As the chairman of the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development (CERD) Committee, the recovery of our state’s economy is my top priority.
The committee’s role is important in setting the stage for economic development in Pennsylvania by assisting struggling communities and businesses recover from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERD Committee is focused on boosting our economy by getting state residents back to work, safely reopening our state for business and holding state agencies accountable for their actions.
Over the past few weeks, the panel has passed bipartisan pieces of legislation that would establish an Economic Recovery Grant Program for businesses, expand the state’s Neighborhood Improvement District Act and create a statewide system for Rural Coworking and Innovation Centers, to assist rural workers as they adjust to new working conditions during the pandemic.
Moving forward, we’ll continue to focus on strengthening our communities and creating jobs. Pennsylvanians deserve nothing less. Visit the committee’s website to learn more about legislation and topics that are under consideration: https://community.pasenategop.com.
$6 BILLION ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROJECT PROPOSED FOR NEPA.
A tax program that I championed – as part of unique coalition of lawmakers, business, manufacturers and building trades – helped northeast Pennsylvania land a game-changing economic development investment.
Nacero Inc. announced in October that it intends to build a $6 billion lower carbon gasoline facility in Newport Township, in Luzerne County.
Overall, the project is expected to generate approximately 4,000 new construction jobs, and nearly 450 full-time positions.
Pending land development clearances and permitting approvals, construction could begin sometime over the next 24 months.
It is the single largest economic development investment in the history of Luzerne County.
The project was made possible by the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit, which was approved with bipartisan support, when Act 66 was signed into law in 2020.
As part of the program, up to $6.7 million in tax credits are provided for qualifying projects. Production-based credits are only awarded after a product is made. As a result, the up-front investment in the plant will already be in place and operational before taxpayer subsidies kick-in.
Nacero plans to fuel the plant with 100 percent renewable energy, and use natural gas – our abundant, clean burning natural gas – as a feedstock to produce a gasoline that is zero sulfur emissions, and 50 percent less CO2 emissions.
The plant will be built on former mine-scarred land of approximately 1,000 acres. By reclaiming this former industrial site, sources of acid mine drainage will be mitigated from entering creeks, streams and the Susquehanna River, all while providing economic restoration to an area that desperately needs investment.
Projects such as the Nacero plant are a win for Pennsylvania’s economy and environment.
Small Business Assistance Package Receives Support, Feedback
Senator John Yudichak, center, presides over a hearing on Small Business Assistance and Economic Recovery on January 26th at the Capitol.
As each new COVID-19 variant hits Pennsylvania, the small businesses that are the heart of our communities must brace for more and more economic turbulence.
That is why I fully support a package of bills being introduced by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) that would establish a $500 million Business Loan Bond Fund, as well as a Small Business Assistance Grant Program, and an associated tax credit.
The legislation under review by the committee, Senate Bill 983 and Senate Bill 984, represent an effort to enhance economic recovery in Pennsylvania. Small businesses throughout the Commonwealth have been struggling to remain relevant, with pandemic restrictions, the workforce shortage and other factors playing a role.
The committee recently received testimony on this legislative package, from the PA Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, the Restaurant and Lodging Association and the National Federation of Independent Business. Pennsylvania business owners also joined the discussion Wednesday, January, 26th at the Capitol.
Representing the Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association was Board President Thomas Tyler, who told committee members that only one out of every three members received grants from previous government programs. Tyler owns McStew’s Irish Sports Pub in Levittown.
“There’s no question that our members need support from the state to recover from the losses they’ve suffered, while complying with state edicts over the last two years,” said Tyler.
“Basing the grants on lost profits and loss of employees just makes sense,” continued Tyler. “Hopefully, the system for approvals will be improved from our experiences with the state’s CHIRP program or Washington’s Restaurant Relief Fund, which sounded good, but left a sour taste in the mouths of many of my members, who applied but received nothing.”
The bills aim to help businesses that were forced to cease operations due to Governor Wolf’s closure order issued in March of 2020. Only businesses that the administration deemed to be “life-sustaining” were permitted to remain open.
It is debatable whether these draconian emergency restrictions had a positive impact on public health – but what is crystal clear is the economic hardship endured by many small businesses, who have since closed their doors or have struggled to find workers to build back their businesses. Pennsylvania had the second highest percentage of businesses that were forced to close during the pandemic.
A robust economic recovery lifts all ships — our businesses, our schools, our health care system, and every citizen in Pennsylvania who is fighting through inflation, high energy bills, and rising retail prices. I look forward to an ongoing conversation about economic recovery in Pennsylvania.
Proposal Resurfaces for Cocktails to Go
I am partnering with committee member Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) in reintroducing a proposal that would permanently allow cocktails to go from bars and restaurants.
During a recent hearing conducted by the CERD Committee, statewide business advocates and entrepreneurs told lawmakers that recovery has not yet started for many small businesses.
As a result, we are offering this legislation to provide restaurants and bars an opportunity to maintain cash flow and expand offerings.
It is our hope that this proposal will help our struggling restaurants and bars recover from the mandated restrictions that were placed upon them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
This type of sale was permitted – albeit temporarily – during the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, allowing small businesses to generate a new source of revenue.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, 33 states adopted alcohol-to-go programs in the early days of COVID-19.
Subsequently, 15 states extended approval of those programs, and 16 have passed laws enshrining the practice for good.
We need to continue to support our businesses in Pennsylvania with this type of legislation.
Panel Advances Legislation to Aide Economic Recovery, Assist Rural Workers
Senator Yudichak, chair of the CERD Committee, chairs a recent voting meeting.
Legislation aimed at spurring economic recovery in Pennsylvania, as well as a bill that would expand workforce venues in rural communities, recently received bipartisan support from the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee.
Proposed by committee member Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton), Senate Bill 977 would create a new $75 million economic recovery grant program.
Authored by committee member Senator Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny/Washington), Senate Bill 797 would update the statewide Neighborhood Improvement District Act to include Allegheny County, giving the tourism industry more resources to attract visitors to the greater Pittsburgh region.
I commend Senator Robinson and Senator Boscola for working to advance legislation that will help Pennsylvania businesses sustain their companies and their employees through the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.
Additionally, Senate Bill 962 would launch a grant program for Rural Coworking and Innovation Centers, to assist rural workers as they adjust to new working conditions during the COVID epidemic.
Introduced by committee member Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-Johnstown), grants of up to $500,000 could be awarded to eligible entities in rural counties – as well as municipalities located within non-rural counties – to construct or renovate a facility, improve utilities and broadband service connections, and for purchasing furniture and security systems to facilitate an online workforce.
Forty-eight counties are considered to be rural, according to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.
Working families have altered their livelihoods in response to the latest COVID variants and working closer to home has become an attractive option for our ever evolving workforce. The program has the potential to breathe new life into community facilities, facilitate partnerships with government and school venues, and encourage the adaptive re-use of rural venues.
Smart Tax Policies Luring Investment to Pennsylvania
Senator Yudichak, center, was the guest speaker in a recent Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry and Pennsylvania Manufacturers Monthly Business Briefing. Gene Barr, Chamber President, and Dave Taylor, President of the Manufacturers, are also pictured.
Job growth is being spurred throughout the state – including northeastern Pennsylvania – as a result of smart tax policies that are luring massive construction projects requiring manufacturing and other skilled trade jobs here.
These tax credits are helping the private sector drive job growth and private equity investment, and they help get the government out of the way.
Prior to Thanksgiving, I was invited to participate in a monthly business meeting hosted by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, and the PA Manufacturers Association.
Act 66 of 2020 established the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit, requiring a company to invest $400 million in the construction of a new manufacturing facility, create 800 jobs and pay prevailing wages, among other requirements.
Along the I-80/81 corridor, from Hazleton to Wilkes-Barre to Scranton, there is now an opportunity to create 25,000 new jobs over the next decade.
In addition to Act 66, the General Assembly passed a sales and use tax exemption for computer data center development, that Governor Wolf signed into law as Act 25 of 2021.
The effort sets our tax policy on a course to generate billions of dollars in private investment, and potentially unleashing thousands of new jobs. It also signals to investors that Pennsylvania will no longer cede technology investment to our neighbors.
A coalition of statewide building trade unions, tech industry leaders and bipartisan lawmakers helped make the vision become a reality.
Moving forward, smart tax policies leverage job growth and put the sign out that capital is welcomed in Pennsylvania. There is more work to be done, and I look forward to continuing those discussions as chair of the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee.
Luzerne County Visitors Bureau Awarded Funding for Tourism Marketing
I recently joined Luzerne County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Alan Stout and Luzerne County Acting Manager Romilda Crocamo at the brand new Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau Center to celebrate $250,000 in grant funding from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
The funding was awarded to the Visitors Bureau through the Marketing to Attract Tourists grant program.
Overall, the tourism industry in Luzerne County has a tremendous economic impact, typically generating more than $1 billion dollars per year and supporting more than 7,000 jobs.
The success of the tourism industry in Luzerne County is essential to continuing the historic economic growth and development that is currently unfolding in northeastern Pennsylvania. I was determined to help the Visitors Bureau secure this funding to support their promotional and marketing efforts to bring more people to our beautiful region. As we continue to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue to invest in job creation and retention and tourism is an important industry that will assist northeastern Pennsylvania in advancing forward to an even more prosperous economic future.
“We appreciate and we are grateful for Senator Yudichak’s support of the Visitors Bureau. This grant will help us promote tourism in Luzerne County through new and expanded marketing initiatives,” said Alan Stout, Executive Director, Luzerne County Visitors Bureau. “The economic impact that tourism has in Luzerne County is significant and it’s great to have a senator that understands that. This grant will help support the tourism industry, while also promoting all of the wonderful things to see and do here in our region.”
Senator Yudichak oversees a voting meeting by the CERD Committee.
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