INDIANA TOWNSHIP – Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso (R-Allegheny/Westmoreland), in a partnership with House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), hosted a hearing to receive testimony from local business owners and economic development leaders on how the economy can be regrown in the southwestern region of the state. Solutions will be used to inform legislation to help the area “Build Back Better.”
“I’m thankful that the Policy Committee traveled to the 33rd District and heard from local business owners. In addition to today’s hearing, they also joined me for a tour of the district yesterday so they would have an even clearer picture of what the district needs,” Lewis DelRosso said. “The more people in Harrisburg understand what we’re facing, the greater a chance we have for real results. It’s critical to highlight our needs, and we were very successful with that.”
The committee toured NEP Inc., the soon-to-be Iron City Brewing/Manufacturing at the site of the old PPG building, Keystone Rustproofing, Voodoo Brewery and areas of the AK Valley before today’s hearing.
“The testimony received at today’s House Majority Republican Policy Committee hearing confirms that our designed path for economic recovery is a proper one,” said House Republican Majority Caucus Chairman George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland). “In sharp contrast to the governor’s proposal of increased taxes, increased spending, business shutdowns and reductions, we are focused on investments that will provide returns to the state. Investments in infrastructure, streamlining regulations, and performance based programs as opposed to giveaways.”
While the economy has been challenged by the pandemic, testifiers expressed hope for the future, assuming government limitations and delays can be lessened or, ideally, eliminated.
A New Kensington developer, Michael Malcanas spoke of his experiences helping to bring 14 new businesses to the area since 2012. He fostered new growth and development, added jobs and opportunities for low-income residents by building spaces, provided free rent to new businesses that were often minority- or female-owned and even partnered with Penn State to offer classes and support. However, his success was impacted by roadblocks he faced.
“If you want to foster new growth and development and provide an opportunity for low-income residents to own and operate their own businesses, then there needs to be provisions based on variances for code compliance. It is too difficult and expensive for disadvantaged individuals in these areas to build out space like we have,” Malcanas explained.
David Vivino, president and co-owner of Oakmont Tavern, echoed the struggles of barriers to success, himself describing a 50% loss of annual sales because of the pandemic and the following closures and restrictions imposed on his business by the Wolf administration. He reminded everyone of the great financial losses restaurants have suffered because of the timing of the governor’s orders as food and beer orders for the weekend are typically received on Thursdays or Friday mornings and Gov. Tom Wolf announced restrictions late Friday afternoon, leaving his restaurant with thousands of dollars in product loss that could not be claimed with his insurance as a business interruption. He also spent thousands on materials, such as Plexiglass dividers, to keep his customers safe – even as costs were rising.
“Because of all the restrictions and closings, we were unable to get certain products and the products we can get are extremely expensive. Beef, produce and poultry went up almost 50% or more. Chemicals to clean went up over 100%,” Vivino shared.
Other testifiers spoke of the need to invest in infrastructure and to streamline permitting and licensing to attract businesses. Penn State New Kensington Chancellor Dr. Kevin Snider explained how the campus has been a key player in economic revitalization and as a regional economic driver, contributing more than $28 million to the economy and supporting 400 jobs as it accelerates entrepreneurship and innovation programs.
Jon Nehlsen, associate dean at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College, shared how students worked with the Port Authority of Allegheny County by using new artificial intelligence technology to help solve a ridership problem. He suggested artificial technology can be used in other aspects across state government.
“You don’t need to fix everything for us. We can invest with our own capital and with our own hard work if you focus on giving us tools and removing barriers to do so… Pennsylvanians don’t want an old four cylinder. We want the brand new HEMI that will allow us to drive our economy forward for decades to come,” Nehlsen said.
Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso
33rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans
During the House Majority Policy Committee tour, Reps. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland), Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) and Carrie Lewis DelRosso (R-Allegheny/Westmoreland) spoke with Cliff Forrest, owner of Iron City Brewing/Manufacturing, about his plans to repurpose the previous PPG building as a tourist destination for beer aficionados.