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SEDA-COG begins program to attract international investment to rural Pennsylvania

The SEDA-Council of Governments, along with numerous partners across the state, has begun a program to attract international investment and generate economic growth across Pennsylvania’s rural counties. Details were announced Dec. 3 at a special event in Lewisburg.

A portion of the program’s funding has been provided through a federal “Make It in America” grant, one of just 10 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.

Total funding for the project is nearly $3 million. Key funding sources include the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Employment and Training Administration, and National Institute of Standards and Technology/Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

The EDA-funded portion of 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 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 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, “Gov. 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,” 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,” 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.”

About Make It In America Challenge grants

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, along with U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, in October announced the 10 winners of the Make it in America Challenge, an Obama Administration initiative to accelerate job creation and encourage business investment in the United States. The 10 grantees will receive a total of $20.5 million for projects supporting regional economic development, advanced skills training, greater supply chain access and other enhancements. The programs are designed to encourage U.S. companies to keep, expand or re-shore their manufacturing operations—and jobs—in America, and to entice foreign companies to build facilities and make their products here.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) are providing funding for the winning proposals.

The 10 winners of the Make it in America Challenge will pursue projects in nine states. Descriptions of each project, including grant amount breakdowns by agency are available at www.eda.gov/challenges/MakeItInAmerica/winners.htm

The SEDA Council of Governments of Lewisburg received a grant of $1,800,000.

EDA’s investments will help distressed regions build on existing assets to generate job growth by creating a conducive environment for businesses to establish and grow their operations in the U.S. ETA’s investments will help to develop a skilled workforce for specific industries. When they are announced in early FY2014, NIST-MEP’s grants will help develop greater connectivity in regional supply chains and assist small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The Make it in America Challenge builds on the United States’ significant competitive advantages — from a strong business climate to a highly skilled and productive workforce — that make it a profitable place for businesses to invest. Investing in businesses and production here can help put more Americans back to work.

For more information on the Make it in America Challenge, visit: www.eda.gov/challen ges/MakeItInAmerica

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