To the Editor:

Lately, the Keystone State has been falling short of its potential. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s population is declining, and our workforce is shrinking.

In some ways, it is the story of two different states as the five southeastern Pennsylvania counties — Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware — make up about 41 percent of the state’s economy. As such, we do not experience this decline as harshly in Montgomery and Bucks counties because we are surrounded by constant growth and renewal.

This is not the case in the remainder of Pennsylvania’s remaining counties, and this cumulative effect hampers us all.

Although most Pennsylvanians won’t feel the impact of the state’s decreasing population today or maybe not even in the next five to 10 years, we will all feel the repercussions in the long-term.

So far, the consequences here are relatively subtle. Maybe a business in Montgomery County is finding it difficult to fill necessary jobs, or a small township is losing critical tax revenue as a result of the reduction in its population.

As Harrisburg continues to grapple with our deficit, an absence in growth in the commonwealth will ultimately impact the state budget and hinder essential services that define our quality of life: education, public safety and infrastructure.

It is often difficult to prioritize decisions in the interest of the future; this is especially so for lawmakers. But today’s actions create tomorrow’s future, so we must address this issue of growth. Lawmakers must think beyond narrow-minded political debates and instead develop forward-thinking solutions to our state’s looming challenges.

This commitment to grow Pennsylvania requires a commitment not only to growing our population but also growing well-paying jobs and our economy at large.

Put simply, we must reverse our commonwealth’s decline by ensuring our current and future residents remain here, find employment here, start businesses here, form families here and involve themselves in the fabric of our communities.

That is why the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce is joining other chambers of commerce, trade associations and business and civic leaders from across the state to form an initiative called Grow PA. This initiative is focused on reversing our trajectory and advancing the commonwealth.

Grow PA is a movement to convene people and organizations throughout the commonwealth to advance an agenda focused around three keystones for growth: modernize all facets of our infrastructure, accelerate health care innovation and transform post-secondary education.

Our agenda, composed of ideas from fellow citizens, is a road map for legislators aimed at advancing the most critical components of economic growth for the long-term to grow Pennsylvania’s jobs, population and economy.

Grow PA’s priorities include bolstering investment in broadband networks in underserved areas as a critical millennial recruitment and retention strategy and cultivating our health care system and accelerating innovation by establishing a Pennsylvania Enterprise Fund (PEF) that awards grants to companies in health care and research to incentivize those creating jobs and driving innovation to locate in Pennsylvania. This also works to solve the brain drain by providing incentives for students pursuing disciplines in information technology to remain in the state.

Grow PA starts with a proactive policy to help each of us today and to have lasting impacts for the state in the future. Each priority outlined in our agenda presents many growth opportunities for our entire state which, if left unaddressed, will simply become reminders of missed opportunities.

I invite you to review our agenda on grow-pa.com and join thousands of advocates in supporting legislation that grows Pennsylvania.

— Steven Hunsberger, Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director

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