvious. The driving rate is the Marcellus Shale.”

Williamsport has the highest growth rate in Pennsylvania. The growth of the Williamsport metropolitan area is the largest in the Marcellus Shale rock formation area, Matteo said.

“It’s validating, what we’ve been saying all this time,” Matteo said. “Without the Marcellus Shale, any growth would be a lot lower.”

State College, which is in the Marcellus Shale formation, has a growth rate of 5.4 percent. Pittsburgh, also in the Marcellus Shale formation, has a growth rate of 4.1 percent.

The Scranton and Wilkes-Barre area, which surrounds the Marcellus Shale, has a growth rate of 2.8 percent. Reading, which is not in the formation, has a 1.8 percent growth rate. Philadelphia, which is not in the formation, has a 2.3 percent growth rate.

“The deeper in Marcellus Shale you go, the higher the growth rate,” Matteo said. “Those who oppose it and who want to tax every part can see that this is an economic driven region.”

While Campana said the gas industry played an important part in the growth, he believes it was something else that really contributed to it.

“Overall, we’re a very business-friendly city. The dividends are paying off right now.”

Campana expects more growth in the future.

“We will continue to work hard,” he said. “We’re not done yet. We will continue to work with businessmen and businesswomen to create more economic opportunities. We’ll keep abreast of the economic growth. Ranking seventh makes it more worthwhile for us. That just means we will have to work harder in 2011 and 2012.”

Campana predicts the area will continue to rank high in the near future.

“We have more businesses,” he said. “We have more downtown activities. In 2012, I think we will be just as good or maybe better. I’m an optimist. I am optimistic about the future of the city and the region.”

Matteo predicts that the 2011 growth will be even higher.

“We had closings not related to the gas industry, but I know Marcellus Shale grew in 2011,” Matteo said.

Campana said a number of factors must work hand-in-hand to improve growth. He listed finances, projects, contracts, public safety, and downtown revitalization.

“It’s the hard work of many, many people that’s been paying off,” Campana said.

“Families look for a wholesome area,” Campana said. “My administration works very hard to make people feel good about the community and will continue to do so.”

Campana said his slogan for Williamsport is that it is the energy capital of Pennsylvania.

“I would like to see it be embraced and known on a national level,” he said.

The three aspects that Campana said most contribute to the growth rate of Williamsport are vision, being business friendly and persistence.

“We’re gonna make a difference,” he said. “We’re changing the thinking in the community as well as changing the perception. We’re saying, ‘Yes we can.’ We’re not taking no when we make calls to businesses.”

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