In the last five years, three of the major employers in Lock Haven and Clinton County have closed their doors, a Lock Haven University senior told Pennsylvania's four candidates for Governor at a campaign debate this month.
The student, a lifelong resident of Lock Haven, said he’s seen firsthand the impact on his community and surrounding areas.
His question to the candidates: "If Lock Haven and other small towns have a future, what will you do to ensure the economic development of those areas?"
Republican Party candidate Mike Fisher said he won’t be satisfied until Pennsylvania is the #1 state in high technology jobs, and he wants Lock Haven and other communities to share in the economic growth. "We have an opportunity to bring high technology jobs to this state," he said. "High technology jobs are not just jobs in life sciences. They are not just jobs in biotechnology or cyber security. They are jobs in manufacturing."
Fisher said he advocates an economic base fueled by lower taxes, business tax cuts, less litigation, less regulation and infrastructure investment. And he said he wants every community to have the opportunity provided by high-speed digital access. "There are many communities in Pennsylvania that don’t have that," he said. "How are you ever going to get a high-technology job to locate there if you don’t have that kind of infrastructure? Under my administration, that kind of infrastructure will be in every county."
Democratic Party candidate Ed Rendell said he’s developed an economic plan specifically for Pennsylvania’s mid-size and smaller cities. "Number one, it means repairing the infrastructure of those cities, bringing cities back," he said. "It means giving opportunities in those cities and then bringing capital to those cities by developing a stimulus plan that will bring business back."
Rendell, former mayor of Philadelphia, said the workforce in a city such as Lock Haven is good, strong and will work hard. "If we can invest capital into Lock Haven, repair its infrastructure and incentivize businesses to come back, we can do for Lock Haven what we did across the board in Philadelphia by regenerating economic growth, producing surpluses, broadening our tax base and revitalizing the city."
Libertarian Party candidate Ken Krawchuk said he would make Pennsylvania a more attractive place for businesses, large and small, by promising to veto every tax increase. "The more we raise taxes, the more this chases businesses out of Pennsylvania, small businesses and large businesses. And putting unfunded mandates on them cuts the bottom rungs off the ladder, the opportunity for success. These are not the ways to go."
Krawchuk also said he would phase out Pennsylvania’s personal income tax over the four years of his administration. "This way, instead of companies moving out of Pennsylvania, they will be moving in."
Green Party candidate Michael Morrill challenged what he said was the "game" of moving jobs from one community to another. And he challenged the financial incentives provided to a private shipbuilder who opened a new business at the closed Philadelphia Shipyard.
"The shipyard was attracted to Pennsylvania with a $450 million enticement - $450 million for 800 jobs for three years," said Morrill. "With that $450 million, I would take those laid off workers, put them together with the brilliant minds at the Wharton Business School, take the existing business people from the Service Corporation Corps of Retired Executives, and create new small businesses."