One is booming, with an economic growth rate of 7.8%, making it the 7th fastest economically growing area in the USA. A 7.8% economic growth rate is strong, even Chinese-like.
The other now has the highest poverty rate at 41.3% in America for communities with more than 65,000 people. It has eclipsed Flint, Michigan.
The booming town is Williamsport, and the poorest in the nation is Reading.
Williamsport in Lycoming County is best known for hosting the wonderful Little League World Series each year in early August. Williamsport is also in the heart of the gas drilling boom triggered by the Marcellus Shale development.
Reading is a proud town, the home of the minor league Reading Phillies, with a great manufacturing history and tradition. It has no gas drilling and is not above the Marcellus Shale. Yesterday it was featured in the New York Times, with a picture of people in a line waiting at a food pantry.
While Gas drilling by itself is not going to make Pennsylvania's economy successful, since Pennsylvania's economy is one of the biggest in the nation and world, highly diversified, with no one industry dominating it. Pennsylvania is not North Dakota, Alaska, or Wyoming, with a few hundred thousand jobs in total, where energy production alone can make the entire state boom or bust. Instead the Commonwealth is an economic powerhouse with more than 6 million jobs and 12 million people.
Gas drilling also creates a set of impacts and costs that must be minimized by strong regulation and reasonable taxation. But just as true and as important, gas drilling is creating important opportunities for communities, especially in the 6 counties where Marcellus wells are concentrated, and should for the entire state of Pennsylvania if sound policies are followed.
Or to put it another way, would you prefer to be the Mayor of Williamsport or Reading managing the problems and opportunities that both have? Would you prefer to be looking for a job in Williamsport or Reading to support your family?