Pennsylvania: Keeping Up with the Digital Age

22 Nov, 2016

By Lori Culpepper

Pennsylvania includes four of the top 50 educational institutions in the United States. This means the state’s workforce pipeline is constantly filled with employees who are critical thinkers, problem solvers, communicators and innovators.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, in one year, nearly 300 of Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities add highly skilled graduates to a labor force of more than 6.5 million.

Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions offer technical classes in advanced manufacturing, aviation and other skilled occupations. The state is home to the nation’s No. 1 business school, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and the No. 1 Top 10 Law School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s WEDnetPA Training Program enables employers to determine their own training needs and select partners from a variety of training providers. The funding provided by the program can be used for a wide range of training, including essential skills training or advanced technology training. More than 17,800 businesses have been assisted, and more than 1,027,000 employees have been trained so far through the program.

Recently, Pennsylvania has invested in its intermodal infrastructure. The State Transportation Commission, building on the Act 89 transportation plan, has updated Pennsylvania’s 12-Year Transportation Program transportation improvements, and anticipates having $61.9 billion available over the next 12 years for improvements to roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and railroads.

Pennsylvania is home to 65 operating railroads and ranks fifth in the nation in total track mileage with more than 5,600 miles. Nearly 170 million tons of freight are transported on the state’s rails annually.

The state also has a robust port system that is composed of the Ports of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie. The state ranks 9th in the country for volume of goods moved through its ports with more than 100 million tons of goods. The three ports provide an economic benefit of nearly $50 billion to Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the country, with production up more than 2,400 percent between 2005 and 2014.

Since the traditional steel plants of Pennsylvania have gone digital, and many companies are now focused on products like medical devices, organic foods, nanomaterials and fabricated metal, Pennsylvania has applied its workforce’s skilled approach to establish infrastructure and in-state resources to keep up with today’s modern manufacturing.

Agribusiness continues to be a leading economic driver of Pennsylvania’s economy, which is home to industries such as lumber, paper, dairy, produce, livestock, food manufacturing, hardwoods and beverages. The total manufactured food output in 2015 was $38.4 billion, and Pennsylvania produces more than one-tenth of the nation’s hardwoods.

Aviation is another large part of the state’s economy, and it’s poised to grow even more after the elimination of the six percent sales and use tax on parts and services for fixed-wing aircraft. Sourcing maintenance, overhauls and repairs can now be performed tax-free in the state with access to six of the 10 largest markets in the U.S., six international airports and a strategic location in the Northeast U.S. corridor.

Penn’s Northeast (Pittston, PA)

By Rachel Hamilton

Penn’s Northeast is made up of five counties and the community of Berwick along the corridor of Interstates 80 and 81. “About 80 percent of the nation’s buying power is within [about] a day’s drive,” says John L. Augustine, III, president and CEO of Penn’s Northeast.

“Our location and the historic work ethic of our people make us a great opportunity for folks who are looking to service the east coast,” Augustine says. There are more than fifteen institutions of higher learning within a 60-mile radius, providing a “large student population ready and able to be trained.” The area offers a labor force of approximately 500,000 people.

Existing industry clusters include plastics, metal fabrication, distribution, health care and high tech. “We have a series of six incubators in the region to help small businesses,” Augustine says, citing business assistance in 3D printing, food processing, “higher-end” manufacturing and technology.

The area is also a strong food processing center, according to Augustine. Distribution and logistics are growing in the area. The City of Scranton is roughly two hours from Philadelphia or New York City, and offers “a lower cost alternative to those cities,” Augustine says, citing the lower taxes, property and utilities costs of his area.

The expansion of the Panama Canal allows larger oceanic shipping into New York or Philadelphia. “We will be a beneficiary of that process as the global economy continues to grow,” says Augustine.

The area is increasing in international investment. “Our largest increase of leads is from international markets,” Augustine says, describing a trend toward “on-shoring” from both foreign and American companies. They are looking at bringing jobs into or back into the United States.

Pocono Mountains

Penn’s Northeast includes Monroe County, home to the Pocono Mountains. “Our GDP increased by 3.5 percent last year,” says Chuck Leonard, executive director of the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corp. Most of the growth is in nondurable manufacturing; some is in tourism and logistics.

In 2015 the area added approximately 300 manufacturing jobs and nearly 1,600 hospitality jobs; tourism being one of the first sectors to rebound in the county after the recession, according to Leonard.

Healthcare is also growing. “We’re seeing double digit increases in healthcare expenditures and building,” says Leonard. “We’ve also seen some rebound in construction.”

“Proximity to the marketplace is really our key sales point,” he adds, noting that the county seat, Stroudsburg, is about 90 minutes from New York or Philadelphia.

Many smaller manufactures “have come here to access major metro areas,” Leonard says. “We have a highway system that can get you there.” The county also offers access to four competing national rail carriers.

The two largest employers are Tobyhanna Army Depot and Sanofi Pasteur. Tobyhanna employs approximately 3,900 people who manufacture “most of the communications systems for all branches of the military,” and Sanofi Pasteur manufactures vaccines, employing at least 2,600, Leonard says.

Many of the area’s plastics manufacturers, such as four companies manufacturing colorants, are, according to Leonard, suppliers for the New Jersey plastics industry.

Advanced manufacturing is also a large sector, Leonard notes, citing examples such as Summit Aerospace’s classified products, MegaPhase’s electronic transmission cables and Weiler Corporation’s industrial brushes.

The area has seen 23 new manufacturers in the last 15 years, Leonard says, noting that “at least six” came from out of state. Those companies, “moved here to take advantage of the beautiful area and quality workforce.”

Adams County

The county seat of Adams County in Pennsylvania is Gettysburg, and the two big industries of the rural county are agriculture and historic tourism, according to Robin Fitzpatrick, president of the Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC).

Gettysburg Station is a roughly two-acre property in downtown Gettysburg that had previously been blighted. Now, the rail-accessible site is pad-ready and located within a Historically Under-Utilized Business (HUB) Zone, says Kaycee Kemper, vice president of the ACEDC.

Adams Commerce Center offers access to Highways 15 and 30, an industrial rail line and a regional airport, according to Kemper. The park has about 20 acres left, and already contains Pella Doors and Windows, Battlefield Harley Davidson and Wellspan Health’s Gettysburg Cancer Center.

One branch of the Harrisburg Area Community College is in Adams County. “With the campuses in each of the counties, they try to focus on what’s going on in that county and meet the needs of specific industries there,” Fitzpatrick says. That includes a program in mechatronics.

To help bring job seekers to employers, Adams County has co-located its Career Link with the ACEDC. The ACEDC is positioned to know of job openings early on and will put job seekers together with employers quickly.

The county has also attracted some biomedicine, due to their workforce and location, according to Kemper. The county is within an hour of Baltimore, and under two hours from Philadelphia. “You can reach a third of the nation’s population within a day’s drive of Adams County,” Kemper adds.

Tourism in Adams County offers places of historical note, and increasingly offers agro-tourism, including the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail. “There’s so much ag around here everybody’s trying to figure out the added value that they can bring,” Fitzpatrick says.

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