Last week, Lehighton Borough Council member George Kogut hosted what he termed an "economic development summit."
He and Borough Manager Nicole Beckett invited 187 borough businesses. About two dozen owners attended the session, which was held in the Lehighton Municipal Building.
Two other council members, Scott Rehrig and Council President Grant Hunsicker, also attended.
The discussion at the summit was spirited. Kogut was interested not only in the complaints of the businesses, but also in suggestions on what can be done to improve the business climate in the community including attracting new stores.
Among the topics discussed were parking meters, electric rates, the deteriorated conditions of some buildings in the downtown area and the impact it has on the impression visitors have on the community, and speeding, especially on Route 209 South (Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Boulevard).
For two hours, the council members and businesses had great dialogue. This is good. It shows the business owners the council is concerned about them. It also gives the council an indication of the wants and needs of the business owners.
Kogut has been working hard to open dialogue between the borough, its residents, its businesses, and even the school district.
Recently he and other council members met with school officials to see how the recreational programs in the community could be improved.
Kogut envisions installing lights and basketball courts at Baer Memorial Park. He hopes to see a basketball league started at the Community Grove. He's made it known that improving recreation in the town is a priority of his.
He also has indicted the desire to host some informal gatherings at various locations in the borough with the citizenry. In the past, former council member Dale Traupman hosted such events which always had a good turnout of citizens.
It's great that the council reaches out to the community; when instead of just holding their monthly meetings, they have specialized sessions such as the economic development summit.
Such meetings don't always have miraculous solutions, but the seed gets planted for the evolving of policies that might not otherwise have been considered.
Hats off to Kogut, Hunsicker, Rehrig, and Beckett, as well as the business owners, for taking time from their busy schedules to listen to the business owners.
Kogut promised that one economic development summit won't be enough.
"I see a lot of the bridging of the gap," Kogut told the business owners.
He promised, "We'll always look for your feedback."
Too often people get elected to public office and have the misconception that they do as they please in the position.
It's great to see that this isn't happening in Lehighton; that the voice of the people and businesses is important.
Let's hope that Kogut keeps his passion to include business owners in the loop, and hold more such economic development summits. It's a good thing. It's productive.
By RON GOWER