28 January 2011

YorKitchen offers opportunity for food entrepreneurs

It's a work in progress, but starting this spring Central Market's
YorKitchen expects to attract aspiring restaurant owners
 interested in learning how to open a business.
 by Caitlyn Meyer

Since the York County Economic Development Plan was adopted by the York County Commissioners in 2009, the York County Economic Development Corp. and the York County Planning Commission have been working closely to implement the 122 strategies outlined in the Action Plan.

One strategy for nurturing rural area economic development in York County was to start a community kitchen project.

The shared kitchen incubator project, known as YorKitchen, is a NutriCore NorthEast Inc. initiative. Construction of YorKitchen began this month and should be finished by late February. The project is supported by a $99,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grant and a $4 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant.

In downtown York’s Central Market, YorKitchen will provide a service unique to the York area. The modern commercial kitchen will be available for rent to food producers and for nutrition educational training. YorKitchen’s developers hope that it stimulates small business growth in the region, and that effort will be supported by entrepreneurial incubator services provided by the Entrepreneurial Support Alliance.

YorKitchen, together with the numerous community organizations that provide assistance to low-income residents, will provide extensive educational programs covering topics of nutrition and healthy food options. The kitchen will also provide workforce training opportunities and opportunities for entrepreneurs to begin their own enterprise at low cost. And it will also host ticketed events such as cooking classes.

The YorKitchen incubator will provide significant benefits to food manufacturing entrepreneurs and agricultural producers. Many food producers do not have the resources to build and equip their own certified facility. This prevents potential businesses from entering the market while others are illegally producing food items in unlicensed home kitchens. A kitchen incubator can help solve these problems by lowering operating costs, including lease payments, overhead and equipment costs for food producers. The kitchen incubator will also meet federal and state laws and regulations.

For more information about YorKitchen, please contact info@yorkitchen.com.

Caitlyn Meyer is the business development coordinator for the York County Economic Development Corp. She coordinates YCEDC activities related to the York County Economic Development Plan, seeks to work with local governments through the Municipal Outreach Program and works on business retention. Caitlyn earned her bachelor’s degree in history from York College of Pennsylvania in 2009 and has been with YCEDC since that time. Caitlyn lives and works in York City. She can be reached at cmeyer@ycedc.org or 717-846-8879, ext. 3053.

24 January 2011

Chris Leinberger to speak at Building York summit

The Codo building on North George Street in York is an example of the kind of residential development that appeals to the growing consumer market of Generation Y, which prefers living in walkable communities. Chris Leinberger will talk about this and other urban development trends when he comes to York Feb. 10.
 By Eric Menzer

Yorkers are in for a treat on Feb. 10 when Chris Leinberger is the keynote speaker at the city’s Building York summit. Chris is a real estate developer and professor, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, and an author who has dissected how national real estate market models conspire to make it tough on small, older cities and more recently popularized the term “walkable urbanity.”

Chris’ articles in the 1990s helped me understand the investment dynamics of the city of York and why it was so hard to attract financing for high-quality, enduring development. Chris moved well beyond the obvious old tropes of crime, schools and taxes to show how real estate development and finance had become a commoditized, national business, and how small markets like York would never attract the top rank of developers who would actually build something worth having in our downtown (and if you want evidence of what the national, commoditized real estate investment model did bring to York, pay a visit to any of the disposable strip shopping centers that ring our city).

More recently, Chris’ model for an alternative form of investment and his identification of an emerging new consumer market for our city was the basis of the formation of the Codo Development Group. Chris has put his finger on how the preferences of the emerging “Generation Y” (which, by the way, is now numerically bigger than the much-touted baby-boom generation) will influence housing development in America for the next 20 years, and most importantly what a great opportunity that provides for cities.

I, for one, am tired of hearing the crime, schools and taxes formulation used as an excuse by both the public and private sector for not focusing on the real market opportunity we have to develop what the new consumer wants. We already have a darn good – on some days great – walkable urban environment in York. We need to take make it unequivocally great, and then give the people what they want in residential choices.

Come hear Chris on Feb. 10 and you won’t be disappointed. To learn more about Chris before his visit, go to http://www.cleinberger.com/.



Building York summit
When: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 9, 8 a.m. to noon Feb. 10
Where: Feb. 9, Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center; Feb. 10, Yorktowne Hotel
What it's about: Building York will call to action an assembly of elected officials, stakeholders, policy makers, investors, developers and residents to identify the economic and community development opportunities and challenges facing the Metro-York area and to encourage new theories of investment that spur redevelopment in our urban core.
Program: Day 1 will feature a screening of and a panel discussion about the documentary "My Tale of Two Cities." Filmmaker Carl Kurlander examines his hometown of Pittsburgh as the former industrial giant tries to reinvent itself in the 21st century. Day 2 will feature breakout sessions, panel discussions and Chris Leinberger's keynote remarks.
How much: $10 for Day 1; $30 for morning sessions and keynote lunch; $20 for keynote lunch only.
For details: To purchase tickets for the film or register for Day 2, go to http://yorkcityevents.squarespace.com/registration/. For questions, contact Inside Out Creative at 717-848-9339 or info@iocreative.net.

Eric Menzer is president of the York Revolution professional baseball team and manages the Codo Development Group, a real estate development company working in downtown York. Eric is active in community affairs and civic leadership at both the local and state level. He chairs the York County Community Foundation and serves on the boards of Downtown Inc, Better York, YorkCounts and the Crispus Attucks Association. He just concluded several years as Chairman of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a statewide policy-research and advocacy organization that promotes smart growth and urban revitalization, and he remains active on that board. Eric was previously the senior vice president of Wagman Construction in York. Prior to that, he served for eight years as York’s director of economic development and previously as the executive director of the York County Transportation Authority. He is a passionate baseball fan and lives in York with his wife and daughter.

21 January 2011

High-quality early childhood ed linked to future success

by Christy Renjilian
Director of Community Initiatives
United Way of York County

For 15 years, the United Way of York County has been committed to improving the quality of early childhood education in York County, through the work of Focus On Our Future. The initiative began as a collaboration with Penn State York, Child Care Consultants and the York County Community Foundation. Today, many more organizations, businesses and community leaders are involved in promoting high-quality early childhood education.

When we began our work, one York County child-care center was nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Today, 13 providers carry that certification.

Child care allows parents to work and employs thousands of York County residents. More importantly, it is the foundation for future learning. We know that the best way to ensure that a child will succeed in school, graduate from high school and become a productive member of society is to start them out on the right path.

The research of Dr. James Heckman, Nobel Laureate economist from the University of Chicago, concluded that the greatest return on investment is from programs that are targeted to young children. The 40-year High Scope Preschool study found for every $1 invested in high-quality early childhood education we can save $7 on costs associated with special education, teen pregnancy, high school dropouts, juvenile delinquency, welfare dependency and prison.

Dr. Craig Ramey of Georgetown University found that for every 50 kindergarten children who experience difficulty in learning pre-reading skills, 44 of them will not be reading on grade level in third grade. School performance in third grade can predict, with 90 percent accuracy, which children will go on to drop out of school. Therefore, it is imperative that we ensure that every child enters kindergarten with the skills necessary to succeed.

Focus On Our Future has helped to improve the quality of early childhood education in York County. In 2010, 140 providers were enrolled in Keystone STARS, Pennsylvania’s voluntary quality-improvement program for child care providers. Additional programs funded by the state Office of Child Development and Early Learning include Pre-K Counts, a program targeted to at-risk 4-year-olds. In the 2009-2010 school year, more than 98 percent of the at-risk children enrolled in this program were developmentally on track for school. The program serves 250 children. Head Start is another high-quality program serving 643 at-risk children and their families throughout York County.

Focus On Our Future also supports professional development for early childhood educators. In 2010, nearly 250 early childhood educators were enrolled in higher-education programs, and Focus On Our Future provided approximately $45,000 in scholarships. Over the past 10 years, 50 early childhood educators have enrolled in the Masters program at Penn State York, and 85 percent of them are still working in the field, helping children and the next generation of child care professionals every day. We are committed to providing the same high level of professional development and training to early childhood educators as the public school teachers receive.

Focus On Our Future works to build collaborations between the early childhood education programs and the public schools. Last year, we partnered with Dover, Eastern, Red Lion, Spring Grove and York City school districts to provide the Ready Freddy kindergarten readiness program for 180 children and families. This free program paired early childhood educators and kindergarten teachers with incoming kindergarten children and their families to make certain they had the skills they need to be successful in school and life.

While the United Way of York County is proud of the accomplishments made by the early childhood education community, there is more work to be done. Only 18 percent of York County children under age 5 have access to high-quality early childhood education programs. Only 27 percent of families that qualify for subsidized child care receive it. We continue to work with community partners, such as the Lincoln Intermediate Unit #12, to provide additional support for children with developmental delays, severe behavior problems and disabilities.

Over the next several months, I will be blogging about the importance of high-quality early childhood education, why it matters for the economic health of York County and how you can help to ensure that every child starts school on track and ready to succeed in life. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on what more we could be doing to make that happen.

Christy Renjilian is the Director of Community Initiatives for the United Way of York County. She has a Masters degree in Social Policy Analysis from the University of Chicago. Christy has more than 20 years of experience administering early childhood education programs and has been with the United Way of York County for more than five years. Christy also drafted the 2009 Stay in School report on dropout prevention for the United Way of York County and YorkCounts. She lives in Springettsbury Township with her husband and two children. Christy can be reached at renjilianc@unitedway-york.org or 717-771-3808.

19 January 2011

School vouchers - let the debate begin again

Legislators in Harrisburg kicked off the new legislative session by introducing Senate Bill 1, the Williams-Piccola Opportunity Scholarship Plan. The plan brings back to Pennsylvania the debate over school vouchers.

Details of the bill were announced Jan. 11, according to an e-mail from the Education Policy Leadership Center, an education policy think thank in Harrisburg. The legislation is co-sponsored by State Senators Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) and Jeffrey Piccola (R-Dauphin) and targets Pennsylvania's worst schools and poorest families. Quoting from the EPLC e-mail:
The plan would allow the parents of a needy child to take the state subsidy that would have been directed to their home school district and apply it to the public, private or parochial school of their choice. For the Harrisburg School District, for example, that amount would equal approximately $9,000, based upon information from the state Department of Education website (2008-09 year). The amount would vary from district to district and be significantly less in wealthier school districts that receive less state funding.

The Williams-Piccola plan would give scholarships to families meeting certain income limits for either public or private schools. The bill also includes an increase of $25 million in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, bringing the total tax credits available under EITC to $100 million next year.

The plan calls for a three-year phase-in. In the first year, only low-income students currently attending persistently failing schools would be eligible for a grant. In the second year, low-income students residing within the attendance boundary of those schools, but currently attending private schools, would be eligible; and in the third year, all low-income students regardless of school district would be eligible.
Tom Ridge tried to do vouchers when he was governor, and he couldn't get it done. Gov. Tom Corbett is on the record with his support for vouchers and school choice, and this legislature appears with this bill to be more inclined to go along.

Historically, vouchers have been offered with the intention that poor families with children stuck in under-performing schools could send them to private schools of their choice, and Republicans tend to favor this as a way to bring free-market competition to K-12 education. Note that this bill seems to make money available to families wishing to send their kids to a different school - public, private or parochial. For more information, here are two recent essays from Florida, where experiments in public education have already begun. One essay is pro vouchers, one is con. Both essays appeared on http://www.tampabay.com/.
How do you feel about school vouchers?

Update, Nov. 21: The York Dispatch reported today that low-income York City School District students would be among the first to be eligible for the vouchers. But the president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association has concerns with the bill.

- Dan Fink

12 January 2011

Pittsburgh scholarship program offers 'Promise'

Last week, new guest blogger Leigh Dalton wrote about the importance of helping at-risk teens stay on a path to graduation. Around the same time, I came across this article in USA Today about Pittsburgh Promise, a program in Pittsburgh that offers a scholarship worth up to $40,000 over four years to city school students who stay in school and earn good grades.

The program was modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan, a program the YorkCounts' Educational Opportunities Committee considered before deciding to pursue what will open in August as the York Academy Regional Charter School.

The twist with the Pittsburgh effort is in how the fundraising was set up. From the article:
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the region's largest employer, provided $10 million upfront, and said it would match donations up to $90 million over nine years toward a $250 million permanent endowment.
And the kicker - an incentive for the community to join the fundraising:
For every $3 citizens raised, the center said it would chip in $2.
Which led to this:
Residents sprang into action. A group participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon raised about $20,000. Students are planning a springtime Promise Week, including fundraisers and service projects. A letter-writing campaign by parents brought in $5,800. Other parents sponsored a luncheon last year, raising more than $5,000.
 Anybody think York couldn't mobilize a community fundraising effort like that to help keep kids in school and send them to college?

Update, Feb. 16: Pittsburgh Public Schools announced the Promise Program would double its scholarship, from $20,000 to $40,000 per student. Here's Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's reaction, in a statement, as reported by the Web site Urban Media Today.
- Dan Fink

10 January 2011

Pennsylvania’s Pollution Diet

by Shanna Wiest
Board member
York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition

As 2011 is upon us, Pennsylvania is embarking on our own New Year’s Resolution: a “Pollution Diet” in order to save the national treasure of the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania is responsible for half of the fresh water entering the bay. Our state reportedly contributes 106.4 million pounds of nitrogen and 3.96 million pounds of phosphorous to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed each year, along with another 1.28 million tons of sediment. The nitrogen and phosphorous affect the chemical balance of the bay, making it harder for crabs and clams to survive. A report from the Chespeake Bay Foundation, released in late December, found the Bay improving but still out of balance. Read news coverage of the report here and here.

On Dec. 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the new federal standards establishing how much nutrient and sediment pollution each state is allowed to contribute to the bay watershed by 2025. Draft total maximum daily load, or TMDL, limits released in the summer of 2010 indicated Pennsylvania needed to reduce current annual nitrogen discharges by 28 percent; phosphorous discharges by 31 percent; and sediment by 17 percent. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has been developing a Watershed Improvement Plan to help Pennsylvania attain these TMDL levels. DEP submitted its revised plan to the EPA in November.

John Hines, DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Water Management, said in a recent public presentation to Lancaster dairy farmers, “This is not just an ag issue or wastewater treatment issue or storm water management issue. This is a Pennsylvania issue. Like Ben Franklin said, ‘If we hang, we better hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately.’”

To meet the 2025 goals, Pennsylvania’s plan is based on three elements:
  1. Establish challenging yet attainable 2-year milestones and improve the state’s ability to track its progress on pollution reduction measures.
  2. Implement advanced farm conservation technologies and nutrient trading.
  3. Expand and continue common sense compliance efforts, particularly for nonpoint sources such as agriculture and storm water runoff from development.
As with any diet, it’s not going to be easy. New healthier habits must be formed with a long-term commitment. The TMDL will have an impact on our municipal authorities, agriculture and future construction in York and Adams counties. John Hines will discuss the local impact of the plan during a presentation to the York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12. The event is being held at the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties, 901 Smile Way, York. The event is free but registration is required by emailing shanna@yorkadamssmartgrowth.org.

- Shanna Wiest

Shanna Wiest is the government affairs director for the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties  and has been with the association since 2005. In her position, she advocates for homeownership, economic development and smart growth planning. Shanna also serves as the secretary/treasurer for the York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition and the president elect of the Economics Club for the York County Chamber of Commerce. Shanna earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dickinson College and her Master’s of Public Administration from Penn State University. Shanna lives in Springettsbury Township with her fiancĂ© Joe.

07 January 2011

Don’t forget the ‘Right Now’ kids

by Leigh Dalton
York County Truancy Prevention Initiative

My job has me working on two parallel paths: one to address student risk factors identified in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey; the other to reduce truancy and improve graduation rates. I’ve been doing this for about a year now, and I’ve had a lot of conversations about education policy and community support programs. What works and what doesn’t? What does York County need? What age group should be our focus?

Many new strategies in Pennsylvania and York County focus resources at the early years, from birth to third grade. But we also have to remember the 15- and 16-year-olds who are getting ready to become adults. Many of these youth live a life that has already made them adults at 15, if not earlier. So though it might make sense to write about the newest, best intervention or strategy that steers that largest segment of youngsters back on the right path, I am compelled to remind people not to ignore the kids who need help right now – our teens.

The York County Truancy Prevention Initiative is finalizing its five-year strategic plan, incorporating feedback from the Truancy Summit held in September. And while, as a prevention initiative, it is vital that we focus on the early years, I remind folks that we want our youth to graduate and become productive, happy citizens of our community. To make sure the graduating class of 2011 achieves this, we must intervene now and prevent some of these students from dropping out.

The York County Truancy Prevention Initiative understands that the most successful factor in keeping a child in school emanates from a consistent relationship with a caring adult. If those of us attending the summit didn’t know beforehand, certainly we learned that relationships matter; all of our youth panelists echoed this reality. Another common trait among the youth on the summit panel was the use of their own talents to help others.

The Truancy Prevention Initiative is considering – among many other intervention strategies – starting a York County Youth Court to serve as an alternative to the traditional district court system that oversees truancy proceedings. Youth Court will empower youth and communities to take an active role in addressing truancy. Youth Courts function using a peer-operated sentencing mechanism that constructively allows the truant to take responsibility, be held accountable and make restitution. In addition, Youth Court offers young people in the community the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for dealing with truancy, while gaining hands-on knowledge of the legal system.

While all this is happening, the York County Communities That Care Community Board is developing data-driven priorities to address risk factors affecting our youth. The risk factors are identified in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), taken every other year by students in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades. York County Communities That Care is implementing the CTC process to achieve the county’s goal of promoting a healthy community with responsible, respectful, resilient youth. The CTC Community Board is writing the Community Action Plan and will be releasing it soon. The payoff on the CTC process will take awhile. In five or 10 years, as we continue to administer the PAYS, we should begin to see improved results for measures such as the number of kids doing drugs or experiencing painful family conflict.

Until then, we can’t forget the “Right Now” kids. Let’s make sure they have the mentors, the career training, the resources, and whatever else they need to keep them on a path to graduation and prepare them for their adult lives. If you would like to know how you can be involved, please contact me. We have plenty of opportunities. And soon you’ll be able to keep up with our work online: the nearly completed York County Truancy Prevention Web site will be up and running at http://www.yorktruancyprevention.org/.

- Leigh Dalton

Leigh Dalton is the director of the York County Truancy Prevention Initiative and the community mobilizer for York County Communities That Care. After receiving her law degree from the University of Baltimore, School of Law, she managed a truancy intervention program called the Truancy Court Program. She is pursuing her doctorate in education policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She lives in Spring Garden Township with her husband, baby daughter and her two rescued dogs. She can be reached at leigh@yorkbar.com and 717-854-8755, ext. 209.

05 January 2011

Count Me In: New year, new look, new content

Welcome back to Count Me In for 2011. You prbably can see we've tinkered with the appearance a bit. We hope you like it.

And we really hope you like the new content we have coming your way, starting this week. We'll be turning the blog over to some guest bloggers from time to time as a way to provide more information about our community and to hopefully provoke more thoughtful discussion.

And who are these guest bloggers? Some you might know, others you might not. But they all know what they're talking about, and they all are involved in work that is making York County a better place.

We'll have Eric Menzer, president and GM of the York Revolution, former YorkCounts board chairman and a fixture in York's civic life for close to 20 years. Eric will talk about his work in York and around the state related to reviving downtowns. We'll have Shanna Wiest, government affairs director for the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties and a board member of the York Adams Smart Growth Coalition, talking about issues related to smart growth and suburban sprawl. We'll introduce others as we get into the year, talking about diversity, early childhood education and economic development, among other topics.

But first up among our guest bloggers is Leigh Dalton. Leigh is the director of the York County Truancy Prevention Initiative and the community mobilizer for the new York County Communities That Care. On Friday, she'll write about finding the right balance between creating a stronger support system for young kids over the long term and helping teens stay on track to graduate and become productive citizens right now.

We're excited about all of this, and we hope you find it useful enough to share with friends and co-workers. And, as always, feel free to comment and continue the conversation.

- Dan Fink