LAKE REGION - Generated by an orange-colored notice, the curious filled the Wallenpaupack High School auditorium last week to learn of one man’s idea for change.
    Unsure of what the town hall meeting would entail, people first observed an automated presentation of issues plaguing the region, and how people lack passion for their careers and how a new concept, the “Zipper Junction” could potentially change the community.
    If the public gets on board, the speaker said Zipper Junction will be no less than a small town, but an “outside-in town.” In the town, there will be an “experience and opportunity factory” where people could learn about a range of fields in complexes specific to various subjects from education to arts to fitness and more.
    After overcoming health issues and making “sad observations” in the area, the owner of Supreme Zipper Industries in Lakeville and the visionary behind Zipper Junction Jim Zumpone said he had a realization that something needed to be done. Now, after three years of data collections, feasibility studies and more, Zumpone said he was ready to move his idea further, but he needs the public’s support.
    The purpose of the town hall meeting, was to receive feedback from the public and if his plan was not “embraced,” Zipper Junction could not progress because it is “way beyond myself and my team.” Thus far, Zumpone said he has “spent over six digits personally.”
    At this point, an exact location for Zipper Junction has not been decided. While he would not disclose the locations being considered, because no property has been purchased yet, Zumpone did say there are three areas within 10 miles of the Wilsonville dam, with two in Pike County and one site in Wayne County.
    To construct Zipper Junction, Zumpone needs $400 million and $350 million to operate the project that would be housed on 400 acres. Owned by “various entities,” Zumpone said there have been discussions with the landowners so the engineering studies could occur, to understand the impact the project could have on the region. Zipper Junction will not be on the main road and it will not be visible because it is “well off into the woods.” Combining the different aspects of the project has been “interesting” as it has been like a “cross pollination affect that could happen,” he said.
    Zipper Junction will be located in this region, Zumpone said, because of his love for northeastern Pennsylvania and the fact that the area is not too close or too far from cities like Philadelphia or New York City. He said his project could not be built in those areas because of a lack of space and the cost would be too high. If construction started tomorrow with a 24/7 construction cycle, two years would be needed to complete the project.
    Now, if he moves forward, Zumpone said 2016 will be a “fundraising drive” from local communities as well as “large philanthropic organizations” that have already looked at his project. Looking at a 10 year process, he did note that things could progress faster if finances were available. But, if Pike and Wayne Counties do not support him, Zumpone said potential investors from California, Chicago and Texas would not get involved. Phase one for fundraising, would be rallying the counties to obtain “fraction money” more specifically about $10 million from the communities. Zumpone anticipates getting the $10 million will consume 2016 and then, getting philanthropists involved would be the second phase to move into a “national push.”
    A nonprofit organization, Zumpone said he decided to take that path because it allowed him “some freedom” to do things for-profit entities can’t, such as not worrying about shareholders who may negatively affect Zipper Junction. Financially, it is a matter of “perception” and he would be satisfied by breaking even. Zumpone said going the nonprofit route is different, but by making such a choice he is able to include the public “into the process.”
    Rather than being a “hinderance” to the community, Zumpone said he would like to power Zipper Junction with solar and wind. Instead of simply building a facility, he wants to “innovate the next step” and make his project an “example of what could be.”
    So the “outside environment” is not stressed, instead of relying on the Pennsylvania State Police, Zumpone said Zipper Junction would have its own security force.
    Having received concern about businesses being negatively affected, Zumpone said he doesn’t want to hurt existing businesses, but rather he wants to bring additional customers to the area. Since businesses are already struggling, his goal is to strengthen current businesses and if Zipper Junction becomes a reality, he said there will be about 1,000 positions available.
     While people come to the area because it is rural, with people struggling and the potential answer being new residents, Zumpone said it is simply a “tough question.” The answer may be the need for “compromise” between building something or “staying in the woods and enjoying my deer.” But, he noted that something has to happen because now “it’s really unsustainable the way it is.”
    If he does not receive the support from the community this year, Zumpone said he will stop the project. No dates were given, but he would like to have more meetings, especially since the first one was not as well attended as he had hoped.
    Although money is a “huge component of making this happen,” Zumpone said it is not the biggest challenge because it is more a matter of “persistence, creativity and getting it done” with the help of people. Ultimately, he said people will be the beneficiaries so hopefully they will want to do something.
    Despite the unknown and potential challenges, Zumpone said, “I want to take it to the end and make it happen” because “we have to do something.”
    For more information about the Zipper Junction project visit www.zipperjunction.org.