U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is urging the White House to include Reading in a program that he said would connect city officials with national experts on municipal finances and economic growth.

The "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" program, first announced in July 2011, includes a select group of six cities across the country, aiming to help them develop economic growth strategies.

"Reading is an ideal city for this White House initiative that could benefit the city and all of Berks County," Casey said. "Reading is a vibrant city with untold potential. Linking the city’s municipal leaders with some of the country’s foremost experts on growth and municipal management will be a major boost to the entire region."

In a letter to Matthew Dalbey, deputy executive director, White House Council, Casey cited Reading's participation in the state's distressed municipalities program (Act 47) and the city's struggle with the nation's second highest poverty rate.

"In 2011, the city was listed as number one on that list," Casey said in his letter. "It is my understanding that along with these struggles, Reading has experienced shrinking tax revenues, which have created a rising demand for human services and an unprecedented need for long-term strategies to help the city progress."

One of the pilot cities chosen for the program in 2011 was Chester, Delaware Co., which received help in diversifying its economy and revitalizing its downtown.