Coal regions to get federal workforce boost

Pennsylvania is getting a boost to its outdoor recreation and tourism workforce – particularly in the state’s coal regions. 

The Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship has received a federal grant of $736,000 from the Economic Development Administration that will be matched with $1.5 million in local, state and other funds to help coal communities diversify their economies, create good-paying jobs and incentivize new investment. 

Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and John Fetterman (D-PA) announced a $736,000 grant for the Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship to stimulate growth in the region’s tourism and outdoor recreation workforce. The grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce will be matched with $1.5 million in local, state, and other funds to help rural North Central Pennsylvania communities, including many coal communities, diversify their economies, create good-paying jobs, and incentivize new investment. 

“This economic development grant will help the PA Wilds to expand its work to strengthen the region’s outdoor recreation workforce and support rural economies,” said Casey.

This project is funded under the Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) initiative, through which EDA awards funds on a competitive basis to assist communities severely impacted by the declining use of coal. ACC projects support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development, and re-employment opportunities. 


Pa. receives $500M investment from Australia company

Gov. Josh Shapiro and Pratt Industries announced a commitment Monday to invest $500 million and create hundreds of jobs in Pennsylvania over the next 10 years. 

Pratt Industries Executive Global Chairman Anthony Pratt joined with Shapiro and Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger to announce the investment at the corrugated packaging company’s plant in Carlisle. 

“I want to plant a flag and make it clear to companies across the country and around the world that Pennsylvania is open for business,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Having Pratt Industries invest a total of $1 billion in Pennsylvania and create hundreds of new jobs is a clear sign that the commonwealth is a place where global businesses can grow and succeed.

“Whether they’re based in Australia or Allegheny County, we are showing the private sector that an investment in our Commonwealth is a worthwhile one – and companies that commit to moving and growing here know that the Commonwealth will be an active partner, and that we’ll work as hard for them as they work for their customers and employees.”

As part of its new commitment, Pratt Industries will invest in recycling, remanufacturing, and clean energy infrastructure. The company has invested $500 million in Pennsylvania and employs more than 800 total workers at its facilities in Carlisle (Cumberland County), Reading (Berks County), East Greenville (Montgomery County) and Macungie and Emmaus (both in Lehigh County).

“Pratt Industries is proud to employ more than 800 Pennsylvanians across the state in high-paying, green collar, advanced manufacturing jobs, and our total culminative investment in Pennsylvania now exceeds $500 million,” said Anthony Pratt.

“As part of that commitment, and as a result of Governor Shapiro’s leadership, I’m honored today to pledge a further investment of $500 million in recycling, remanufacturing and clean energy infrastructure over the next ten years, to create hundreds of new jobs in the great state of Pennsylvania. Our investments will allow the company to grow for years to come, supporting our customers, employees, and the community.”

Through the DCED, Pennsylvania in 2011 provided Pratt Industries with a more than $1.3 million funding offer to locate a box manufacturing plant in Macungie that helped create 125 jobs. 

“We compete every day with other states and countries for global business investments like this one,” Siger said. “Under Governor Shapiro’s leadership, Pennsylvania is working aggressively to keep companies here and attract businesses from around the world looking to grow and succeed in our commonwealth. We’re moving at the speed of business to ensure more companies like Pratt Industries choose to grow here in Pennsylvania.”

Originating in Australia, Pratt Industries is America’s fifth largest corrugated packaging company and the world’s largest, privately held producer of 100% recycled containerboard. The company operates manufacturing facilities in more than 25 states.

Pratt Industries has received assistance from DCED’s Office of International Business Development, which offers customized services to help international companies seeking to expand in Pennsylvania.

SBA proposes rule to increase returning citizens’ opportunities

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is proposing a rule that would aid in expansion of access to loan programs for people with criminal history records. 

American adults with a criminal history record would gain entrepreneurship opportunities under the proposed reforms. 

“America is about possibilities and second chances – and that includes justice-involved individuals who are working hard to rebuild their lives through entrepreneurship,” Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement. “SBA’s proposed rule would help returning citizens have better access to capital to start and grow their businesses and ensure our economy and society can benefit from their pursuit of the American dream of business ownership.” 

Current SBA regulations contain barriers for loan applicants with certain criminal history records. Some applicants are completely barred from SBA programs.  The proposed rule would expand access to capital for entrepreneurs by expanding eligibility and removing barriers to SBA’s loan and bond programs. It would also eliminate SBA application forms from asking applicants about their involvement with the criminal justice system. 

Individuals with a criminal history involvement identify employment as their most urgent need. A 2018 study reveals that formerly incarcerated people have a 27% unemployment rate, dramatically higher than the United States unemployment rate.  Substantial evidence exists of labor force discrimination against formerly incarcerated individuals, due to concerns about recidivism and gaps in work experience.

Entrepreneurship offers individuals with connections to the criminal justice system an alternative. The proposed regulations would clarify requirements across SBA capital programs and expand access to the capital necessary to start a business.

The rule change would do the following:

  • Standardize eligibility rules across SBA capital programs, including the 7(a) Loan Program, 504 Loan Program, Disaster Loan Program, Microloan Program, and Surety Bond Guarantee Program—which collectively provide over $40 billion in capital annually to small businesses. 
  • Reduce confusion and subjectivity (e.g., what is considered a “crime of moral turpitude”). 
  • Rather than rely on self-reporting from the applicant, SBA will eliminate detailed questions on the application and, instead ask a straightforward question on current incarceration status and then verify that status using the applicant’s SSN and a third-party database. SBA will also check against SBA internal data for those connected to pandemic fraud and other resources related fraud against the federal government. 
  • Continue to allow SBA lenders to follow their own policies on criminal background checks. 
  • Continue to deem businesses with owners who are currently incarcerated and all those who have previously committed fraud against the government as ineligible for all capital programs.

Guzman said the proposed rule “is not only the right thing to do to strengthen our economy and communities, but it is also the smart thing to do because research shows that employment helps people thrive during reentry and reduces the risk of recidivism.”

Biden notes Pa.’s record low unemployment rate

U.S. President Joe Biden noted Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for August, which remained at an historic low 3.5%, a figure that ranks below the national unemployment figure of 3.8%.

“Under Bidenomics, we have helped build one of the greatest stretches of job creation in American history, and Pennsylvania is leading the way with its second month in a row at its lowest unemployment rate on record,” Biden stated in an email. “The Bidenomics boom is in every corner of Pennsylvania. With record lows in areas from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, York to Erie, Scranton to Reading and Allentown, Pennsylvania is leading America and America is leading the world again.”

The late rankings were released Friday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I). While Pennsylvania’s rate remains its lowest since January 1976, the U.S. unemployment rate rose slightly by three-tenths of a percentage point. 

Pennsylvania’s unemployment was 0.8% below its August 2022 level of 4.3%. The state’s civilian labor force, which is the estimated number of residents working or looking for work, increased by 1,000 in August. Resident employment rose by 6,000 from July and unemployment fell by 4,000. 

Nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania were up 15,800 in August to a record high of 6,164,500. It marks the eighth consecutive month that jobs have set a new all-time high level. 

Eight of the 11 industry supersectors saw jobs increase in July, the largest gain (7,400) being in education & health services, which rose to a record high. Construction and trade, transportation and utilities also reached record high levels in August. 

Nonfarm jobs for the year have increased by 153,800, with gains in all 11 supersectors. The largest volume over-the-year gain among supersectors was in education & health services, which increased by 50,000.

Where does Pa. rank nationally in working remote?

Pennsylvania ranks 23rd in the country in having the highest percentage of males regularly working from home at least one day a week, and 22nd in females working from home, according to the 2023 U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. 

According to the survey, an average of nearly 27% Pennsylvania males work from home, while nearly 26% of Pennsylvania females are working remote. 

Massachusetts has the highest percentage of men and women working from home, an average of 38%. Mississippi has the lowest at just over 11%. 

Select Software Reviews analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey which reveals households where someone has worked from home in the previous seven days, and across a variety of demographic splits in each state including age, gender, income, and educational background.  

A spokesperson for Select Software Reviews said in a statement that the findings reveal there are more Americans earning a significantly higher salary working from home. As many high-paid roles involve working with colleagues, clients, or partners from different parts of the world, remote work allows professionals to collaborate across time zones without the need for constant travel, increasing productivity. 

The review noted that “Generation Z” has the highest percentage (33%) of remote workers. It also noted that there are several trends and factors that could influence the future of remote working in the U.S. Hybrid work models are becoming more popular, thus allowing employees to split their time between working from home and working in the office. This approach offers the flexibility and autonomy of remote work while maintaining a level of in-person collaboration.  

Remote-first companies make working from home the default option with physical office work limited. This can help organizations tap into a broader talent pool and reduce overhead costs associated with maintaining large physical office spaces. 

Some companies are also offering more flexible work arrangements, allowing employees to choose when and where they work, based on their individual needs and job responsibilities.

Millions allotted to attract major sporting events to Pa.

Seeking to bring nationally known sporting events to Pennsylvania, $5 million in grants are being awarded through the Department of Community and Economic Deveopment’s Sports Marketing and Tourism Program. 

Funding was announced Thursday by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger. 

The Ironman Triathlon, U.S. Open women’s and men’s golf, and World Cup, scheduled to take place in Pennsylvania this year and over the next three years, are all expected to greatly impact the state’s economy. 

“Pennsylvania is hosting a series of incredibly exciting events in the coming years, and I’m thrilled that we can support some of them through this program,” Siger said in a statement.

The Sports Marketing and Tourism Program was established to attract high-quality, amateur, and professional sporting and e-sports events to Pennsylvania. Investment in the program is geared to capitalizing on increased tourism that accompanies the hosting of major national or international sporting events.

Program grants have been awarded to the following organizations:

  • Happy Valley Adventure Bureau was awarded $70,000 for the 2023 Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in State College.  
  • The United States Golf Association (USGA) was awarded a total of $2.43 million; $1.215 million for the 2025 United States Men’s Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont and $1.215 for the 2024 United States Women’s Open at the Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster. 
  • Philadelphia Soccer was awarded $2.5 million for the 2026 World Cup, with matches to be held at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

“The commonwealth will be at the center of the sports world at events like the 2026 World Cup, where it’s estimated at least 450,000 people will visit our state from around the world, providing a tremendous boost to the economy,” said Siger.

Survey ranks Pa. among state’s top employers

A new survey conducted by Forbes Magazine and Statista ranks Pennsylvania among the leading employers in the state. 

On the list of 97 state employers, Pennsylvania is one of four government entities to be named, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced. 

“The commonwealth offers Pennsylvanians a chance to serve one another every day,” Shapiro said in a statement. “We’re emphasizing skills and experience in hiring for government jobs and state troopers, investing in mental health resources for our employees and their families, and expanding internship and apprenticeship programs to bring more people into state government to create new pipelines for talent.”

Secretary of Administration Neil Weaver said state agencies need qualified employees to help deliver services relied on by residents.

“I believe the opportunity to have a rewarding career and make a positive impact through public service makes us stand apart from most employers,” said Weaver. “Our recruiters are attending hundreds of job fairs each year in schools and communities across the state to raise awareness about all that we have to offer.”

Skills and experience are emphasized in state hiring, along with the following:

  • Expanding internship opportunities for high school and college students to raise awareness of public service and create new pipelines for talent. 
  • Creating internships and apprenticeships for non-degree students pursuing careers in a variety of fields. 
  • Offering the William and Hannah Penn Fellowship for job seekers with advanced degrees. 
  • Establishing a Commonwealth Chief Diversity Officer to lead diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion initiatives across Commonwealth agencies.

Another recent survey by Forbes and Statista had Pennsylvania ranked nationally as a leading employer by recent college graduates.

Forbes partnered with market research firm Statista to survey 70,000 employees across the U.S. Participants were asked if they would recommend their employer to family and friends, and to evaluate their employer on company image, compensation packages, diversity, potential for development, and working conditions.

Coca-Cola to cut 58 jobs at Allentown plant

Coca-Cola Co. announced that 58 of its employees will lose their jobs at the end of this year at the multinational corporation’s syrup plant at 7551 Schantz Road, Upper Macungie Township.

The drink industry giant informed the state Department of Labor & Industry of the layoffs through a mandatory Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act Notification letter.

“After careful consideration, The Coca-Cola Co. has decided to suspend a portion of our operations at the Lehigh Valley plant in Allentown … and transfer the volume to a third-party co-packer in the area,” a Coca-Cola spokesperson said in a statement. “As a result, there will be employee impacts. These decisions are never made lightly, and we will offer impacted employees career support services and the opportunity to apply for other jobs within our network.”

The WARN notice said employees were informed Aug. 21. Effective date of the layoffs is Dec. 31.

Dennis Hower, president of Local 773 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents the nonmanagement workers who lost jobs, said the Coca-Cola facility makes Powerade.

The union will do its best to help the soon-to-be-jobless, he said, hooking up as many as it can with other Teamster 773 employers.

“They work hard,” Hower said of the employees. “We’ll do whatever we can to place them.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

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 appoints diverse leaders to Pa. Workforce Board

Revamping the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board, Gov. Josh Shapiro has appointed a diverse group of more than 40 members to help guide his Administration’s goal of creating opportunities for workers and businesses. 

Housed under the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I), the Workforce Development Board serves as the Governor’s private-sector policy advisory board. Shapiro said in a statement that Pennsylvania needs to invest in and expand its workforce to meet the demands of today and tomorrow.  

“This diverse group of experienced leaders representing labor and business across every Pennsylvania industry will help us make smart investments to produce the results that we all want – a thriving economy where workers have access to stable careers with family-sustaining wages and employers have the talent they need to continue growing their businesses while supporting communities across the commonwealth,” said Shapiro. 

L&I Secretary Nancy Walker said workforce development is about solving the challenges of today while seeking to figure out the solutions that might work tomorrow.

“I look forward to working with the governor’s appointees to the Workforce Development Board on all the smart, innovative ways we can invest in the workers of Pennsylvania to overcome our challenges and achieve a people-driven, dynamic economy,” said Walker.

Individuals appointed to the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board include the following:

Among those representing labor are Robert Bair, PA Building & Construction Trades, president (Dauphin County); Angela Ferritto, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, president (Dauphin County) and Matthew Yarnell, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, president (Dauphin County).

Individuals representing business include Brian Funkhouser, Buchart Horn, CEO (York County); Shea Zwerver, Flagger Force, workforce relations manager (Dauphin County); Marguerite A. Kline, County of Berks, human resources manager (Berks County); Kait Gillis, Nour Coffee Shop, owner (Cumberland County); and Michael Shirk, The High Companies, CEO (Lancaster County).

Among those representing local government and community organizations are Don Cunningham, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, president and CEO (Northampton County) and John J. Sygielski Ed.D, H.A.C.C., president (Dauphin County).

Representing the Shapiro Administration are Walker; Jason Kavulich, secretary of aging; Russell Redding, secretary of agriculture; Laurel Harry, secretary of corrections; Frederick Siger, secretary of community and economic development; Khalid Mumin Ed.D, secretary of education; Akbar Hossain, secretary of policy and planning; Valerie Arkoosh, MD, MPH, secretary of human services; and Ryan Hyde, director, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Lauded by Dems, lambasted by Republicans, IRA marks one-year anniversary

Democrats love it. 

Republicans loathe it. 

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law one year ago by President Joe Biden, and its anniversary has brought close examination on the effects it is having on Pennsylvania. 

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) marked the anniversary by stating that the IRA is lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs for American families and seniors, including a $35 cap on insulin for seniors. Casey said the act likewise lowers energy costs from electricity bills to electric vehicles and invests in American manufacturing projects using American materials and investments in energy communities. 

“Because of this law, seniors and families are spending less on their prescription drugs, Americans are spending less on their electricity bills, and we’re on the cusp of a manufacturing renaissance in the United States,” Casey said in a statement. “By investing in America’s clean energy capabilities, we’re on track to meet our climate goals. Pennsylvania families and communities are feeling the impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act, but I’m proud to say that the best of this law is yet to come.”

Casey’s colleague, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chair Senator Sharif Street, recently released a statement on the anniversary of the IRA becoming law:

“One year ago, President Biden and Democrats beat Big Pharma and ultra-wealthy special interests to pass the Inflation Reduction Act — despite every single Republican in Pennsylvania voting against it.

“The legislation is doing exactly what it promised: lowering health care and prescription drug costs for families, bringing new jobs to our communities, and spurring crucial investments in clean energy that will continue to deliver for future generations of Pennsylvanians. The progress we’ve made is all at stake in 2024 as MAGA Republicans pledge to roll back the historic legislation and increase costs on middle-class families.”

While Democrats laud the Inflation Reduction Act as an investment that is lowering health care costs while also making generational investments in clean energy, American manufacturing, and good-paying union jobs, Republicans view it as a reckless, destructive measure.

“The idea that the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress did anything to reduce inflation at all is a fairy tale,” Pennsylvania Republican Senator Scott Martin, Berks/Lancaster, wrote in an email. “In reality, the reckless and irresponsible spending in the so-called Inflation Reduction Act likely made the pressures of inflation even greater on working families over the past year. 

“Inflation is only beginning to moderate now because of the painful rate hikes enacted by the Federal Reserve, not because of anything done by the Biden Administration and their allies in Washington, DC.”

State Senator Kristin Hill-Phillips, R-York, stated that the IRA has not helped Pennsylvania.

“Washington’s problem is that they cannot print money fast enough before they spend it on a never-ending wish list,” Phillips-Hill wrote in an email. “A year later and Pennsylvanians are still stuck paying sky-high gas prices, rising interest rates continue to keep middle class families from buying a home or vehicle, and the cost of buying groceries places a huge strain on household budgets.

“Since the passage of this law, families in southern York County continue to struggle due to the disastrous policies coming from the Biden Administration. The only ‘reduction’ from the Inflation Reduction Act is the amount of money families have left over after paying all of their bills.”

Kristen Swearingen, vice president of Legislative & Political Affairs for American Builders and Contractors, has stated ABC’s opposition to the Act on grounds that it imposes tax hikes on American companies and workers, reinstates a tax on crude oil and imported petroleum products, and creates restrictive labor requirements.

Ivanti CEO Jeff Abbott, who has led the large private company to recently reach $1B in revenue, took the view that the IRA is helping to transition the U.S. economy from rapid recovery to stable growth.

“The way I see it, 2023 was a year of rebalancing and 2024 will be a year of growth,” said Abbott. “As we near the end of the year, we’ll see the breadth of inflation narrowing and businesses vigilant about tech spending.”

Business leaders, legislators address hot-button issue of permitting reform

Business and labor agreeing can be a rare thing, as PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein has stated. 

So, too, is the sight of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents joining together on bipartisan legislation. 

Yet both are becoming commonplace when the topic is permitting reform, a hot-button issue at the forefront of Pennsylvania’s drive to improve its competitiveness and expand economic opportunities for business and workforce. 

“I think the bottom line is that Pennsylvania needs to be more competitive,” Bernstein said Tuesday in a press conference addressing permitting reform in the state. “We’ve lost 40,000 residents to other states in the last year alone. We rank in the bottom five for businesses leaving. 

“But here’s the good news: There’s bipartisan consensus in Harrisburg to get generational opportunity for reform across the finish line fast. That will lead to more jobs, that will lead to a stronger Pennsylvania economy. Everyone agrees this is a bipartisan issue, and everyone agrees that cutting the permitting process in terms of streamlining it, we can be more effective. Pennsylvania loses out in critical investments if we have an antiquated, outdated permitting structure.” 

Bernstein pointed to recent examples of Pennsylvania losing businesses and workers because of its permitting system. U.S. Steel built a $3 billion investment, encompassing 900 jobs with average salaries of more than $100,000, in Arkansas. The state’s governor at the time, Asa Hutchinson, remarked that the next generation steel mills would be built faster in Arkansas than Pennsylvania could permit them. 

Bernstein also cited a company in Pittsburgh, Astrobiotic Technology, that he said is creating a Lunar Lander that’s going to hit the moon’s surface. 

“It was apparent to me that it’s easier to get a permit to go to the moon than it is to build a new project in Moon Township, Pennsylvania,” he said. 

Advocates of permitting reform see it as crucial to building a modernized public infrastructure, continuing to provide energy, goods, and services required in an economy grown increasingly diverse, and establishing advanced manufacturing hubs in innovative industries. Bernstein said reforms can be made in the permitting process without removing environmental restrictions. 

The state’s permitting process as it stands now is considered costly, time consuming, and a sizeable detractor to job growth and investment. The PA Chamber supports the following reforms to aid in new projects being permitted and built: 

  • Third-party review of permits – With state agencies reporting workforce challenges, the PA Chamber recommends providing permitting agencies be given the option to contract with qualified third parties to assist with the technical review of permits. 
  • Codify the governor’s one-stop shop – The PA Chamber stood with the Shapiro Administration and leaders from business and organized labor for the signing of an executive order to establish a one-stop shop to streamline permits for key projects. The chamber recommends codifying this office into statute to provide long-term durability to the approach. 
  • Streamlined permit appeals – Once a permit is issued, it is possible the decision could be challenged in court. The PA Chamber recommends limiting review for permit challenges going before the Environmental Hearing Board to issues raised during public comment. 
  • Stop draining agency resources – Permit review times are protracted in part because of DEP, should it lose a permit appeal, potentially being on the hook for attorney’s fees. The PA Chamber supports state government having the resources to do its job by limiting awarding of legal fees only in cases of bad faith. 
  • Shot clocks and deemed approved – As timely permit decisions are necessary to get projects financed and built, the PA Chamber recommends a timeframe for permits to be reviewed and issued and deemed approved if the agency does not make a decision in the time defined in statute. 

The PA Chamber fronted a group of 68 business associations and local chambers of commerce in sending a letter on May 8 to Gov. Josh Shapiro and members of the state legislature. The letter urged decisive action in reforming a permitting system the group deemed “dysfunctional and unpredictable.” 

Two days later, the Pennsylvania Senate approved permitting reforms aimed at streamlining and expediting the permitting process. Senate Bill 350 was sponsored by Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland/Dauphin/Perry) and it built on executive orders Shapiro signed earlier this year that are designed to reduce permitting delays and government red tape. The bill was referred on May 18 to the State Senate, which reconvenes in September. 

“Permitting delays affect everyone,” said Phillips-Hill, an experienced small business owner who noted that government red tape got its name from the red tape that was manufactured in York. “People can’t wait for days to get an answer from their state government. What is going on with government if you have to wait because the state can’t issue you that certificate? 

“I think it’s why we have so much bipartisan support for such an initiative.” 

Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton) said increased accountability and transparency are needed in the permitting process. 

“One place where government can relay stymie the job creation process is the permitting process,” said Boscola. “It seems one of my No. 1 jobs now, rather than legislating, is navigating this permitting process.” 

Boscola said delays can make or break projects, be it broadband, construction of roads and homes, pipelines, etc. 

“The Lehigh Valley is a very growing area,” she said. “But a lot of times it’s the permitting process that’s holding up future development.” 

Boscola said it’s encouraging to see business and labor, Democrats and Republicans come together on the common goal of finding what needs to be done to have government working for people and not against them. 

“By speeding up the permitting process, we can get these projects moving faster and get working,” Boscola said.