On Monday, March 22, I joined members and guests of the Rotary Club of Harrisburg to discuss a very important issue: jobs for Pennsylvanians. During the event, I spoke with many members and guests who are committed to energizing the economy in Central Pennsylvania. I also outlined some of the benefits that Pennsylvanians can expect to receive from the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE Act) that was passed by Congress and signed into law last week. This bill is the first in a planned series of bills targeted towards job creation and retention. As this work continues in Congress, I will continue to listen to workers, business leaders and economists on the best ways to move forward to create jobs and help our economy.
Asian carp are very large fish that can weigh up to 100 pounds and are able to eat 40 percent of their body weight each day. The carp are about five feet long and have an abundant reproduction rate. Due to their voracious appetites and quickly increasing population, the carp pose a serious threat to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes.
In the 1970s, farmers imported Asian carp to clean up algae from ponds in the Deep South. Since this time, the invasive species has migrated north. Asian carp are now at the edge of the Great Lakes. The carp were able to enter the Great Lakes territory when the electric barrier fence between Lake Michigan and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which were installed to keep the fish contained to the canal, was shut down for maintenance. Because the electric barriers were not functioning and the carp would have the opportunity to enter into the Lake Michigan area, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources used in the canal a natural fish poison called rotenone, which was to make sure that any carp that got through were exterminated before irreversible damage was done.
Protecting the Great Lakes from harmful invasive species is important. For this reason, I am a co-sponsor of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, which will protect Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes by prohibiting the importation of an invasive species and will prohibit federal agencies from promoting the introduction or spread of invasive species unless the benefits outweigh the harm. I believe that the Great Lakes are invaluable natural resources for Pennsylvania and the United States and should be protected.
Yesterday, I toured the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia International Flower Show. At the event, joined by United States Representative Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, I held a press conference on the importance of green infrastructure in urban areas and announced my plan to introduce the Green Communities Act in the Senate.
In Pennsylvania and around the country, improving the environment can lead to economic growth. For instance, a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found that the value of homes located next to a newly planted tree in Philadelphia increased by 9 percent. The value of homes located next to a cleared and greened lot increased by a whopping 30 percent. What this means is that if a home located next to an empty lot would sell for $160,000 right now, it could sell for $208,000 if the neighboring lot was turned into a park.
Research like this should not be ignored and demonstrates that economic growth and environmental restoration can be pursued simultaneously. For this reason, I introduced S. 3055, the Green Communities Act, a companion bill to Representative Allyson Schwartz’s H.R. 2222. The Green Communities Act assists cities in planning, designing and implementing green infrastructure strategies, such as turning vacant industrial buildings into parks. Research shows that urban greening not only improves the quality of life for residents but also attracts new business and generates economic growth.
Founded over 175 years ago, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia, has improved the quality of life in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and public spaces through its Philadelphia Green program. PHS’s urban greening initiatives have made an important and noticeable impact. I enjoyed meeting with PHS members and staff working to stimulate green economic growth in Philadelphia. I was lucky enough to tour the show with Jane Pepper, President of PHS, Sam Lemheney, the show designer and Blaine Bonham, Vice President of PHS and the founder of Philadelphia Green. It was great to see such a world-class exhibit right in downtown Philadelphia. I look forward to seeing the Green Community Act enacted into law to increase urban greening in Philadelphia and other cities across the Commonwealth and the Nation.
On the first day of President's Day recess, I stopped for lunch at the Cabin Kitchen in Emporium, Cameron County to sit down with local officials to hear their concerns and ideas on economic recovery. With unemployment over 16%, Cameron County has the highest rate in Pennsylvania. While the unemployment is disconcerting, the bipartisan effort that local officials are taking to meet the needs of the county ought to serve as a model in Washington. It is so valuable to hear from these leaders who are on the ground to really understand how the economy has affected Pennsylvanians.
After an informative meeting and a great tuna hoagie, I am heading to Clearfield County.
On my way from Scranton to Washington this morning, I stopped in Elkins Park, Montgomery County to tour the Women's Center of Montgomery County to see Recovery dollars at work. The Women's Center received federal funding through the STOP Violence Against Women grant program. This money allowed the Center to create two new jobs, retain six more and expand the hours of another part-time employee.
The work of the employees and volunteers is truly inspirational. They assist women in some of the darkest days of their lives to find them the resources and services they need to stay safe and succeed. The Center serves as just one example of how the Recovery Act creates jobs, but also how it has a profound and positive impact in the community.
I'm off to Washington barring more snow.