SSTI Digest

The latest reporting and analysis on breakthroughs in technology-based economic development research and issues that matter most to you. To receive the SSTI Weekly Digest via email, sign up here.


Geography: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania governor awards $246 million for small businesses through SSBCI

Gov. Tom Wolf awarded $246.8 million to Pennsylvania local economic development partners through the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) this week. The money is expected to help small, socially and economically disadvantaged businesses grow. The Pennsylvania Department of community and Economic Development (DCED) will distribute the funds to partners who will administer the funding to qualifying businesses. The funding is divided between the Direct Venture Investment program ($123 million), which provides funding to economic development organizations that disburse it as seed and later-stage capital for companies, and the Revolving Loan fund program ($123.8 million), which provides funding to economic development organizations to create or capitalize loan funds to support small businesses.

Pennsylvania manufacturing has potential to expand, new report says

Pennsylvania is losing ground in expanding manufacturing opportunities in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Advisory Council, which has issued a playbook to help build the sector’s competitiveness and highlights recommendations for the state to increase its manufacturing opportunities. 

Nine additional SSBCI state plans approved

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced nine additional states whose SSBCI plans have been approved: Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Vermont. This is in addition to the five states approved earlier this year: Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan and West Virginia. The state plans for the awards will support underserved businesses, innovation programs, investing for startups and more, detailed below.

More governors seek to boost innovation with increased funding

Alabama, Minnesota and Pennsylvania governors are proposing new or increased funding for innovation initiatives. Alabama could see a substantial increase in its Alabama Innovation Fund, while Minnesota’s governor is looking to boost the state’s startup ecosystem and Pennsylvania would increase funding for the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which has worked for more than 30 years to grow the state’s innovation economy.

Economic study shows robotics boom in Pittsburgh creating new businesses and jobs

Celebrating its 25 years in operation, the National Robotics Engineering Center’s (NREC) success is revealed in an economic study commissioned by Carnegie Mellon University “to inform the future development of boundary-pushing institutions.” Established decades ago as “a new model of academic-industry partnership,” the NREC study, conducted by Fourth Economy Consulting, reveals how the robotics institution changed the economy of the neighborhood, region and robotics industry in Pittsburgh.

$100M grant to Pitt will help fund biomanufacturing hub, increase life sciences impact in region

In a move designed to strengthen southwest Pennsylvania’s role in life sciences research, the University of Pittsburgh and Richard King Mellon Foundation last month announced a $100 million gift to help fund a bioresearch and development facility. The grant, which will be disbursed in $10 million increments over 10 years, will help build Pitt BioForge, a biomanufacturing facility that will leverage biomedical research conducted at Pitt and bring “an entirely new commercial manufacturing sector to Pittsburgh and, if all goes according to plan, increase the economic opportunity for residents and families in and around Hazelwood,” according to a Pitt press release.

PA creating Innovation Economy Dashboard

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) in partnership with a student team at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a new Innovation Economy Dashboard that is intended to help inform policymaking decisions based on reliable data. The dashboard and an accompanying report on Pennsylvania’s Innovation Economy originated from Gov. Tom Wolf’s January 2020 proposal to spur innovation across the state, focusing on the entrepreneurial ecosystem and growing tech sectors.

Racial disparities in labor market outcomes examined

A new commentary from a senior policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland examines the extent to which disparities exist between Black and whites in labor market outcomes such as levels of labor force participation, unemployment rates, and earnings. Economic inclusion trends have been studied at the national level, but this commentary takes a look at how those disparities vary within and across states with a specific look at the Fourth Federal Reserve District states of Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Reports outline strategy for heart of Appalachia to benefit from clean energy

While the Appalachian region began the 21st century by expanding the reaches of its fossil fuel industries, clean energy development and carbon emission reductions are not yet out of reach for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. A set of reports developed by the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) present opportunities available to these states for the advancement of clean energy technologies within the region while also detailing the economic and employment benefits of potential climate stabilization programs.

Workforce, broadband, rural investments at play in governors’ plans for economic development

As governors continue to roll out their State-of-the State addresses in the month of February, we continue to see a heavy focus on recovering from the pandemic. Given most state’s fiscal condition, governors have been generally hesitant to roll out new initiatives during this time, although broadband continues to receive attention, especially with the renewed attention surrounding its importance during the pandemic. Some states, like Maryland and West Virginia, who are emerging from the pandemic on a better footing than they perhaps anticipated, are ready to forge ahead with tax cuts in an effort to attract business and new residents. Other states, like Illinois, are grappling with projected deficits while trying to maintain services. And a new bond proposal in Maine could help connect workers to jobs in high-growth industries while also spurring development in the state’s industries. This week we catch up with those governors who gave their addresses during these first weeks of February and review each of them for news or initiatives relating to their state’s innovation economy.

Fracking industry failing to contribute to broader regional growth in Appalachia, study finds

While natural gas production has continued to expand throughout the Appalachian region, the surrounding communities have yet to experience the economic and social benefits that were initially seen as surefire byproducts of the natural gas industry’s growing footprint within the area, according to a new report. The newly released study by the Ohio River Valley Institute weighs the impact natural gas production has had on the national economy against the continuing decline of jobs, income, and population levels throughout the Appalachian region.

A remembrance: Richard L. Thornburgh (1932-2020)

As 2020 came to a close, we received word that former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh had passed away on Dec. 31. Obituaries in the New York TimesWashington Post and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, rightly focused on his tenure as U.S. Attorney General and his two terms as governor, including his handling of Three Mile Island shortly after becoming governor. But I would like to focus on his legacy as it relates to technology-based economic development (TBED) and as a person.

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