By: Pamela J. Shupp

Pamela-Shupp-Headshot

As the President of the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association, I wanted to be sure that you were aware of the legislative priorities that we are supporting at the state level. These priorities are not only important to the Commonwealth of PA, they are also important to our community.

Berks County desperately needs commercial and industrial sites that will allow us to attract new companies and allow us to keep those companies who have identified their need to expand.  It is time to get pro-active so that we stop missing opportunities to other communities and other states.  These priorities would provide a strong foundation to grow the economic prosperity of Berks County.

Improvement of the Regulatory Climate in Pennsylvania

In collaboration, GREP is working with our local economic development partners – the Center for Excellence in Local Government (CELG), the Berks County Planning Commission (BCPC), Greater Berks Development Fund (GBDF), and the Berks County Industrial Development Authority (BCIDA) to identify and prioritize sites for commercial and industrial development.  One of the primary hindrances for putting these sites into the development cue and strategically moving forward with identifying sites to realize short term, midterm and long term development success is that of infrastructure and permitting – the top two priorities as identified and supported by PEDA.

Enhancement of Funding for Public and Private Infrastructure Development

Berks County – like many other communities in PA – is missing opportunities to create and grow jobs because of a lack of appropriate buildings and not enough shovel ready or ready-to-go sites.  We need to remove as much risk as possible form the land development process so that we can competitively attract companies to Pennsylvania and specifically to Berks County.  All of the development sites under planning or beginning stages of development in Berks County have substantial infrastructure requirements – water, sewer, transportation improvements and utilities.  These required improvements and the inability to fund them is adding substantial time and financial burden to creating ready to go sites.

Support of Innovative Training Initiatives

As part of our retention and growth strategy, GREP has been conducting visits to Berks County companies –primarily manufacturing – to ensure that we are supporting them in the best possible way with business connections, resources, and programs. One of the primary concerns that continues to be identified in Berks is that of being able to find the right skill sets for the jobs that are available.  A few years ago, when we started these visits certified welders were the first group identified as a critical need.  That has now expanded into CNC machinists, tool and die makers, and CDL drivers.  The skills gap is here in Berks County and we have to enhance and encourage technical career pathways.

Support of Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance (PREP)

Regional collaboration is a particular strength of Berks County.  We have partnered not only within our PREP region, but also with part of larger regional initiatives like CORE PA Global and Foreign Trade Zone Corporation of Southern PA.  We are one of the go to PA Partners for marketing the Commonwealth.  Having resources to continue the already established partnerships and incentivize increased collaboration and partnership is critical to our mission.

International Business Development

I recently traveled to Taiwan and Japan on behalf of Berks County and the Commonwealth of PA.  This trip was professionally and expertly supported through the Office of International Business Development (OIBD).  While in Taiwan, I visited a manufacturing company and toured their plant.  We previously hosted this company in Berks County and they are very interested in a site for new construction in the City of Reading to locate their manufacturing facility here in the United States.

In Japan I joined with Team PA, DCED Executive Secretary Neil Weaver, and David Briel of OIBD to visit several prospective companies (again one of whom has already visited Berks County and expressed interest in Pennsylvania).  This trip was augmented by the performances of The Philadelphia Orchestra and we used those performances to reach out to executives in Japan who represent existing Berks companies.  These include: Seibu Giken – SG America located in Wyomissing, and Quadrant EPP – located in the City of Reading.

The cost of my trip was covered by the federal Make It In America grant which we have actively participated in with CORE PA Global – an initiative representing 53 counties in central and northern PA who joined together to participate in the three year grant to strategize and work on bringing FDI to PA.  For the past two years on the attraction side, we see the most viable leads coming through OIBD.  And now having been part of a trip with the DCED and Team PA partners and having outstanding itineraries and contacts through our overseas PA trade representatives, I can unequivocally say that PA is well represented.

View Pennsylvania Economic Development Association’s priorities here.

If you questions or would like more detail on any of this activity, feel free to contact me.

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