By Holly Riddle
In October, Greg Scott will mark two years as the president and CEO of the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County (CBICC). The Centre County has experience in business and higher ed, bringing a unique combination of “town and gown” insight — so when he had the chance to serve the county’s business community and move back to the area in 2021, he jumped at it.
Scott has big aspirations for Happy Valley’s future, envisioning the county attracting international companies and talent, growing into a tech hub and continuing to support Happy Valley’s already robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. So what’s his plan for making it happen?
HappyValley Industry recently caught up with Scott to discuss why he took on a new role in his hometown and the CBICC’s latest efforts to take the Happy Valley economy to new heights.
Let me start from the beginning. I grew up in Centre County, in the Milesburg area. I’m a graduate of the Bald Eagle Area High School. I went to Penn State and received a civil engineering degree. After Penn State, I went into the Navy and was a naval officer for seven years.
There’s the opportunity to serve the community I grew up in and to help this community be even better than it is, to grow the economy and make it great.
Then, I started a 25-year career in higher education administration and leadership at three different institutions. I was at Rutgers University for five years. From there, I came back to Happy Valley and was at Penn State for 15 years. That led to an opportunity at the University of Pittsburgh and I was there for five years as the chief business officer.
I was ready to do something different after 25 years of working in higher ed and wanted to get back to the area. I received a call from the previous CBICC president who said he was retiring and that he thought I would be good at this job.
After some due diligence, I really felt like the job was like nothing I’d ever done. It excited me for a few different reasons. One, there’s the opportunity to serve the community I grew up in and to help this community be even better than it is, to grow the economy and make it great. Two, I really felt my experience in working for universities would allow me to bring that experience needed to work with Penn State. I can both communicate the community’s needs, as well as understand what’s going on inside the university’s walls and how decisions are made. Third, I felt like the diversity of my experience and my focus on building relationships would serve me and the community well.
Those three reasons really brought me back and it hasn’t disappointed me. It’s been great over the last two years.
There are things happening worldwide in the economy — the war in Ukraine, logistical challenges, labor issues, energy costs — that mean companies that have previously looked to offshore outside of the United States are now looking to either stay or locate here. We’ve developed a strong relationship with the state’s Office of International Business Development and their team to highlight and showcase what we can do here in Centre County for prospective companies who want to relocate to Pennsylvania from other countries.
We’ve been working with some specific companies, and I can’t go into detail on them yet, but some are really big opportunities, with potentially 500 new jobs, massive investment in the community — good companies, and environmentally sustainable companies, that are looking to do it right and provide good benefits and wages.
We’re looking for smart growth. We don’t want to bring just any company here. We’re looking for high-value companies that we can bring in, that will help our economy and make this a great place for our families to live and for kids to grow up.
The university provides a big opportunity for us as well, in attracting international companies. I was meeting with one company recently that was really interested in being here because of the large international community that we have due to Penn State. They really felt like they could bring their families and employees and not feel like they were just plopped in the middle of nowhere with no one to affiliate with.
We’re looking for smart growth. We don’t want to bring just any company here. We’re looking for high-value companies that we can bring in, that will help our economy and make this a great place for our families to live and for kids to grow up, and keep making it a healthy, well-rounded place to live and work.
We’re really proud to get that up and running. This was a vision of mine — to create a group of community stakeholders and influencers who are really interested in keeping our economy strong. We have a belief that, if we’re not growing our economy, we’re regressing. There is no staying still. So, what I wanted to do was assemble this group of regional stakeholders and influencers to create a county-wide vision for what we want to do and develop an economic development strategy — a plan that really lays out clearly what we want to be, where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.
There’s opportunity for tech companies to call Centre County home. We could become a hub for that and we’re starting to see it.
That plan will come together over the next nine months. It will focus on specific areas that we feel are opportunities, such as looking at our infrastructure around the area — our roads, our airport system, our housing issues. What are the things that, from an infrastructure standpoint, help us move forward or are holding us back? Workforce is another area we’ll focus on. We’re looking at how we can help the entrepreneurial system. We want to have a great attraction strategy. How do we position Centre County for being an attractive place for companies? We also think one focus will be revitalization.
Under these focus areas, there will be strategies and the idea is, with this group around the table, I'll be able to gather volunteers who will work on these initiatives that will improve our position.
What it’s going to do is set our agenda for the next three to five to 10 years. It’s a strategic plan specifically focused on economic development.
There are tremendous opportunities in and around Penn State. The Bellefonte area is really hot right now. There’s a lot happening there and a lot of opportunities there. There’s a lot of good things happening in the Philipsburg area and that’s an opportunity we may see become stronger over the next several years. In the tech space, there’s opportunity for tech companies to call Centre County home. We could become a hub for that and we’re starting to see it.