Community Funding Cut Back In Proposed Budget

READING, Pa. - Critics of Governor Tom Corbett's budget proposal say the plan favors big business in Pennsylvania. Still, a state agency that helps sweeten the deal for potential developers is facing significant changes.

Funds from the state's Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) helped build the IMAX Theatre in downtown Reading and are helping fund the construction of the GoggleWorks Apartments across the street from the theatre.

Tuesday, during his budget address, Governor Corbett called DCED convoluted, complicated and it too is facing a 32% budget cut that amounts to $114 million.

"There's still $233 million available for economic development projects in Pennsylvania," said Jon Scott, President and CEO of Berks Economic Partnership.

Corbett wants to put that money into one big pool. His plan would whittle down DCED from 127 programs to 56.

"That, I think, is going to help me as an economic developer make my life easier," said Tom McKeon, Executive Director of the Berks County Industrial Development Authority.

McKeon believes the changes would make the process for securing funding simpler. The governor wants it to be more competitive.

"If you have a winning idea," Corbett said Tuesday. "You'll win our backing."

"We do know the governor is looking to see more partnerships and more regional collaboration," Scott explained.

Scott said Greater Reading has had past success teaming up to make projects like Wyomissing Square a reality.

Still, the governor's proposal provides uncertainty for a new research and commerce park near the Reading Regional airport. That project's awaiting 1.2 million dollars from DCED.

"We don't know what the impact of the proposed budget is going to be," McKeon said. "But that's money that we're asking for from them."

And while development agencies seem willing to compete with each other, there is concern the proposed cuts to DCED will keep Pennsylvania from standing out to new investors.

"It's still an incentive game where each state gets pitted against each other," McKeon explained. "And the incentive package by both the state and local area is important to them."

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Allentown, PA 18102




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