What girl couldn't pass up an opportunity to wake up and spend the morning with a cute, adorable furry little guy in Times Square? Well, I couldn't, that's for sure. When the invitation came to start Groundhog Day with Governor Tom Ridge for the Times Square broadcast of Punxsutatawny Phil and the Groundhog Day festivities I cleared my calendar. What else would I be doing at 6:30 AM on a Friday morning anyway? I suited up in my fabulous Escada suit with boa and flew on up to the Renaissance New York Hotel and met Ben Franklin and Louie The Lighting Bug (to show that PA's deregulation of electricity has worked). There were lots of eggs, bacon and potatoes and the Hershey's cast of characters (Patty Melt (a cheeseburger), Hershey's chocolate bar, Kisses and the lot) were jumping up and down and waving in Times Square. Panasonic's Astrovision screen featured a PA tourism reel for the morning extolling Pennsylvania's virtuous vacation havens, brilliant seasons and accommodations for business growth. Governor Ridge humored the many photo ops and posed with a stuffed animal groundhog (the real thing was back in his tree stump in Punxsutatawny).
This was yet another innovative event where Governor Ridge and the various PA forces promoted the excitement of the Commonwealth. While the tradition dates back to Christianity in Europe, it's evolved over the years and 1998 marked the first cyber cast of the event as part of the 21 Days of Technology promotion. All joking aside, my conversation with Governor Ridge was delightful and insightful. He conveyed Pennsylvania's commitment to developing and fostering technology and integrating it in business, global communication, government and education. His Cyber Start and Lin-- To Learn programs are just a few of the many initiatives he has implemented in educational centers. Realizing the importance of working with the private sector the government has also supported initiatives like the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, E-Government and the PA PowerPort to aid entrepreneurs and corporations in doing business. Pennsylvania was also the first state to put their Web site on their license plates, enact a uniform digital signatures law and link daycare centers to the Internet. It's refreshing meeting a governor with such passion for technology and one who really acts on that passion.
Other notable early-risers were Commonwealth of Pennsylvania secretary of the Community & Economic Development department Samuel McCullough, True North Communications chairman and CEO David Bell and Valley Forge Convention & Visitors Bureau president Paul Decker. Bozell Kamstra's Marlin Collingwood and Mark Horner also made sure I met other guests like Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse's president and CEO Dennis Yablonsky and saw old friends like RippleEffect's CEO Louis Malafarina, who sponsored our first Cocktails with Courtney in Pittsburgh. New York-based consultant Melissa Grossman was out and about early on and was excited about all that Pennsylvania was doing with technology too. You can't take the NYC out of this girl, but with all the governor is doing for education and business and technology-I'll take PA any day too!