Experts, Analysts Weigh-in on Comprehensive Senate Democratic Plan to Grow Jobs, Spark Economic Development, Help Veterans

SCRANTON, Oct. 8, 2013 – Venture capitalists, public policy experts and economic development analysts today debated the strategic elements of the Senate Democratic plan to grow jobs and foster business creation and expansion in Pennsylvania.

Called “PA Works,” the Senate Democratic strategy is a multi-faceted approach that includes dozens of proposals and incorporates Sen. John Blake’s (D-Lackawanna) groundbreaking “Innovate in PA” program.

If enacted, “PA Works” would create an estimated 80,000 jobs and generate $2 billion in new private investment.

“We’re talking to local, state and private experts on the economy because we believe Pennsylvania can do more to drive economic activity and encourage investment and job growth. We’re excited about ‘PA Works’ and its prospects for both short- and long-term benefits to our state’s economy,” Blake said.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee, chaired by Northampton County Sen. Lisa Boscola, engaged three panels of experts at the University of Scranton’s Loyola Science Center.

“Stoking our economy, getting people back to work and helping businesses succeed should be government’s top priority,” Boscola said. “This is why we are presenting ‘PA Works’ and Sen. Blake’s ‘Innovate in PA’ to get this state moving again.”

Blake’s “Innovate in PA,” which was enacted when the governor signed the state’s tax code into law, is designed to improve Pennsylvania’s capacity to support the job creators of the future with new investments of nearly $100 million in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, information technology and energy business sectors.

Mike Gausling, the managing director of Originate Ventures, praised “Innovate in PA” for being there for new businesses.

“Investors who don’t take as much risk aren’t going to show up (with investment dollars), so it is critical for the state to step up and provide early stage risk capital,” Gausling said.

For each dollar the state invests, said Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast PA CEO Chad Paul, there will be a $3.60 return.

The five critical elements of “PA Works” that were spotlighted at the hearing will invest in the state’s small businesses (SB 200, SB 205, SB 216), develop and rebuild infrastructure (SB 201, SB 236, SB 224, SB 1033, the expansion of H2O PA, and new PENNVEST funding), better prepare workers for in-demand jobs (SB 223, SB 230, SB 208, and industry certification), train veterans for fulfilling civilian careers (SB 203, SB 215, SB 231, SB 452, and increased opportunities for veteran contracting), and ease the burden on minority women and families (SB 228, SB 219, and SB 858).

“Pennsylvania is at a crossroads,” Blake said. “We need to choose the right path forward to create long-lasting and positive opportunities for business, job creation and economic development.”

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate increased in August to 7.7 percent while the national jobless rate hovered at 7.3 percent. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said PA is 45th in the country in 2013 for year-to-date employment growth.

“Whether it’s struggling with a budget crisis, maintaining city services, or fighting crime and blight, we need a comprehensive strategy that will enable our urban cores to revitalize themselves, attract new investment, and emerge as destination points for new residents and businesses,” Boscola said.

“The creation of a single job ripples through the economy and benefits us all,” said Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development Executive Director Teri Ooms. “We all win.”

Others testifying before the committee on the “PA Works” plan and “Innovate in PA” were Richard Stein, CEO, Klios Inc.; Amy Luyster, assistant vice president, The Scranton Plan; Dr. Mel Billingsley, CEO, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA; William J. Schoen, administrator, Skills in Scranton; Ronald Vogel, regional representative, PA Department of Labor & Industry; and David Jadick, acting public affairs officer, Tobyhanna Army Depot.


Blake, Boscola, Senate Committee to Discuss Job Creation, Economic Development, Veterans Help During Scranton Roundtable

HARRISBURG, Oct. 3, 2013 – The Senate Democratic Policy Committee will bring together venture capitalists, public policy experts, Scranton officials and economic development analysts at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the University of Scranton for an in-depth discussion about turning around Pennsylvania’s economy.

[frame align=”right”]Job_Creation[/frame]The two-hour long event, at the request of Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna), will feature three panels of experts who will share their ideas about the commonwealth’s immediate economic development needs, and to talk about Blake’s recently enacted “Innovate in PA” program.

“Innovate in PA” is designed to improve Pennsylvania’s capacity to support the job creators of the future with new investments of nearly $100 million in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, information technology and energy business sectors.

The policy committee will also explore pending legislation designed to improve PA’s business infrastructure, increase the flow of venture capital, up the volume of affordable housing, help veterans become business owners, and improve state contracting opportunities for minorities and women.

Media coverage is welcomed and encouraged.

WHO:             State Sens. Lisa Boscola and John Blake, as well as members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee

Teri Ooms, executive director, Institute for Public Policy &  Economic Development

Richard Stein, CEO, Klios Inc.

Amy Luyster, assistant vice president, The Scranton Plan

Chad Paul, CEO, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast PA

Dr. Mel Billingsley, CEO, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA

Mike Gausling, managing director, Originate Ventures

William J. Schoen, administrator, Skills in Scranton

Ronald Vogel, regional representative, PA Department of Labor & Industry

David Jadick, acting public affairs officer, Tobyhanna Army Depot


WHAT:          Roundtable discussion on “Innovate in PA” and proposed legislation to improve the state’s economy

WHEN:          11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8

WHERE:        The University of Scranton

Loyola Science Center

204 Monroe Ave.



Potential Impact of Medicaid Expansion is Focus of Blake’s Senate Roundtable Discussion

SCRANTON, May 23, 2013 – As Gov. Tom Corbett continues to mull the decision to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today brought together legislators, health care professionals, advocates and experts to discuss the potential impact of Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.

Under the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid would make all adults between the ages of 19-64 with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) eligible for the program. This expansion would cover vulnerable persons as well as healthy, able-bodied individuals.   A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 gave states the option to decide whether to opt in or out of expanding their individual Medicaid program.

The discussion, held at the request of Sen. John Blake, focused on the possible economic, budgetary and healthcare impacts of expanding Medicaid.

“With Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania could provide health care insurance to 650,000 people currently without such insurance,” said Blake. “The state would also benefit from $4 billion in federal investment and we’d see the creation of 41,000 jobs in the health care and human service industry.

“Much has been said about Medicaid expansion in the past 6 months, and much more needs to be said so everyone understands the impacts moving forward.  The people of Northeastern Pennsylvania need to hear the facts. It was good to hear what the experts had to say about what we believe is an issue that should have been decided by the Corbett administration a long time ago, as so many other states have done so for the benefit of their citizens.”

“Expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania would have a major impact on the quality of health care, our economy and our state’s finances,” Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chair, Lisa Boscola said.  “I hope we can separate out some of the hysteria and inflamed rhetoric and arrive at a logical and reasoned position on whether Medicaid expansion is good or bad for our state.

“We have a great panel with extensive and varied understanding of the pros and cons of expanding.  Hopefully, today’s discussion will give us a better grasp of what expansion would mean to our healthcare system, hospitals, and low income workers who cannot afford the rising costs of health insurance, as well as what expansion will mean to our job market, economy and our state’s finances.”

Dr. Carter Price of the RAND Corporation provided an in-depth look at their study regarding the positive economic impact of Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.

As other studies have confirmed, Price said Pennsylvania will pay nothing with Medicaid expansion during the first three years of the program, 5 percent from 2017 to 2020, and 10 percent after that.

“The 10 percent cost is a much better deal than Pennsylvania gets for current (Medicaid) enrollees. The state is now responsible for about 45 percent of the cost for enrollees,” Price said.

Price said his RAND Corporation study found that the estimated impact of Medicaid expansion greatly exceeds the estimated costs, and result in a significant return to Pennsylvanians. According to the study, over seven years, Medicaid expansion would increase the gross domestic product of the state by at least $3.2 billion annually, or by more than $23 billion through 2020.

One of the panelists, Regional Hospital of Scranton CEO M. Brooks Turkel, said Medicaid expansion has to happen.

“We applaud those who are trying to make changes in a very conservative, considerate fashion. However, it is fully obvious to us that Medicaid expansion is a logical way to improve care in our community and to reduce the cost of care in our community,” Turkel said.

The roundtable panel also included:

  • Robert Steigmeyer, president & CEO, Geisinger – Community Medical Center
  • Gary Drapek, executive Director, United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties
  • Alex J. Hazzouri, CEO, The Advocacy Alliance
  • Jim Willshier, director of Policy & Partnership, Pennsylvania Assoc. of Community Health Centers (PACHC)
  • Mary Lucille Czyzyk, executive director, Scranton Primary Center
  • Wasique Mirza, MD FAPC, chief medical officer, Scranton Primary Center
  • Linda Thomas Hemak, MD, president & CEO, Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education
  • Mike Hanley, Executive Director, United Neighborhood Centers of NE PA