Penn State’s football trip to Ireland viewed as economic opportunity

The commonwealth will be using the Penn State-Central Florida football game in Dublin, Ireland, this summer as a way to create more international business connections.

This is just one way — “a big way” — to enhance the “Make it in America” initiative, said Wilfred Muskens, deputy secretary of international business development for the Department of Community and Economic Development.

“Make it in America” is a federally funded program introduced in 2012 to promote foreign investments around the country. Pennsylvania was one of 10 states to receive a $3 million grant for the initiative.

The Susquehanna Economic Development Association-Council of Governments in Lewisburg runs the program with more than 70 partner agencies from across the state, including the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County.

Two days before the Aug. 30 game, state administrative officials will conduct a daylong meeting with prospective businesses and will serve on a panel to generate opportunities for Irish companies in Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, Muskens and Noelle Long, export development director at SEDA-COG, addressed members of the CBICC about how the program would benefit the area.

“The first message is how important it is for international business for the state and this region,” Muskens said. “If you look at how much Pennsylvania exports and how much investment we attract, we have been increasing the past decade.”

Less than 10 years ago, the state exported about $17 billion from Pennsylvania. Last year alone, the state had more than $40 billion, Muskens said.

“If you look at exports as a percentage of our gross state product, it’s at least doubled and supports more jobs than it did 10 years ago, more companies, more manufacturing, more suppliers,” Muskens said.

The main mission of the program in Pennsylvania is to advertise the 52 counties that make up the state’s “T” region, internationally.

Long said it’s a long-term effort that will use its grant money in a three-year time period to fund a plan to bring companies to Pennsylvania by training chamber of commerce members on ways to market the area at international trade shows.

“The state’s emphasis on international business development has had many recent success stories,” said chamber spokeswoman Lesley Kistner. “The Make it in America initiative is specifically designed to encourage this type of investment in the more rural, T region of the state, including Centre County.”

The next meeting regarding this initiative is set for mid-June with the CBICC.