PA tourism bouncing back to pre-pandemic level

The Pennsylvania Tourism Office reported Thursday that the state’s tourism industry is returning to 2019 levels. 

Pennsylvania welcomed 180 million visitors in 2021, and tourism spending is generating more than $66 billion for the state’s economy and supporting over 452,000 jobs. Visitor spending also contributed $4.2 billion in local and state taxes. 

Released in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), the 2021 Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism report provides state, regional, and county levels that show the contributions of the tourism industry to the state’s economy. 

Carrie Fischer Lepore, Department of Community and Economic Development Deputy Secretary of Marketing, Tourism & Film, said in a press release that tourism is a significant economic driver that injects billions into Pennsylvania’s economy and helps fund vital services such as education, infrastructure, public safety programs, and transportation. 

“Each household in Pennsylvania would need to pay an additional $802 in taxes to replace the tax dollars generated by the tourism industry which were received by state and local governments in 2021,” Lepore said. “We know that these numbers will continue to grow as consumer trends show, yet again, significant enthusiasm for travel to Pennsylvania.” 

Containing the most recent available data, the report reveals that visitor activity in Pennsylvania significantly increased in 2021. The rise is related to the reopening of businesses and venues and a boost in traveler confidence. 

Notable 2021 results included the following: 

  • An increase in visitors of more than 28 million from 2020. 
  • $66.3 billion in state and local taxes. 
  • 452,885 jobs supported, a ratio of 1-in-17 jobs in the state. 
  • A $9.1 billion increase in direct visitor spending to reach $38 billion, which includes hotels, restaurants, retailers, and tourism related businesses. 

Visitor spending produced $8.8 billion in government revenues, while state and local taxes generated $4.2 billion in 2021, an increase from 2020 of $614 million. 

Contributing the most to the economic recovery is the growth in overnight visitor spending, which increased by $7.5 billion in 2021. More than 60 million trips resulted in the spending of $23.2 billion. 

The Economic Impact of travel and Tourism report is compiled at the Pennsylvania Tourism Office at DCED. Information for the report is supplied by Tourism Economics, and data is provided by Longwoods International and STR, the latter delivering analytics and marketplace insights for the hospitality industry. 

Longwoods’ tracking study of American travelers indicates that 93 percent have trips planned in the next six months, the highest level since 2020.

Penske Truck Leasing opens facility in Washington state to accommodate Northwest growth

Reading-based Penske Truck Leasing recently opened a 12,301-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in Pasco, Washington.

Penske employs approximately 15 associates at the new facility, and is hiring truck technicians, management trainees, and customer service representatives locally and nationwide.

“We’ve been growing steadily in the Northwest region and required a larger space to accommodate our increasing customer base in and around the Pasco area,” Chavela Brown, area vice president – Northwest region, Penske Truck Leasing, said in a release. “The added capabilities and capacity at this incredible facility maximizes fleet uptime, and a state-of-the-art environment, with cutting-edge technology for our associates.”

At the Pasco location, which is on 6.21 acres and features three drive-thru bays with six service areas, Penske offers consumer and commercial truck rentals, full-service truck leasing and contract truck fleet maintenance services. It’s also outfitted with the company’s proprietary digital and voice-directed preventive maintenance process and other digital experience solutions that help fleet customers make the most from technologies such as telematics, onboard cameras, electronic logging devices and Penske’s own technologies.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Penske Truck Leasing expands network, acquires New England truck leasing business

Reading-based Penske Truck Leasing announced Thursday it has reached an agreement to acquire Kris-Way Truck Leasing Inc.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Founded in 1978, Kris-Way is a transportation services company offering full-service leasing, commercial truck rental, contract maintenance and dedicated contract carriage.

Penske will absorb Kris-Way’s approximately 150 associates and over 900 vehicles from seven locations throughout Maine and New Hampshire.

The transaction – anticipated to close in the second quarter of this year – is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

“Kris-Way has earned a stellar reputation in the marketplace,” Art Vallely, president of Penske Truck Leasing, said in a release. “Penske and Kris-Way customers will benefit from the combined services both companies have to offer across our growing network. We look forward to working closely with Kris-Way customers and associates to integrate the business into the Penske brand.”

“We are excited to join Penske,” added Kris-Way President Tom Keefer. “We believe as part of Penske, Kris-Way is well-positioned to support our customers’ needs into the future. By expanding our network, our associates will have new opportunities for growth and development.”

Penske Truck Leasing is a Penske Transportation Solutions company that operates and maintains more than 416,000 vehicles and serves customers from more than 919 maintenance facilities and more than 2,500 rental locations across North America.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Study reveals Pa. unemployment rate to be good news/bad news

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point in February, but the state’s total nonfarm jobs reached a record high, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I). 

The L&I’s preliminary employment situation report revealed that the state’s unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.4% in February, matching its level from February 2022. 

The U.S. unemployment rate increased two-tenths of a percentage point from January to 3.6 but was down 0.2 percentage points from February 2022. 

According to the L&I report, Pennsylvania has recovered more than 100% of the 1.1 million jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic. As of January 2023, the state’s civilian labor force – the estimated number of residents working or looking for work – increased 8,000 over the month due to increases in both employment and unemployment. 

The state’s nonfarm jobs were up 5,600 over the month to a record high of 6,094,400 in February. Six of the 11 industry super sectors reported job increases from January, the largest increase being in leisure and hospitality with gains of more than 3,000. Trade, transportation, and utilities jobs remained at a record high level. 

Total nonfarm jobs were up 164,800 over the year with gains in all 11 super sectors. Education and health services saw the largest volume gain over the year with more than 53,600 jobs, while three other super sectors each saw increases of more than 19,000.

Shapiro signs executive order committing to creating economic growth

Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order Tuesday creating the Pennsylvania Office of Transformation and Opportunity within the Governor’s Office and the Economic Development Strategy Group. 

The two offices will seek to create a unified strategy for economic growth and development, with a focus on disadvantaged and underserved communities. 

The Office of Transformation and Opportunity will help develop and lead an overall growth strategy and implement economic development projects – coordinating with Commonwealth agencies, expediting permit reviews, and ensuring the speed of business review and approval of key incentive programs. 

Rather than require business to go to multiple agencies for permits, approvals, and funding, the office will serve as a one-stop-shop to cut through red tape, bring state agencies together, support the growth of state businesses, and encourage out-of-state businesses to move to Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania business leader and entrepreneur Ben Kirshner has been named by Shapiro Chief Transformation and Opportunity Officer. 

The Economic Development Strategy Groupwill be driven by the Chief Transformation Officer, and will be chaired by the governor, consisting of the Chief Transformation and Opportunity Officer and the Secretaries of Labor & Industry, Community and Economic Development, Transportation, Agriculture, Education, and Environmental Protection. 

The group will advise Shapiro on economic development projects and processes to attract and retain employers, recruit innovation leaders, and create good-paying jobs in Pennsylvania, particularly in underserved communities. 

Shapiro said in a statement he’s heard from state business and labor leaders that government needs to work more quickly. He said Tuesday’s action makes clear that Pennsylvania is open for business and is looking to be an aggressive leader when it comes to economic growth, job creation, and innovation. 

“My administration will connect our business, our workforce, our world-class universities and research institutions, and the public sector to spur economic development, particularly in communities that have too often been left behind,” Shapiro said. “By helping businesses that are already here, encouraging new ones to move to Pennsylvania, and investing in our workforce, we can create real opportunity and build an economy that works for everyone.” 

Kirshner stated that Tuesday’s executive order signals the Shapiro Administration’s willingness to create transformational change in Pennsylvania. 

“Businesses of all sizes have been asking for economic development to be a focal point in his administration,” said Kirshner, “and (Shapiro) answered their calls by creating the Office of Transformation and Opportunity.” 

Acting Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development Rick Siger said he looks forward to partnering with the Office of Transformation and Opportunity. The goal, said Siger, is “to support Pennsylvania businesses and workers and maximize the opportunity to attract game-changing economic development projects to our Commonwealth.” 

PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein said “regulatory and permitting reform continue to be among the critical issues that businesses would like to see addressed.” 

A long-standing deterrent to business investment in Pennsylvania has been the state’s slow permitting process and uncompetitive tax structure.  Recent reforms to Pennsylvania’s Tax Code – including the reduction of our Corporate Net Income Tax rate from 9.99 percent to 4.99 percent by 2031 – and Tuesday’s executive order look to make Pennsylvania more competitive and incentivize economic growth. 

Two Pennsylvania railroad rehab projects receive $16.4 million in grant funding 

Railroad infrastructure projects in Berks County and Adams and Cumberland counties will receive a total of $16.4 million in grant funding. 

Gov. Tom Wolf announced this week that the Gettysburg & Northern Railroad Co. was awarded up to $1.84 million and the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Berks was awarded up to $14.6 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants. 

The grants were made possible by President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed last November. The law included $368 million in funding for CRISI grants for 46 projects in 32 states. 

The funding is expected to strengthen supply chains and create good-paying jobs, according to the Wolf Administration. 

“Rail infrastructure is critical to this commonwealth, as we rank first in the nation in the number of operating railroads and nearly top in total track mileage, so this funding will ensure that our infrastructure remains strong and reliable, while creating good-paying jobs,” said Wolf. “I’m grateful to the Biden-Harris Administration for its continued commitment to investing in our infrastructure through the landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will make a significant difference for not only our physical infrastructure but also our economy and our workforce.” 

Gettysburg & Northern Railroad Co. will use its grant funding for the Gettysburg State and Private Investments Driving Economic Recovery Project, which is expected to rehabilitate approximately 24 miles of the Gettysburg & Northern Railway mainline in Adams and Cumberland counties. 

The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Berks will use its funding for its Colebrookdale Railroad Infrastructure, Safety & Capacity Upgrade. The proposed project will rehabilitate approximately 8.6 miles of track with 130-pound continuous welded rail to ensure compliance with class 2 track standards and the ability to able to handle 286,000-pound railcars between Boyertown and Pottstown. The project will also rehabilitate or replace 14 bridges that are deteriorating, construct two rail-served transload yards, and six new sidings.