November 7, 2018
Philadelphia Business Journal
It should come as no surprise, that our state has abundant energy resources. What is surprising, however, is a state with the third largest natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) reserve on the planet has an underperforming economy, a stagnant population, and a shrinking workforce.
Simply put, our state isn’t living up to its full potential.
Pennsylvania’s natural resources compare only to Texas, yet other states and regions have economic growth that is outpacing our state and are growing their populations in tandem.
Our Commonwealth has struggled to keep pace with our evolving energy forecasts. In the decade since hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling innovations, most of the focus in Pennsylvania has been on the upstream. So, while the resource itself is being tapped, most of its value for our state and our region is not.
The full benefit of Pennsylvania’s abundant energy resource will only emerge when the state’s natural gas and NGLs supply is matched by robust and sustained local demand—the downstream manufacturing sectors that will multiply jobs and revenue for our state.
Energy-enabled economic development powered by natural gas has the capacity to offer more than just low-cost energy for our residents; it has the potential to spark a modern industrial revolution for the Commonwealth, which will dramatically improve our economic growth and boost the state’s fiscal health.
With proximity to the resources and the marketplace, Philadelphia in particular, can benefit from a targeted effort to develop a 21st manufacturing center. By leveraging our state’s existing assets, we can rebuild our reputation for manufacturing.
This new-age manufacturing vision will generate thousands of new jobs and collect billions in revenue for the state. Thereby, growing our economy with an estimated $60 billion in Pennsylvania GDP growth, and attracting new workforce to Pennsylvania all while retaining our existing residents.
But to reach our state’s full potential requires a concerted effort from business leaders and policymakers. Recently, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia with its 170+ energy leaders joined Forge The Future, a group of business leaders from across Pennsylvania, including Chevron, Peoples Gas, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, and PA Manufacturers’ Association, to launch the second phase of a strategy to unlock the economic potential of the state’s world-class natural gas reserves.
Forge The Future’s Ideas for Action report, outlines several recommendations that include making energy a priority in the state, both as a governing precedent and a private sector commitment. Prioritizing means we must also enact state tax reform that recognizes our energy resources and spurs investment so that Pennsylvania can become more competitive with our neighboring states.
Our business-led strategy also advises that Pennsylvania think towards the future and position itself as a center for innovation in 21st-century manufacturing technology and workforce and leverage our leading educational institutions to spur the advancements.
Our state’s potential isn’t unrealized, rather underutilized.
The time to act is now. Together, we can reverse the decline, re-energize our economy and reach our state’s true potential.
Rob Wonderling is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and on the Forge the Future Steering Committee.