– Rep. Parke Wentling (R-Crawford/Erie/Lawrence/Mercer) hosted a panel consisting of leaders from manufacturing, technology and economic development companies who testified before the House Majority Policy Committee on Thursday to discuss how to advance the economy in Northwestern Pennsylvania.
Held at Cobblestone Hotel and Suites in Greenville, the policy hearing’s testifiers included:
Rod Wilt, executive director, Penn-Northwest Development Corporation.
Kara Wasser, CEO, OhanaLink Technologies.
Tony Kaper, vice president of operations, Hall Technical Services LLC.
Tony Miller, administrative director, Mercer County Career Center.
Donald Perry, Matt Perry and Tyler Perry, partners at Compliance Environmental Services.
Some of the common themes throughout the hearing included population decline, addressing the labor shortage, establishing funding to help businesses grow, and developing an educated and skilled workforce.
“Our challenges are many, but none as significant as the loss of an average of 1% of our population annually over the past 20 years,” said Wilt. “The just-released census numbers show a 9.7% decrease in population in Mercer County since 2010. We have fewer young families in the county than at any time in over 50 years. Without targeted economic development programs and assistance to aid smaller, rural counties in Pennsylvania, we will continue this downward spiral in population and economic opportunity in these very important agricultural and manufacturing-centric parts of Pennsylvania.”
“We cannot have strong communities and a vibrant economy without an educated and skilled workforce,” said Tony Miller. “Those of us working in career development and labor have been preparing for the skills gap created by baby boomers leaving the workforce for several years. The pandemic has forced this group out of the workforce even sooner than expected. This gap in the workforce is again compounded in our region due to decades of population loss and brain drain, college students leaving our region and not returning after they graduate. Therefore, career and technical education is one large piece in helping to solve this problem by preparing a workforce that is ready to step into these open positions.”
Other topics discussed include lack of necessities, forcing families to look elsewhere.
“I want to thank Rep. Wentling for hosting the Policy Committee in Mercer County and giving us the chance to speak with leaders in different career fields on issues that stand out to them,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter). “We need to be the driving force behind economic development across Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth is in a better place when our economy is robust.”
“I would like to thank the testifiers and Policy Committee for coming out to participate in worthwhile discussions on economic development,” said Wentling. “Having an open dialogue will benefit everyone moving forward, and I look forward to maintaining that open line of communication.”
The 17th Legislative District covers portions of Crawford, Erie, Lawrence and Mercer Counties.