Letter to the Editor: Chester County has opportunities for 2015

The citizens of Chester County have a myriad of opportunities as we begin 2015 and close out a successful 2014.

As the newly elected chair of the Chester County Commissioners, I’m looking forward to making sure we meet the goals we’ve set in our strategic plan that will enhance our already excellent quality of life in the county. We are also implementing recommendations in the county’s VISTA 2025 initiative that will ensure the economic vitality of our county for the next decade.

One of the positive public/private initiatives of last year was a nine-day trip to China where Chester County business and government leaders, including myself, forged a partnership that will help our businesses prosper in China. The American Regional Business Development & Cultural Exchange Summit was centered in the Yongchuan District (Chongqing Province), the county’s sister community in China.

This trip produced three immediate positive outcomes for the county. Chinese investors are considering investing in county projects; our educational community, through The Lincoln University, has expanded the number of exchange programs with China; and members of our mushroom industry have a great opportunity to act as consultants to help improve the growing of fresh mushrooms in China, especially the emerging markets in Yongchuan and BaNan.

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This growing partnership can provide a competitive edge for our companies here in Chester County and in China. Communications Test Design, Inc., located in Chester County, took part in our exchange by hosting us at their facility in Beijing. The partnership will continue as Chinese business leaders are scheduled to visit Chester County this year, and we will make a return visit in 2016.

In November, the commissioners formally adopted a resolution supporting VISTA 2025 and endorsing the county’s official economic development strategy. Chester County has long been recognized as one of the most vibrant places in the nation to locate and run a business. The quality of life is top-notch here, and we have educated and trained workers to fill the demanding jobs of today’s work world. The Chester County Economic Development Council and the County will be partners in this effort.

In December, the Chester County Health Department presented its first Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), prepared in partnership with Drexel University and the Chester County United Way. Over the last three years, the County and over 60 community partners worked together to identify core areas for improvement, including: cultural competence, health disparities, coordinated behavioral and physical health, individual health management and disease prevention. These areas impact all residents of the county—from newborns to our senior citizens. The priorities and goals outlined in the CHIP will now become a part of the county’s overall Strategic Plan.

Quality of life issues will be high on the commissioners’ list in 2015 with a focus on protecting our citizens’ health and safety. Progress and investment carry on as we update the county’s emergency services radio communication system. The second phase of our Public Safety Training Campus – the tactical village – will be completed this year, and ground will be broken on the campus’ firing range, ultimately giving our dedicated 5,000-plus fire, emergency medical and police personnel a first-class training facility in the county.

Protection of open space also remains a priority, with further development planned for our parks and trails system so our citizens and visitors can enjoy our scenic wonders. Chester County is increasingly attracting visitors to our many trails, parks, sporting events, museums and festivals, and this is enhancing our strong tourism industry. The Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau is finalizing its strategic plan to attract visitors and add jobs to this industry.

While 2015 offers Chester County opportunities, we do face challenges, especially fiscal ones. Last year we were able to meet all of our fiscal responsibilities without a tax hike. This year we will have to remain wise in spending the hard-earned tax dollars of our constituents as already we are receiving indications that the state budget includes deficit projections and a possible reduction in assistance to the county.

We all will need to work together to overcome the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities so that Chester County will continue to be a wonderful place to live, work, raise a family and retire.

Terence Farrell was voted chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners at the January 6th Board of Commissioners’ Sunshine Meeting. He can be reached at tfarrell@chesco.org.