TriCounty Area Chamber hears about Grow PA initiative
Program designed to spur economic growth
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 ChamberPHL.com/GrowPA-Toolkit.
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.