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Shapiro unveils $40M tech-centric plan to stimulate Pennsylvania’s economy

Robotics, agriculture, energy, life sciences and manufacturing are focuses of the new Statewide Economic Development Strategy.

Gov. Josh Shapiro announces Pennsylvania's new economic development plan at OraSure Technologies' Bethlehem HQ, Jan. 30, 2024. (Courtesy Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

For the first time in nearly two decades, Pennsylvania has a formal plan to stimulate the commonwealth’s economy, according to Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Speaking from the headquarters of a Lehigh Valley diagnostics company on Tuesday, Shapiro unveiled a $40.5 million Statewide Economic Development Strategy focused on robotics and technology, agriculture, energy, life sciences and manufacturing.

“We need to make sure it is worthwhile for more businesses in these sectors to invest in us and to invest in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said. He stressed that the plan requires collaboration from both public and private sectors — with the goal of growing the economy, creating jobs and creating opportunities for innovation.

See the full plan

Shapiro made his announcement at the Bethlehem HQ of OraSure Technologies, which develops and manufactures diagnostic tests, collection devices and molecular services products for diseases such as COVID-19, HIV and hepatitis. Founded by three Lehigh University grads and supported by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the medtech company was previously led by former University City Science Center CEO and President Stephen Tang.

Current OraSure President and CEO Carrie Eglinton Manner spoke at the press conference in support of Shapiro’s plan.

“[The] future we envision is in part made possible through [a] very healthy regional economy,” Manner said, “and the robust relationships and collaboration with our government partners, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

A group of people walking down a hallway.

Gov. Josh Shapiro (center) walks with OraSure President CEO Carrie Eglinton Manner (right). (Courtesy Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

The Statewide Economic Development Strategy has five goals:

  • Invest in economic growth to make Pennsylvania more competitive for business opportunities
    • Shapiro said he plans to propose a major investment in site development across the state.
  • Speed processing times for business requirements
  • Create opportunities for all Pennsylvanians including apprenticeships, internships and job training
    • This includes a proposal for a $2 million investment in a Career Connect program to connect Pennsylvanians with employers.
  • Dedicate money to innovation funds to support startups and entrepreneurs
    • This includes a proposal for a $10 million investment in the Agriculture Innovation Program.
  • Help regional communities grow through a $25 million investment to build up small businesses and commercial corridors.
    • Shapiro said he also plans to propose a $3.5 million investment for the Pennsylvania Regional Challenge, a program to incentivize regional planning and collaboration.

Shapiro plans to propose these five investments at his annual budget address in February.

Gov. Josh Shapiro announces Pennsylvania’s new economic development plan at OraSure Technologies’ Bethlehem HQ, Jan. 30, 2024. (Courtesy Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

“This is the kind of work we need to do if we’re going to be a national leader,” he said. “If we’re going to be a leader in industry, in job growth, in innovation and most importantly, if we are going to be a leader in opportunity. I believe here in Pennsylvania everyone should have the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed. And in order to do that we’ve got to invest.”

Economic development groups and industry organizations across the state — from the Pittsburgh Robotics Network to the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia — shared their support for this plan and their intentions to collaborate with the state government and each other to help increase economic opportunity in Pennsylvania.

“Riverside Center for Innovation is thrilled to learn that Governor Shapiro and his administration took the necessary steps to address the challenges that small diverse businesses face to compete in a global economy through the release of a Pennsylvania Statewide Economic Development Strategy,” said Juan Garrett, executive director of the Pittsburgh small biz booster, in a statement. “Together, we can embark on a pathway that helps make entrepreneurs journey a more prosperous future.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: State of Pennsylvania

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