Economics / Guest posts

Pennsylvania needs to change. Here’s where we start

Dave Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber, shares a few ideas in a guest post for #GrowPA.

Harrisburg is a

This story is part of Grow PA, a reported series on economic development across 10 Pennsylvania counties underwritten by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Sign up for our weekly curated email here.

This is a guest post by Dave Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corporation.

The Grow PA initiative is about positioning Pennsylvania for the future, right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being referred to as “the second oldest state.” U.S. Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. Let’s kick all the old folks out of Pennsylvania and lower our average age!

Not such a good idea? Then let’s retain and attract the next-gen workforce! But what’s that look like?

For starters, we have got some great colleges and universities in our Commonwealth. Let’s focus on graduating college seniors or folks completing advanced degrees. What are college graduates looking for? Well, jobs, of course, but they must be in places with high levels of livability.

What would be so difficult about connecting businesses in need of workers with soon to be graduates with jobs in cool places with great livability in Pennsylvania?

The days of the old college job fairs are things of the past and perception is the new reality. That means we need to get to work. Part of the solution is helping businesses and other employers realize that they need to become more aggressive in recruiting their next-gen workforce. It means internships, positive experiences for students leading to a positive experience entering the more permanent workforce.

It also means selling place, something that was never done in the past. Older generations went where the jobs were, or found another line of work. You might ask, “How do we sell Pennsylvania?” Remember, we live in an age of disruptive technology. Use it! The internet, social media — perception is reality.

We have the tools to completely change the image of Pennsylvania and its many delightful regions, and honestly, it’s more than perception. Pennsylvania is a very livable state with great things to do, great places from big urban, to smaller urban to suburban to rural. We have great physical connectivity to the world.

We decided a few years ago to start selling the Harrisburg Region. We do an Experience Harrisburg Job Connection Event — not on a college campus — but in downtown Harrisburg. Bringing over 200 students from great local colleges to experience Harrisburg’s livability and connecting them with employers that actually have jobs in a very non-traditional job fair.

We use a website we called Live the Life You Want where folks can find job postings and testimonials from young professionals who have relocated here. We have a stellar Harrisburg Young Professionals organization with about 1,600 members proud of our city and our region who each day welcome additional young professionals to our region.

Sure, they have a good time, but as we all know, the next-gen workforce also cares deeply about helping others. HYP is more than a social organization. It is also about helping our region and our city.

The result of our collective efforts is young energy and positive momentum. We are a region that is attracting young talent and growing, one of the fastest growing in the state.

Wouldn’t that be nice to say about all of Pennsylvania in the very near future?


Series: Grow PA

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