On Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit the U.S Army Reserve’s 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Headquarters in Coraopolis. While I was there, I met with military families and representatives from the surrounding local military units. We discussed the challenges that the spouses, children, and family members of our soldiers face every day.
Kathy Kling, PA Chapter President of Blue Star Families, shared her personal experienced of being a military spouse for the last seven years. I was extremely moved when she told the story of the pain that her 4 year old daughter felt when her husband was deployed. Even though, there are difficulties with being a military spouse, she showed her pride for her husband and his service to our country. I was truly moved by the stories and the untold heroism of these families. I know that behind every good soldier is a strong support system that deserves our honor, support, and thanks for their sacrifice.
My last stop on Tuesday was to Coudersport in Potter County, where I announced that funds for a pilot program to reduce prison recidivism that I had sponsored had passed through committee. This program, which I sponsored throughout the committee process, will find ways to reduce the numbers of repeat offenders that clog our local courts and drain our local governments of needed funds.
I also talked with Commissioners Kefover, Morley, and Heimel about their experiences with Marcellus Shale. We talked about their efforts to bring jobs to Potter and how I can help. As I have on other stops this recess, I explained the great job opportunity that Marcellus Shale presents while urging the need for appropriate safeguards.
Tuesday afternoon I stopped by Zippo Manufacturing in McKean County to hear how counterfeiting and unfair trade competition are affecting this American icon. My staff and I are working with Zippo officials to ensure that fair trade laws are followed. Doing so will ensure that Zippo stays healthy for many more decades to come.
While at Zippo, I also had the opportunity to meet the hard-working men and women on the factory floor. I conducted an informal survey, asking for a show of hands of those who had been with the company more than 10 years. I must admit, I was a little surprised when nearly everyone on the floor raised their hands. Such dedication and loyalty is something for which Zippo and its employees should be very proud. I’ll be sure to tell potential employers that this is something they can expect from a Pennsylvania workforce.
Yesterday I toured Warren’s exciting streetscape project with Mayor Phillips, City Manager Nelles, and Commissioner Eggleston. After seeing how the city has tied this project to their convention center, hotel, and other downtown developments, I was very proud to have helped secure the funds required. This funding will help advance streetscaping improvements in Warren such as new, wider, sidewalks that will accommodate café tables, a fountain in the center of town, and attractive plantings and landscaping.
My guide for the tour, Chris Cheronis, exemplified the can-do initiative that has made Warren a wonderful example of how smaller towns across our state can re-invent themselves to attract jobs and future business opportunities to our state.
Monday afternoon I visited Tionesta to meet with the Commissioners and other local representatives about The Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act and Marcellus Shale.
I explained that although Marcellus Shale has the potential to create many jobs for our state, our history shows that we must proceed properly and ensure that appropriate safety and environmental concerns are addressed. I currently have two bills that address these concerns, and will introduce a third this September.
The citizens of Tionesta also expressed how important Secure Rural School funding is to Forest County. Almost half of Forest County is covered by the Allegheny National Forest which means they have a very small amount of taxable land. This has created a challenge for Forest County, and rural school districts across the County, in generating the appropriate level of revenue to fund their schools. The Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act works to address this problem by creating county payments to offset these shortfalls. I hope to address their concerns when the act comes up for re-authorization in 2012.