Feb 15, 2013
Thirteen years ago, two consultants from West Virginia and Pittsburgh were asked to come up with a regional development plan. After a few months of investigation, they in turn asked to be fired, saying the project would never work.
Hey, no one said it would be easy.
Flash ahead to November 2011--exactly 156 community conversations in 32 counties later. That's when the Power of 32, the new regional visioning project charged with creating a shared vision for the four-state area, moved from vision to action by announcing the adoption of 14 initiatives in the areas of economy, education, environment, community and people, government, transportation and infrastructure.
Many were already in place, with the potential to be made much stronger through collaboration that crossed county and state lines. Some were new, like the real-time traveler information system that arose with the help of P32's transportation and infrastructure team.
The latter is a good example of the intention of P32 to get things done collaboratively on a broad regional level, to not only marshall more strength in numbers but also secure more federal funding.
“I think it’s fair to say this only happened because of Power of 32. It was a specific issue recommended. Nobody was taking the steps to do it; this was the push,” states Allen Biehler of the Heinz School of Policy and Public Management and executive director of the University Transportation Center.
The traveler information system, similar to what's in place in New York, San Francisco and D.C., is being led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic21 with a goal to connect the 511 information systems from the four states included in the Power of 32.
“We at CMU worked along with the Power of 32 folks and Intelligent Transportation Systems of America in Washington, D.C., as well as the state departments of transportation, from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland for a day and half workshop,” Biehler says.
“We outlined the issues and the next step is to lay out an implementation plan. The states were willing to figure out how we can work together. Half the problem is getting agencies to spend energy and think through how they can cooperate," he adds.
The intent is that each of the 14 adopted projects on the regional agenda such as this one be led by an entity or group committed to seeing it through, says Pat Getty, co-chair of Power of 32 and president of the Benedum Foundation in Pittsburgh.
That meant getting the right partners involved in each project as opposed to creating a new nonprofit for P32 to oversee implementation of projects in different fields, he notes.
“If we could do one thing successfully as a region, that's the best demonstration of the benefit of something like this," he says of P32. "Two years ago I never would’ve believed there would be 14 projects underway."
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