Leadership Central Penn Goes Nuclear

When one thinks about nuclear power it doesn’t usually conjure the most positive images. Whether those images are from movies like Godzilla, or stark reality, like Three Mile Island, Fukishima and Chernobyl, it just never seems to go well.  Leadership Central Penn was lucky enough to be hosted by Talen Energy at the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant, to learn the reality of this awesome power.  The facts were shared with the group by Todd Martin, corporate communications manager, and Alise Seibert, nuclear training supervisor.

The facts are that nuclear power in the 21st century is safe, as with all things, there are risks, but with Talen’s safety first approach, and the oversight of the National Regulator Commission, nuclear power in our community and the United States is not a public risk, but a benefit. The facility is secure and meets the highest standards with rigorous training metrics. As they generate power for the grid, it is sold, as they are not a public utility.  This competitive market has caused some touch choices to be made by the organization.

One effort to maintain flexibility in a market that has spiking load requirements, especially in winter cold snaps, is their ability to bring the Montour Coal Power Plant on line.  This plant is maintained locally at all times, and used when the grid has a demand for more competitively priced energy. The class asked what the lowest cost fuel is for generation. However that is like asking which taste better, an apple or a watermelon?  There are too many factors that influence that answer. Some include demand, pricing of raw materials, subsidies of generation fuel, etc. 

The program from Talen concluded with a tour of the simulator for nuclear training. The class was walked though a program of very excited engineers that liked to challenge themselves with scenarios. They want to simulated load needs, melt down preventions, system failures, and more to ensure safety of the plant, employees and community. Their philosophy is simple – if one safety step is good, two is better, and three is necessary. 

After a wonderful lunch from Lucy’s Kitchen & Catering, the class focused on economic development in this region. This discussion and presentation was led by Fred Gaffney, president of the Columbia Montour Chamber. The group learned about the successes and challenges of economic development efforts in the area related to government support, workforce development, and impact on public works. One example that was shared is the ongoing Columbia County Business Park. The class was very engaged in the discussion about the creation and ultimate goals that lead to the development of this industrial/commercial park. The future success of this project is growing with one site currently developed and occupied by the Fairfield Inn & Suites, and two additional sites currently being developed.

Everyone also learned more about the role of The Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce in the economic development of our counties.  These efforts are focused on workforce development and partnership between industry and school districts. Additionally, programming like LCP allows for lifelong learning and community impact programming for professionals. 

The final presenter of the day was David “Otto” Kurechian, executive director of the Columbia-Montour Visitor’s Bureau.  First, Otto allowed the group to follow-up on the Visitor’s Bureau’s role in economic development and success of the Fairfield Inn at the business park. Everyone is aware that tourism is a large business for our area, especially during the spring, summer and fall season with fairs, wine and craft beer trails, outdoor activities and more. However, the class learned about the impact of certain economic development projects like the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. This project has brought many workers to the areas that are staying in local rentals and hotels, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local businesses. 

After economic development wrapped up, Otto discussed boardmanship, what it means to serve on a local Board of Directors or Board of Trustees.  The presentation focused on how to decide if when and how to serve on these boards.  First, he said one should never, ever say yes when initially asked to join a board. Even if it is by one’s employer, and strongly encouraged, or a best friend, neighbor, etc. There are questions people should ask themselves and the organization. The first thing is why do you want to join this organization in this capacity and what you offer them with your skills and interest? You’ll be asked to express these very things when you formally apply to join and are being vetted.  You also need to ask to see the organization’s by-laws, financials, and strategic plan. What is your expected time commitment, how long are you expected to serve, what is the financial situation of the organization, and where are they headed? If you can’t be at the first Tuesday of each month meeting, then don’t join. If you don’t agree with the strategic plan, or finances worry you from the organization, don’t join. This is much like looking for a job, and should be scrutinized as such.

When you find the right fit, you will get extreme amounts of personal satisfaction from your service. The organization will benefit from your skills and passion. The community will be impacted positively. This is the goal of boardsmanship, and the LCP class in general. 

Leadership Central Penn is sponsored by Bloomsburg UniversityKawneerSEKISUI SPI and USG.