CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield County Economic Development Corp. (CCEDC) hosted its annual luncheon yesterday with two keynote speakers at the Florian Banquet Center.
State Reps. Matt Gabler (R-75) and Tommy Sankey (R-74) discussed their involvement in state legislation to help out Clearfield County. Gabler has been involved with the development of legislation to benefit local tourism and economic development while also improving Pennsylvania’s elk hunting license program.
Locally, he would like to take better advantage of the elk herd and the Elk Country Visitor Center to drive tourism and economic development for the entire area. If passed, the legislation, he said, would reauthorize the Elk License Auction Program that expired in 2013. Additionally, he said it would require that the annual elk license lottery drawing take place in Benezette.
Gabler also had legislation signed into law that reduced the state’s debt, required more transparent use of taxpayer dollars and continued job creation initiatives through Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RCAP). RCAP, he said, is a state grant program for the acquisition and construction of regional, economic, cultural, civic and historical improvement projects with the focus on job creation. The legislation, Gabler said, decreased the RCAP debt ceiling from its current $4.05 billion to $3.45 billion, a reduction of $600 million.
Sankey discussed his work on legislation that would create the Manufacturing Innovation Account Program. His legislation would create a small business IRA and enable small business owners to save tax-free for future investments in new facilities, machinery and workforce training.
According to him, businesses would apply for the program through the state’s Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED). The businesses, he said, must have fewer than 50 employees, and accepted applicants would be permitted to contribute no more than $100,000 to its account in a tax year.
Sankey has also worked on legislation that would repeal the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. “If a windmill works, then put one on my property,” he said. “If a solar panel works, please put one on my roof . . . We need to let science lead the way and give it a push.”
Sankey also expressed concerns about decision-makers who neither know local businesses nor the first thing about making payroll and other sacrifices. These decision-makers, he said, have no qualms with raising taxes and increasing regulations.
“Their safety net is to make more regulations on businesses,” he said. “I will refuse to vote for more regulations on businesses. It’s hard enough as it is.” Sankey added that Pennsylvania is rated in the bottom 10 for business-friendliness, a culture that he said needs to change.
Both Sankey and Gabler encouraged attendees to stay informed about the goings-on in Harrisburg. In addition, they encouraged attendees to come to them with any questions or concerns, as they serve them.
Before the keynote speakers, Rob Swales, the chief executive officer of the CCEDC, highlighted some accomplishments from the past year. The biggest and most asked about, he said, is the Riverfront Redevelopment Project. During the past year, he said they have been working on land acquisitions, the design, engineering and permitting process and cleaning up the former Uni-Mart site. Once completed, the riverfront will be connected between the Market and Nichols Street Bridges.
He noted that Paul McCloskey, vice president of energy, had recently presented about Clearfield County’s economic opportunities and advantages to a high-level business delegation from Taiwan in New York City. He said the CCEDC will also be taking part in a Site Selector’s Guild in Colorado and promoting its RigMonkey Smartphone app.
In 2014, Swales said the CCEDC wants to reach out to its membership and give them a question-and-answer forum. He said they plan to conduct three or four town hall meetings in Clearfield and DuBois, as well as in the Glendale and Moshannon Valley areas of the county.