The Governor’s Action Team, an organization dedicated to attracting and expanding business in Pennsylvania, produced an annual report for fiscal year 2020-2021 that highlighted northeastern Pennsylvania’s transformation as an economic powerhouse and business innovator.
With a total of 9,554 new jobs created in Pennsylvania last year, northeastern Pennsylvania led the Commonwealth in job growth with the creation of 2,362 new job opportunities.
The new jobs in NEPA represented 25% of all new jobs created in Pennsylvania last year.
Moreover, NEPA secured $1 billion in private investment for economic development projects and far out-paced major metropolitan regions, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, by more than $400 million.
Job growth in NEPA is strong across many industry sectors including logistics, regional/national headquarters, food processing, and manufacturing. NEPA manufacturing companies led the region’s job growth with the creation of more than 1,300 new manufacturing jobs over the past year — representing 56% of all new jobs created in the region. The average entry salaries for new manufacturing jobs exceeds $65,000 — more than double the average per capita income in NEPA.
As the Senate Chairman of the Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee, I have the pleasure of working closely with Neil Weaver, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) and Brent Vernon, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Action Team (GAT). The Commonwealth’s economic team and leaders in the Senate, like President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and Majority Leader Kim Ward, have helped communities in northeastern Pennsylvania set the stage for private sector job growth by driving state resources and creating innovative economic incentives that help create a business environment that welcomes private capital that creates private sector jobs.
The economic success of the South Valley communities of Hanover Township, Nanticoke City, and Newport Township is emblematic of the region’s economic resurgence and just one example of many economic success stories in the I-80/I-81 corridor in NEPA. Strategic investments in infrastructure projects, like the $90 million South Valley Parkway, and the millions of dollars invested in mine reclamation by groups, like the Earth Conservancy, have already leveraged more than $1 billion in private investment from national companies, like Northpoint Development, who have created more than 7,000 new jobs in the South Valley of Luzerne County over the last five years.
Local governments, in full partnership with Pennsylvania, have utilized smart tax incentives, like the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Program, to make doing business in NEPA more competitive. A dedicated workforce, available land, access to markets, and the right tax climate have given NEPA the economic edge over most other regions in Pennsylvania.
The number of international and national companies planting their corporate flag in NEPA soil grows more impressive ever year. Here are just a few examples of the national manufacturing wave that has hit NEPA’s shores. The Ball Corporation invested $421 million in a new manufacturing facility in Jenkins Township, bringing high wage ($69,593) manufacturing jobs to Luzerne County. Wren Manufacturing Incorporated created 360 new manufacturing jobs in Hanover Township. PFNonwoven, a manufacturing company headquartered in the Czech Republic, invested $75 million in an expansion of the manufacturing plant in Hazleton. From Pittston to Wilkes-Barre and from Nanticoke to Hazleton, the I-80 and I-81 corridor is booming with new manufacturing jobs.
Our success continues with the recent site selection announcement made by Nacero, an innovative fuel manufacturing company that will transform the transportation industry with lower carbon fuel for everyday drivers. Nacero plans to build a $6 billion manufacturing facility and create 4,000 new jobs in Nanticoke City and Newport Township. Nacero signals that northeastern Pennsylvanian has a great opportunity to lead the Commonwealth in economic growth for decades to come.
State economic development agencies, like DCED and GAT, as well as legislative leaders committed to job creation like Senator Corman and Senator Ward, have found willing and supportive partners in spurring economic growth among very talented local economic groups like CANDO, Penn’s Northeast, NEPA Alliance, NEPIRC, the Earth Conservancy, and the Chambers of Commerce in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Scranton, and Carbon County.
To set the stage over the years, economic groups have advocated for innovative economic policies that have helped us lure national companies and leverage the necessary private investment to create jobs. Act 66 of 2020 created the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax credit, and helped us secure Nacero. Act 25 of 2021, created a Sales Tax Exception for Data Center Development, and helped us encourage Talen Energy and Cumulus Data to build a new hyperscale data center campus in Luzerne County.
As we have worked to lure larger industrial companies to NEPA, we have not ignored small businesses that help our communities and main streets thrive. In 2011, we created the Luzerne County Small Business Loan Program with state grant funding $4 million. The revolving loan program, run by MetroAction, has generated nearly $8 million in business assistance for more than 200 small businesses, and it has helped create 1,000 new jobs.
A new local infrastructure investment innovation, the Luzerne County Public Infrastructure Program will soon make more than $50 million available to local governments to address public infrastructure needs from roads and bridges to water and sewer projects — all essential building blocks of a growing economy.
At times, it takes economic incentives or strategic investments in infrastructure to create jobs. However, there are times when all you need to do is cheer on smart, talented local business leaders who grow a homegrown business from the ground up.
One of those talented business leaders is Tim Evans, the owner of Colours Incorporated. Colours, a distributor of automotive paints, started with one small store and three employees. Today, Tim Evans runs Colours from a new $6 million, 50,000 square foot headquarters in Hanover Township overseeing 240 employees in 30 locations across five states.
Yes, NEPA is driving job growth and business innovation in Pennsylvania with international, national, and, our very own, homegrown businesses leading the way.
State Sen. John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, represents the 14th Senatorial District. He is Chairman of the Senate Community, Economic, & Recreational Development Committee.