A conversation with. Dennis Yablonsky, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development
"The sectors that are driving growth include education and medicine, including medical research; business services; transportation and utilities; and tourism. Pennsylvania is the fourth-most visited state in the country, tied with New York State."
A. Pennsylvania's economy continues to make progress, with 168,100 jobs added statewide since Governor [Edward] Rendell took office four years ago. The total number of people employed stands at nearly 5.8 million - that's more than ever before.
The Governor's Action Team, economic development professionals who serve as a single point-of-contact for businesses considering locating or expanding in Pennsylvania, continues to report record growth: 851 projects in the past four years, 92,863 new jobs committed, and $10.2 billion of private capital invested.
The sectors that are driving growth include education and medicine, including medical research; business services; transportation and utilities; and tourism. Pennsylvania is the fourth-most visited state in the country, tied with New York State.
Q. What incentives target prospective deals?
A. We have rolled out the governor's $2.8 billion stimulus package, targeted at infrastructure and community revitalization, with $2.4 billion already committed. For example, in Pittston, in northeastern Pennsylvania, we put $10 million of site preparation money, including $7 million for water and sewer projects, into the CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Park. As a result, we have attracted a 297,600-square-foot Men's Wearhouse distribution center, merchandise storage, and dry cleaning facility that will support 217 new jobs in two years; an 87,200-square-foot FedEx Ground Package Systems facility that created 90 new jobs; and Lyon Conklin & Co., a heating and air conditioning wholesaler that will hire eight or nine new people by the end of the year.
Another stimulus program, "Building PA," includes $150 million of mezzanine construction financing, which is the riskiest and most difficult to find. This money must be matched by real estate developers. We have already committed our first $50 million for 11 projects.
Q. What other economic tools are you using to spur promising industries?
A. Specific to the film industry, this year's budget (Pennsylvania's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30) includes $75 million in film tax credits, which are based on production costs, hiring, construction, and the local supply chain.
For bioscience research, the state House of Representatives has already passed the $500 million Jonas Salk Legacy Fund. Philadelphia has the third-largest bioscience concentration in the country and the Pittsburgh area is expanding in this area as well.
Headquarters projects are also of great interest to the Governor's Action Team. In August, Westinghouse Electric Company broke ground on a headquarters and technology center in suburban Pittsburgh. This project will create 931 new jobs. Upon completion of the project, Westinghouse will have approximately 4,400 employees in western Pennsylvania.
Q. Are you encouraging foreign investment?
A. Pennsylvania's exports have grown 66 percent, from $15.8 billion in 2002 to $26.3 billion last year. In 2006, our $15 million World Trade PA program resulted in a rapid expansion of foreign direct investment and exports. We support the largest network of overseas representatives of any other state, with offices in 18 countries - Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. World Trade PA was a factor in South Korean Dental Implant Company, Osstem Co. Ltd.'s decision to bring its North American headquarters and manufacturing facility to a brownfield site in Bucks County, creating 600 jobs.
Q. What is on the agenda for upcoming legislative sessions?
A. In the fall, the General Assembly is planning to continue work on the governor's energy independence strategy, including the proposed establishment of an $850 million fund to support clean and renewable energy. The governor has called a special session that will start on September 17 to address these issues.