ALLENTOWN – State Reps. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks/Lehigh) and Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Northampton) co-hosted a hearing of the House Majority Policy Committee in Allentown July 31 to examine the challenges to hiring and expansion faced by area businesses in this economy and how state government can facilitate a more successful business climate.
“It is vital for state government leaders to listen to the experiences of employers so we know which policies will be most effective at helping businesses to hire again and grow,” said Mackenzie. “High unemployment continues to be the most pressing problem facing our state. While we in government do not create jobs, we can craft policies to help employers feel confident enough in this economy to add to their workforce.”
The hearing, which took place at the Kasych Pavilion at the Lehigh Valley Hospital, Cedar Crest Campus, was organized into three panels, centering on workforce development, regulatory issues, and tax reform.
Participants in the workforce development panel suggested that more focus should be placed on career and technical training programs to prepare young people for occupations in manufacturing that do not require a four-year degree. They were also very complimentary of Pennsylvania’s CareerLink program, which helps to match job seekers with employers. This panel included Nancy Dischinat of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Peter Rittenhouse of Nestle Water, Patricia Hartwell of B. Braun Medical, and Gary Bender of ABEC Inc.
During the panel discussion on regulatory issues, Susan Roberts, owner of Wally’s Deli in Emmaus, said dealing with employee lawsuits and unemployment compensation rules is costly and time consuming for small businesses like hers. Arland Schantz, owner of Evergreen Farm in Lower Milford Township, explained that certain environmental regulations can be too restrictive and impact the bottom line of his agricultural-based business.
Mark Hoffman of Hoffman Insurance Consultants in Bethlehem and Jeff Berdahl of Regan, Levin, Bloss, Brown and Savchak, P.C. Accountants, both praised recent legislation that reduced business taxes and urged lawmakers to continue those efforts to prevent more companies from leaving the state. During the panel discussion on tax reform, Brad Patt, senior vice president of Prudential Patt, White Real Estate and the Premier Group, also said real estate companies and homebuyers are already burdened by numerous state taxes and fees and any further taxation by local governments would hurt the struggling housing industry.
“In recent months, the General Assembly has taken a number of steps to stimulate job growth in Pennsylvania, including business tax reform and changes to the unemployment compensation system. But much more still needs to be done,” said Simmons. “We came to listen and learn today as we work as a team with the local business community on moving the Lehigh Valley and entire Commonwealth forward. The ideas generated during this hearing will be considered as we draft legislation that continues to improve Pennsylvania’s business climate.”
In addition to committee chairman, Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana), Mackenzie and Simmons, these lawmakers also took part: Reps. Gary Day (R-Lehigh/Berks), Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster), Marcia Hahn (R-Northampton), Julie Harhart (R-Northampton/Lehigh), Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon), Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango/Butler), Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) and Dave Maloney (R-Berks).
The hearing can be viewed in its entirety at PAGOPPolicy.com.
More information about Simmons’ legislative priorities can be found at RepSimmons.com and