State DCED secretary predicts Mon Valley's industrial rebirth
Decades ago, Pennsylvania failed to protect such basic industries as steel, rail and coal, C. Alan Walker said in a presentation Tuesday on the region's economy.
That led to the “deindustrialization of our economy,” the state Department of Community and Economic Development secretary said.
“But that's about to change,” said Walker, who spoke Tuesday at the Willow Room in Rostraver Township.
The event was sponsored by the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Mon Yough Chamber of Commerce, the Mon Valley Progress Council and the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce.
Walker discussed Gov. Tom Corbett's JOBS1st PA initiative and the state economy.
He said the state is well positioned to take advantage of a natural gas boom.
JOBS1st PA focuses on two core areas: Make It in PA and Talented Workers.
Under Make it in PA, Corbett's proposed budget provides an increase of $600,000 to help Pennsylvania companies export products to international markets and to attract new foreign direct investment.
Pennsylvania companies increased exports by 5.4 percent in 2013. He pointed to World Kitchen in Charleroi, which was represented at the luncheon, as a local example of that success.
Talented Workers includes a $2 million allocation to the Workforce & Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania to train an additional 10,000 employees.
“The governor recognizes that nothing is more critical to growing the economy than a talented work force,” Walker said.
Walker criticized Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls for claiming the administration has cut education funding.
He said school districts became too dependent on federal stimulus money provided in the wake of the Great Recession. He said state financial support for public education and the State System of Higher Education has increased in each year of the Corbett administration.
The State System of Higher Education oversees 14 state-owned universities, including California University of Pennsylvania.
“When the stimulus stopped, the money wasn't there,” said Walker, adding that many districts did not prepare for the loss of that funding source. “The governor is a big believer in education.”
Walker said tourism marketing – a key component of the JOBS1st PA – is often overlooked because the money is spent on the county level.
Walker said Pennsylvania's economy is the sixth-largest in the nation and ranks 21st in the world. Employment tops 6 million workers with unemployment at a five-year low of 6.2 percent.
The Governor's Action Team completed 102 successful projects in 2013, up from 79 in 2012, Walker said.
State growth is being fueled by the Marcellus shale industry, Walker claimed, adding Pennsylvania has the second-largest energy field in the world.
Walker said the Marcellus shale impact fee is benefitting Washington County. He criticized Democratic candidates for governor who want to impose a severance fee on Marcellus shale drillers.
“For you in Washington County, that would be a big mistake,” Walker said. “The severance tax goes into the general fund. The money would go to the populated areas. The impact fee goes to the areas where drilling occurs.”
Impact fees have pumped $630 million into local municipalities, “to invest in your roads and downtowns,” Walker said.
Walker said Washington County's economy has experienced the third-fastest growth rate in the nation since the Marcellus shale industry came to the region.
Walker said there is a direct tie between development of industrial parks and economic growth.
“Literally, if you build it, they will come,” Walker said.
He used as an example the City of Williamsport, the seat of Lycoming County in north central Pennsylvania.
In the aftermath of industrial decline, Williamsport built an industrial park that was filled by offices for a Marcellus shale company, bringing with it 1,200 jobs.
Walker said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' $74.7 million allocation to the Lower Mon Project will speed up completion of a locks and dams project on the Monongahela River that is more than a decade behind schedule.
“It will truly unlock growth in this area,” Walker said. “There's a new energy in Pennsylvania. You can feel the surge in our economy.”
Walker said he is confident a petrochemical plant will be constructed in Beaver County.
The so-called “cracker” plant under consideration by Royal Dutch Shell would use ethane from gas drilling in nearby shale fields to produce plastics and other products.
Walker said the economic surge will be felt up and down the region's rivers.
“I think Allenport will be developed,” Walker said of the Mon River Industrial Group's plans to convert the former steel mill site into an industrial park.
“I see a reindustrialization of the Mon Valley.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mid-Mon Valley maintains strong ties to proposed Army museum
- Westmoreland firefighters get training to save pets
- Organizers plunge ahead with 2nd ‘Frosty Frolic’ to benefit California Area
- Rampound brings cheers to Ringgold athletic events
- Monessen teenager charged in arson spree
- Deteriorating Charleroi properties to be reviewed
- Mon Valley projects compete for shares of casino cash
- Ringgold investigates knife incident
- Crisafulli: No signs of slowing down
- Attempted homicide charges filed by Monessen police in shooting
- Donora man jailed after day care workers smell marijuana