I had the pleasure to drop by Williamsport on Monday to see some exciting developments happening there. The downtown is often the heart of a community. Many downtowns across Pennsylvania, including Williamsport’s, have faced difficult challenges over the years. But that city’s leaders are working hard to stabilize and strengthen the downtown with three projects that I had an opportunity to tour yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day in Williamsport, and I joined Williamsport Mayor Gabe Campana, Lycoming County Commissioner Ernie Larson, State Representative Rick Mirabito and other local officials on a walking tour of a four-block area in downtown.
We looked over the sites of three future revitalization projects that will include construction of a Kohl’s Department Store, relocation of a local bank, expansion of Wegman’s Market, additional parking, and expansion of the Trade and Transit building. Revitalizing a downtown is more than aesthetic – it also means retention and creation of jobs. These projects can provide a much-needed boost to the economy of the region.
This past Monday, I held an economic roundtable discussion in southeastern PA at the Community College of Philadelphia. Surrounded by leaders from labor, higher education, the business community and local advocates I was able to hear firsthand what their experiences have been in the City of Philadelphia throughout these troubling economic times. I was given feedback on confusion that still exists on accessing stimulus funds, concerns that job training efforts include green, medical, creative and high tech industries and well as traditional fields and suggestions on how to continue the work we've started once stimulus funds have been fully distributed. This roundtable was one of a series of discussions I have been holding throughout Pennsylvania to learn more about what is working and where we’re falling short in our efforts to promote job creation and economic development.
Just a few hours ago, I spoke to Keith Wandell, the CEO of Harley-Davidson, about the troubling news that Harley may consider relocating the York, PA plant. The plant employs about 2,500 highly skilled workers, who assemble the famous motorcycles. In addition to Harley being an icon Pennsylvania and throughout the world, the plant in York is a major manufacturer and economic engine for the southeastern Pennsylvania region. I told Mr. Wandell that I want to actively work with him and the employees at the York plant to keep Harley in business in PA.
Click here to read the letter that Senator Specter and I sent to Mr. Wendell yesterday.
Now that Congress has entered its April recess, I am busy traveling all over Pennsylvania. It has been a great opportunity for me to visit with Pennsylvanians in their own communities. Here’s an update on some of my travels through Pennsylvania so far:
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Johnstown: I had the opportunity to meet with Pennsylvania Highlands Community College (PHCC) President Dr. Walter Asonevich to talk about the college’s program to offer tuition-free classes for workers who have recently lost their jobs. This program, which has started at other Pennsylvania community colleges, gives workers a chance to upgrade their skills so they can compete for better jobs. I was so impressed with this program that I introduced a bill to help other community colleges start their own programs for dislocated workers. I also met with other representatives from PHCC and had a chance to talk with students currently enrolled in PHCC’s tuition assistance program.
NETL in Pittsburgh: Also during my trip to Southwestern Pennsylvania, I took a tour of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh. I learned more about NETL’s work on emerging energy technologies, including carbon capture and storage and other clean coal approaches. I am very excited that Pennsylvania is leading the way in this important area of energy research and development. Before going into recess, I was pleased that the U.S. Senate passed the amendment I introduced to help accelerate research and development of carbon capture and storage technology, and it was wonderful to see firsthand the work that NETL is doing in that area. NETL’s work puts southwestern Pennsylvania at the forefront of efforts to produce breakthroughs that will reduce carbon emission from existing coal-fired power plants and create jobs and business opportunities for a new generation of energy technology that can be sold throughout the world.
North Broad Street Project in Philadelphia: I was honored to join Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in announcing $475,000 in federal funding for the City of Philadelphia’s North Broad Street Project. This project is an investment in the economic development along the North Broad Street corridor above Philadelphia’s historic City Hall. We expect this investment to help spur new development that will generate new jobs and continue the revitalization of North Broad Street.