Gov. Tom Wolf Shares Economic Development Plans During Lehigh Valley Visit (VIDEO)

By Colin McEvoy on February 25, 2015

Citing the impressive economic revitalization the Lehigh Valley has achieved in recent years, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf chose the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem as his venue to announce details about his community and economic development agenda, in advance of his upcoming budget announcement.

The governor’s appearance, his first in the Lehigh Valley since his inauguration, was hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) and the Lehigh Valley Partnership.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaking at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaking at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem. (Photo by Diane Richter Photography)

With the towering stacks of the former Bethlehem Steel behind him, Wolf announced his 2015-16 budget proposal will include significant reforms, including the halving of the corporate net income tax, millions in tax credits for the state’s manufacturing sector, and increased funding for workforce partnership programs aimed at growing local talent and employment skills.

“We need to rebuild the middle class, and we can do that by creating good jobs right here in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “For too long, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hasn’t been a place where businesses want to come, invest and grow. Country-leading high corporate tax rates have slowed existing businesses from expanding and entrepreneurs from growing new ideas here.”

Wolf expressed admiration for the economic strides the Lehigh Valley has been making, calling the community-oriented approach one that should be emulated throughout Pennsylvania.

“I really have a great appreciation for what’s going on here in the Lehigh Valley,” Wolf said. “You’re not only producing economic development, but you’re doing it in a way that’s revitalizing this community. That’s really important not just for the Lehigh Valley, but it’s really important for Pennsylvania. We need to find a way to do that across the state.”

Wolf was introduced by Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez, Greg Butz of the Lehigh Valley Partnership, and Tom Garrity, chairman of the LVEDC board of directors.

“Throughout the course of the campaign, Gov. Wolf made very clear his commitment to a strategic focus on making Pennsylvania an engine for economic development and a magnet for private sector entrepreneurs who will create good, high-paying jobs and grow the state’s middle class,” Garrity said. “We stand fully behind our new governor in his mission to establish Pennsylvania as the nation’s keystone for economic growth.”

Butz added, “Economic success stories like ours don’t happen by accident. They are the result of a regional approach to economic development, and a regional approach depends on a strong and prosperous partnership between the Commonwealth and organizations like Lehigh Valley Partnership and LVEDC.”

Wolf announced his budget proposal will include reforms aimed at three goals for economic development and job creation. They include creating a pro-growth business climate, building Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector, and creating workforce partnerships for economic success.

“Pennsylvania has a jobs deficit, and we’ve got a lot of things we have to work on,” Wolf said. “… I don’t want to be a part of the first generation of Pennsylvanians who have to tell their kids they have to go somewhere else to succeed.”

Wolf’s plan would reduce the state’s corporate net income tax from 9.99 percent to 4.99 percent within two years, bringing it from the nation’s second-highest to fourth-lowest.  He also intends to eliminate the capital stock and franchise tax altogether, and to level the playing field for businesses by eliminating loopholes for multi-state companies through combined reporting practices.

“Pennsylvania’s economic prosperity has long been hobbled by a long outdated tax structure that fails to incentivize job growth,” Wolf said. “My sweeping tax relief package achieves economic growth and improves the fairness of the Commonwealth’s tax structure.”

Regarding Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector, Wolf plans to establish a “Made in Pennsylvania Job Creation Program” by budgeting $5 million for tax credits, which will be distributed to manufacturing companies that are creating good-paying, middle-class jobs.

Wolf also intends to provide $5 million to the state’s Industrial Resource Centers to leverage the talents of state research universities to advance manufacturing technology and commercialization.

Arguing that Pennsylvania’s educational and job training systems are too often disconnected from the state’s economy, Wolf said his budget will increase funding programs that help Pennsylvanians gain targeted skills necessary to compete, including Industry Partnerships and the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania (WEDnetPA).

Funding will also be increased for specialized technical education and public post-secondary programs, job-linked literacy programs, and vocational rehabilitation programs. These programs will build employment skills, help people with disabilities, and deliver talent to Pennsylvania employers demand, Wolf said.

“Too often, the people who come here and learn new skills in Pennsylvania’s, institutions of higher education go (to other states),” Wolf said. “We’ve imported raw talent, exported skills and sent people off to use the things they learn here in Pennsylvania somewhere else. I want to change that. I’d like to keep people here (and) apply those new skills and talents they’ve learned here in Pennsylvania to create good jobs and a strong economy.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to Visit Lehigh Valley to Discuss Economic Development

Making his first appearance in the Lehigh Valley since his inauguration, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will be visiting Bethlehem to share details about his community and econo[...]

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