By Beth Brelje From the Pocono Record January 11, 2013
Pike County’s population is aging and that has a negative effect on economic growth, Pike County Economic Development Authority Chief Mike Sullivan recently said. Pike is generally more older and less younger that the rest of the country. In Pike, 16.5 percent of the population is age 65, and older, that is 3.2 percent more than the national average. And with 4.6 percent of the population under age 5, Pike has 1.9 percent fewer young children than the national average. The numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau and are collected because they have implications for school districts, Sullivan said. But they also show there is a difference between Pike and the rest of the country in some way, Sullivan, 66, said. During Pike’s building boom, in the early 2000s, people who moved to the area from New York and New Jersey were seeking cheaper housing. They were either retired or had children in school. Many of those students have graduated and their parents are aging. The original retirees are still here, too. These transplants are sometimes heard at public meetings reminding elected officials why they moved away from the city. “In Pike you see a general anti-development feeling. People say ‘I moved here because of its natural character and I don’t want development inside of Pike.’ I hear that a lot,” Sullivan said. “That is characteristic of people who want a certain lifestyle. They tend not to be as interested in the needs of younger people still in the workforce.” Sullivan says he is not being critical, that “it is what it is,” but, he says, “Without growth you start to stagnate. That is what is happening in the U.S. right now, and that is what happens when people say, ‘I don’t want growth here.'”
Pike has had some of the highest unemployment numbers in the state in 2011 and ’12, most recently reported at 11.7 percent. “That is the reason that philosophy is bad. If you say no to everything, it has ramifications,” Sullivan said. Older Pike residents represent a strong voting population and elected officials are going to support their positions, he said. An economy must increase by three percent a year to absorb graduating students entering the workforce and to support salary increases for workers, according to Sullivan. “This high unemployment in Pike County is a direct result of not planning. I think the government has a responsibility to protect the environment and plan for development,” Sullivan said. He is not suggesting everything be blacktopped and is a proponent of thoughtful economic development that is sensitive to the environment.