HARRISBURG, May 18, 2011 – At a Senate Policy Committee hearing today at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks, state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) and other members of the committee heard testimony from several economic development programs about their successes and return on investment for the Commonwealth.

“After hearing the success stories from these organizations, I can’t believe it makes any sense to eliminate or consolidate programs like these that are so successful,” Fontana said. “We should be eliminating what doesn’t work in this budget and keeping what does. I have not had one user of these programs who has said that their experience wasn’t worth the money that the Commonwealth is putting into these programs.”

Testifying before the committee were Craig Rippole, of Trinity Commercial Development, which benefitted from a Business In Our Sites planning grant to allow them to move forward on the redevelopment of a brownfield in McKees Rocks, John Sider of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Petra Mitchell of Catalyst Connection – one of the state’s Industrial Resource Centers, and Ray Vargo, John Dobransky, Mary McKinney and Christine Hughes of the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University Small Business Development Centers.

“The return from these programs is much higher than the cost to Pennsylvania. It’s clear that these programs and their staffs do excellent work for the businesses in our community,” said Fontana. “We need to recognize that we need to invest money to make money and these programs are proven winners that produce. The testimony has clearly shown that these are worthwhile investments and I cannot understand why the Governor and the House Republicans have collapsed their funding and are trying to consolidate these programs. Each of them serves a very specific purpose and they already work together to serve the businesses in our region in the best manner.”

The budget bill, House Bill 1485, would consolidate the Industrial Development Assistance, Local Development Districts, Small Business Development Centers and Industrial Resource Centers appropriations, reduce them by over $3.5 million and allow the Department of Community & Economic Development to distribute the available funds to “partnerships” that are created in each region.