A few years back, a number of colleagues in economic development here in South Central Pennsylvania were finishing up a meeting, talking about the perception of our region to outsiders. We noted since we were a number of smaller cities, Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Lebanon, we didn’t have a marquis destination tag like Greater Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. We kicked around a few ideas for a regional identity, when our former colleague from York County, Darrell Auterson spoke up and said, “I got it,” with a smirky grin on his face, “South Central Pennsylvania: We’re not that bad!!”
I couldn’t help think about that line a few weeks back when Donald Trump made his pronouncement while speaking to a group near Richmond that he was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last night and it looked like a “war zone.” The instinctive reaction is to say, “Hey wait a minute, we’re not that bad!”
Now to be clear, we all know it’s not true. At 4.5% unemployment and with 289,000 people in a record workforce of 303,000 employed, we may not be great by all standards, but we are pretty darn good!
In follow up stories with national and local media, we made that point. Our economy locally shows signs of growth. We have never been a huge manufacturing MSA, but we have strengths and have had significant investment in manufacturing over the last decade with Arcelor Mittal Steel, The Hershey Company and TE Connectivity making significant investments. We have seen growth in our fledgling life sciences industry cluster with companies like Pacific Edge and VivoPharm moving into the Hershey Center for Applied Research from Australia and New Zealand. Professional services have grown as have technology solutions, or technology support, in part because of the growth of our logistics and transportation sectors. We also see more growth in smaller, start up or somewhat established technology related firms. We have 16 companies in our incubator, the TechCelerator @ Carlisle by CREDC and others populating Harrisburg’s downtown and midtown. We even landed an e-commerce firm from San Francisco, e-pantry.com.
I’ve been asked if The Donald’s comments would impact the region, the simple answer is no. Unlike front page stories from legitimate business news sources like The Wall Street Journal about a city on the verge of (actually trying to file) bankruptcy, these comments were nothing. It’s campaign rhetoric from the campaign trail. The other comparison I made was that it wasn’t like Billy Joel or some other famous artist wrote a hit song about Harrisburg’s hard times—like “Allentown.” I remember when I was working in state government, my friends from the Lehigh Valley would cringe when they heard that song, even though it was describing the early 1980s, it contributed to that regional image of Pennsylvania’s tough times.
... Sign In to read full Article