Shapiro executive order seeks to increase opportunities for small diverse businesses

Opening new business opportunities for Pennsylvania’s small businesses and small diverse businesses and improving procurement practices are the aims of Executive Order 2023-18, signed Tuesday by Gov. Josh Shapiro. 

“We need to do more to help our small and small diverse businesses compete for state dollars,” Shapiro said in a statement. “That will require policies like those I’m announcing today, but most importantly, it will require a governor who gives a damn and makes sure these businesses are part of our collective progress. It’s not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. 

“By supporting our small diverse businesses, we’ll not only grow our economy and strengthen our communities – we’ll also create more competition for commonwealth business and secure higher quality products and better results for all Pennsylvanians.” 

Lieutenant Gov. Austin Davis said he has seen firsthand that small businesses owned by women and Black and brown Pennsylvanians are vital to communities. 

 “We must support small-business owners by cutting red tape and putting resources into economic development and innovation,” said Davis. “That’s why today’s executive order is so important. We’re going to go out and actively encourage small businesses and small diverse business owners to compete for government contracts and become commonwealth vendors.” 

Shapiro’s executive order directs the Department of General Services (DGS) to coordinate efforts with agencies to increase their participation in the state’s Small Business Reserve (SBR) program, foster greater competitive procurement, and increase the amount of money directed to small and small diverse businesses.  

The order also establishes the Pennsylvania Advisory Council for Inclusive Procurement (PACIP) to advise agencies on ways to make state contracting opportunities more inclusive.

“Actions like this will continue changing the narrative around doing business with the commonwealth and build up Pennsylvania’s small business community – and we are moving at the speed of business,” DGS Secretary Reggie McNeil said.

DGS and PennDOT will partner to improve Pennsylvania’s contracting environment to increase its small business and small diverse business spending as a percentage of all dollars paid for goods and services by the agencies for their respective programs.

Under the new order, both agencies will also conduct outreach to the small diverse business community and provide technical support to qualifying small businesses interested in competing for state contracts. DGS and PennDOT will also designate employees to serve on an interagency working group that will assist the PACIP.

Della Clark, president and CEO of The Enterprise Center, said lifting up small and diverse businesses requires institutional buy-in at all levels.

“We view this executive order as the first step to combining contracts, capital, and expertise to intentionally grow small and diverse led businesses across the commonwealth,” said Clark.

Shapiro Administration launches Office of Outdoor Recreation

Gov. Josh Shapiro on Thursday launched Pennsylvania’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, highlighting the 2023-24 budget’s $112 million budget investment in state parks and forests – the largest in decades. 

“Our state parks and outdoor recreation industry are key to Pennsylvania’s economy – hosting nearly 40 million visitors each year and boosting local businesses and the local economy in and around our parks,” Shapiro said. “When we invest real money to make our natural resources more accessible for Pennsylvanians, it helps communities and businesses grow and thrive.” 

The focus of the Pennsylvania Office of Outdoor Recreation will be on growing an outdoor sector that contributes $14 billion to the state’s economy and accounts for 152,000 jobs. 

To create a strategy for the growth and expansion of the outdoor sector, the Office of Outdoor Recreation will coordinate with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the departments of Community and Economic Development and Health, PennDOT, and others. 

“The budget that I recently signed delivers on the promise of a new Pennsylvania Office of Outdoor Recreation to strengthen our communities and grow the commonwealth’s outdoor economy,” Shapiro said.

LVIA receives $1.6M from state

 The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that over $1.6 million in state funds will be invested in Lehigh Valley International Airport.  

The investment is part of $10 million in state funding that will be awarded to public use airports for facility improvements, infrastructure preservation and development. 

This announcement comes on the heels of the unveiling of a new, expanded terminal and TSA checkpoint at the airport.  

The state invested $13 million to support the construction of the new 40,000-square-foot terminal

“Our airports are gateways to local economies in the Commonwealth, providing Pennsylvania communities with thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic benefit each year,” said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. “Governor Shapiro knows that investing in infrastructure leads directly to jobs and economic progress. This state support will improve our airports, make our infrastructure more resilient and stimulate regional business.” 

The Lehigh Valley International Airport will receive $1,637,500 in state funds to continue the construction of a northside parallel taxiway. The taxiway will provide access to the expanding cargo development on the northern side of the airport. 

Ten projects statewide will be funded by the state Capital Budget through the Aviation Transportation Assistance Program, which is supported by bonds. 

PennDOT hiring in Lehigh County

PennDOT is looking to expand its workforce in the Lehigh Valley. 

It plans to host a job fair at the PennDOT Lehigh County office, 1712 Lehigh Street in Allentown Aug. 8 from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM. 

The event will include onsite interviews with job offers. 

 Those interested in a career with PennDOT are encouraged to attend the event to learn about the various opportunities available.  

District and county employees will be on hand to answer questions regarding employment and assist attendees with the application process. 

PennDOT is looking to fill a variety of positions in the county, including CDL operators and clerks.  

Applicants should bring an updated copy of their resume. CDL operators also should bring their current driver’s license and medical card.   

Applicants can see the current available positions by going online to www.employment.pa.gov. 


Key roads in Northampton County opened by PennDOT

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has reopened all state roads in Northampton County previously closed due to flooding.

The reopening occurred weeks ahead of schedule and less than two weeks after roads were closed due to destructive flooding.

State roads in Northampton County that were closed on Sunday, July 16 were safely reopened by July 24.

Also reopened ahead of schedule is Route 532, a key state road in Bucks County. Route 532 was closed Saturday night, July 15, and reopened on July 26.

Gov. Josh Shapiro and PEMA Director Randy Padfield visited flooded areas on July 16 just hours following the flooding. The governor declared an ”all hands-on deck” effort and said his Administration would support the impacted communities for as long as it takes to repair and reopen.

River Pointe developers seek rail transportation improvements

River Pointe Commerce Park’s developers are moving forward with plans for the Upper Mount Bethel project now that they have received conditional preliminary plan approval for subdivision, infrastructure improvements, and land development plans for lots one, two and six. 

Rail transportation has become a major focus of the development. 

River Pointe Commerce Park’s traffic engineering and planning firm McMahon Associates Inc. said it wants to reenergize dialogue in support of transportation-related infrastructure solutions related to the Norfolk-Southern State Route 1039 (River Road) Freight Rail overpass.  

This trestle canopies the portion of State Route 1039 where Portland Borough’s Delaware Avenue turns into River Road in Upper Mount Bethel and is located just 200 feet north of the Portland Industrial Park and 500 feet south of the Columbia-Portland Toll Bridge and 611 off-ramp.  

 Dialogue has been initiated with Norfolk-Southern, who owns the overpass, PennDOT, and others. Recognizing this as an area to be focused on, outreach to Norfolk Southern had been initiated early on.  

 With the most recent approvals, the ability to focus on the real solutions for the rail overpass improvements and the road it canopies is now possible.  

McMahon Associates and the development team are working with Norfolk Southern and PennDOT on evaluating the trestle’s existing conditions and development of recommended infrastructure improvements.  

The Norfolk-Southern rail freight overpass is located north of both the existing Portland Industrial Park and River Pointe Commerce Park.  

“We are fully aware of the need to address the structure and throughput of the trestle and have been and will continue to actively work with our consultants, rail provider, and regulators to improve access to prevent bottlenecks and backups,” said Lou Pektor, president of River Pointe Commerce Park. “Solutions could include expanding or lowering the roadway, a necessary step in providing efficient and safe access to I-80 via River Road.” 

 Pektor noted that all plans and solutions will need to be reviewed and approved by local and state authorities.  

I-95 to reopen this weekend

Good news for commuters. I-95, will be reopening this weekend, significantly sooner than the originally projected two-week timeline. 

A portion of I-95 outside of Philadelphia was closed when a bridge collapsed because of a truck fire. 

PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll announced the news late Tuesday afternoon. 

 “Based on the tremendous progress these crews made over the weekend and the time it takes to complete the remaining steps, I can now say that we will have I-95 back open this weekend,” said Gov. Josh Shapiro. “We have worked around the clock to get this done, and we’ve completed each phase safely and ahead of schedule. That’s all due to the incredible coordination with our local, state, and federal partners – and thanks to the hard-working men and women of the Philadelphia Building Trades who are making this happen.” 

Carroll said crews have worked around the clock to reopen the roadway safely and as quickly as possible within two weeks of the collapse – well ahead of experts’ original predictions. 

Last week, Shapiro announced that demolition was completed in just four days – well in advance of experts’ original predictions.  

Throughout the holiday weekend, crews made significant additional progress by filling the gap with ultra-lightweight foamed glass aggregate to build up to surface level.  

This innovative approach was made possible with the aggregate material from a local Delaware County business, which has provided the ultra-lightweight foamed glass aggregate for use on other projects here in Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and in other states across the country. 

Throughout the remainder of this week, crews will begin paving three new lanes in each direction by the weekend.  

  Lehigh Valley’s growth makes transportation upgrades necessary 

The Lehigh Valley’s population is growing and it’s growing rapidly. 

That was the message from Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. 

She spoke Wednesday at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Transportation Forum at Mack Truck in Allentown. 

With a Gross Domestic Product of $49 billion – more than some states – the Lehigh Valley is attracting people to the tune of about 4,000 new residents a year. 

To keep that growth as a positive and not a negative thing, she said the region needs to be proactive in preparing for that growth. 

“Change is occurring and it’s inevitable,” Bradley said. 

She said traffic patterns and employment profiles are going to be significantly impacted as the region grows both in industry and population. 

She said, for example, there are currently 96,000 people employed in the manufacturing and transportation industry, second only to the number of people employed by the health care sector. 

And she said they are sectors that continue to grow. 

She said the planning commission predicts that in the next six years the Lehigh Valley could have almost another 44 million square feet of industrial production in operation. 

The increases in the manufacturing and transportation industries will have the largest impact on bridges and traffic. 

And officials in the region are looking at the places where new industry and a larger population will impact the transportation infrastructure. 

The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) is looking to bring efficiency to its routes to better get people from where they live to where they work. 

The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority (LNAA) is almost 90% finished with its $35 million airport improvements to Lehigh Valley International Airport, which includes a new terminal connector and added TSA lanes to speed the process of getting travelers to their destination. 

The Lehigh Valley International Airport also added direct flights to Denver on June 14 and is still looking to attract airlines to serve cities such as Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando and San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

Passenger rail is another improvement to the region’s transportation infrastructure that is being investigated, but officials warn they’re very early in the process. 

Bradley said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently invested $300 thousand in a feasibility study to bring passenger rail service between the Lehigh Valley and the New York City/Newark area. 

PennDOT will be studying what current infrastructure exists now and what kind of improvements will need to be made. 

“This is before we can even get in line for rail development,” Bradley said. After all the work, she said it may still not come to fruition. 

Of course, the Lehigh Valley’s roadways are still the heart of transportation in the region and Mike Rebert, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for highway administration, said the department is investing in a $90 million, multi-year transportation study to assess repair and expansion needs. 

“We want to catch problems before they get bigger,” Rebert said, referring to the long repair job that will be needed after the recent I-95 bridge collapse in Philadelphia, which will have a major negative impact on traffic throughout the corridor. 

He said it’s important to address the structural integrity of the state’s bridges and roadways before there’s a catastrophe.  

He said with current supply chain issues, the already long process of repairing the bridge will take even longer. He noted that it will take at least two-and-a-half months to get the steel beams needed for the project, before work can begin. 

Rebert said work is needed in the western part of the Lehigh Valley right now. He said that the Route 222 bypass has succeeded in bringing new business and people to that part of Lehigh and Berks counties, but that growth has now necessitated additional road work to handle the added traffic in the area. 

He said there are several projects planned for the stretch of I-78 that goes through the Lehigh Valley including upgrading interchanges and widening the roadway where possible. 

Another major undertaking, which could get underway in 2025 is the widening of the 378/Hill to Hill Bridge in Bethlehem to ease traffic into the city’s south side. 

Bradley also pointed to the environmental impact of the region’s growth and care needs to be taken to protect the Lehigh Valley’s air and water quality. 

She said the region’s electric vehicle infrastructure is something that is being worked on, with PennDOT saying it’s shooting to have EV stations available every 50 miles on the state’s highways. 

But Bradley said everything must be on the table. 

“We really have to look at the infrastructure system differently,” she said. 

PennDOT announces Cargo Growth Incentive Program fund extension

The Pennsylvania Intermodal Cargo Growth Incentive Program (PICGIP), which looks to increase containerized cargo activity by incentivizing shippers to move cargo through Pennsylvania ports, is being extended to July 2024. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced on Friday the extension of the program, which was scheduled to end in June 2023. 

“Pennsylvania’s ports are a crucial part of our state’s transportation network,” PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said in a press release. “Increasing shipping activity will help ensure that goods are delivered to market in a timely manner, and the Cargo Growth Incentive Program is a critical tool in keeping Pennsylvania’s economy moving.” 

PICGIP was created in 2015 through PennDOT’s Multimodal Fund, and it makes up to $1 million available annually to participating ocean carriers that move cargo through Pennsylvania’s ports. Increased cargo helps secure full-time employment at the terminals and also increases economic activity through indirect and induced jobs. 

Used as a tool to compete with other ports in attracting new ocean carriers and trade lanes to Pennsylvania, the Intermodal Cargo Growth Incentive Program helps retain and reward loyalty as carriers return to Pennsylvania ports and have the chance to achieve incentive payment. 

Since 2015, nearly 3 million units of cargo have been sent to Pennsylvania ports by participating ocean carriers. Over the same time, ocean carriers have been awarded approximately $6 million in incentive funds. 

New service at a Pennsylvania port as well as existing carriers qualify for the program incentive. New carriers receive $25 per new container unit loaded or discharged from vessels to a Pennsylvania port. Existing participants who exceed established benchmarks also qualify for the incentive payment.

PennDOT announces Freight Movement Plan crucial to PA economy, travel

A comprehensive strategic plan for moving foods throughout Pennsylvania has been announced by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). 

The 2045 Freight Movement Plan (FMP) is deemed by Gov. Josh Shapiro to be critical to Pennsylvania as it promotes economic growth and safe travel. The plan is available on PennDOT’s website.  

PennDOT Secretary Michael Carroll said the new Freight Movement Plan will help guide the investment decisions the Shapiro Administration makes regarding infrastructure that supports freight movement.

“The plan positions us to respond to the major changes from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and ensure Pennsylvania has a safe, efficient, and integrated freight system to support jobs and commerce,” Carroll said in a press release.

The state of Pennsylvania’s freight infrastructure and PennDOT’s efforts to improve movement of freight are provided in the FMP. The freight plan seeks to ensure that Pennsylvania remains eligible for approximately $58.5 million annually in federal funding through 2026.

FMP, along with the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), sets priorities and transportation strategies to guide project investments. The FMP and LRTP aim to improve mobility, safety, sustainability, resilience, and fairness for moving people and goods throughout Pennsylvania.

“The FMP’s goals and objectives set a clear direction, and PennDOT will carry out an Action Plan in coordination with freight stakeholders to make systematic progress over the next four years,” PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Planning Larry Shifflet said. “We’ll be regularly tracking implementation progress and performance measures in Pennsylvania’s biennial Transportation Performance Report.”

PennDOT collaborated with freight stakeholders over a two-year period to develop a plan that addresses state and federal provisions for freight planning.