Jem Spectar

An opinion piece on digital infrastructure by Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar was recently published in The Washington Post.

Titled “Want to close America’s rural-urban divide? Digital infrastructure is the key,” the piece emphasizes the need for public and private investment in K-16 education to build a new digital economy future for rural America.

Spectar writes: “Key to this strategy would be significantly increasing participation in expanded coding and STEM programs from K-16 as well as vocational and workforce development programs.”

He further presents and explains how Pitt-Johnstown is helping to lead such efforts, writing, “My institution, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, is spearheading the CODE for Commonwealth and Country initiative, working with state government, industry and schools to enhance workforce readiness.”

Spectar, who has been president of Pitt-Johnstown since 2007, led efforts in coordinating Pitt-Johnstown’s CODE (Computational-Learning Opportunities in a Digital Environment) for Commonwealth & Country project. The initiative promotes computer learning opportunities by working to develop and support CODE-smart schools in the area. 

Within the Washington Post article, Spectar later notes significant benefits to building a digital infrastructure in rural America as adapted education, community revitalization, and new job skills.

“By increasing digital literacy, distressed communities can emerge as tech talent hot spots that generate higher-paying jobs, attract millennials and rejuvenate downtown areas,” he writes. “These rural hot spots will be attractive to businesses seeking lower-cost rural production compared to the relatively higher wages of metropolitan or foreign locations.

“Millennials who prefer the independence, affordability and comfort of stress-free telecommuting will gravitate to these hot spots, injecting new life into moribund main streets. Thriving ventures and rising incomes will provide an organic economic stimulus and mitigate rural-urban migration. 

“With enhanced infrastructure and digital economy talent, perhaps companies such as Amazon may someday establish their new headquarters in rural towns that will be all too happy to embrace them,” he states in the article.

Spectar was recently named to the Top 100 people in business and economic development by Pennsylvania Business Central. The annual list honors men and women within the Pennsylvania Business Central’s 16-county coverage area who have advanced the community through work, charity and family.

To read Spectar’s entire article, visit

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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