November 7, 2015 By MIKE REUTHER (firstname.lastname@example.org), Williamsport Sun-Gazette
State lawmakers and business leaders seem to agree that Pennsylvania lags behind many other states in economic development.
On Friday, several members of the House Legislative Manufacturing Caucus met locally to consider ways to improve business and industry opportunities.
“It’s a great opportunity to share what’s happening in manufacturing,” said Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jason Fink. “It’s also an opportunity to share the challenges they’ve been facing.”
State Rep. Fred Keller, R-Lewisburg, was among a number of lawmakers and others who toured the Kellogg Company in Muncy in the morning. Keller said he came away impressed by the company’s emphasis on safety. “They are doing this right,” he said.
But the company faces many of the same challenges as others across the state, according to officials. They noted the need for young people to pursue training that will help them find the work where they will be needed.
State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, noted that the aging workforce locally will need to be replaced by the next generation. “For our youth there will be so many job opportunities for those that are in demand,” he said. He added that the local area is blessed to have educational institutions such as Pennsylvania College of Technology that offers curriculums that train people for such jobs.
State Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Murrysville, chairman of the Manufacturing Caucus, said economic development should include government partnering with business. “We need to have government move at the speed of business,” he said.
He lamented that traditional strategies are not always the best approach to business. High taxes are yet another hindrance to growing jobs. On the plus side, the state’s manufacturing base is well positioned with access to natural resources, good highways and proximity to major markets. “We are well-situated for a renaissance,” he said.
Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Vincent Matteo said it’s important for state officials to understand the needs of business.
“Manufacturing drives the economy and other jobs,” said James Shillenn, executive director of Innovative Manufacturers’ Center (IMC), Williamsport. “You have to be making things.” IMC is a public-private partnership dedicated to increasing Central Pennsylvania manufacturers’ innovation, productivity and profitable growth to drive economic impact.
The group later toured First Quality Tissue in McElhattan.