Bob Reitman Interview

Emery Malachowski, Managing Editor of Juniatian and Desk Editor of Kvasir Literary Magazine

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Bob Reitman, who works for Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI), was very excited about the idea of this column. “It encourages exploration,” he says, voicing enthusiasm for greater interest and coverage of Huntingdon Borough culture and individuals.

HCBI is charged with a diverse task: Mr. Reitman describes it as “doing whatever it takes to fill the gaps that prevent economic development,” which in practice means overcoming obstacles like inadequate infrastructure and occasionally building workforce development. Mr. Reitman says that they focus on “making the county a better place to live.” He has lived approximately ten miles outside of Huntingdon with his wife, Juniata College Professor Carol Peters, since 1992.

Mr. Reitman’s hopes for Huntingdon seem to lie primarily in the tourism and software industries. He talks extensively about the Main Line Canal Greenway, or 9/11 Memorial, which will connect historical canals along the Juniata River. He believes that the trail will bring tourists interested in high quality biking, canoeing and hiking. He uses Raystown Lake as an example of a spot nearby that brings in tourists interested in the scenery; in fact, the natural resources of Huntingdon are one of the reasons Mr. Reitman was interested in this area in the first place. To bring in the crowds to enjoy the natural beauty of Huntingdon, Mr. Reitman posits, Huntingdon needs to pour more of its energy into tourist-pleasing destinations like craft breweries, diverse restaurants, and businesses that cater to people who would visit them after physical activities.

These businesses can also bring software companies into the area that are looking for cheap, enjoyable places for their employees to live. “We can support a biotech center,” says Mr. Reitman, citing the biology department of the College as a helpful factor.

Mr. Reitman describes how agriculture in the area, what he currently considers to be the number one industry, can be worked into the new tourism industry he envisions. He says that they should be capitalizing on “agricultural tourism,” which he says can be described in a word as “corn mazes.” Items that have been agricultural staples in the area for a very long time, he says, can be modified to do double duty as a tourism spot, especially in underperforming farms. These include keeping farm animals like alpacas and buffalo, or attractions like organic gardens or cideries.

Mr. Reitman calls himself a “homebody,” but he does enjoy a lot of the popular sites in Huntingdon like Boxer’s, Stonetown Gallery and All American Pizza. He thinks that having more small businesses that students enjoy and building that connection with the College population will help the town’s economy. This especially will hinge on having longer and later hours that are more accessible to students, and he admits that he will eventually be unveiling projects he is working on in HCBI towards that goal.