Federal grant to help attract foreign investment to Centre County

A $1.8 million national grant will help an initiative to attract foreign investment to Centre County and other rural areas of the commonwealth.

SEDA Council of Governments, the Center for Direct Investment and Team PA will be part of a three-year grant program to attract outside investment, according to the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County.

As a Central Pennsylvania Prep Partner, the CBICC and and the Centre County Industrial Development Corp. are partners in the program, said Lesley Kistner, CBICC communications director.

The program is partly funded by the federal “ Make It In America” grant, Kistner said.

The program seeks to encourage foreign companies to expand in Pennsylvania, specifically in Centre County and the other counties that make up the state’s “T region.” That includes a total of 52 counties, Kistner said.

“Specific to the foreign investment initiative, the first phase of the program is focused on staff training,” Kistner said.

Training would include protocol in dealing with foreign companies and training in foreign direct investment, as well as visiting local companies that are foreign-owned or companies that have off-shored.

Other training would include coordinating the marketing of the region, clearly developing opportunities within the region and developing site-specific, industry-specific and regional-asset inventory, Kistner said.

“Ultimately, the program seeks to secure foreign business investment — recruiting foreign businesses — and encourage Pennsylvania companies that have off-shored all or part of their operations to re-shore,” Kistner said.

The program will look at the supply chain as well.

“For example, is it feasible for a foreign supplier to locate in the region to be closer to customers and potential customers, particularly in with regard to specific industry clusters?” Kistner said. “It is an all-encompassing approach.”

The program’s economic development partners will meet quarterly for training specific to foreign direct investments.

Upcoming meetings would be held in March, June, September and December, Kistner said. Mary Resides, CBICC/CCIDC economic development specialist, will attend the meetings and is the point person for this specific initiative for CBICC/CCIDC.

The initial phase of the three-year plan also includes the development of a coordinated marketing plan to promote the region and the creation of an inventory of available land suitable for development.

Other program objectives include attendance at international trade shows and tours of the region.

CBICC President Vern Squier said Centre County, with its tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones and other amenities, makes the area a prime location for expanding businesses.

In terms of its own economic development work, CBICC/CCIDC is focused on making sure the area has what is needed to successfully recruit and compete for new business investment — international or otherwise — as well as working to ensure that existing businesses are able to thrive, he said.

“We are examining the current business environment in order to identify both challenges that can be addressed and opportunities that we can build on in order to create a healthier private sector,” Kistner said.

Only 10 grants were awarded for this program in the country, Squier added.