Growing Economic Opportunities Would Flow from Clean Energy Bill, Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber CEO Says

"The bipartisan clean energy financing bill [recently signed into law] by Gov. Tom Wolf will grow jobs, save businesses money -- and, best of all, it won’t cost taxpayers anything,” Chris Heck, CEO of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, recently wrote in The Pittsburgh Business Times. The bill was cosponsored by Sen. Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/ Washington) and Sen. Blake (D-Lackawana).

Read Heck's op-ed below.

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Viewpoint: Clean-energy financing bill good for business

By Chris Heck

June 8, 2018

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I’ll be frank. I’m an unapologetic advocate of what’s good for business and economic development in the Pittsburgh airport area. I’m immensely proud of our entire region’s efforts to become a center of world-class innovation. And when I see a “win-win” opportunity for business, economic development and this region, I consider it my mission and privilege to support it.

The clean energy-financing bill headed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk is one of these winning and welcome opportunities. It will grow jobs, save businesses money, and, best of all, it won’t cost taxpayers anything.

Senate Bill 234, co-sponsored by Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/ Washington), would establish a program that makes sense by enabling more businesses to take advantage of cost-saving energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.

This bipartisan legislation was overwhelmingly passed on the Senate floor earlier this year. And on May 23, the House also passed it by a wide 163-28 margin.

Known as Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, this bill would allow municipalities to establish voluntary programs to allow financing for energy upgrades with no upfront costs on new and existing buildings. They simply pay the loan back, over up to 20 years, as a portion of their property tax bill.

For commercial building owners, this means gaining the opportunity to access the growing number of clean energy innovations that can help them save on energy costs and increase the value of their properties.

For our region, it means more economic vitality and more jobs. An estimated 70,000 Pennsylvanians worked in energy efficiency and renewable energy in 2016, up 6 percent from 2015. Nearly half of these jobs are in the construction industry, and about one in five are in the construction industry, and about one in five are in manufacturing.

As recently as a decade ago, our region suffered as globalization and technology eroded the manufacturing industries that once defined us. Between 1970 and 1990, the City of Pittsburgh lost an estimated 100,000 steel jobs and unemployment hit a high of 18 percent.

But that was then. And this is now. Our region has been thriving because we have chosen not to look back but forward.

As the voice of the businesses in 34 communities across the Pittsburgh airport region, I know the value of innovation in this great area. I also know that it makes sense to seize every good, forward-thinking opportunity in front of us, including the one now awaiting signature on the governor’s desk.

Chris Heck is the president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.