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Spotlight: Lafayette students aim to boost Weatherly’s tourism, business profile

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    Lafayette students recently presented their ideas for Weatherly Borough. From left: Lauren Phillips-Jackson, Samuel McQuillen, Addie King, Jon White, Bingsong Zeng, Wassim Gharbi and Sarah Park. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

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    The twice-annual Weatherly hillclimb, a race against the clock for cars, is one of the town’s biggest tourist draws. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

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    The bandshell at Eurana Park is home to concerts during the summer. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

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    Students proposed using the old train works for a farmers market or outdoor movie theater. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

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    The Weatherly Area Museum is a trove of history. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

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    The Weatherly Area Museum is located in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad dispatch house. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

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    Restoration is beginning on the C.M. Schwab School.

Published January 26. 2019 06:31AM

A group of top students from Lafayette College are in the midst of a yearlong project to help boost tourism and business in Weatherly borough.

Nine students from Lafayette’s Tech Clinic are using a proposed rail-trail in the borough as the base for their plans to help spur business.

They have looked at attracting entrepreneurs, boosting the borough’s web presence, and finding ways to use the historic Train Works property.

“Weatherly really encompasses everything about PA that’s beautiful,” said Sarah Park, a chemical engineering major and member of the project team.

For 30 years, Tech Clinic has been assembling high-achieving students from around the college and challenging them to solve real-world problems. Tech clinic students come from all majors. They must be recommended by a faculty member or a past tech clinic student.

“The purpose of the class is to solve a problem for a client — not a made-up problem, an academic problem in a classroom,” said Lawrence Malincocino, the project adviser. Clients have ranged from companies to NGOs to municipalities, to the college, and so we’ve done several for Weatherly already.”

Before they started the project, none of the students had heard of Weatherly. They got an introduction from borough manager Harold Pudliner. But they were also forced to get out and interview residents to see what they like.

The students said they noticed the pride that residents feel for their hometown. They were welcomed by the people in Weatherly and developed good relationships.

“We definitely learned a great deal just from the history, the people and the businesses that currently operate here,” said Jon White, a computer science major.

The students came up with ideas like murals showing the town’s industrial history, and adding native species of trees to beautify the downtown.

To promote tourists, they suggested a coffee shop. To attract businesses, they suggested that the borough make a register of vacant or underutilized commercial properties.

The students saw lots of potential in the Weatherly Train Works, a former industrial property which is now in public hands.

They saw the potential to add landscaping, outdoor movies and perhaps even a farmers market.

All of the ideas were focused on getting people who will utilize the new trail, as well as the current D&L trail, to come up and explore more of Weatherly.

A paid consultant, funded by grant money, is currently working on a feasibility study for the trail itself.

“(The trail) is going to bring people in, bring businesses back up. I think it’s going to be very influential,” Park said.

The students also noticed an opportunity for the town to do better in its web presence. When people plan trips today, the first thing they do is Google their destination, said Bingsong Zeng, a biochemistry and mathematics major. Building the town’s web presence could bring in tourists who might not have considered Weatherly.

“We want to make sure whenever they Google ‘trail’ or ‘train’ that Weatherly would come up in a search result, so people actually notice this place,” Zeng said.

Students had different ideas which were often based on what they are studying in school. Malincocino, the adviser, said that is the goal of the Tech Clinic. They take students who are critical thinkers, and let them use their skills in a field that they may not know a lot about.

“People often equate this like a consulting company,” Malincocino said. “The interaction and the synergy that’s created with the groups is one of the remarkable things that happens.”

Samuel McQuillen, an economics major, saw a good example of that. He saw abstract concepts he learned in class like “inter-industry multipliers” come to life in the project.

“That’s a big fancy academic term, but really what that means is just that people are spending money locally. Being able to see that outside of a supply and demand graph is really powerful,” he said.

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