A regional business promoter with Indiana County ties believes Congress can pass a bipartisan bill that meets the robust levels of investment President Biden wants while maintaining a level playing field for U.S. companies.
Calling this “a really critical time to make these kinds of investments,” Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce President Matt Smith said, “we’re really urging the members of Congress to work together, Democrats and Republicans.”
Smith was reacting to Biden choosing Pittsburgh to announce what he is calling the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion proposal meant, as a White House spokesperson put it, to create millions of good-paying jobs, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China.
“It makes sense that he would choose the Pittsburgh region to make such an important announcement, as we are the example of when we work collaboratively, there is nothing we cannot accomplish,” Smith said in a statement issued by the chamber.
“Pittsburgh is well-positioned to translate federal infrastructure investment into regional and national leadership in new modes of transportation, manufacturing competitiveness, broadband connectivity, and a low carbon future, all with the dual objective of creating jobs and opportunity for all and improving the environment.”
The chamber is the advocacy arm of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which aims to improve the economic future and quality of life of a 10-county region around Pittsburgh, including Indiana, Armstrong and Westmoreland.
Todd D. Brice of S&T Bank and Dave Reed of First Commonwealth Bank, both Indiana-based, are among Class B members of the chamber’s board of directors, as is Sarah E. Battisti, director of government affairs at Homer City Generating Station operator NRG Energy Inc.
“We think the ability to connect different parts of the region to each other is really critical,” said Smith, who has in-laws in Indiana County.
Talking about such connections as Indiana to Butler or Indiana to downtown Pittsburgh, Smith said, “just the ability to move people and goods and commerce in a more efficient and effective manner is going to benefit the entire region.”
Biden’s plan also includes proposed changes in the tax code.
That includes hiking the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent; imposing a 21 percent global minimum tax and a 15 percent minimum tax on income corporations report to shareholders; and eliminating tax preferences for the fossil fuels sector.
However, Smith said ways of bringing in revenue should reflect what would be done for a long term investment.
“If you were making such investments in a home, you would pay for those investments over time,” Smith said. “We think it is a long-term investment that will pay long term dividends.”
In the chamber’s statement, Smith said Southwestern Pennsylvania is “a region where next is happening now, a testbed and proving ground for world-shaping innovations on the leading edge of tech, robotics, energy, advanced manufacturing and more.”
Research and development are part of that testbed, and Smith pointed to the region’s universities, including Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as being uniquely positioned to conduct such R&D work.
According to IUP’s website, last year the university’s researchers, both on the faculty and among the staff, received $10.7 million in externally funded research and scholarly activities, from such entities as the U.S. departments of Education and Labor, the National Science Foundation, and the Pennsylvania departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation.
Others also are focusing on Biden’s proposal.
In advance of Biden’s arrival in Pittsburgh, Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan issued a statement encouraging the White House and Congress to recognize that “natural gas infrastructure is fundamental to ensuring good-paying, union jobs as well as continued global leadership on environmental improvements.”
He called on Biden to recognize “the importance of local and interstate natural gas pipelines, energy export terminals, and highly efficient, modern natural gas power plants in the broad infrastructure package.”
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center plans a virtual workshop this afternoon that will highlight the Biden plan.
The center will link its ReImagine Appalachia effort “Towards a Climate Infrastructure Stimulus that Kick Starts a ‘New Deal That Works for US’” in the Ohio River Valley states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, online at 1 p.m.
Scheduled speakers include Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center.