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February 2014 Newsletter

Matt S. Erskine

SEDA-COG Attracts International Investment to Rural Pennsylvania

The SEDA-Council of Governments, along with numerous partners across the state, has begun a $3 million program to attract international investment and generate economic growth across Pennsylvania’s rural counties.

A portion of the program’s funding has been provided through an EDA “Make It in America” grant, one of ten such grants approved nationwide by the Obama Administration. The program will be carried out in the 52 counties that comprise the “T” region of Pennsylvania.

Key funding sources include the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology/Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST/MEP).

The program will employ a comprehensive plan of “reverse investment,” encouraging foreign companies to expand into Pennsylvania, as well as domestic companies that have moved their production overseas. “Our state has a lot to offer,” said Noelle Long, Director, SEDA-COG Export Development program, “a reliable, industrious work force; quality schools and research centers; and potential opportunities in areas like agribusiness, energy, and advanced manufacturing.

“What we have to do,” she said, “is match the economic development assets of Pennsylvania with the needs and objectives of the world’s manufacturing community.”

On an individual basis, organizations in the state have pursued foreign investment but may not have had adequate time, financial resources, and staff. “In this case, however,” said Mrs. Long, “we’ll be working together, sharing, and learning from one another in order to bolster current efforts.” SEDA-COG and six additional multi-county organizations involved in the project have years of experience in export markets, familiarizing themselves with foreign companies and distributors while learning about their culture. Several are members of Pennsylvania’s Regional Export Network (REN).

A major role will also be played by the Commonwealth’s Center for Direct Investment. As a division of the Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development, the Center is familiar with foreign trade show participation and exhibitions. In addition, the Center works with authorized investment representatives around the globe. “In fact,” said Mrs. Long, “Pennsylvania has the largest network of overseas offices of any of the 50 states. The investment representatives will be our eyes and ears on the ground.”

Among major international companies which have found a place in Pennsylvania’s business community are Shire Pharmaceuticals, Gamesa, Siemens, Almac, Nestle, and Toshiba.

Commenting on the new program, C. Alan Walker, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said, “Governor Corbett's commitment to an improved business climate and lower taxes is resulting in businesses from around the globe taking a serious look at Pennsylvania to grow and thrive. Our efforts to attract international companies will be strengthened by this new partnership, and together we can introduce a new, energized Pennsylvania to businesses throughout the world."

The Team Pennsylvania Foundation, also a key partner in the project, has worked extensively to increase the state’s share of international business, leading trade missions overseas and conducting stateside tours for foreign journalists, consultants, engineers, and others who have contact with firms overseas.

“Team PA is proud to unite with our REN partners and the state’s Office of International Business Development via a program geared to provide expansion opportunities for Pennsylvania businesses while attracting new ones to the Commonwealth,” said Matt Zieger, President and CEO, Team PA. “This initiative dovetails nicely with the recommendations in the Governor’s Manufacturing Advisory Council report as we collaborate with our partners to build an even stronger manufacturing sector in Pennsylvania.”

The project will be carried out over three years, and much of the first year will be devoted to training and preparation. Pennsylvania’s Industrial Resource Centers, including the IMC in Williamsport, will identify and analyze the state’s “industry clusters,” i.e., independent companies, congregated together, and sharing complementary interests and requirements. “This is where international companies will find great opportunities,” Mrs. Long said, “meeting the needs of our industry clusters, whether in terms of supplies, manufacturing, or distribution.” As industry clusters and additional opportunities are identified, Workforce Investment Boards will be charged with training the labor force needed to meet companies’ requirements.

Extensive training will also be provided to economic development professionals who will interact directly with potential foreign investors. They are going to learn how to attract and host foreign investors, learning about their cultures and protocol.

“Pennsylvania is already home to more than 6,000 foreign-owned businesses,” Mrs. Long said. “Now we’re going to bring the rest of the world to rural Pennsylvania. The result is going to be more jobs, more business, and economic growth.”