Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery) joined members from the House Majority Policy Committee to listen to leaders from Montgomery County’s business and educational communities who discussed the challenges of creating jobs and retraining workers, and how government is helping and hindering that process.
“This is the time when legislators must listen to those whose success hinges on commonsense regulations, while making sure our workforce is properly trained for the job market of Montgomery County,” Toepel said.
The hearing, held Sept. 8, at the Upper Perkiomen School District Education Center in Pennsburg, gave legislators a chance to hear firsthand experiences.
“When a company grows and hires new employees, we reduce the state’s unemployment, yet we are punished with higher workers comp premiums,” said Geraldine Fioriglio, owner of Family Caregivers Network in Pennsburg. “Fixing the system is complex, but we need to start somewhere.”
Fioriglio offered an option. “I would recommend putting a cap or ceiling on the insurance premiums with guidelines to reduce insurance payments when a small business is directly increasing the workforce in Pennsylvania,” she said.
“Workers compensation is extremely costly for small business,” said Betty Smith, president and CEO of Trexler-Haines Inc. “One injury can plague a business for the next three years.”
“We understand the importance of guidelines, demonstrated outcomes and accountability; however, when requirements become unnecessarily cumbersome, they serve as a disincentive for participation,” said Kathryn B. Frazier, past president of the Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, who worked with local entrepreneurs and schools to create an economic development and training blueprint.
“Given the powerful impact of leadership and workforce development, we urge thoughtful consideration of a streamlined process that allows broader constituent participation,” Frazier said. “The goal for any workforce-related educational training program should be to allow the employees to gain knowledge, be able to enrich the work experience and achieve a sense of pride and satisfaction in the contribution to the overall company success. For our businesses, this is good policy and good for Pennsylvania.”
“Research clearly indicates that as educational attainment increases, so does access to jobs with benefits and stability,” said Linda Connell, a counselor with The Open Line, a multi-service agency in the Upper Perkiomen Valley which provides educational services for disadvantaged individuals and families.
Yet, economic instability has made it difficult for The Open Line to achieve its objectives. “As a small, not-for-profit, funding is precarious even in stable economic times,” Connell said. “However, the challenges of the past three years have created a perfect storm: providing more services to more people, with less staff, reduced hours and stretched resources.”
This hearing was one of several hosted by the House Majority Policy Committee to examine the cost of doing business in Pennsylvania.