UNIVERITY PARK In an effort to hear directly from local leaders about economic development, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley met with municipal, county and business officials Monday at the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County.
Cawley said that sitting down with people on a local level to get direct feedback is better than the administration or General Assembly making decisions and having the local governments react later.
“It seems to me, the people we should be asking are the people who do it every day,” he said after the meeting.
One thing that the administration has been focusing on is attracting small businesses. He said some people are looking for huge, single-job creators, but tax credits for small business can go a long way in creating jobs.
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An issue that the governor’s office could help with is creating more opportunities for private-sector jobs in the area, State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said. He said the growth of Penn State has been great for the area, but it could be pulling people away from private-sector jobs, which limits economic diversity.
One way to open up more opportunities could be to increase the availability of tax incentives and streamline the conversation process between the local governments and the state, Board of Commissioners Chairman Steve Dershem said.
Dershem said there have been instances when it made it more difficult to attract private businesses to the area because of the lag time with state response on tax credits. Businesses always need information as quickly as possible, he said.
“We need to do it faster, smarter and better,” he said, adding that the process has been smoother recently.
Cawley said filling a representative position from the governor’s office to central Pennsylvania should help with the communication effort, and that the administration has been relaying to its staff to take an aggressive approach to economic development.
He acknowledged that he and Gov. Tom Corbett understand that Centre County is a big economic driver for the central part of the state, and they need to work to make sure it stays prosperous.
“I know the health of Centre County is vital to the health of central Pennsylvania,” he said.
He also placed an emphasis on using Pennsylvania’s natural gas in the state, and said the Centre Area Transportation Authority has been a leader in the state.
Cawley said he would like to see other transportation companies in the state take the lead and convert some or all of its fleet to natural gas.