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Opinion Editorial-The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania)-"Smart federal investments can aid economy, create jobs"

Friday, August 31, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Opinion Editorial, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania)
"Smart federal investments can aid economy, create jobs"

At this make-or-break moment for the middle class, it's critical that we make smart, targeted investments that help businesses create jobs—both now and in the years to come. Allentown is a great example of where the Obama administration is doing just that.

Last month, I joined state and local officials to announce multiple grants in Pennsylvania that will support local infrastructure — empowering more businesses, manufacturers and workers to build things here and sell them everywhere.

I was pleased to visit Allentown to announce a half-million-dollar grant to upgrade Allentown's Bridgeworks Enterprise Center.

This investment will help turn an old factory into an energy-efficient hub for entrepreneurs who can come in, try out new ideas and launch new businesses. By replacing the old fiberglass panels in the building's roof with more energy-efficient materials, among other improvements, this investment will literally create a better climate for local businesses.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced an award of nearly $2 million to strengthen the infrastructure in and around the Bakery Square building in Pittsburgh's East End, an old factory that has been repurposed to house new businesses.

We want to build on the job creation that has already taken place there over the past few years with tenants like Google, the University of Pittsburgh and several Main Street shops. The federal grant will help upgrade the road and utilities in this neighborhood, allowing Bakery Square to attract millions more dollars in private sector investments and create hundreds more jobs.

And it's not just the Commerce Department that is making important federal investments to boost Pennsylvania jobs.

For example, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood just announced that his department would reallocate $473 million from old congressional earmarks that have been left unspent on various projects nationwide. This includes nearly $29 million that will put Pennsylvania workers back on the job repairing the state's roads and bridges.

A common thread runs through all of these efforts to strengthen America's infrastructure: They will create jobs in both the short term and the long term.
In the short term, more construction crews will get hired to make upgrades, to do installations and to make other infrastructure improvements. That's good news because we know that too many workers in this sector need jobs right now.

In the long term, these projects will empower entrepreneurs and business owners to go ahead and start that new business in Allentown, rent that new space in Pittsburgh or set up shop somewhere in Pennsylvania knowing that their products will be transported more safely and efficiently than before.

Now more than ever, we need to make these kinds of smart investments in the future of Pennsylvania businesses and workers. We want to build on the 4.5 million new jobs that have been created nationwide over the past two and one-half years, including nearly 150,000 in Pennsylvania.

Yet, more work is needed to strengthen economic security for America's middle class.

That's why President Obama continues to urge Congress to prevent taxes from rising next year for 98 percent of American families and nearly every small business. If Congress doesn't take action, the average family of four could see their taxes jump by more than $2,000.

In addition, Congress should end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and give tax breaks for companies that bring jobs back to the U.S., while working to make the tax code simpler and fairer for our small businesses.

We are still recovering from the biggest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

We need Congress to take action on these proposals, so that we continue to see business growth and job creation in states like Pennsylvania and in communities across the U.S.

After all, when places like Pennsylvania are growing and creating jobs, we know that our entire nation is getting stronger.