HARRISBURG – This week, state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin was joined by state Rep. Mike Schlossberg; CEO and master distiller of This Life Forever Russell Fletcher; and Richard Hobbs, president and CEO of Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) to highlight how Governor Tom Wolf’s Back to Work PA plan will help Pennsylvania’s workers, businesses, and economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through strategic investments in workforce development.
“While we are on the path toward recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and businesses across the state continue to struggle with attaining employment or retaining employees,” said Sec. Davin. “Through the Back to Work PA plan, the Wolf Administration is committed to supporting programs that will provide avenues to family-sustaining jobs, position our economy for recovery, and improve the quality of life in our communities.”
Back to Work PA would address several of the major barriers, identified by the bipartisan Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, that many Pennsylvanians face pre- and post-pandemic. One of the five barriers identified in the command center’s study was the lack of workforce development and training available to gain high-quality, good-paying employment and careers in the state. This limitation, compounded with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy, speaks to the urgent, swift need for strategic workforce investments to address massive layoffs that have disproportionately impacted marginalized communities and certain industry sectors.
Back to Work PA would invest in Pennsylvania’s workforce by improving access to registered apprenticeships, promoting skilled trades, reconnecting displaced workers with good-paying jobs, expanding e-commerce support for historically disadvantaged businesses, and prioritizing reshoring and supply chain localization projects.
“The Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) supports roughly 2,000 manufacturing companies in the Lehigh Valley, all of which have been impacted by the COVID19 pandemic. Some have fared better than others, but all need the kind of ongoing support that Governor Wolf’s Back to Work PA plan brings to the state,” said Richard Hobbs, MRC President & CEO. “Workforce issues dominate many of the problems our manufacturers see, along with critical supply chain disruptions, and the MRC is helping in those areas with funding and support from the state through DCED. We are proud to be a part of these efforts and look forward to continuing to help our dedicated manufacturers.”
For more than 30 years, Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) has helped small and mid-sized manufacturers become more competitive, adopt lean and agile processes, strategically grow their companies and invest more effectively in their existing human capital. MRC is a nonprofit organization partially funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NIST-MEP program, as well as DCED. MRC is dedicated to creating jobs and economic opportunity in eastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill, Carbon and Berks counties.
Founded by CEO/Master Distiller Russell Fletcher in 2007, Allentown-based This Life Forever, Inc. is the first minority-owned lifestyle brand distillery in the United States. This Life Forever produces grass-roots premium vodka brand Mishka Premium Vodka, which has won Gold and Silver Medals in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“This Life Forever, Inc., also known as Mishka Vodka, was fortunate as a small but mighty manufacturer to be able to seek corporate partners such to provide hand sanitizer to aid against the spread of Covid-19,” said Fletcher. “Unfortunately, our most valuable partners, micro businesses and restaurants who have been pillars in the community, haven’t fared as well. Focusing on helping them rebound is imperative and should be at the top of our agenda as a community, government included.”
The administration is calling for funding for this $3 billion investment to come from a commonsense severance tax on natural gas extraction. Pennsylvania remains the only gas-producing state without a severance tax and trails only Texas in natural gas production. The proposed severance tax would align with other major natural gas-producing states and prop the commonwealth up with the successes of these other states have seen, like infrastructure improvements, improved educational systems, and lower taxes.