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3 posts from October 2011


Allentown: Laying the Groundwork for 2012


By Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown

One of my favorite quotes is from Lyndon Johnson, "Yesterday is not ours to recover but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.

"With each passing day, I become more excited and honored to be part of this great City of Allentown. As we head toward our city's 250th anniversary, 2012 is lining up to be a fantastic year. We're a city with a proud history, a strong sense of community, a positive understanding of the present, and a very bright future. With so many areas of the world still trying to find their way, we have not only a vision but a path forward into 2012 and beyond. 

Like all great cities, Allentown is constantly reinventing itself. We remain in the early stages of this city's transformation into a city of the new millennium, a city without limits. Currently, the arts and cultural activities are the core of our downtown, anchored by the Allentown Art Museum, Symphony Hall and the new Arts Park. This year the Allentown Art Museum completed a $15 million dollar renovation creating a truly regional asset and a strong anchor for the city's downtown. The Allentown Symphony celebrated its 60th anniversary and came off its strongest season in a decade hosting more than 85,000 visitors and the city is starting an arts district streetscape project to connect the district to the broader downtown community.  

This year also ushered in the start of a new neighborhood improvement zone which allows the city to use state tax revenues to rebuild its downtown core and spur millions in economic development and activity. This new zone stretches from Allentown's center city to the Lehigh waterfront. A key project in this zone will be a new 8,500 seat arena for hockey and 10,000 for concerts (the first of its kind in the Lehigh Valley) which will be the home to the Philadelphia Phantoms AHL hockey team and the area's premier location for major concerts, sports and family events. 

The Allentown Entertainment District, Arena and Waterfront projects are just some of the many forward-looking projects the city is pursuing to transform Allentown into a "destination city." These projects are designed to bring to our community the much-needed benefits of significant new job creation and a long-term vision and anchor for economic growth and improved quality of life not just here in Allentown, but throughout the Lehigh Valley. 

We are already experiencing the fruit of our collective labors. This August, Lehigh Gas announced they chose to locate their corporate headquarters here in Downtown Allentown versus other cities, bringing 70 jobs with them and the anticipated addition of another 70 to 80 jobs.  Also, East Penn Real Estate acquired nine properties near the Arena block earlier this year, and plans to build a $60 million office center which is expected to draw hundreds of new workers to the city.   

These are exciting times for Pennsylvania's third largest city. Allentown is in the midst of major transformation and this process, like so many of this caliber and significance, is dynamic.

To keep the public informed on these exciting new developments and regional projects, we plan to meet directly with numerous organizations and individuals in the community, representing the many interests of our community -- from economic to social to environmental concerns -- to share information and gather input on the project. We will hold Open Houses, create a website and publish a series of newsletters to make it easier for folks to keep pace with our progress and our vision for the future.   We plan to continue to share information as we learn it and engage in conversations about the issues that matter to us all. 

Allentown has a proud history and great heritage. From our early roots as a small farming community to being the fastest growing city in Pennsylvania, Allentown is a city that continues to build upon its foundations to create a better tomorrow. As we celebrate our past and look to the future, I am committed to the residents, community and business owners of Allentown to continue to do everything in my power to work earnestly, toward realizing the great potential of this "City without limits."  


Senate full of spectators

Jim_gerlachBy Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District)

With about 14 million Americans still out of work and a huge number of businesses struggling to survive, many of my constituents are wondering why Washington is not acting with greater urgency to rejuvenate our economy.
I, and many of my Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, share that frustration.
The real shame is that the House has passed several bills this year to empower small businesses, reduce regulatory burdens hampering job growth, increase sources of American-produced energy and rein in reckless Washington spending only to watch the Democrat-controlled Senate refuse to act on this legislation.
Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his leadership team are spectators at a time when we when we need legislators. 
Here are just some examples of how they have stymied legislation and caused our economy to continue to sputter:
Eliminating unsustainable debt and reckless spending -- It has been nearly three years since the Senate has even attempted to pass an annual budget. The lack of a federal budget contributes to the overwhelming uncertainty, which is a huge drag on job creation and economic growth. 
Without a yearly federal budget, state and local governments have a harder time forecasting whether they will have enough money for roads, bridges and transit system repairs and upgrades. Colleges cannot decide whether to move ahead with building projects. 
In April, the House sent the Senate a serious, reform-oriented budget plan that would halt the string of $1 trillion-plus budget deficits each year that have our national debt reaching unprecedented levels. Most of the constituents I speak with understand that we cannot continue borrowing more than 40 cents of every $1 the federal government spends. We need to start being honest and demonstrate real leadership. Passing a realistic budget would be a start.
Ending unreasonable regulation -- No one disputes there are instances when it is appropriate for the federal government to serve as a referee and ensure everyone plays by the same rules. But the onslaught of overzealous regulation in recent months is crushing jobs. 
In Pennsylvania, thousands of workers in the Commonwealth's once-thriving cement industry are threatened by harsh federal regulations that give the Environmental Protection Agency unprecedented power. And public schools, colleges, hospitals and manufacturing plants that use boilers would be forced to spend up to $20 billion on costly equipment under new rules being pushed by regulators.
The House recently passed several bills aimed at forcing agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency to be more transparent and consider how their actions would impact jobs. We can protect our air and water without putting workers on the unemployment line. The Senate needs to act on the proposed Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, the proposed EPA Regulatory Relief Act, the proposed Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act, the Energy Tax Prevention Act and the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act to protect jobs and allow our businesses to remain competitive.
Maximizing American-produced energy -- All businesses need energy to light their plants and power their computers and machinery. Workers need fuel to run their cars to get to and from their jobs. The owner of a local landscape supply and power equipment repair business told me during a recent meeting that "every time gas prices go up, my business goes down." Despite gas prices topping $4 in recent years, neither the President nor the Senate has demonstrated any real commitment to practical solutions for increasing supplies of American-produced energy. 
The House has passed several bills to remove bureaucratic barriers preventing the responsible and safe exploration for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico and off our shores. Among the bills bottled up in the Senate are the proposed Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act, Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act, The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011, and North American-Made Energy Security Act. 
During these challenging times the country is demanding leadership. 
And if we want to do our part in Congress to put more Americans back to work, then the Senate must immediately get to work.



Getting Tough on China

Robert_p_casey_jr By U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

I joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce legislation that will crack down on China's currency manipulation.  This week, the Senate passed the legislation by a bipartisan margin of 63-35.  By confronting China on its currency cheating, we will create jobs in the United States. 
China has kept its currency -- the yuan -- artificially low for years to make it easier to export their products to the United States and other parts of the world.  The result is a massive and growing U.S. trade deficit with China that is costing our country millions of jobs.
Consider these facts:

  • The U.S. trade deficit with China grew from $83 billion in 2001 to $273 billion in 2010, largely because of the undervaluation of the yuan. 
  • A report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that the U.S. trade deficit with China has resulted in the loss of 2.8 million jobs over the past decade (2001-2010), including almost 107,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. 
  • EPI also found that if the yuan and satellite currencies in the region were revalued to equilibrium levels, we would create up to 2.25 million U.S. jobs. 

The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act is bipartisan legislation that will trigger actions against China and other countries if they use their currency for unfair competitive advantage.  The legislation will impose stiff new penalties, including duties on countries' exports, making it more difficult for China to export its products to the United States.  
I believe the legislation can make a big difference and will help put Americans back to work.  But the Obama Administration also needs to take on China on currency manipulation.  That's why I urged Treasury Secretary Geithner this spring to focus on the Chinese currency issue when meeting with his counterparts at global meetings and pressed the Treasury Department to identify China as a currency manipulator in its semiannual report to Congress.   
U.S. unwillingness -- so far -- to crack down on China's currency manipulation is just one piece of a flawed trade policy that has failed our workers and our companies.  NAFTA and other NAFTA-style free-trade agreements have cost the U.S. jobs and our state has borne a significant share of these job losses.   When NAFTA took effect in January 1994, more than 875,000 Pennsylvanians were employed in manufacturing.  Today, Pennsylvania's manufacturing sector employs 575,000 workers -- a loss of more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs. I have fought to ensure that workers who lose their jobs because of global trade get the training they need to build skills and find new jobs.  In September, the Senate passed legislation extending many of the improvements made to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program in 2009.   These changes expanded access to workers in the service sector and to workers whose jobs were offshored to countries -- such as China -- which do not have trade agreements with the United States.  I am pleased that this help for PA workers will now be signed into law.
The hard reality is that our country doesn't have a strategic trade policy.  It's an ad hoc approach that hasn't worked.   China has taken advantage of our lack of focus and it's clearer than ever that the United States needs a fresh approach to trade policy.  People who have seen their jobs offshored and companies who have faced unfair competition from abroad must have a seat at the table. Reshaping U.S. trade policy will take time.  But there are actions we can take right now to support our workers and companies by: cracking down on China's currency manipulation; ensuring that workers harmed by international trade get the support and training they need through TAA; and rejecting any free trade agreements that will cost American workers their jobs. 
This week, by tackling China's currency manipulation, the Senate has sent China a message that its unfair trade practices will no longer be tolerated while showing the American people that Democrats and Republicans actually can work together to create U.S. jobs.