Every leader in every community along the Monongahela River – in Washington, Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties – pay attention. I’m talking to you.

Do you have a plan? Do you have a master plan for your riverfront property? Do you have a comprehensive plan for economic development? Is it on your website? Your social media? Are you sharing it with the regional economic development agencies such as the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance or the Allegheny Conference?

Does your plan mesh with your county plan?

It is scouting season. The professionals charged with locating sites for development of manufacturing facilities, those job-creating operations we have been waiting for, are looking at you. They are looking up and down the Mon River for prime locations, and we have many of those. We have an abundant natural resource under our feet that they want to be near. We must help them find us. We must be better at marketing our sites.

The once-mighty industrial highway that was the “Mon,” which shined brightly in the spotlight of the region’s illustrious industrial past, is in the spotlight once again. That’s the river we’ve spent millions of dollars cleaning up and is a boater’s paradise. It’s where my dad took me on a cold winter morning to watch Charleroi’s Gus Brickner swim the width of the river, as a towboat ahead of him smashed a path through the ice.

It’s the river in which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investing a few hundred million dollars to upgrade her locks and dams.

The eastern or western boundary of each county mentioned above is at the center of the Mon. Our river communities, from Point Marion to Monongahela, have sites that companies have occupied for decades and, in some cases, for centuries.

The redevelopment potential of First Energy’s shuttered Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired plant in Washington County, is limitless. A Playbook, a public document stemming from a partnership between the state Department of Communuity and Economic Development and First Energy.

During the past century or so, many of our legacy companies have experienced growth and significant changes in product and process. There was a time when production drove our economy and little thought was given to the future, but the future was always going to arrive, and someone was going to need to deal with these sites.

The future is here, and that someone is us. Master planning isn’t just about a specific site, but regional collaboration. It’s about engaging all stakeholders, and communities, in a planning process that harmonizes aspirations and neutralizes concerns to create a regional vision for the future.

Even the smallest community should have a plan. A master plan establishes long-range strategies focused on community development and sustainability. Believing that locating a manufacturing facility along your riverfront will change your community is flawed thinking. Doing so will change things, but without a plan, changes could be for the worse.

It’s scouting season, and we are under a microscope. Nothing we do in the next 50 years will be as important as what we do in the next 50 months.

New energy infrastructure will be centered in our region, bringing global impact with it. The beginning of an energy buildout in the Marcellus/Utica region is in our backyard. Our region is one of the country’s largest producers of natural gas for power generation and the chemical industry.

We must be in front of this. We must be prepared.

The missing piece to the energy puzzle within our region is facilities for storage. That will require major investment, the likes of which our country has seen only in the Gulf Coast energy states of Texas and Louisiana.

As one of my favorite leaders, former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, famously said: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

We know a multibillion-dollar storage and trading hub is coming to our region, and advanced manufacturing operations and jobs will follow.

Do you have a plan?

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at rshrum@observer-reporter.com.

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