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Economic committee hears from manufacturing specialist

The city is looking to promote its many resources and pluses as a prime host location to prospective manufacturers.

“How do we target and find the right businesses?” asked City Councilman David Banks, chairman of the city economic revitalization committee, which met recently with an industrial and manufacturing expert.

“The state is positioning itself as a business-friendly state,” said Dan Manetta, executive director of the Innovation Manufacturing Center on Reach Road and a guest of the committee.

“On the business side, they want a welcoming culture,” Manetta said.

In almost every community there are elements of pollution, and issues that give places black eyes, such as labor disputes, tax and regulation and permitting concerns, he said.

“They are looking for a friendly government,” Manetta said. “They are looking at broadband access and research and development resources,” he said.

Manetta noted businesses are seeking a skilled and affordable workforce, but also one that is motivated, citing an example recently of interviews held for a job opening and few applicants applying.

That may be due to the perks from unemployment compensation of $600 a week and sometimes another $300 in federal compensation due to the COVID-19 impact, he said.

The unemployment situation is creating conditions that disincentivize prospective employees, Manetta said.

Companies are looking for good buildings and infrastructure, water and sewer, sometimes rail and may also look for access to affordable energy and waste disposal, if it is specific to the business, he said.

Councilwoman Liz Miele said she thought that some business owners might have the impression that the city taxes are higher than in other areas and that codes are restrictive.

Miele asked Manetta how does the city get over such negative perception due mostly to city taxpayers covering most of the costs of protection from police, fire, and services such as codes, streets and parks and recreation.

“I wish I had a better answer for that,” Manetta said. “It is not in my wheelhouse. The issues I see are on the state and federal level. Some of those are waivers and some of the tax benefits that might come along.”

Manetta said he was a proponent of Keystone Innovation Zones where businesses are given tax credits for locating.

The tax credits are for for-profit companies less than eight years old operating within specific targeted industries within the boundaries.

“Businesses must find places in which they believe they will be profitable,” he said.

Banks said the city can check many of these boxes off the list.

“We need to be marketing the city to the right people,” he said.

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