SHAMOKIN DAM - A local businessman honored Thursday by EconomicsPennsylvania for his entrepreneurship said there's no reason Pennsylvania should not become a favored location for new business.

John D. Moran Jr., president and chief executive officer of Watsontown-based Moran Industries Inc., received the 2014 Adam Smith Award during a luncheon at Susquehanna Valley Country Club, at which he was introduced by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Corbett said the state's economy was struggling when he took office in 2011, and Moran was a valued adviser, serving as the private sector co-chair of the Pennsylvania Foundation/Team PA.

Corbett said they both agree on this: jobs, not taxes.

Mostly, Moran maintains optimism in the economy and the men and women who make it run, the governor said.

"John has embodied that and we're in better shape for having men like John Moran," Corbett said.

Moran grew up in Wilkes-Barre and graduated from Kings College, after which he said many friends moved out-of-state to pursue careers. He stayed in the Keystone State and worked to grow the Moran family business, which includes warehousing and logistics firms, railroad interests, consulting firms and real estate ventures. The collective employs more than 350 people.

"I refused to believe then and I still to refuse to believe now that if Pennsylvania is one of the most attractive places for students in this country to be educated, then why can't it not also be the most attractive destination for job creators and job seekers?" he asked the sold-out crowd.

Moran, gracious and humble in accepting the award, said it's imperative that initiatives are continually pursued to foster economic growth in Pennsylvania and create family sustaining jobs that can retain the state's college graduates and inspire their entrepreneurial spirits.

Apart from policy and legislation, he said initiative must also be taken inside the home.

"I cannot emphasize enough how important I believe it is for parents to educate their children on the worth of a job," Moran said.

Imagine, pursue

Among the audience were high school students who participate in the EconomicsPennsylvania Stock Market Game, five of whom received awards of their own. Moran tipped his cap to them for pursuing business-centric studies and joked about seeking market advice from them, giving thanks for a tip on the Internet entertainment firm Netflix.

"Imagine yourself living the life you want in great detail," Moran told the students, "and then set out to achieve it."

Selina Albert, 14, an eighth-grader from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School, Coal Township, was given the Carolyn G. Fischer Award for Citizenship. She will also intern with EconomicsPennsylvania in Selinsgrove this summer, a prospect for which she admitted being nervous.

Albert credited Lourdes Regional for its "God-centered education" and also the "leadership of my parents" for her early success. In thanking several people, she noted Andy Russell, a director of EconomicsPennsylvania and a former Pittsburgh Steeler who was at Thursday's lunch.

"I would like to thank Mr. Andy Russell for visiting Lourdes and for teaching us about ANIMALS," she said, drawing laughter for her use of the acronym for Russell's topic when he visits schools - Attitude, Never quit, Integrity, Motivation, Accountability, Leadership and Strength of character.

Four students of Montgomery High School who finished in first and fourth place in the statewide Stock Market Game last fall were given the Don Rosini Award for Excellence in the Study of Economics Award - Sebastian Fields, Sammi Harer, Cody Englehart and Keith Habersham. Rosini, of Coal Township, is a longtime supporter of EconomicsPennsylvania.

Merle's presence

Moran was nominated for the award by the late Merle Phillips, who he warmly remembered for his friendship and mentoring.

"When he nominated him for this award, Merle called John a man of high ideal, vision and integrity. When Merle Phillips, an old Marine who went and served his country with honor and then went into both business and public service says that about you, you have the highest praise a man could ever desire," Corbett said of Moran.

"When 180 businesspeople come out in the middle of the day on a day like today to affirm that opinion, we know that we are recognizing a man who embodies the true qualities of a Pennsylvania entrepreneur."

There was an empty chair at the head table left for Phillips, a framed photograph of the late legislator propped on the table top. A thoughtful remembrance included in the luncheon program was penned for Phillips by close friend Fritz M. Heinemann, EconomicsPennsylvania president and chief executive officer.

Phillips served 30 years as the state representative of the 108th Legislative District. He was involved with EconomicsPennsylvania for 12 years and was the group's inaugural recipient of the Adam Smith Leadership Award in 2002.

His widow, Helen, served as a co-chair for the luncheon. She was greeted warmly by guests and recognized during remarks by state Sen. John Gordner, R-27, who presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

EconomicsPennsylvania, based in Selinsgrove, has as its mission "to ensure that every young person in Pennsylvania understands essential economic and financial literacy concepts, benefits by using economic ways of thinking and problem-solving skills, and has a continuous understanding of the nature and structure of the global economy and its relationship to individual liberty and freedom."