As Yamoussa Camara is setting the beat for Blair County’s move into its next chapter, the Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation (ABCD) is doing its part to promote such stories to potential businesses. A private non-profit, ABCD has been dedicated for over 60 years to ensuring that “Blair County is the best and most competitive community it can be so we can attract and retain talent, investment and job opportunities for future generations to come.” One of ABCD’s primary goals is portraying an appealing, authentic narrative about what it means to work, play, and live within Blair County; their First Frontier campaign, released this past February, aims to accomplish that. As Steve McKnight, president and CEO, explains in an article for Technical.ly, “It was important for us to base any new branding effort in fact and history.” With an honest understanding of what to expect as a potential Blair County resident, businesses and employees are then capable of making their best-informed decisions. Fortunately for all of us, a multitude of arts and cultural events is one of the key components to Blair County’s appeal.
While there are many facets ABCD explores and manages to promote the livability of Blair County, one of these is what McKnight calls “the big A”: a vibrant artistic atmosphere filled with creative opportunities
that both residents and visitors can easily access and regularly enjoy. In showcasing Blair County via their First Frontier initiative, ABCD has been highlighting our arts, cultural, and heritage offerings. Both McKnight and Patrick Miller, ABCD’s Executive Vice President, emphasize that Blair County has always had an abundance of creative opportunities, but they stress that a cohesion among all members is appealing to incoming businesses. As Miller explains, “The arts benefit all of our communities. And each community, from the smallest one to the largest, all have a little synergy built around the arts. [The arts have] been here forever. Things have been happening. It’s now just a matter now of pulling it all together with a common platform.”
McKnight believes that Blair County has always been a special place because of its arts programming, and now, with the rise and adoption of social media, it’s easier than ever to share the stories about our local artists, performers, and events. As McKnight says, “By telling those stories and [increasing the number of] people exposed to them, it brings folks into the fray. Now, it’s not a question of what’s available; the problem has become choosing. We’re suddenly to a point of where there’s so much activity that you get to plan it out ahead of time, which is great.”
McKnight and Miller emphasize that the arts help to create the place: the sense of place, the activity in a place, and the vibrancy of a place. As McKnight says, the arts are “one of the most important things from an economic development standpoint.” While we as artists believe in the importance of our work, it’s definitely validating to know that Blair County’s creative opportunities – all of our artists and performers, our historic venues and our heritage events – are indeed major contributors to the long-term success of our boroughs, municipalities, and cities. To those of you who are working hard as part of our creative scene, thank you for the work that you’re doing to make Blair County not just unique, but also a place that future investors will want to be a part of. And to McKnight, Miller, and all of our supportive friends at ABCD, thank you for recognizing the local creative work that’s being done and its significance to a fulfilling lifestyle within Blair County – and thank you for your part in shouting our talents from the rooftops of all of the renovated buildings.