Shapiro Touts Economic Development Strategy

Ahead of his second budget address to the General Assembly next week, Gov. Josh Shapiro is continuing what he has called his “Get Stuff Done” travels around the Keystone State.

In the Lehigh Valley on Tuesday and at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University today, Shapiro and state Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger stressed the Shapiro administration’s 10-year statewide economic development strategy, which a spokesman for the governor said was the commonwealth’s first such strategy in nearly two decades.

Since day one, Shapiro and Siger said in Bethlehem, the administration has been working aggressively to make Pennsylvania a leader in innovation and economic development, and create economic opportunity for all Pennsylvanians, with a strategy meant to capitalize on the commonwealth’s strengths and reignite its economy.

Shapiro said it “brings together our private and public sectors, our highly skilled workers, and our world-class universities. We’re ready to work together to grow our economy, create jobs, foster innovation and economic opportunity, and build vibrant communities.”

They also talked of the state’s “strong foundation for the new economic development strategy,” including proximity to major U.S. markets, relative low cost of doing business, more than 23 Fortune 500 companies and over 1 million small businesses in the state; 190,000 skilled graduates produced by Pennsylvania colleges and universities every year; and a “diverse, talented workforce.”

“As the Indiana County economy continues to transition from a predominant natural resource economy within the energy sector led by coal and natural gas industries, further evidenced with the closure of the Homer City Generating Station, the announcement of this Statewide Economic Development Strategy is certainly timely,” said Byron G. Stauffer Jr., executive director of the Indiana County Office of Planning & Development and Indiana County Development Corporation.

Stauffer sees efforts to Shapiro’s strategy into local projects, to reinforce that Indiana County is prioritizing opportunities, working collaboratively at all levels and very optimistic of what the future may bring.

“We are in a time of new investments in our EDs and MEDs,” Stauffer said, “with Indiana University of Pennsylvania undertaking a new college of osteopathic medicine, leading a three-county regional effort in the AI and robotic sectors under the Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant to establish an Entrepreneurial Makerspace network, (and) the recent opening of Kopchick Hall on the IUP campus expanding education opportunities in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics.”

In addition, he said, there’s “an independent hospital network with Indiana Regional Medical Center addressing behavioral health issues with construction of a new state-of-the-art multi-faceted building and growing its rural residency program along with key specialties that are providing lifesaving procedures.”

Stauffer pointed to other evidence of the county’s transition, including “attraction of an anerobic digester facility (in Center Township) to support our agricultural community in support of the sustainable energy sector, attraction of a California manufacturing company into northern Indiana County, (and) supporting our manufacturing base with development of talent and access to capital.”

The ICOPD/ICDC director also pointed to “key-investments in our transportation, water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, and continued development of strategically located business park properties (which position) Indiana County to take advantage of opportunities and compete for private sector investments.”

In a joint statement, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which covers Indiana, Westmoreland, Armstrong and seven other Pittsburgh area counties, and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia commended the governor on the release of that strategy.

“We recognize and appreciate that Governor Shapiro and his administration have an enhanced focus on improving Pennsylvania’s business competitiveness and we thank them for spearheading the development of a statewide strategy that will maximize economic opportunities here in the commonwealth,” the two organizations said.

“The release of the governor’s economic development strategy is a critical milestone on the path to unlocking the growth potential of our region and state,” said Stefani Pashman, chief executive officer at the Allegheny Conference. “We applaud the governor not just for his vision for a competitive Pennsylvania, but for the consistent actions taken over the past year that have generated the positive momentum we are experiencing today. We look forward to working in partnership to realize the full potential embodied in this plan and to ensure the commonwealth is attractive to the people and employers who call it home as well as those we want to attract.”

“A 10-year strategy for economic development is necessary and exciting,” said Abby Smith, president and CEO of Team Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan public-private partnership seeking to accelerate economic growth in the state. “Pennsylvania has significant opportunities to strengthen its competitiveness, starting by getting clear about our priority sectors and the Commonwealth’s strength.”

Smith said the organization also called Team PA “will be a key partner in lifting up the priority industry sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, life sciences, AI/robotics, and energy as focus areas.”

In response to an inquiry by the Gazette, Smith said, “we also appreciate the sensitivity around regional needs and regional economies. Pennsylvania is a big state; what works in one area won’t work in others. There are shared big issues such as workforce and main street revitalization, but how progress is made, what local capacity exists, and what may be most pressing varies across the Commonwealth. This plan does a nice job of recognizing the reality that economic development is local.”