2018-10-01 / Spotlight

Spreading the News

With DSCID executive director Rob Schmidt

Rob Schmidt has spent most of his career in media — first in print, then in radio, then back to print — but this past spring the veteran journalist began using his skills in a new way. As executive director of the Downtown State College Improvement District, Schmidt is helping to enhance and amplify the story of downtown State College.

“I wanted to take my experience in media and use it in a different way,” says Schmidt, who grew up in State College. “And I love downtown, and I felt it would be an interesting challenge.”
Schmidt began his career in newspapers after earning a degree in print journalism from Penn State. He then moved to reporting news and sports for a radio station, and was eventually promoted to management there. Schmidt says one of his lasting achievements in radio was transforming the popular 93.7-The Bus into the classic rock station that it is today.

“It started as a ’70s, oldies station. We made it a pure classic rock station,” he says. “So that’s a little bit of a legacy I left.”

He left to join Barash Media, where he was publisher of Town & Gown magazine and oversaw the relaunching of the weekly Centre County Gazette newspaper. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished there,” he says. But after 10 years back in print media, Schmidt was ready for a whole new challenge.

His current role has him working as a bit of a liaison between downtown commercial property owners, tenants and the Borough of State College to hear concerns, address problems and ultimately help bring more people downtown. One way Schmidt plans to do that is by honing in on the times of year when the downtown scene feels more accessible to residents from all over the region.

“You’re gonna have the 40,000 students here 10 months of the year. So part of it is capturing the non-students in June and July or Christmastime, when student population is declined,” he says.

That might mean the closing of a portion of Allen Street next year for a pedestrian mall in the weeks leading up to Arts Fest — an initiative that was proposed this year but fell through at the last minute.

“We’re collaborating with Centre Foundation and the borough now to see if we can make it work for next year as part of an overall plan that we have, which is to get locals to rediscover downtown during the summer.”

RECORD REGRET “I love all kinds of music; I probably at one time had 3,000 to 4,000 records, and 3,000 to 4,000 CDs. I got rid of a lot of my record collection, which now I regret. But I’ve kept a lot of the album art. I’ve collected a lot of gold records and some autographed pieces.”

LIVE MUSIC Schmidt has been to more than 500 concerts and counting. So what’s his all-time favorite? “The Eagles Hell Freezes Over Tour back in ’95. I saw them at what was the Starlight Amphitheatre in Pittsburgh. They had broken up for 15 years, and when asked if they’d get back together, the late Glenn Frey had said, ‘When hell freezes over.’ So they called it the Hell Freezes Over Tour.

“But tomorrow if you asked me the same question I’d probably have a different answer.”

THON ON … AND ON “I’m probably by default the THON historian. Not that I’ve been to every single one of them, but I’m probably the longest-standing member of the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group. You know you’re old when your title is Director Emeritus. I believe in all the great things that Four Diamonds does. But I stay involved to help out, because one of the challenges with THON is that it turns over every four years. And people don’t know what they don’t know.”

SPORTS FAN “I enjoy working out, and I enjoy playing golf, except I had a season-ending injury this year — but I seem to have a penchant for season-ending injuries.”
“I enjoy watching sports too, in particular Penn State sports. And I’m an avid Boston Red Sox fan. My parents are both from Boston, so it was ingrained in me from an early age.”

BIG-LITTLE PLANS “My overarching goal for the next year is I would like to see more movement with the Borough on doing improvements downtown, beautification. Not just the big projects but just looking at every aspect of downtown, whether it be better-looking garbage cans and recycling, planters, that sort of thing. Simple things.”

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