of the $3.5 million Visitor's Center across from the
Ag Arena on the University Park campus shows the progress
on the project, which is expected to be completed in time for
the National Governors' Association meeting to be held July 8-11.
Photo: Greg Grieco
By Lisa M. Rosellini
In a few short weeks, State College will be transformed into a hub of high-level activity as the nation's governors trek to the University Park campus for the 92nd annual meeting of the National Governors' Association.
From July 8-11, the campus and town will play host to this high-profile bipartisan business meeting, where the leaders of the 50 states and five U.S. territories and commonwealths will tackle issues affecting the nation's states.
The four-day event is expected to draw between 1,000 and 1,200 participants, including governors, their families, key staff, corporate leaders and state and national policy experts and media. The activity of the business sessions will be concentrated mostly at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, while a few sessions are planned for The Nittany Lion Inn. Other events are planned for downtown State College as well as areas of campus.
"There should be little disruption to the normal daily flow of work and activity on campus," said Helen Caffrey, director of Commonwealth relations at Penn State and NGA's host state coordinator for the meeting. "Despite the fact that the spotlight will be on Penn State and State College, most employees will probably be operating under a 'business as usual' routine."
Caffrey also said that because the host committee is working out a shuttle system that will move NGA participants quickly and efficiently from their hotels to all meeting locations and social event sites, there shouldn't be any major impact on local traffic.
Some minor changes worth noting are the limitations that will be placed on the use of The Penn Stater and the Inn on campus. From Thursday evening to Tuesday midday, The Penn Stater will be limited to NGA meeting attendees and assigned staff and volunteers. That includes the dining room and lounge area. The Nittany Lion Inn will have limited access for non-NGA attendees in its dining room as well. From midnight Saturday, July 8, through 7 a.m. Tuesday, July 11, the HUB-Robeson Center on campus also will be closed to the public.
In addition, while the NGA meeting is under way, parking will be limited at The Penn Stater and a small number of locations. However, arrangements will be made so that employees will be able to park at or near the building where they work, according to Caffrey. More details about any changes will be publicized in the coming weeks.
"There might be slight adjustments to the access of certain buildings if they are being used for a business or social events," Caffrey added, because security issues are always a concern during NGA meetings. "But the vast majority of University employees will not notice any alterations in their schedules."
The overall theme of the summer meeting, to be chaired by Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, is "Strengthening the American States in the New Global Economy." Governors will look at how their states can use new technology and create public-private partnerships. The meeting, which includes visits from major political and corporate officials, provides a forum for the nation's leaders to solve state-focused problems and a venue for sharing information.
Leavitt said that the governors will focus on issues that will make "governing in the era of technology and the Internet one of the most exciting leadership challenges in the history of our nation."
To date, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has been confirmed to address the governors on the meeting's main topic, while nationally syndicated newspaper columnist David Broder will moderate a round table discussion on the new economy between a group of governors and leading national and international CEOs. In addition, President Clinton and Gen. Colin Powell, retired military leader, and Goran Persson, prime minister of technology-savvy Sweden, have been invited to address the group.
At last year's summer NGA meeting in St. Louis, 43 governors plus President Clinton were in attendance.
"We're hoping for good attendance, both from the governors and the media" said Alan Janesch of the University's Department of Public Information. Janesch is coordinating media relations for the meeting. "I think the meeting will have just the right mix of business and social activities that will showcase the region and Penn State."
Between possible sessions on information technology or how to produce a technically skilled work force and build an intellectual infrastructure, the governors, their families and other meeting attendees will be treated to additional activities. On Saturday, attendees will experience "An Evening Under the Stars" in downtown State College, where coffee and desserts will be served on Allen Street. On Sunday evening, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge will host a tailgate party at the Multi-Sports Facility that will feature Pennsylvania sports stars and wrap up with a concert by country music star Kenny Rogers. On Monday, NGA attendees can get a "Taste of Pennsylvania" by sampling the best of Pennsylvania's culinary offerings from each region of the Commonwealth, and by viewing Pennsylvania art, music and technology in the HUB.
To make it all happen, Caffrey said the committee is relying on about 250-275 volunteers from the University and local community.
"The eyes of the nation will really be upon us. There is some incredible national exposure to be gained from this and this area's profile will be elevated. Penn State and State College is an excellent site and we are honored to have been selected," Caffrey said. "We are even creating a special Creamery flavor for the meeting -- 'Ridge's Road.'"
'Ridge's Road,' named after Pennsylvania's governor, will be a blend of chocolate ice cream with peanuts and swirls of caramel through it.
Based in Washington, D.C., the NGA represents the governors of the 50 states, three territories and two provinces. For more information on the upcoming meeting, visit the Web at http://www.nga-pa2000.org/. For information on NGA, go to http://www.nga.org.
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