The Executive Director of SEDA-Council of Governments has submitted his plans for retirement after 44 years at the helm of the agency.
Dennis Robinson has helped to forge partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies and has led SEDA-COG’s 11-county, 22-member board in carrying out board policies and directives that represent its multi-county partnership.
“We have built a solid, well-performing organization comprised of extremely purposeful and dedicated staff that exemplified how public and private sector interests can work collaboratively to achieve many worthwhile objectives that positively affect the region. We are much more impactful together than not,” Robinson said.
Robinson was hired and began his employment with SEDA-COG in 1973, and has been its Executive Director for 39 years. During the beginning of his tenure, he took a fledging agency’s staff of 13 professionals through a development process leading to today’s complement of 94 staff that serve 13 diverse programmatic departments. His last day at work will be Sept. 15.
“Regretfully, one of the things in life that I enjoy the most must come to an end. I will miss SEDA-COG and all of its employees who serve so diligently. They are indeed a second family,” Robinson said.
SEDA-COG’s services fall into several broad categories: economic development, community development, environmental development, and direct community and county support. SEDA-COG helps the region’s counties and local communities meet needs in areas such as business and manufacturing services, housing, community revitalization, water and sewer system development, and other infrastructure improvements.
The agency provides supplemental financing to assist new and expanding businesses. The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority owns nearly 200 miles of rail line, preserving transportation service vital to key employers in the region. SEDA-COG has established programs that help families rehabilitate or weatherize their homes, and much more.
Under the county-collaborative Intergovernmental Cooperation Act 180 that originally formed SEDA-COG in 1972, other legal entities have been formed over the years to implement regional objectives of the Board. In 1972, the SEDA Foundation Inc., a 501(c)(4), was formed; in 1982, the SEDA-COG Local Development Corporation, a 501(c)(3); in 1983, the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority; in 1993, the SEDA-COG Housing Development and Investment Corporation; and in 2016, the SEDA-COG Regional Gas Nonprofit Cooperative Corporation.
SEDA-COG’s staff provides the services for these legal entities and assists them in planning, development, and implementation.
Since 1966, SEDA-COG has received or administered over 385 U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission grants. Since 1972, the agency has administered over 50 U.S. Economic Development Administration grants for projects.
Because of Robinson’s leadership at SEDA-COG and partnership with federal, state, and local funding agencies, the impacts are clear:
- $3.6 billion worth of business sales to the government
- $670 million worth of business export sales
- $4 million in energy costs saved by three communities
- 93,000 documented jobs created or supported
- 37,000 homes weatherized
- 1,000+ public infrastructure and community facility projects
- 1,000+ rehabilitated homes
- 240+ senior housing apartments
- 80 industries served by rail
Throughout this timespan, Robinson has never lost sight of the people who help make this happen. His compassion and deeply held value of people have been a driving motivation for his actions.
“My personal satisfaction and much of the credit for SEDA-COG’s successes can be directly linked to the overall efforts of our staff,” he said. “Our entire SEDA-COG agency has been dedicated to the greater public good, and I am very proud of it collectively and I am also very proud to have been part of it personally.
“Each of our efforts can only be successful when partnered with the region’s communities of hardworking, industrious people. SEDA-COG helps give the people of central Pennsylvania the tools to build stronger communities, to realize a better future, and to renew rural central Pennsylvania into garnering a prosperous economy,” Robinson said.
President John F. Kennedy’s famous statement has been the underpinning for Robinson’s life: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” That statement makes everything worthwhile personally, Robinson said.
Robinson has earned many awards, including the John D. Whisman “Vision” Award from the Development District Association of Appalachia, and the Top 100 People award by Pennsylvania Business Central, both for his leadership and vision in improving the economy and quality of life in central Pennsylvania.
His career, which has blended both private and public sector experience for over 53 years, has taught him that, to be successful, neither private enterprise nor public sector service can settle for mediocrity.
This philosophy, coupled with high employee morale and a very dedicated, highly qualified staff, has enabled SEDA-COG to be very successful in its endeavors.
In his farewell letter to the board, Robinson wrote, “And so, a farewell is in order, coupled with a thank-you for so much and for the memorable experience that was afforded to me.”