Berks mushroom grower lays offs 161 workers

Donna Bella Farms will stop operating its mushroom-growing facilities in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County, laying off 161 people, a large number of whom – if not all – will be offered new employment.

That total includes 123 direct hires and 38 employees from a temp agency working at multiple transient locations who will be laid off as of June 30, according a Worker Adjustment and a Retraining Notification filing with the state Department of Labor & Industry. Donna Bella Farms’ primary address is 5A Mountainside Road, Temple.

All employees have been notified; none are represented by a union.

Donna Bella Farms, which is being dissolved, is a joint venture 50% owned by Giorgi Mushroom Co. and 50% by Monterey Mushrooms.

Joe Caldwell, president of Giorgi Mushroom, said in a phone interview that the current business climate, in which demand for mushrooms is low, prompted the decision. He said the growing rooms Bella Donna uses are owned by Giorgi or Monterey.

They are shut down temporarily and will re-open when demand improves, he said.

The WARN letter said Giorgi Mushroom “will continue and perhaps expand certain mushroom-growing operations currently undertaken by GMC at DBF’s locations. GMC currently anticipates that employment opportunities will be provided to a substantial number of DBF employees.”

An HR team from Giorgi is meeting with workers this week, Caldwell said. “I really expect the vast majority of (Bella Donna) employees will come on board.”

Giorgi Mushroom Co.’s website said the company “is a vertically integrated, family owned and operated agribusiness in Berks County. … GMC is the largest, single-location mushroom farm in the world, producing over 180 million pounds annually of the Agaricus bisporus varieties: White Button, Portabella, Cremini and Shiitake mushrooms. Our operations span 3.7 million square feet of growing space across six farms and 468 indoor growing rooms including several organically certified operations.”

A joint venture with Monte Blanco, the largest mushroom grower in Mexico, provides Giorgi Mushroom with 400,000 square feet more of growing capacity to service its Southwest U.S. markets with freshly picked mushrooms.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Santander Bank to lay off 77 workers in Reading

Santander Bank N.A. will lay off 77 employees at its facility at 450 Penn St., Reading – job losses it believes will be permanent.

The financial institution announced the move in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act filing with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

A federal law, the WARN Act protects workers, their families and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.

Santander said in the filing that job separations should start on or about June 30; because it’s an ongoing transition process, the layoffs may come in stages.

The employees affected are involved in various aspects of the bank’s operations and call center teams, and all were notified April 17. None are unionized.

Asked for further comment, the company said this decision is the result of changes to streamline the bank’s processes and its operating model, with changes being implemented over the next year.

There are no other impacts beyond customer-facing call center teams, Santander said.

The company is actively working to connect as many affected employees as possible with new roles. In accordance with its policies, severance-eligible employees will receive outplacement services.

Santander Bank remains committed to all its customers, the company said, including those in the region. The bank serves customers in 33 branches across central Pennsylvania; no customer service impacts are expected as a result of the layoffs.

Employees affected who complete service through their end date will be eligible for severance benefits, including severance pay based on years of service and subsidized COBRA coverage as well as the above-mentioned career outplacement assistance.

“Team member reductions are never easy for either the team member or for Santander,” the WARN letter said. “We continue to make every effort to minimize the impact and ease the transition … .”

Santander Bank N.A. is one of the country’s largest retail and commercial banks with $99 billion in assets, according to its website. The bank’s nearly 9,000 employees and more than 2 million customers are primarily located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island,

New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Madrid-based Banco Santander S.A.

In February 2022, Santander announced that it was discontinuing its residential mortgage and home equity originations segment in the U.S.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Reading’s small businesses supported by Shapiro Administration

Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis met with Reading’s small business owners Tuesday and shared Gov. Josh Shapiro’s plans to boost investments, affordable child care, and revitalization in the city. 

“When I was growing up in McKeesport, my dad worked as a union bus driver, and my mom was a hairdresser,” said Davis, who took a walking tour of downtown Reading to discuss the community’s needs with small business owners. 

“I saw firsthand how small businesses, like hair salons, child care centers and restaurants, were the lifeblood of our neighborhood. But many women-owned and minority-owned small businesses often struggle to access capital to get off the ground. The Shapiro-Davis administration wants to help support our small businesses, so our communities can thrive.” 

The recently released Shapiro-Davis budget puts for the first time, sustainable state funding into the Historically Disadvantaged Business Program. The state Department of Community and Economic Development helped provide nearly $100 million in relief payments to historically disadvantaged businesses during the pandemic. 

An additional $20 million in federal funding followed, and the Shapiro-Davis budget proposes investing $20 million in state funds to make certain minority-owned operations have access to capital to sustain or expand their businesses. 

State Rep. Manny Guzman (D-Berks) said in a statement that he is focused on helping small businesses grow and boosting the workforce. 

“I am thrilled about this collaboration with Lieutenant Governor Davis as he will be able to feel the pulse of our economy and get feedback from underserved entrepreneurs of our community,” said Guzman. 

Early Beginnings Day Care Center in Reading was one of the businesses Davis visited Tuesday. Child care centers are important businesses and are often owned by women. As affordable child care is a workforce development issue, the Shapiro-Davis budget increases child care services funding by $66.7 million to allow 75,000 low-income families to continue to be enrolled in subsidized care. 

State Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz (D-Berks) said that as a Latina businesswoman, she believes the governor’s budget plan will provide the support entrepreneurs and small business owners need. 

“Governor Shapiro’s proposed injection into the Office of Transformation and Opportunity shows a real commitment from his administration,” she said. “This is a fair budget that will provide long overdue funding to women- and minority-owned businesses.” 

The Shapiro-Davis budget also invests $8.6 million to expand the Keystone Communities Program. This marks an investment in communities already on a path to revitalization and communities that are smaller, rural, and lower income.

Elizabethtown College’s High Center looks to strengthen local nonprofits

Elizabethtown College’s High Center has launched a new Nonprofit Center as it seeks to expand its mission of strengthening family-owned and privately held businesses in South Central Pennsylvania. 

The Center’s mission is to serve the needs of the regional’s nonprofit leaders and organizations via services that include executive peer groups, best practice surveys, leadership speaker series, and member benefits. 

“Nonprofit organizations, their boards, and executive teams tackle unique challenges and have needs that are often underserved in our business community,” High Center Executive Director Michael Mitchell said in a statement. 

“The leadership and organizational development model that the High Center provides has become essential for hundreds of businesses and leaders in the region, and we are excited to offer this invaluable resource to the nonprofit sector.” 

Julie Larison, who joined the High Center recently as managing director, is leading the Nonprofit Center. She most recently served as senior director of membership services for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and is a graduate of Elizabethtown College with a master’s degree in strategic leadership and organizational development. 

“Nonprofit organizations are truly essential businesses in our communities, and I am thrilled to be partnering with them and their leadership teams to further enhance and support their work,” said Larison. 

Along with the core offerings that encourage business and leadership development, nonprofit members can take advantage of a High Center Speaker Series that is scheduled to bring nationally recognized experts to Berks, Lehigh, Lancaster, and York counties. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is the scheduled speaker for the High Center’s Business Forum at Lancaster’s Marriott on Penn Square, Wednesday, March 29.

Area counties receive funding to strengthen economy, improve infrastructure

Multimodal Transportation Funds projects in Lehigh, Berks, Montgomery, and Northampton counties are among the 157 new project approvals receiving more than $58 million in grants and loans. 

The $58,662,492 in funding was announced Friday by Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Acting Secretary Rick Siger. Projects are funded through the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) and are aimed at strengthening the agriculture industry, enhancing infrastructure, and developing real estate across Pennsylvania. 

Siger said in a statement the projects will help make Pennsylvania a better place to live and work. 

“From making critical infrastructure improvements, to strengthening small communities, these projects work to enhance our economy and improve the quality of life for Pennsylvanians,” Siger said. 

The CFA approved 155 MTF projects totaling $56,143,529. MTF encourages economic development and looks to ensure a safe and reliable transportation system is available to Pennsylvania residents. MTF projects were approved in 45 counties, including Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and York. 

Building PA (BPA) provides mezzanine capital for developers for real estate assets in small to mid-sized communities. Funds can be used for projects that are commercial, industrial, and multi-use. Through the EDC Finance Corporation, Rock Lititz received $2,308,963 to construct Pod #4, a 133,600-square-foot multi-tenant building in Warwick Township.

Can Keystone Saves bill rescue Pa. from fiscal cliff?

Financial security in retirement is important for all Pennsylvania taxpayers, and especially for Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older. But what happens when residents do not have enough money for retirement? 

Such is the dilemma facing Pennsylvania as the state seeks to deal with a looming fiscal crisis – “a fiscal cliff,” Pennsylvania State Treasurer Stacy Garrity called it – created by insufficient retirement savings. 

An online seminar addressing the impact of insufficient retirement savings on Pennsylvania’s fiscal health was hosted recently by Garrity and John Scott, project director for retirement savings for The Pew Charitable Trusts. Information in the online seminar was based on analysis prepared for the Pew Charitable Trusts by Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI), an economic consulting firm. 

ESI provided a 2018 analysis of economic and fiscal impact of insufficient retirement savings in Pennsylvania from 2015 to 2030 for the Pennsylvania Treasury Retirement Savings Task Force. Subsequent analysis of county-level impacts was undertaken by ESI for Pew in 2020. ESI’s report updates findings of statewide impacts of insufficient savings to cover the period from 2020 to 2035. 

According to ESI’s findings, Pennsylvania’s elderly population is expected to grow by more than 550,000 in the next 15 years, increasing from 19% to 23% of PA’s population. The share of Pennsylvania households headed by an elderly resident is expected to increase from 30% in 2020 to 36% by 2035. Pennsylvania’s dependency ratio is also projected to increase from 43 households aged 65 and older for every 100 working-age households in 2020 to 56 households aged 65 and older in 2035. 

As working age households are major drivers of tax base, the change in ratio creates fiscal pressure. The reason being there will be fewer taxpaying households age 20-64 to support an elderly population that is projected to grow from 2.49 million in 2020 to 3.04 million in 2035. 

“There is a growing share of older people, older households in the Commonwealth, but the tax base that’s supporting a lot of the programs that support the elderly has not grown as quickly,” Scott said. “So that’s going to be placing more stress on taxpayers in Pennsylvania.” 

How much stress was revealed by Garrity, who noted that two million Pennsylvanians, approximately 44% of the state’s private-sector workforce, cannot save for retirement at work. The resultant cost to taxpayers, she said, is more than $1 billion annually. 

“I really want to emphasize this point,” Garrity said. “Pennsylvania taxpayers are footing a bill of more than $1 billion per year to account for unprepared retirees. That includes costs for social services and lost revenue.” 

Garrity added that research conducted by the Independent Fiscal Office confirms that Pennsylvania will reach a fiscal cliff by Fiscal Year 2025-26. 

“Common sense says we should prepare for it now,” said Garrity. “And here’s another fiscal challenge for Pennsylvania: The research we’re discussing shows the retirement savings crisis will cost Pennsylvania a total of $17.8 billion through 2035. So that’s the scope of the problem.” 

The problem having been defined, what’s the solution? Garrity and Scott said one way to address the retirement savings crisis is to implement a simple, business-friendly plan to help working Pennsylvanians save for retirement. Not a government handout, Garrity emphasized, but a program that makes it easy for people to save for retirement. 

“The goal,” she said, “is to make it easy for people to save their own money.” 

In December 2021, Garrity and Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Berks/Montgomery) and then-Rep. Michael Driscoll (D-Philadelphia) announced the introduction of “Keystone Saves”, a retirement-savings program for Pennsylvanians who do not have access to retirement savings through their employer. 

As is the case with automated savings programs across the country, Keystone Saves would enroll employees automatically in a voluntary individual savings account (IRA) to which they can use direct deposit to make regular contributions. 

Estimated to help Pennsylvania reduce state spending by close to $1 billion annually, Keystone Saves is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the United Way of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture, and members of the state’s General Assembly. 

As many employers are unable to provide retirement savings due to administrative capacity and high startup costs, state automated savings programs are seen as a practical solution to provide savings opportunities to workers who lack them. 

Scott noted that 12 states in the U.S. have enacted legislation creating such programs, and programs in six states are operational. Participants in state-sponsored automated savings programs have an average annual savings of $1,500 to $2,000. 

“These programs are showing this can be done,” said Scott. “This is a very feasible and practical solution.” 

The Keystone Saves bill has received bipartisan support in the Pennsylvanian legislature but has yet to pass. As Gov. Josh Shapiro is a Democrat who stresses bipartisanship, the opportunity exists to work with Garrity, a Republican, to guide the bill through the legislature. 

“The time to solve this problem,” Garrity stated, “is now.”

GEODIS Logistics’ Kutztown facility to lay off 107 workers

GEODIS Logistics LLC, a worldwide transport and logistics provider, plans to lay off 107 employees at its facility in Berks County by this summer.

The company made its plans known in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice filed with the state Department of Labor & Industry. The WARN Act requires employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of a covered-business closing and covered-business mass layoff.

The notice said GEODIS’ affected workers would be out of the 9750 Commerce Circle plant in Kutztown by July 31. According to the company, the facility is not closing but the job loss is expected to be permanent.

None of the employees are represented by unions.

“We have made the difficult decision to reduce our Kutztown workforce due to the loss of a key customer,” GEODIS said in a statement. “We have proactively communicated the decision to all impacted employees, and we will make every effort to assist these individuals in their transition to new job opportunities. We are deeply grateful for the continued support of the people and leadership of the Kutztown area and remain committed to the long-term health of our local operations that serve a diverse base of customers within the region.”

The WARN filing said the key customer lost was clothing retailer Everlane, which is moving its operations outside the U.S.

On its website, GEODIS said, “We’re recognized for our expertise and mastery of all aspects of the supply chain, as we serve as a real growth partner for our clients. With our five lines of business (Supply Chain Optimization, Freight Forwarding, Contract Logistics, Distribution & Express and Road Transport), we are a regional organization that spans all continents, with a direct presence in +60 countries and a global network covering 168 countries. GEODIS is ranked seventh in the world and in Europe in our field. We are also the distribution and express leader in France.”

GEODIS reported revenues of 13.7 billion euros (almost $14.6 billion) in 2022, which was 19% more than the year before.

After noting GEODIS achieved a record level of performance for the third straight year, CEO Marie-Christine Lombard said: “These excellent results in a challenging economic and geopolitical environment stem from the expertise of our teams, the complementary nature of our various businesses and our ambitious development strategy. … Although uncertainties remain in 2023, we remain confident in GEODIS’s growth prospects. Thanks to the diversity of our businesses and geographies and to our operational agility, we are looking forward to 2023 with determination.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Coldwell Banker Realty president extends leadership position

Extending his leadership position as president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Del., Richard Fleischer is overseeing the daily operations of the company’s 11 offices which support approximately 850 affiliated agents in nine counties. 

Fleischer’s responsibilities also include overseeing 27 offices and 2,500 affiliated agents as president for Coldwell Banker Realty in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania serves Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Franklin, and Perry counties. The company’s corporate offices are based in Conshohocken. 

“Rich is an outstanding leader with a strong history of supporting top-producing agents while also growing operations and sales volume,” said Marie Gayo, executive vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Coldwell Banker Realty’s company-owned operations. 

“Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware is well positioned for continued growth under Rich’s leadership.” 

Fleischer previously served as the regional vice president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida, the state’s largest residential brokerage. He managed operations for the East Central region, overseeing 25 branch and satellite offices in the Orlando metro and on the Atlantic coast. Fleischer doubled the productivity of the sales offices, grew the region organically and increased profitability. 

Fleischer’s career with Coldwell Banker began in 2004 and he has held various leadership roles with the company. He has managed numerous teams and divisions in various real estate sectors throughout the U.S.

Central Pa. social services agency brings lawsuit against Mid Penn Bank

The Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP) announced Monday that it filed a complaint against Mid Penn Bank for allegedly breaching their contract and acting in bad faith. 

Filed in Harrisburg last Friday, the lawsuit seeks to hold Mid Penn Bank accountable for its actions, or lack of actions, and to obtain compensation for the damages CILCP endured. 

Based in Harrisburg, CILCP is a non-profit social services agency that aids people with disabilities, CILCP charges that for more than 10 years Mid Penn Bank allowed ACH withdrawals to occur in excess of $249,000 from an account that had no prior record of ACH transactions.

In a statement to the Central Penn Business Journal, the bank said it values its relationship with the nonprofit.

“We have always valued our relationship with The Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP). While Mid Penn Bank cannot comment on pending litigation, we take the security of our customers seriously and will respond appropriately in court.”

CILCP states that Mid Penn Bank did not attempt to resolve, investigate, or assist CILCP in recovering the funds, and that Mid Penn Bank’s security procedures did not protect CILCP. 

“It is unprofessional and disappointing that a bank, who holds all the company’s funds, says they are sorry for your almost $250,000 loss, but there is nothing they can do to help get the money back,” CILCP CEO Janetta W. Green said in a statement. 

“As a small non-profit, we depend on our banks to protect our money and when the bank’s security measures fail, the bank should be held accountable.” 

The lawsuit looks to obtain compensation for the damages suffered by CILCP because of Mid Penn Bank’s actions. It also seeks to hold Mid Penn Bank responsible for its alleged lack of effective security procedures. 

Mid Penn Bank has headquarters in Millersburg and mid-state locations in Lehigh, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, and Lancaster counties. At time of writing, Mid Penn Bank had not yet responded to an email seeking comment.

Lehigh State Rep. sponsors legislation reviewing Pa.’s competitive status with China

To review Pennsylvania’s competitive status with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh) is sponsoring legislation to create a select committee in the House of Representatives. 

The legislative is bipartisan, as Rep. Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia) is the measure’s co-prime sponsor. 

If the measure is approved, the select committee will investigate, review, and provide findings and recommendations regarding the status of the CCP’s economic, technological, and security progress as it relates to its competition with Pennsylvania and the United States. 

The U.S. House of Representatives recently created a committee to investigate competition with the CCP at the federal level, and Mackenzie said in a statement that Pennsylvania’s select committee would be similar. 

“We believe there are many issues at the state level regarding our competition with China that need to be examined as well,” said Mackenzie. 

State-related issues referenced by Mackenzie include the following: 

  • Banning TikTok on all Pennsylvania government-owned devices. 
  • Divesting the state from Chinese assets connected to the CCP. 
  • Prohibiting the sale of state agricultural land and critical land near military bases by Chinese investors with ties to the CCP. 
  • Oversight or banning of Chinese investment or donations connected to the CCP that may be made to Pennsylvania colleges and universities. 
  • Locations of, and work being conducted by, Department of Community and Economic Development trade offices. 

A co-sponsorship memo seeking bipartisan support for the legislation is being circulated by Mackenzie and Burgos. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the approaching weeks.

International business experts from Berks and across Pa. mobilize to assist business

International business experts from Berks County and additional Pennsylvania counties including York and Lancaster have committed to be part of the mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors. 

The collective comprises a total of 25 international business experts serving all of Pennsylvania. They’ve conducted business in more than 60 countries and speak more than 20 languages. 

The mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors (GBA), a private sector, B2B advisory board for regional and international companies seeking to expand exports, imports, foreign direct investment, and international partnerships was announced by the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC). 

GBA is led by program director Wilfred Muskens. The newly appointed Muskens is Honorary Consul in Philadelphia for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and former Deputy Secretary for the Office of International Business Development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).  

“Global priorities have changed dramatically since COVID, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and related supply chain disruptions, and no one knows this better than our collective that has done business in more than 60 countries and speaks more than 20 languages,” Muskens said in a statement. 

“What makes Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors truly unique – with nothing else like it in Pennsylvania – is that its members are almost entirely from the private sector, we receive zero government funding and focus exclusively on international trade and investment. We’ve also expanded our reach to include not only the greater Philadelphia area but the entire state of Pennsylvania.” 

Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors will offer international business support and global advisory services harnessing expertise from Pennsylvania businesses and universities that include Fulton Bank and Elizabethtown College among others. Other active partners include the Irish-American Business Chamber and Network, the German-American Chamber, and the Mid-Atlantic Eurasia Business Council. 

GBA will also work in close collaboration with other international organizations in PA, including the Commonwealth’s Office of International Business Development (Department of Community and Economic Development), the PA Department of Agriculture, World Trade Centers in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, World Affairs Councils, bilateral Chambers, Small Business Development Centers and more. Agriculture, finance, health care, life sciences, energy, tourism, logistics and higher education are among the industries to be served. 

Muskens said GBA’s goal is to be a complementary, B2B source of international information and expertise, leveraging but not replacing free and low-cost assistance from state, regional, and federal trade organizations. As well as offering GBA member services where appropriate and useful, GBA will refer companies to those organizations. 

“This exceptional partnership ensures that local businesses can draw on the region’s greatest international minds to build their presence in global markets, and international businesses get easy access to a full range of foreign investment support services,” said CCEDC Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Grigalonis. 

“We’re excited to advance several projects that are already underway including an upcoming trade mission to Ireland, a partnership opportunity with India, a Dutch urban farming endeavor, support of a Canadian manufacturer and services for underrepresented communities including Hispanic-owned businesses.” 

In addition to individual country, cultural and language expertise, other areas of expertise range from strategic planning and market research to more tactical and transactional based services in areas such as international logistics, law, real estate, education and banking. Depending on a client’s individual needs as well as the nature and scope of work, free and fee-based services will also be offered. 

Supporters, detractors debate former governor’s complicated legacy

Governor Josh Shapiro was just minutes into his inaugural speech on Tuesday, Jan. 17, when he turned to address the outgoing chief executive, Gov. Tom Wolf. 

“Thanks to his leadership,” Shapiro stated, “we now find ourselves in the strongest financial shape in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, allowing us to make critical investments for tomorrow.” 

Supporters of Wolf likely found Shapiro’s praise for his predecessor providing a moment of warmth on a day otherwise chilled by wintry wind and leaden skies. The President & CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., Don Cunningham, believed Wolf’s greatest contribution to the state’s businesses and economy to be the reduction of the corporate net income tax from 9.99% to 4.99% by 2031. 

“It’s very significant for those of us to do economic development,” Cunningham said. “He proposed it in his budgets and finally got agreement from Senate Republicans. That’s what leaders do.” 

Not everyone on that gray inaugural day shared Shapiro’s sunny sentiments for Wolf’s impact on Pennsylvania’s businesses. State Senator Scott Martin (R-Berks/Lancaster) said there was “a lot of frustration” the past eight years. The reason being that many of Wolf’s policies were, said Martin, “counterproductive to Pennsylvania tapping into its full economic potential.” 

David N. Taylor, president & CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association, cites the “deeply disturbing” practices of the Wolf Administration that he says have destroyed an untold number of businesses in Pennsylvania. 

“Governor Wolf, during his tenure, was markedly unhelpful to Pennsylvania’s business competitiveness,” Taylor said. “At every turn, he was pushing for more government, higher spending, and he did a number of specific things that were especially damaging to the economy.” 

One such thing, said Taylor, was the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act (TCJA), which changed the depreciation, deductions, tax credits, and tax items that affect business. 

“When the tax policy was changed at the federal level, that was the starting gun for the process of American companies considering where to bring those overseas earnings to reinvest in America,” Taylor said. “Pennsylvania was the only state to say ‘no’.”  

Another point of contention was the additional tax on the production of natural gas in Pennsylvania that Taylor said Wolf called for in his annual budget addresses. 

“Even though he was never going to get that, the fact that you had the sitting governor calling for it rendered our investment environment uncertain,” Taylor said. “If you want to go back and look at when the rigs stopped coming in or when did they start leaving, 2015 was that turning point.” 

Jon Anzur, vice president of public affairs for the PA Chamber, called Wolf’s record on working with the business community “a mixed bag.” 

At the beginning of Wolf’s first term, he had what Anzur said was “a very adversarial” relationship with the business community. The issue at the heart of the impasse were business-related, a tax-and-spend approach not in line with the business community. 

“As Wolf went along,” said Anzur, “rather than treat the business community as an adversary, he treated it as a partner.” 

Supporters of the Wolf Administration point to what they see as life-changing investments in the people of Pennsylvania and the building of a business-friendly climate via the following actions: 

  • Collaborated with 430 companies to create and retain close to 194,000 jobs. 
  • Diversified state contracting so that diverse, small, and veteran businesses comprise 20% of Pennsylvania’s contractors. 
  • Eliminated the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax. 
  • Launched Manufacturing PA to link job training to career pathways. 
  • Partnered with the private sector to address the worker shortage. 
  • Placed Pennsylvania on track to a Corporate Net Income Tax rate of 4.99%. 
  • Reformed Occupational licensure to cut red tape, help workers, and strengthen the workforce. 
  • Distributed grants to help more than 10,000 small businesses and the hospitality industry survive the pandemic. 

“He did some things that were very focused on what we need to do to grow the economy,” Cunningham said. 

At the same time, Wolf’s handling of COVID-19 came under criticism. A state audit called the business waiver program confusing and inconsistent, declaring that it created for Pennsylvania companies an unfair playing field. 

Martin agreed. “Direct competitors, even in my own district, one would get a waiver to stay open and their direct competitor would not,” he said. 

Taylor recalled Wolf’s shutting down of businesses being done without the okay of those whose livelihoods were affected by the decision. 

“There was no outreach to say, ‘How will this play out in the real world?’” Taylor said. “You would think any leader would want to have the most comprehensive overview information as to how will this play out… Governor Wolf didn’t reach out to anyone.” 

Like many politicians, Wolf leaves behind a legacy that is complicated and conflicting. Supporters say it abounds with innovative programs, people-driven policies, and investments aimed at creating a more prosperous Pennsylvania. The Rainy Day Fund, dangerously low when Wolf took office, now stands at an historic $5 billion, and his administration secured a $5.3 billion budget surplus, albeit aided with federal funding. Still, Wolf is the first governor since 1987 to hand his successor a surplus. 

Critics call Wolf’s business policies catastrophic and see the former governor, in Taylor’s words, “hurling down thunderbolts from on high” during the pandemic, preventing citizens and their enterprises from adapting to the circumstances, forcing them to “sit back, do nothing, and watch their business die.” 

Martin likewise believed Wolf’s policies made the pandemic worse, and that Pennsylvania’s businesses have not fully recovered. 

“Businesses continue to struggle and some no longer exist because of the policies he put in place,” said Martin. “It had a lasting impact.” 

Cunningham noted that Wolf was operating in real time and trying to find the balance between keeping people safe and keeping businesses open. 

Good and bad, Wolf’s two terms provided what Anzur termed “an evolution in office,” the former governor finding “common ground to move the ball forward for Pennsylvania.”