April 27, 2023:

Manufacturing Our Way into the Future

The House Republican Policy Committee convened a public hearing, hosted by Rep. Mercuri, in Allison Park to discuss the Commonwealth’s role in promoting cutting edge manufacturing opportunities. Pennsylvania, thanks to our inexpensive energy, bountiful resources, transportation infrastructure, and esteemed research institutions, has become a hub for advanced manufacturing. These opportunities on the horizon require a trained and capable workforce, and the Policy Committee investigated efforts to prepare and equip Pennsylvanians for the lucrative and exciting careers of the future. The state and its people are well situated to drive the next manufacturing revolution.

The testifiers that joined the Policy Committee were as follows:

Manufacturing into the Future

Matt Blackburn - Senior Manager of Government Relations, Aurora

Bryan Iams - Vice President, Chief Communications and Government Affairs Officer, PPG

Preparing for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Brian Kennedy - Senior Vice President, Operations and Government Affairs, Pittsburgh Technology Council

Agenda – Bios – Testimony

Manufacturing into the Future

Pittsburgh, with its winding roads, ample bridges, and difficult terrain, has become a hub for automation and AI driven vehicle testing. Matt Blackburn, senior manager of government relations for Aurora, shared the advances made in PA through Aurora’s efforts to automate the vehicles traversing our roads. Through cooperation with Carnegie Melon University, and the passage of Act 130 of 2022 which enabled autonomous testing, great advancements in safety, efficiency, and real-world applicability of these technologies have been achieved.

Automation and advanced manufacturing is a growing industry, and there are already 6,000 jobs in the Pittsburgh region directly tied to autonomous vehicles and robotics, and these 6,000 jobs support a further 15,000 ancillary jobs in the region. At a time when Pennsylvania is losing population the major industries drawing new residents to the region are our robotics developers, AI operations, and advanced manufacturers.

The largest driver of intellectual investment and AI development in Pennsylvania is CMU. Aurora, which specializes in AI driven tractor trailers, was founded by CMU graduates and utilizes new CMU graduates to fill their growing workforce. CMU is an international hub for advanced manufacturing along with research and development, and is a major draw for forward thinking entrepreneurs and industry. In short time, we are likely to see AI driven tractor trailers traversing the state and delivering our goods. When the public becomes more accepting of this technology, and when the science and law is further refined, we will all have the option to have our vehicles drive themselves to wherever we may want to go. Science fiction is becoming our reality thanks to the investments of time, money, materials, and intellect in Pennsylvanian advanced manufacturing.

“We are creating the jobs of the future. Jobs that will stay here in Pittsburgh.”

Matt Blackburn
Senior Manager of Government Relations, Aurora

Following the testimony of Aurora on the recent advances in AI occurring in PA, the Committee was joined by a longstanding manufacturing giant of the Commonwealth, PPG. Bryan Iams, Chief Communications and Government Affairs Officer for PPG, shared in brief the 140-year history of PPG. PPG, which began as Pittsburgh Plate Glass and retains its headquarters in the city of Pittsburgh, has evolved since its inception to supply the most modern cutting edge products to the industries of the future. At one time PPG supplied the specialized glass needed to construct our homes and skyscrapers, and now they have become the largest supplier of specialty paints and coatings in the world.

PPG employs researchers and technicians to develop advanced coatings for aerospace applications and automobiles across the world. Their research has led to PPG being the sole provider of paints and coating for a large variety of international car manufacturers as well as the U.S. military’s new F-35 fighter jets. Recently, research was done using black eggplants to develop darker pigments that reflect the sun’s rays so that planes and sensitive equipment can be painted in darker hues without risk of overheating. New advances are made each day in Pennsylvania, and PPG will continue to be a major employer and incubator for the technology and materials of the future.

PPG is not immune to the issues faced by our residents and major industries. The forced shutdowns and closures that occurred during the COVID Pandemic incurred supply chain issues that are still reverberating to this day. A can of paint may require 19 key ingredients, and PPG may only be able to source 18, leading to no paint being manufactured at all. Without paint, automobile manufacturers cannot complete their vehicles, and the supply chain continues to buckle down the line. These issues are slowly being addressed, but were a challenge for even our largest industries.

Similar to what has been heard in previous Policy Committee hearings, PPG offered some legislative and policy insight that they wish for the legislature to consider.

  o   Shorten the Corporate Net Income Tax reduction timeline, and bring PA’s treatment of Net Operating Losses in line with other states and the federal tax code.
  o   PPG, like other companies, has struggled with recruiting and keeping employees. Efforts need to be made to encourage higher education to work alongside advanced manufacturers when developing curriculum, and for further investment in vocational training.
  o   PA regulations are not always grounded in sound science or achievable goals. PPG would like for regulators to listen to the regulated community when developing and enforcing new regulations.
  o   The implementation of RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, could lead PPG’s board of directors to view Pennsylvania as “less competitive” than other states due to increased energy prices.

PPG has a long and successful history in Pennsylvania, and have left their mark on the world through their efforts and the research conducted by their capable workforce. To retain the successes and opportunity provided by PPG their concerns for the future must be heeded, and the Commonwealth must work to prepare the next generation for the careers of the future.

“The public policy choices made in Pennsylvania are crucial to our success in delivering on the promise of advanced manufacturing.”

Bryan Iams
Vice President, Chief Communications and Government Affairs Officer, PPG

Preparing for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Advanced Manufacturers recognize the bounty of Pennsylvania. We have the infrastructure, energy, and materials needed to pursue the technologies of tomorrow. But, how are we preparing our existing workforce to enter these careers and take advantage of these opportunities? The Committee was joined by Brian Kennedy, of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, to learn more about the ongoing efforts to train and equip Pennsylvanians for careers in robotics, AI, material sciences, and the next wave of innovation.

Mr. Kennedy shared that many Pennsylvanians already recognize Pittsburgh as an “Advanced Materials Town” thanks to the Shell Cracker Plant, the history of PPG and US Steel, and the lasting legacy of Westinghouse among others. Even without state sponsored aid the Pittsburgh region is attracting talent from far and wide largely thanks to our existing advanced manufacturers and the renowned work of CMU. It is exciting that the region is attracting such talent from outside of the state, but there is a large and capable internal workforce that should be pursuing these opportunities as well.

Mr. Kennedy explained that our existing workforce does not need to be intimidated by these new careers in the tech field, and that traditional 2 or 4 year degrees may not be warranted for many of these emerging opportunities. Instead of a degree, interested Pennsylvanians should inquire about 14-week “bootcamps” or apprenticeship programs. With the tech world advancing at a rapid pace antiquated education methods cannot match the speed of emerging technologies, and thus other educational venues and opportunities should be pursued.

A significant percentage of the population is largely “untapped” when it comes to the tech workforce. Women and minority populations compose over half the state, but are a nominally represented in the tech fields. The Pittsburgh Technology Council is actively reaching out to these populations to share the possibilities of entering the world of advanced manufacturing, coding, along with research and development. Classes and apprenticeships have been made available, and interest is growing within these underutilized demographics. Furthermore, materials and lesson plans have been developed for our K-12 students to inspire interest in the careers of tomorrow.

“If you’re going to spend more money on workforce development, I urge you to spend it in a way that is in partnership with the private sector.”

Brian Kennedy
Senior Vice President, Operations and Government Affairs, Pittsburgh Technology Council

The House Republican Caucus has been a strong proponent of family-supporting careers and investments in manufacturing for many years now. The day’s hearing brought to light the advances occurring in PA, the achievements and needs of our entrepreneurs and industry, and the ongoing efforts to reimagine the training necessary to pursue a career in these fields. Considering previous hearing where the Committee learned of our decreasing population and struggles of industry, the testimony of the day was encouraging and inspired hope in the future prospects available to the state and our people.

Chairman Kail and the Policy Committee concluded the hearing by thanking Rep. Mercuri for hosting the day’s event and extended their gratitude to the testifiers for their invaluable contributions to this important discussion and to the future of the Commonwealth. The information shared was instrumental to the Republican Caucus and will inspire efforts to advance the capabilities and possibilities of the state and our workforce. With strong leadership, forward-thinking ideas, and the support of Pennsylvania’s bounty we are well equipped to manufacture our way into the future.