Governor Ed Rendell announced that job growth is better in PA than in other states, making our unemployment lower than our neighbors. But the governor gave this announcement, throwing around tech-firm corporate welfare like candy and calling on increased economic diversity. While I can't argue against increased economic diversity, give credit where credit and tax breaks are due when it comes to posting job growth in PA.
US Steel Clairton Works is running over 100% capacity as US Steel sails into its third record-breaking year of profits. Consol Energy, Pgh's mining giant with annual revenues of $2.8 billion, was named one of America's most admired companies in 2005 by Fortune magazine as it sails into another year of record profits. A new coke battery is planned for Ebensburg, Cambria County, and potentially another coal-fired power plant at Hatfield's Ferry, Greene County. Good chance that PA job growth is derived from what has always driven this region: filthy, dirty Coal, and its bastard child Steel... which is arguably much cleaner than poverty, unemployment and want.
While Pennsylvania tries to dig itself out of 50 years of economic slump, it would be absurd for us to turn our backs on what has always sustained this region. Tech is a sexy, sleek and clean industry that we should nourish to diversify our economy, but Pennsylvania's coal and steel will always be a firm foundation. We need to figure out how to make our leading industries cleaner, with strategic tax breaks rather than fines. We need to figure out how to better support their growth in the region, and encourage spin-off industries to these powerful firms. All this might just boil down to less regulation and lower taxes, but it wouldn't hurt to start figuring out how to do it.