New Bethlehem: The Past, Present & Future

In regards to recent feedback about local community growth and development, I wish to share my perspective.

BACKGROUND:
My family and I moved to New Bethlehem in the early 90s’. I’ve lived in the Redbank Valley / New Bethlehem Area for most of my life. At the time of this writing, I am 28 years of age. I own a local small business.

Most of my clientele, who are primarily long-term residents of the area, tell me that in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the sidewalks were ‘always’ filled with people especially on a Friday or Saturday night. Unfortunately, I have not witnessed that phenomenon, but folks often tell me ‘that’s how it used to be.’

THE PAST:
When asking the question as to ‘what happened,’ people usually blame it on a series of items, including the economic recession. More specifically, they point out:

1. Big-mart moved in and hurt small business sales
2. The Internet matured and online sales increased
3. Shift in baby boomer business owners retired
4. Decrease in manufacturing/blue-collar jobs
5. Change in local and national political leaders
6. Young folks moved away; aging population

THE PRESENT:
Over the past several years, I have been active in most of the local community/government organizations, which has afforded me the opportunity to work beside many hard-working local leaders and volunteers. During that time, I’ve seen positive change, and efforts to improve the community. More specifically, there has been growth and development with:

1. Retained businesses; Smuckers, Redbank Chevy, BK, etc.
2. Development; Community Center, Trails, Historical Society
3. Small-business website and social media development
4. Growth in tourism and promotional marketing efforts
5. Sustainability in high school and college/universities
6. Low taxes and overall affordable cost-of-living

THE FUTURE:
I agree, there is still much room for improvement. Several efforts that I think could be improved, include:

1. Job creation and vocational sustainability
2. Growth of school, educational opportunities
3. Recruitment, retention of small businesses
4. Improved efforts to showcase local real estate
5. Development of arts, crafts, cultural entertainment
6. Promotion of natural resources, outdoor recreation

MOVING FORWARD:
Maybe some of you are wondering how you can help. To accomplish the above efforts, you may wish to consider the following:

1. Stop complaining, start listening, volunteer, get involved
2. Don’t just talk about it, make it happen, show me results
3. Forgive, but don’t forget the past; embrace the future
4. Work together, have respect and follow the ‘Golden Rule’
5. Understand everyone won’t be happy, accept the facts
6. Time and money are limited resources; use them wisely

More specifically…

1. Support small business, buy local products/services
2. Become ‘active’ member of the Chamber of Commerce
3. Attend borough meetings; support Fire, Police & EMS
4. Participate in Community Center, County Fair events
5. Promote trail, municipal & Gumtown park, boat launch
6. Volunteer in school, library and church activities

* Use business resources such as the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation and the Small Business Development Center.

CONCLUSION:
For more information or to get involved in a local community organization, feel free to contact me personally or visit one of the following online resources:

Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce
www.RedbankChamber.com

Redbank Valley Area Visitor Guide
www.RedbankRen.org/AreaInformation.pdf

New Bethlehem Borough
www.NewBethlehemBoro.com

Clarion County
www.co.clarion.pa.us

Clarion County Fair
www.ClarionCountyFair.com

Redbank Valley School District
www.redbankvalley.net

Redbank Valley Municipal Park
www.RedbankPark.com

Pennsylvania Great Outdoors
www.visitpago.com

Redbank Renaissance (economic revitalization)
www.RedbankRen.org

Redbank Valley Trail Association
www.RedbankValleyTrails.org

Redbank Valley Watershed
www.orgsites.com/pa/redbankwatershed

Redbank Valley Community Center
www.RVCommunityCenter.org

Redbank Valley Church Association
www.RVChurchAssociation.org

Redbank Valley Public Library
www1.youseemore.com/NewBethlehem

Hopefully the above information will be helpful to those folks who are returning to visit, currently live, or are moving to the New Bethlehem and the Redbank Valley community.