Chamber Minute

February 2019

Hi, I’m Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber.

Welcome to this month’s Pennsylvania Chamber Minute.

In keeping with the optimistic tone he adopted in his Inaugural address, Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his fifth budget proposal earlier this month with a focus on how elected officials can work together to achieve great things for the Commonwealth.  In the speech, the governor laid the groundwork for building a 21st century workforce through collaboration between the public and private sectors.  I was pleased to accept the governor’s invitation to serve as co-chair of the new Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center.  This bipartisan initiative will build upon the strides in workforce that were made during last session’s Middle Class Task Force, on which I also served as co-chair.  This new initiative will engage state agencies that are involved in workforce efforts to develop a multi-tiered strategy for closing the jobs skills gap and making the state more competitive on a national and global scale.  In addition, the Pennsylvania Chamber will continue to stand with lawmakers from both sides of aisle to support public policies that will create opportunities for all our citizens,  by building on last year’s “Clean Slate” Act that has helped shield low-level convictions for previous offenders seeking to join the workforce; and by working to connect our veterans looking for a career in the private sector.    

The Chamber has been leading the charge on workforce development since we embraced it as a cornerstone of our mission in 2016.  Through a dynamic website, “StartTheConversationHere.com,” we’re connecting educators, students and business owners and educating them about the jobs available in the skilled trades and the education and training they need to embark on a promising career path. We’re also in our third year of collaborating with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to award Work Ethic Scholarships to deserving students who want to enter into the skilled trades.  Visit our workforce website for details on how your business can make a tax-deductible donation toward this very worthy cause.

As the budget season gets underway there are certainly areas of disagreement that elected officials will have to work out.  In fact, our organization has already warned about the negative consequences of a proposed minimum wage increase, another natural gas severance tax and a renewed call for the state to adopt an anti-competitive combined reporting tax policy.  But in an era where government always seems to argue, it’s been refreshing to see lawmakers and the governor coalesce around the concept of working through those issues while also finding areas in which they can agree.  We’re proud to be part of the vital conversation in building a world-class workforce here in Pennsylvania, and we look forward to continuing these efforts with the governor and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

Thanks for spending a minute of your time with the Pennsylvania Chamber, the Statewide Voice of Business.