On August 18, 2023, the Office of Senator Casey hosted an in-person convening with officials from various federal and state agencies to discuss the unprecedented wave of incentives for investing in America created by the Inflation Reduction Act. You can find a recording of the event as well as resources that were provided to attendees on this page.
Speaker and Panelist Biographies
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
Thomas J. Vilsack was confirmed as the 32nd United States Secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 23, 2021 by the U.S. Senate. He was nominated by President Joe Biden to return to a role where he served for eight years under President Barack Obama.
Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is building back better by restoring the American economy, strengthening rural and historically underserved communities, responding to threats of climate change, creating good-paying jobs for American workers and the next generation of agricultural leaders, and investing in our kids and our families.
Secretary Vilsack is spearheading a transformation of the food system by creating more, better, and fairer markets and ensuring that the food system of today and the future is more resilient and more competitive globally. It will also offer consumers affordable, nutritious food grown closer to home.
From excessive drought to more extreme fires, our producers, farmers and ranchers are on the frontlines confronting the challenges associated with climate change. USDA is engaging the agriculture and forestry sectors in voluntary, incentive-based climate solutions to improve the resiliency of producers and to build wealth that stays in rural communities. Additionally, USDA is advancing investments in science and research to offer producers a toolbox to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Secretary Vilsack is also focused on ensuring Americans have consistent access to safe, healthy, and affordable food. USDA is investing in bold solutions that enhance food safety, improve the various far-reaching and powerful nutrition programs in the Department, and reduce food and nutrition insecurity in America.
Vilsack was the longest-serving member of President Obama’s original Cabinet. Prior to his appointment, he served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, served in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Prior to returning to USDA, he served as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) from 2017 until February 2021. There, he provided strategic leadership and oversight of USDEC's global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. In addition to his post at USDEC, he also served as a Strategic Advisor to Colorado State University’s food and water initiatives.
A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Vilsack was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. After graduating from law school, Vilsack moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, his wife Christie’s hometown, where he practiced law. The Vilsacks have two adult sons and two daughters-in-law—Doug, married to Janet; and Jess, married to Kate. They have six grandchildren.
Albert “Chip” Abramovic
Commissioner Chip Abramovic is serving his second term as Venango County Commissioner and is current President of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. He also serves as a National Association of Counties Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Member, Special Advisor to Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, board member Northwest Workforce Development, Board Chair PA Rural Robotics/Innovation Institute for Tomorrow, Board of Fellows Member University of Pittsburgh Institute of Fellows, and he is a Past Chair of Northwest Commission regional economic development. Commissioner Abramovic is heavily engaged in the growth of business and education, especially in closing the gap between the rural and urban divide.
David Althoff Jr.
David Althoff Jr. is the Director of Energy Programs Office at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). DEP’s Energy Programs Office is involved in supporting, designing, and implementing energy-focused programs to encourage the development and deployment of energy efficiency, energy resiliency and alternative energy projects in Pennsylvania. David along with his staff have spent the last several years developing forward-looking plans centered on positioning Pennsylvania to take advantage of the clean energy economy. Recent products include: A 2021 Climate Action Plan and Climate Impacts Assessment for Pennsylvania, A 2023-2025 Clean Energy Program Plan for Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s Solar Future Plan, Pennsylvania’s Electric Vehicle Roadmap, a Pennsylvania Food Waste to Energy Assessment and an Energy Storage Assessment for Pennsylvania. During his career with DEP, David has led the development and deployment of $125 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Stimulus funds, the $100 million Pennsylvania Sunshine Program, and the Green Energy Revolving Loan Fund. Dave has also served as the Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority and has served an integral role in establishing PEDA as Pennsylvania’s Green Bank.
John S. Brenner currently serves as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Municipal League. The League is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves Pennsylvania’s cities and urban municipalities. Before his career at The League, John was elected the youngest mayor of the City of York on November 6, 2001. Prior to becoming Mayor, John served as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, a statewide nonprofit group charged with educating elected officials and the public about fire and life safety issues.
John holds a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Political Science from Lebanon Valley College. He serves as an Adjunct Economics Professor at York College. In December 2008, John received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from York College of Pennsylvania. He is a native of Mt. Wolf, and a graduate of Northeastern High School. He, his wife Adrienne, their son Sam and daughter Tipton, reside in the City of York.
Jeremiah Baumann is Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Infrastructure and Director of Policy & Implementation in the Office of the Under Secretary. He was previously the DOE Deputy Chief of Staff. Prior to DOE, he was Director of Federal Policy at Energy Innovation, where he worked to build an equitable and just clean energy economy. He previously led efforts focused on state clean energy policies at Bloomberg Philanthropies and served as Legislative Director for Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), where he supported the Senator on the creation of the Rural Energy Savings Program and worked with Oregon and California tribes, farmers, and ranchers on water and energy management in the Klamath River Basin.
Christopher Casper is currently serving as the economic development representative for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Christopher Casper is an accomplished professional with a diverse and impactful career spanning multiple fields. Christopher has successfully orchestrated grant awards for economic development investment projects. With an ability to analyze and communicate recommendations on complex economic policies, Christopher has deftly coordinated economic, emergency, and disaster grants, ensuring compliance with EDA guidelines. His role also involves forging and maintaining partnerships with local, county, and state governments, as well as institutions of learning, which has facilitated the alignment of investment proposals with funding priorities.
Torend L. Collins serves as Senior Advisor for Infrastructure Strategy at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Prior to this role, Collins served as a Program Coordinator in the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Florida office, synthesizing issue research and performing policy analysis to advance EDF’s clean energy agenda and strategic communications across the state. Previously, she worked as an Environmental Coordinator with the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District implementing programs and initiatives focused on improving air quality in Louisville.
Collins earned a Bachelor of the Arts in Political Science from Spelman College and a Juris Doctor and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.
Neil Fowler serves as Governor Shapiro’s Alternate to the Appalachian Regional Commission. Priorities include identifying federal investments in business and workforce development, critical infrastructure, natural/cultural assets, and community capacity. He also serves as Executive Director of DCED’s Center for Strategic Partnerships. The Center oversees the Commonwealth’s Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance initiative which promotes collaboration among Pennsylvania’s network of economic development service providers that deliver technical assistance to new and existing business owners. The Center is also responsible for Engage!, the state’s Business Retention & Expansion effort as well as the Manufacturing PA – Industrial Resource Center initiative.
Carla Frisch is the Acting Executive Director and Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Policy; she has served in this capacity since February 2021. As the leader of the DOE Office of Policy, Frisch is on point for domestic energy and climate policy. She works closely with the White House and Capitol Hill. She previously led the U.S. Program at RMI, focusing on state, city, and business climate action. Before joining RMI, Frisch worked at DOE for ten years directing policy and analysis offices focused on climate and environment, energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean transportation, and electricity systems. Frisch has worked extensively on climate vulnerabilities and solutions, including on the National Climate Assessment and U.S. Midcentury Strategy. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University and a B.A. from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University.
Jack Groarke is a senior policy and management professional with more than a decade of extensive experience in public policy and government decision making. Currently serving as Senior Advisor for Infrastructure at EPA, Jack focuses on BIL and IRA implementation in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to EPA, Jack served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Jack also served in several senior roles for Senator Bob Casey. As a senior staffer for Governor Wolf and Senator Bob Casey, Jack has been involved with every aspect of state and federal government programs, policies, and budgets.
Tim Knoepke serves as a Program Analyst in the Business and Workforce Investment Division of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), with a focus on workforce development, education, and cultural heritage programs. The ARC is an independent agency that was created by an act of Congress in 1965 to improve the economic landscape of Appalachia. Its primary function is to provide the framework necessary to support federal, state, and local efforts in creating a competitive economy, thereby raising the standards of living, quality of life, and earning potential for residents of Appalachia.
Bob Morgan’s 25-year career spans from bank teller in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to current State Director of USDA Rural Development. A native of Mountain Top, Luzerne County, Pa., Morgan has proven experience in the investment, insurance and banking sectors assisting fellow Pennsylvanians in making decisions that impact and improve lives. He also worked for 8 years as Deputy Chief of Staff and District Director for Congressman Matthew A. Cartwright (PA-08) working with community leaders on several major economic development initiatives designed to enhance the communities of the Northeastern corner of the state.
As State Director, he will use his leadership experience to oversee Rural Development programs to provide greater economic opportunities throughout the Commonwealth. As a lifelong Pennsylvanian and a resident of a rural community, he is committed to extending greater access to programs designed to upgrade the economic engine driving investment in our rural communities.
Larry Shifflet is Deputy Secretary for Planning at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. He is a 1991 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. Larry has also attained his Master of Business Administration from Lebanon Valley College. During his 31 plus years with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Larry has worked in the Office of Planning in various roles. In his role as Deputy Secretary, Larry is responsible for collaborating with communities and transportation stakeholders to plan transportation projects that balance community needs with regional and statewide travel demand and available funding resources.
Clare Sierawski is the Energy Counselor for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She is a clean energy and climate change policy expert and has spent the last 15 years working as a public servant in a variety of capacities, including most recently at the White House where she was the Special Assistant to the President for Climate Change Finance. She currently works to administer roughly $13 billion in funding for clean energy from the Inflation Reduction Act to benefit rural communities. Previous to that, she spent over five years working on clean energy development and deployment with governments and developers across West Africa based in Ghana, and before that she was the Chief of Staff for the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State where she managed the development of U.S. international climate policy and was instrumental in the Paris and the U.S.-China climate change agreements. Clare holds a Master in Public Affairs from Princeton University and is a proud alumni of the University of Pittsburgh.
Adam is Senior Energy Advisor for the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Office of Energy. Adam works across public, private, and non-profit sectors to bring energy-related economic development opportunities to the commonwealth. Previously, he was a William Penn Fellow with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development where he supported the agency’s goals of developing business investment and recruitment strategies for the commonwealth in the energy sector. Adam earned his Master of Public Administration from Penn State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations.
Resources by Agency
- Introduction to ARC
- Map of Local Development District Network of Pennsylvania
- County Economic Status in Appalachia, Fiscal Year 2024
- Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) Brief
- Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative Brief
- Investments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative Brief
- Agricultural Marketing Service Grant Opportunities
- Farm Loans Overview
- Healthy Food Financing Initiative Overview
- Local Meat Capacity Grant (Local MCAP) Overview
- Natural Resources Conservation Service and Urban Agriculture Overview
- Rural Business Development Grants
- Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program Overview
- USDA Supply Chain Infographic
- USDA Rural Development Electric Programs Slides