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Aquion added to Pa. economy

| Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, 8:57 p.m.

A number of publications have covered Aquion Energy's path through bankruptcy into new ownership and the subsequent movement of some production assets to China (while keeping research and development and global headquarters here — a fact not mentioned in many articles).

The editorial “Aquion's move to China: Winner-picking folly” (Sept. 21, TribLIVE) intimates that the $16.6 million in Pennsylvania money disbursed to Aquion (by the Republican administration of Gov. Tom Corbett) was lost without the people of Pennsylvania receiving any benefit.

The reality could not be further from the truth. What the editorial fails to mention or account for (and what is often overlooked in many cases of government investment) is a reasonable assessment of the total economic activity generated.

In addition to the state money (some of which has been paid back), Aquion also garnered over $200 million from private investment sources outside of the state, and much of that money was spent in the Pittsburgh region to the direct benefit of many individuals, businesses and the public.

A conservative assessment shows Aquion spent $30 million to $40 million in Western Pennsylvania over the past five years in salaries, rent, infrastructure improvements and equipment sourcing/servicing. Had the state not invested in Aquion, the company would have scaled its operations elsewhere, and this economic activity would have been lost.

Given these facts, it is less clear that state funding decisions like this are without benefit — this decision resulted in over $30 million in local economic activity, a 2-to-1 return on the state's investment that also resulted in recruitment and training of technically skilled employees who will stay in the region.

Jay Whitacre

Squirrel Hill

The writer is a Carnegie Mellon University materials science and engineering professor who founded Aquion Energy in 2009.

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