With the re-opening of Pennsylvania’s economy and the wide-spread distribution of the COVID vaccines, Pennsylvania is at a turning point.  While we are returning to a sense of normalcy, businesses continue to face pandemic-related challenges – including serious workforce shortages.  As part of the state’s post-pandemic recovery, we need to focus on the economic future we envision for our Commonwealth.

Now is the time to seize the opportunity before us and make our state a beacon for innovation and investment.  Now is the time for bold and decisive action to harness all of the resources Pennsylvania has to offer and set the Commonwealth on a solid path toward long-term prosperity. That is why the Pennsylvania Chamber has embarked on a bold initiative, “Bringing PA Back,” aimed at propelling the Commonwealth’s economic resurgence.

Our initiative doesn’t aim to simply bring Pennsylvania’s economy back to what it was pre-pandemic.  For too long, the state has been stagnating as potential investments and opportunities continually pass us by.  Just look at the latest census numbers – which will once again lead to a reduction in Pennsylvania’s congressional representation and influence on the federal level.

While most of the focus has been on what Pennsylvania’s new congressional maps will look like going forward, there’s been little conversation about why we’re in this position in the first place.  We need to get to the root cause of why people are leaving Pennsylvania and what can be done to entice people to stay and move to the Commonwealth.  Make no mistake, the states that have seen an influx in population and will gain Congressional representation, by and large have more dynamic and competitive economies.  These states have embraced the need for change and taken steps to improve their tax and regulatory environments.  With these reforms come more investment and economic opportunity for their residents, and, as we are increasingly seeing for graduates and young workers from other states who are leaving moribund economies behind.

Economic stagnation and decline are a direct result of the policy decisions our elected officials make.  That’s why it’s incumbent that Pennsylvania charts a new course and takes the steps needed to bring about an economic renaissance, which our “Bringing PA Back” initiative seeks to do.

The first phase of the initiative focused on the short-term needs of employers operating during the pandemic, by helping businesses navigate challenging and often unpredictable mitigation efforts.  The next and current phase – “Rise to the Challenge” – focuses on creating a framework for Pennsylvania that will promote long-term economic growth and opportunity.

Over the past year, the PA Chamber has engaged in extensive conversations with industry stakeholders, business leaders and local chambers to determine what is needed to drive the Commonwealth’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Our strategic approach focuses on improving the state’s competitiveness, infrastructure and workforce as key foundational building blocks to the state’s economic resurgence.  Also critical in this effort is addressing barriers to employment – including access to quality and affordable childcare and criminal justice reform.  Throughout this initiative, we will build on our efforts in these arenas to bring about equality of opportunity for every Pennsylvanian.

Pennsylvania can be a model for what economic recovery should look like.  But in order to achieve that distinction, the state must first put in place a forward-thinking, long-term strategy that seeks to capitalize on the Commonwealth’s growth potential.  The “Rise to the Challenge” phase will create a guidepost for policymakers and elected officials – identifying benchmarks to chart how Pennsylvania ranks compared to other states and where there is opportunity for improvement.

This information and data will be compiled into a dashboard with illustrative metrics to chart the state’s progress moving forward.  “Rise to the Challenge” will culminate in a dynamic and bold policy agenda that will put Pennsylvania on the path towards long-term economic growth.  More information on the Bringing PA Back initiative can be found at www.BringingPABack.com.