Connecting Companies & Communities: The Story Behind the Headline
2016 was a banner year for economic development in Pennsylvania. The Governor’s Action Team (GAT) successfully completed 77 projects for companies who accepted financial assistance offers from the state and who were moving forward with locating or expanding business operations in the commonwealth. These companies pledged to create nearly 12,093 new jobs, retain nearly 24,754 jobs, and invest more than $7.8 billion in Pennsylvania.
Each announcement represents a huge success for the company, the commonwealth, and the Governor’s Action Team. However, what’s often lost in the excitement of a successful project is the underlying narrative of hard work and collaboration that brought that project from plan to reality.
While companies may vary in size and type, all share a common goal: to locate or expand in a community with the economic resources to support its operations while minimizing the time and money required to support the change. For over 30 years, the Governor’s Action Team has represented the governor and DCED in connecting companies with communities and critical resources to advance their plans. GAT staff members engage with companies daily to help them meet these needs while moving their business plans forward by:
- Identifying communities that best align with a company’s business needs
- Providing regional, socioeconomic, and business insights about potential communities & their residents
- Engaging with various state agencies
- Collaborating with local service providers
- Coordinating site tours
- Facilitating permit reviews
- Offering technical assistance & financial resources
So, how do these services come together in a real-life project? Here’s a look behind the scenes at how the Governor’s Action Team helped several recent projects to come to fruition.
Shell: Collaboration Results in Game-Changing Job Creation Decision
A perfect example is Shell’s ethane cracker project. When Governor Wolf announced in 2016 that Shell had chosen to locate its ethane cracker plant in western Pennsylvania, it was a game-changer and the highlight of the Governor’s Action Team’s 2016 successes. The project, which was five years in the making, had involved countless meetings and frequent, consistent communication with Shell, numerous state agencies, and local economic development and government officials. While convening the project’s major players, staff conducted internal due diligence to gather detailed information about the project, its planned business operations, and the potential economic impact it would have on Pennsylvania. This information allowed the team to customize a financial incentive package that would help minimize development costs for Shell while maximizing the return on the commonwealth’s investment as the economic impacts of the new plant ripple through the state’s economy.
VNET: Revitalizing Downtown Erie & Poised for Growth
Another recently announced project demonstrates how the Action Team’s involvement will help to revitalize a distressed area in one of Pennsylvania’s urban centers — the City of Erie. For more than 25 years, Velocity Network, Inc. (VNET) has provided IT and hardware support to businesses in Erie and the surrounding region. VNET plans to expand its services to include the residential market, but its 28,000 square-foot building in downtown Erie isn’t large enough to accommodate its expected growth.
In 2016, the City contacted the Governor’s Action Team about financial incentives that would help facilitate VNET’s business expansion and community redevelopment plans. Coordinating with the City and the Corry Area Redevelopment Authority, the Governor’s Action Team assembled a funding package that will allow VNET to purchase and renovate an existing 40,000-square-foot building in the city’s Renaissance District, which has been vacant for over 25 years. VNET hopes to occupy its new facility by 2018, and has committed to nearly doubling its current employment — adding 53 new jobs over the next three years and retaining its existing 55 employees.
“The VNET project is important to developing and revitalizing our downtown. It creates an opportunity for reuse of a long-vacant space and helps to bring jobs and sustainability to our central business district.”
In addition to its business expansion plans, VNET intends to transform the area surrounding its newly acquired facility by purchasing three more blighted buildings, repaving streets, adding bike lanes, upgrading sidewalks, and installing new and improved lighting.“The VNET project is important to developing and revitalizing our downtown. It creates an opportunity for reuse of a long-vacant space and helps to bring jobs and sustainability to our central business district,” said Erie Mayor Joseph E. Sinnott. “It follows exactly with what we are looking for in implementing our downtown master plan.”
These are just two of the successes among many in which the Action Team has been instrumental. The next time you see Governor Wolf announce a Governor’s Action Team project, remember to consider the story behind the success to understand the real-life impacts for Pennsylvanians and their communities.
As Executive Director of the Governor’s Action Team, Brent Vernon leads a dynamic team of economic development professionals who work on the front line of Pennsylvania’s business attraction and retention activities. Brent has more than 25 years of professional experience serving in state and federal economic and workforce development positions.