7 posts from Employment


Funds for Industry Partnerships Would Help Sustain the Pennsylvania Dream

Michelle_griffin_youngby Michelle Griffin Young, Executive Vice President, Government & External Relations, The Chamber 

The PA Department of Labor & Industry and leading regional workforce boards have been encouraging employers in key industries to come together in each region of the state into training consortia now called Industry Partnerships. These partnerships allow engaged employers to identify skill gaps, provide them with clear information on industry skill needs, and work with educators to design training to help incumbent and new workers acquire the skills needed in each business and industry.

What began as a concept focused on critical shortages in healthcare has become a national model program in a dozen states. Pennsylvania's industry partnerships have now engaged over 6,000 businesses and trained over 100,000 workers. This is what happens when the private sector works in partnership with the Commonwealth and takes a leadership role in area workforce boards.

As well as helping workers acquire skills-in-demand, Pennsylvania's Industry Partnerships have fostered 21st century career paths with portable and stackable credentials in industries such as: logistics and transportation, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, information technology and bio-medicine.

The Chamber of Commerce works hand-in-hand with the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. (LVWIB) and we have seen firsthand how this public/private partnership increases the Lehigh Valley's competitiveness. Based on extensive knowledge of employers and job opportunities in an industry sector, Industry Partnerships identify training and other services that have major positive impacts for businesses and workers--incumbent, low-income, and long-term unemployed--while also making the overall education and training system more effective. Since 2005, LVWIB has received over $5 million in IP funds from the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry, providing resources to train over 10,000 workers and involving more than 300 employers.

Revenue reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue indicate that the Commonwealth is receiving revenue which exceeds previous projections. This additional state income will enable the Governor and the General Assembly to increase spending on some very important programs that have either been reduced or eliminated in the 2012-2013 General Fund Budget. As we discuss prioritizing programs that are deserving of additional funding, The Chamber's members strongly support restoration of Industry Partnership funding, which is currently in the proposed 2012-2013 budget at a 90% reduction to its 2008-09 level.

For fiscal year 2011-2012, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. received two Industry Partnership grants: $95,000 for Healthcare and $95,000 for Diversified Manufacturing for incumbent worker training targeted towards high priority occupations. LVWIB had requested funding for Energy, Logistics and Transportation, and Food and Beverage, but, unfortunately, did not receive separate funding for these industries. However, since LVWIB always looks for solutions for employers, L&T and Food/Beverage employers were folded into the Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership. LVWIB staff also worked with neighboring Workforce Investment Boards to identify potential resources for energy-related employers.

In his Budget Overview, Governor Corbett described a comprehensive workforce strategy that includes "Employer-Driven Training Initiatives" and highlights the importance of the Industry Partnership program as key to achieving "Performance-Based Training." To accomplish the goal of a workforce strategy that integrates a comprehensive job-matching system, employer-driven training and economic development focused on Pennsylvania's greatest resource - our workers - Industry Partnerships must be a cornerstone of that process.

Our legislators have a great opportunity to help workers develop the skills that local companies need to create solid and stable employment opportunities. An injection of funds for Industry Partnerships will help Pennsylvania maintain its leadership and, more importantly, help sustain the Pennsylvania Dream for decades.


Region's Choice: Reap the Beneļ¬ts or Bear the Burden?


By Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown

"A rising tide lifts all boats." This was spoken by John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech at the dedication of a dam in Heber Springs, Arkansas.  He explained that the Greers Ferry project, and others like it, were investments not only in Arkansas, but in the nation's future.   After the dam was built and the lake filled, tourism boomed, businesses opened, and Greers Ferry Lake became one of Arkansas' leading destinations creating a broad economic impact in that region for decades to follow.

I tell this story because as was the case in 1963, I feel that we in the Lehigh Valley are at a similar turning point in the development of our region. 

Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ), provides a tremendous opportunity for the entire Lehigh Valley.  Some see this legislation in a positive light, others in a negative.  Some Lehigh Valley municipalities are concerned about the effects of this new program. While we are trying to attend to those concerns quickly and fairly, I don't want us to lose sight of the big picture.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has given the Lehigh Valley a chance to reinvigorate our largest urban core.  As a region, we can either reap the benefits of this opportunity to renew Allentown or we can bear the burden of squandering it.

Will everyone reap the benefits?  My answer is yes, because Allentown's success is critical to the entire region. It is estimated that over 55,000 people work in the city every day and more than ONE BILLION dollars of annual earned income is generated by individuals who work in Allentown and live elsewhere. Allentown is an economic driver for our regional economy. If Allentown prospers, the entire region prospers, if it declines, the region will decline and our economy will stagnate.   

Allentown officials have presented a plan ensuring that our surrounding municipalities and school districts will not lose their current Earned Income Tax (EIT) from their residents working within the NIZ area. The City's latest proposal not only addresses concerns about current tax income but also shares the city's success with the surrounding municipalities and school districts. The City will develop a Baseline Payment Fund to assure that every taxing body in the region receives its current EIT payments for the life of the NIZ. 

In addition, to make sure the surrounding municipalities share in the upside of future development projects within the zone, all NIZ developers of commercial office projects will be charged $1 per square foot for occupied office space created in the zone. This fee will be assessed on a yearly basis to create a Regional Development Fund. That fund will share revenue with municipalities and school districts annually (much like the casino-revenue-sharing arrangement in Northampton County) and will be distributed according to the percentage of each municipality's residents working within the NIZ area. The creation of this fund will also help address the concern that there would be an unusual movement of office tenants from neighboring communities. It will apply to all of the municipalities, regardless of their position in or outside of any lawsuit.

Finally, let us remember the main intent of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is to generate new economic development and increase regional employment opportunities.  It is estimated that the arena project alone will create more than 1750 construction jobs and 240 permanent jobs upon completion. Kevin Lott, a construction worker from Hellertown representing 470 Lehigh Valley carpenters, told the Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners last week: "It's been three years that have been very, very difficult. We really need this work...I have guys losing their homes. It destroys families." The NIZ offers a tremendous opportunity to help reverse this trend.  If we as a region can collaborate and strike a mutually beneficial agreement, we can get down to the business of offering thousands of desperately needed construction jobs to the Valley's unemployed workers.

Beyond job creation, there are other economic benefits to the Valley if this project succeeds: new commerce, increased tourism, and the ability to attract educated workers as well as new companies to the area.  An 8,500 seat multi-purpose arena will improve the quality of life in the region by increasing our options for leisure activities, our pride in the Lehigh Valley and, ultimately all of our property values.

Will the city's offer of collaboration to share in the benefits of the NIZ be accepted or will the redevelopment of Allentown be delayed indefinitely and the benefits of the NIZ wasted?  No one wins if no one is talking. If Allentown declines, many of the downtown jobs held by non-City residents will cease to exist.

If this region is to succeed, we must come together, pursue our common interests, and invoke the necessary changes that will benefit us now and for generations to come.

The Valley's tide has come in, let us not cling to the shore and miss our opportunity to rise to greater heights as a region.


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.



Time for Action on Jobs

Robert_p_casey_jr By U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee

Friday, we learned that the economy added 117,000 jobs in July.  Better than many forecasters predicted, but not enough to bring down the national unemployment rate below 9 percent.  Unfortunately, the modest job growth is consistent with the GDP data released at the end of July, which showed the economy grew at an annual rate of less than one percent during the first half of 2011.
The recovery has slowed and we need to ensure it regains momentum. It's critical that we focus on jump-starting job creation and reducing the unemployment rate.  Nearly 14 million Americans, including 479,000 in Pennsylvania, remain out of work and more than six million of these workers have been jobless for six months or more.
As Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, I held a hearing on Friday to better understand our country's employment challenges.  We heard from Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall, who oversees the federal government's jobs data.  
Although Congress is not in session, I thought it was important to go ahead with this hearing because job creation is such a critical issue for Pennsylvanians.   I'm optimistic that Friday's hearing helped shine a spotlight on the need for additional action to bolster our economy.
It's imperative that we move quickly to enact common-sense measures to create jobs. I have four proposals that can help move us forward.  While none of them is a panacea, each of them would strengthen our economy and boost job creation.   
1) Provide new incentives for small firms to hire.  My Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit Act creates a one-year quarterly tax credit equal to 20 percent of the total increase in employee wages.  Firms can benefit from the credit by increasing their hiring, increasing the hours of employees, or increasing employee wages.  
2) Encourage small and medium-sized businesses to invest in life sciences R&D through the bipartisan Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act -- which I introduced last month -- that doubles the R&D tax credit on the first $150 million of R&D in life sciences.
3) Make the R&D Tax Credit permanent to give companies the certainty they need to make long-term research investments in the United States. 
4) Strengthen U.S. manufacturing by creating a national manufacturing strategy that supports manufacturing companies and workers in our country and cracks down on China's currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices.
The labor market is recovering.  After all, we've recorded 17 consecutive months of private-sector job gains.  But, the recovery isn't happening as fast as we would like and it has yet to touch millions of Americans. 
People in our state and across the country are hurting -- struggling to get back to work, put food on the table, pay the mortgage or just make ends meet.  I hear the stress in the voices of people I talk with and see it in the letters I receive from folks across the Commonwealth.  We need to help people get back on their feet.  And to do that, we need to get back to work on creating private sector jobs and strengthening the economy.


Jobs are the Answer

Senator_Lisa_Boscola by State Senator Lisa Boscola

The simple answer to solving what ails our struggling economy, stagnant tax base, sluggish housing market, worsening crime problem, and so many other social and financial ills -- is jobs.
In the words of Ryan Boyer, business manager for the Philadelphia Laborers District Council, who took part in my recent Senate Democratic Policy Committee roundtable discussion in Philadelphia, "The best social program is a job."
For Senate Democrats, our top priority this year is to strengthen our economy and help create jobs -- without hiking taxes.
To that end, we have introduced the six-point "PA Works" plan. Our legislative package would create more than 28,000 jobs while actually saving state taxpayer dollars. By leveraging $2 billion in private investment, our plan would help put people to work, cut business taxes, help small businesses be more competitive, rebuild the state's aging infrastructure, foster the growth of promising new clean and green energy industries and retool worker training programs.
In the weeks and months ahead, my committee will be holding hearings throughout the state to gather local input on our plan. We want to hear from employers, workers, labor leaders, government officials and taxpayers to help us hone our legislation, pinpoint what will work, what won't and what we can improve.
Our first hearing was held recently in Philadelphia and focused on job training. I was impressed by the comments and ideas panelists openly discussed with my fellow Democrats and me. 
Labor, government and job training experts discussed consolidating and streamlining job training programs, simplifying contract processes and placing more emphasis on finding work opportunities for workers who are disabled, uneducated or under-educated. Others weighed in on the need to coordinate training programs more closely with employers, tie economic development incentives with the hiring of Pennsylvania workers and provide tax incentives for high paying manufacturing businesses willing to relocate to Pennsylvania.
It was a good healthy discussion and can only strengthen what we hope to accomplish with limited resources.
In my view, creating jobs should be at the top of the priority list in Harrisburg and Washington. If you get people back to work, nearly all of the "other" problems we face will dissipate.
My late father, a former Bethlehem steelworker, taught me the value of hard work. To him, a job was one's prime source of dignity, a means to support one's family, and the foundation for building a future for one's children. 
Jobs put money into people's pockets, customers into local shops, provide a positive and constructive influence on young people, and produce the kind of revenue that enables government leaders to provide important services without raising taxes.
In these difficult economic times, it is imperative that we do all we can help good people obtain the training and opportunities they need to find meaningful work.



Toomey's Take: Creating Jobs in Pennsylvania is a Priority

By Pat Toomey
US_Senator_Pat_Toomey Over the past week I have had the chance to travel across the commonwealth to meet with Pennsylvania small business owners and listen to their concerns about running their businesses and creating new jobs in the state.
From Erie to Bucks County to Harrisburg to West Chester, these hard-working entrepreneurs have shared their personal stories and challenges with me. The types of businesses are all different and the details of their stories are unique, but the resounding message is the same: The burdens of overzealous government mandates and regulations are making it difficult for companies to expand and hire new workers. In some cases, it is making it nearly impossible for people to keep their businesses going at all.
In Erie, I toured the Smith Provision Company's hot dog and sausage factory and learned about all the hard work that goes into producing the delicious hot dogs, sausages and award-winning hams Pennsylvanians love to eat. In Meadville, I toured the Tech Tool & Mold plant, a family business employing more than 100 Pennsylvanians and on the verge of expanding. In Bucks County, I met with doctors and administrators from St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, a major employer in southeast Pennsylvania. In Venango Country and Harrisburg, I had the opportunity to speak with small business owners at local jobs roundtable events where they voiced their concerns and thoughts. In Chester County, I spoke with a major medical device manufacturer about the burdens imposed on them by the new health care legislation.
Some of the most burdensome regulations have gotten a lot of attention. For example, the 2.3 percent medical device tax  in the president's health care law will be applied to total sales--not profits. Many of our most promising medical device manufacturers are young, small businesses with great promise but, so far, little or no profits.  Hitting them with a big new tax will threaten the viability of some of these companies and definitely result in fewer jobs throughout the industry. Today, these companies and their suppliers employ more than 100,000 people in Pennsylvania with the potential to grow significantly. Not only does this tax penalize those researching and developing potential life-saving technologies, it threatens existing and future high-paying manufacturing jobs. That is why I have co-sponsored two pieces of legislation to repeal this onerous tax.
In other cases, obscure regulations and bureaucratic red tape are hurting our small businesses. One company told me how the research and development tax credit intended to help businesses expense new equipment purchases is actually costing them time and money just to qualify through the Internal Revenue Service. A 100-year-old company in central Pennsylvania told me about new Environmental Protection Agency regulations that could force it to replace its boiler at a time when the company cannot afford it. A factory president told me that federal regulators can be very unresponsive in approving food product labels, throwing their entire production schedule off.    
These are just a few examples of the types of challenges Pennsylvania businesses face on a daily basis. Often, federal bureaucrats don't understand and have no knowledge of what it takes to run a hot dog factory in Erie or a hospital in Bucks County. Their top-down mentality makes it impossible for them to anticipate the kind of unintended consequences their mandates and regulations impose on struggling businesses.
Over the past two years, Washington leaders told us that the best way to create jobs was to borrow and spend money at unprecedented levels. But now, we have record-breaking deficits and debt, and still a frail economic recovery at best. Clearly, we need to try a different approach.
As a former small business owner who ran several food establishments with my brothers in the Lehigh Valley and Lancaster, I know firsthand the amount of hard work, effort and risk that goes into starting one's own business and keeping it running. I have also seen how bad government policies can make it difficult, if not impossible, for these small businesses to thrive.
There are a lot of things the government can do to encourage risk taking, entrepreneurship and job creation, but the worst thing it can do is enact policies that actually discourage new jobs.
One of my top priorities is to make sure we have the right government policies to encourage job creation. Pennsylvania has some the hardest working, most innovative and most productive workers in the country. We are leaders in many industries from manufacturing to medical technology, to energy production, and I know that we can be at the forefront of a booming economic recovery if the government lets us.