The recent celebration of the $9.4 million renovation project at Penn State-Shenango was a proud moment for the university’s branch campus.

More importantly, Penn State showed a commitment to its future in downtown Sharon. Now the city must demonstrate a similar commitment to promote the growth of both the school and the municipality.

A college campus is a jewel in the crown of a city. Students bring an economic boost that shouldn’t be overlooked. However, the city and businesses need to do more to capitalize on the benefits the campus brings.

It was a welcome sight to see hundreds of people, including community leaders, university administrators, campus advisory and alumni board members gathered at the school.

But it would be an even more welcome sight to see them occasionally getting together and coming up with ideas about how the city and university can grow together. How can Sharon provide a better downtown setting that will attract even more students? How can the town develop the Shenango River area, perhaps with small shops and restaurants that specialize in services that would draw students and their parents?

Even the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Columbia Theatre could be linked to the university to further the arts. If the Columbia were restored, could you imagine the college drama and musical programs that could be performed in the glorious theater setting?

Some people say the campus is landlocked because of businesses that surround it. We don’t feel that way. Other colleges are intertwined with downtown areas and university-owned buildings could be interspersed throughout the city. It’s a short walk from one end of downtown to another, much shorter than the distances between classes at huge universities like Penn State’s main campus.

There is nothing more encouraging than young people walking the sidewalks of a city, providing life to a downtown.

Can the university build a dormitory to accommodate more students from outside the area? Can the city do enough to make students want to come here?

Greenville Economic Development Corp. recently helped tie together a medical-technology clinic with Thiel College, that should promote growth for both the college and the borough. Are there other programs like this that could be brought to Sharon and linked to Penn State Shenango?

Such development takes imagination and hard work.

This is an opportunity that has been overlooked for too long. The completed renovation project at the school should provide some impetus for rejuvenation in the community as well.

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