We must analyze data and develop a platform to recruit national and international businesses and industrial enterprises to locate in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

We need to do so in our region’s hot spots, where our natural resources are plentiful and investment will be most impactful. I’m speaking of Greene and Washington counties.

Actually, we must recruit existing business and industrial enterprises across the Commonwealth. (Yes, it is that competitive.) We must work together at the local, state and federal levels to develop an incentive package that may be used in the recruitment strategy.

Washington and Greene counties have completed significant groundwork in recent years. Leadership has worked diligently to position the region for growth in the five High Priority Industries (HPIs): the energy industry beyond exploration, production and natural gas midstream activities; manufacturing; health care; construction; and transportation.

Based on work by the county commissioners and economic development agencies in both counties, significant growth opportunities have emerged to attract industry and provide the region’s businesses and workforce many more opportunities.

We have significant educational infrastructure with Waynesburg University, Washington & Jefferson College and California University of Pennsylvania. By partnering our local school districts and career and technology centers with these higher education institutions, we are aligning our workforce of tomorrow with the needs of employers.

Today’s workforce needs more opportunities to minimize out-migration and meet the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s technological advances in each of the five HPIs. We are working to create more opportunities for all workers’ interests, talents and skill sets.

Some critical infrastructure needs have been identified and initial efforts for expansion are underway. Planning and permitting, however, require significant lead time and funding. Much more is needed to successfully attract industry, develop workforce and build critical infrastructure.

State, federal and regional agencies and private industry are calling for sites available in the region to be aggressively promoted for suitable growth and investment opportunities. We must be on-point with our messaging. It needs to be targeted and strategic.

A number of entities – the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, state Department of Community and Economic Development, Allegheny Conference and Affiliates, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, Greene County Chamber and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission – have initiated the development of a tri-state branding and messaging campaign. That effort specifically targets the petrochemical and plastics industry tied to the natural gas produced here.

We must work closely with these organizations to align materials and messages of Greene and Washington counties to not create confusion in this industry sector audience, assure that branding and marketing of our region is distinguished and competitive.

Visual communication is crucial to implementing our region’s initiatives. We must continue to produce visually rich and compelling print and digital collateral that communicates complex ideas to a wide variety of audiences. Branding and advertising materials should be created to be meaningful, as well as flexible for marketing our assets across multiple sectors.

Delivering natural gas liquids to prime sites via pipeline is a key to attracting industry to specific sites, as well as a flashpoint for opponents of the industry. The feedstock for manufacturing, as well as the ability to tap shale gas for low-cost energy consumption, are priority items per recommendations from the DCED, the Tri-State Shale Coalition and private industry.

Multiple distribution, midstream and transmission pipeline companies must be sought to assess their level of investment potential. Fortunately, multiple pipeline distribution companies already have a presence in the region and will be the first targets for investment.

Our natural environment has provided us with the gift of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. We must respect this gift and develop it to its fullest potential.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at rshrum@observer-reporter.com.

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