After carefully observing activities in the area over the last few months, I felt compelled as president of the Brush Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce to reach out to the residents of the area to talk about progress and what it can mean for our region.

Progress can come in all forms - whether it is new lighting in the downtown, blighted buildings being torn down, community gardens being established, rail and other transportation services that are enhanced, and groups that have volunteered to do cleanups.

Let me ask you a few questions. You live in this area for a reason, correct? Either your family was here and you remained, you moved here for a job, or you wanted to find a nice community in which to raise your family. Are you proud of the area in which you live? Do you know what the perception is of the coal region?

I will say this, with a sputtering economy, our region can ill afford to overlook any opportunities for enhancement or progress.

If we take a look at one area - Shamokin's downtown, for example - a new streetlight project partnering of the city with PPL may not be the answer to all the downtown woes, but it is a step in the right direction.

The cleanups need to continue, whether downtown or in other areas. The chamber would like to put an emphasis on the Shop Local Campaign this year, which will help to highlight our downtown and other local merchants. Many groups have worked tirelessly over the last year to prepare for this year's Anthracite Heritage Festival and parade, and other events to be held throughout the year.

My goal is simple but challenging, I want to look for any and all partnerships that can help us improve and enhance the area as a whole. Trusted and respected groups need to overlook differences and come together to make change happen, share resources and to support one another. Did you know that members of the Mount Carmel Township Supervisors office recently signed a petition for Shamokin City to provide more decorative lighting in its downtown. Why, you ask? Because if we work to improve one area it helps the region as a whole.

Don't take a backseat. Get involved in your city or township government. Attend their meetings and find out what is going on. Change takes time, but it also takes manpower.

Any and all help is appreciated.