TriCounty Area Cham­ber hears about Grow PA ini­tia­tive

Pro­gram de­signed to spur eco­nomic growth

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Donna Rovins [email protected]­tu­ry­ @Mer­cBiz on Twit­ter

Busi­ness lead­ers from the across the tricounty re­gion had the op­por­tu­nity last week to hear from Rob Won­der­ling, the pres­i­dent and CEO of the Cham­ber of Com­merce for Greater Philadel­phia dur­ing the TriCounty Area Cham­ber of Com­merce an­nual eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment lun­cheon.

Won­der­ling spoke to cham­ber mem­bers about a statewide eco­nomic growth agenda called Grow PA, an ini­tia­tive de­signed to en­gage busi­ness and civic lead­ers from across Penn­syl­va­nia.

“I want to talk with you to­day about some­thing I hope will en­gage you and your or­ga­ni­za­tions; some­thing that many of us in the com­mon­wealth view as be­ing not a ‘let’s look at it and con­sider it,’ but rather an im­per­a­tive, a must do for the fu­ture of our commu-

ni­ties and the com­mon­wealth,” he told at­ten­dees.

Won­der­ling’s ap­pear­ance co­in­cided with Ama­zon’s se­lec­tion of two lo­ca­tions other than Philadel­phia for its new head­quar­ters.

“Ama­zon’s de­ci­sion to some de­gree is a metaphor around why we need a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude, a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive and cul­tural in­ter­con­nec­tion for the fu­ture,” he said. “Per­haps we need to be­gin to work to­gether on what mat­ters the most — and that’s growth.”

Grow PA was launched in the fall of 2017 as a vir­tual dis­cus­sion with peo­ple from var­i­ous sec­tors of the busi­ness and civic com­mu­nity. An on­line fo­rum and weekly news­let­ter were cre­ated to share sto­ries of growth and in­no­va­tion from around the state.

In setting up the dis­cus­sion about the Grow PA ini­tia­tive and its ef­forts, Won­der­ling told cham­ber mem­bers that Penn­syl­va­nia — de­spite a good eco­nomic re­cov­ery — has been in a state of de­cline for 40 years.

“We have never quite been able to move in uni­son from in­dus­trial, post-in­dus­trial to a knowl­edge-based econ­omy,” he said.

The de­cline, Won­der­ling said, has been masked by good in­dices and good numbers in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia — Ch­ester, Mont­gomery, Del­a­ware and Philadel­phia coun­ties — an area that has ex­pe­ri­enced eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

Won­der­ling said pop­u­la­tion de­cline is a ma­jor is­sue, and that if the sta­tis­ti­cal growth of the Greater Philadel­phia re­gion was taken out of re­ports, Penn­syl­va­nia would be sec­ond only to Mis­sis­sippi in de­cline in pop­u­la­tion.

“It is chronic, se­vere and it is upon us. In the next seven years in Penn­syl­va­nia, those that cre­ate jobs in the eco­nomic sec­tor are pro­jected to add be­tween 115,000 to 120,000 jobs to pay­rolls. But at the same time adding 877,000 Penn­syl­va­ni­ans to the re­tire­ment rolls,” he ex­plained.

Fif­teen of Penn­syl­va­nia’s 67 coun­ties have gone through of de­cline of pop­u­la­tion of more than 10 per­cent in the last decade, while an­other 15 will see only mar­ginal — 1.5 to 2 per­cent growth in the next 10 years, ac­cord­ing to Won­der­ling.

“His­tory is re­plete with ex­am­ples. When large land ar­eas de­pop­u­late over time, it be­comes a down­ward spi­ral,” he added.

Won­der­ling added that the re­gion is also “the trea­sury to the rest of the com­mon­wealth of Penn­syl­va­nia,” gen­er­at­ing about 65 per­cent of the tax re­ceipts in the state trea­sury.

Won­der­ling said that they key to en­trepreneur­ship is to un­der­stand what mat­ters the most — to clients, to cus­tomers and the com­mu­nity. And that is what Grow PA is try­ing to do.

Grow PA is a move­ment — a coali­tion — ac­cord­ing to Won­der­ling, born out of the need to build a fu­ture agenda.

The ini­tia­tive is fo­cused on three main eco­nomic pil­lars of growth: mod­ern­iza­tion all facets of Penn­syl­va­nia’s in­fra­struc­ture; trans­form­ing post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion; and ac­cel­er­at­ing the de­vel­op­ment of in­no­va­tion in health care tech­nol­ogy and de­liv­ery.

“If we fo­cus on these three pil­lars, we’ll move the nee­dle and start grow­ing again – in pop­u­la­tion and in in­comes,” Won­der­ling said.

Af­ter be­ing tested in 12 coun­ties, Grow PA is now rolling out statewide.

“Out of the beta test­ing we had 4,000 in­di­vid­u­als who said — ‘sign me up. I’m ready to get in­volved.’ We have worked with 70 cham­bers and 200 in­ter­est groups so far,” he said. “It is an open source ef­fort — big ideas and prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions in those three pil­lars.”

Grow PA has devel­oped a tool­kit to as­sist com­mu­ni­ties that want to hold Grow PA-style meet­ings and events to so­licit ideas.

The Grow PA Tool­kit can be ac­cessed at Cham­­kit.

Won­der­ling es­ti­mates Grow PA will need about 20,000 Grow PA ad­vo­cates to ad­vance the agenda.

As pres­i­dent and CEO of The Cham­ber of Com­merce for Greater Philadel­phia, Won­der­ling leads a busi­ness ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion of mem­ber com­pa­nies that pro­motes growth and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the 11-county Greater Philadel­phia re­gion.

The cham­ber also pre­sented its Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Awards dur­ing the lun­cheon. Rec­og­nized with awards were:

• Cedarville Engi­neer­ing Group LLC; rec­og­nized with the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Award

• Com­mu­nity Health & Den­tal Care; rec­og­nized with the Com­mu­nity Im­pact Award

• Ch­ester County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil in part­ner­ship with Ch­ester County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion; rec­og­nized with the Re­gional Plan­ning Award

• Lim­er­ick Town­ship Board of Su­per­vi­sors; rec­og­nized with the Leg­isla­tive Award.

Also rec­og­nized for Work­site Well­ness ini­tia­tives were four en­trepreneurs — sole pro­pri­etors that worked to­gether on the ini­tia­tives. They are: Amy Konop, Amy’s Up­cy­cles LLC; Bar­bara Akins & Cindy Mel­lor, Bar­bara A. Akins CPA; Ca­rina Hat­field, Weigner In­sur­ance & Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Inc.; and Traci O’Con­nor, O’Con­nor In­vest­ment Com­pany LLC.


TriCounty Area Cham­ber of Com­merce mem­bers heard about an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­gram called Grow PA dur­ing the cham­ber’s an­nual eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment lun­cheon Nov. 13. Rob Won­der­ling, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Cham­ber of Com­merce for Greater Philadel­phia spoke about the pro­gram and its im­por­tance in spurring growth in the com­mon­wealth.


TriCounty Area Cham­ber of Com­merce mem­bers heard about an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­gram called Grow PA dur­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s an­nual eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment lun­cheon Nov. 13.


Sev­eral area or­ga­ni­za­tions were rec­og­nized dur­ing the TriCounty Area Cham­ber of Com­merce eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment lun­cheon Nov. 13. Shown here, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Com­mu­nity Health and Den­tal Care ac­cept the cham­ber’s Com­mu­nity Im­pact Award.

April Barkasi, pres­i­dent & CEO of Cedarville Engi­neer­ing Group ac­cepted the TriCounty Area Cham­ber of Com­merce Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Award dur­ing the cham­ber’s an­nual eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment lun­cheon Nov. 13.

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