U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, who received a Spirit of Enterprise award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spoke Tuesday at the S&T Bank Training Center in White Township.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard, thinks impeachment has taken the oxygen out of the room “on a lot of issues” in Washington, but he still has hope for USMCA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement meant to update the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I think this may provide (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi cover (for) what she’s trying to do to the president with her other members, that will allow her to do what I believe she knows needs to be done, and that’s the modernization of NAFTA,” Thompson said Tuesday at the S&T Bank Training Center in White Township.

“I’m hopeful that in October we’ll have that vote and we’ll ratify that trade agreement,” Thompson said after he was honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with a Spirit of Enterprise award, recognizing him for voting with business 83 percent of the time in 2018 and overall 92 percent of the time since he first was elected to Congress.

“I think even in the short period of time that he’s been there, it’s become very apparent to me that this is a very well deserved award,” S&T CEO Todd D. Brice said. “I think he’s worked really hard to show up in our communities and get to know everybody, what businesses are important to us, what issues impact his constituents.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Enterprise award

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson came to Indiana on Tuesday to receive the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Enterprise award. Shown here, from left, are Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce President Matt Smith, S&T Bank CEO Todd D. Brice, S&T board chairwoman Christine J. Toretti, Thompson and Kevin Courtois, U.S. Chamber regional manager of congressional and public affairs.

Thompson was honored for his voting in the old Fifth Congressional District. Since the reapportionment ordered by the state Supreme Court last year, his is known as the 15th Congressional District and it was remapped to include all of Indiana County.

“Congressman Thompson … has been such a great ally of the Pittsburgh region’s business community, on all of the traditional issues, taxes, regulatory reform,” said Matt Smith, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, which covers Indiana and nine other Southwestern Pennsylvania counties.

“There is a great partnership that we have with the business community here in Indiana County,” Smith said. “Indiana is a critical part of our region’s economy. It’s always great for us to be able to partner with the business community up here and to make sure that we’re making the right investments to grow this region’s economy.”

Smith, whose wife’s family has roots in Indiana County, said Thompson has been a national leader on career and technical education reform, as a force behind the reauthorization last year of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

Thompson sees the expansion of broadband Internet coverage happening much the same way rural America was electrified a century ago, through member-run cooperatives similar to REA in Indiana County and vicinity.

“Congress created the program, provided some funding, an infrastructure bank basically, and we saw created all of these wonderful rural electric associations all across the country,” the congressman said. “I think that’s a great model, and I think it worked.”

Thompson also wants “last mile connectivity,” that is to say, the ability to link broadband to the comparatively short distance to and from a user’s house or business, and faster 5G connections.

The congressman also wants to see “safe banking” legislation that provides protection for the banking industry on a wide range of factors, including medical marijuana.

“Marijuana is still listed as an illegal substance by the federal government, and I don’t think we’re anywhere close to changing that,” Thompson said. “At the same time, today we have individuals who are directly involved (in medical marijuana) and aren’t able to bank their money.”

Another situation involves the possibility of cities and states banning the sale of certain guns and ammunition.

“It is possible that they could try to advance restrictions on the banking system, to restrict your Second Amendment rights,” Thompson said. “This isn’t the case today but there’s a threat of it, that you’re involved in the manufacture, the selling of firearms, all of a sudden in the future there would be some law that says, we’re going to make that an illegal activity and therefore banks can’t work with people that are in those businesses.”

Thompson said receiving that award from the U.S. Chamber is humbling. He said he appreciates the partnership he has with chambers of commerce such as that in Indiana County, “and their commitment and dedication to the community.”

Other speakers at Tuesday’s gathering included Kevin Courtois, manager of congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Chamber in the Great Lakes region, who presented Thompson with the Spirit of Enterprise award; and Christine J. Toretti, chairwoman of the board of S&T Bank.