State Senator Dan Laughlin represents Pennsylvania’s 49th District, which includes nearly all of Erie County. He also is chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee.
A hard day’s work has never been something from which I’ve shied away. I know the happiness that comes from a job well done and a dream made real.
I’m a born-and-raised Erie Countian, growing up in the Erie Heights housing project, above 38th on Garden Avenue. My parents worked and saved to eventually put a down payment on a family home on Allegheny Road. Growing up, my family had plenty of struggles, but we always managed to pull together and get through them.
Losing my machinist job at National Forge in Erie due to the collapse of the steel industry prompted me to join my brother’s construction company, later becoming a full partner. We also diversified our business portfolio to include an insulation firm, a property rental company and a waste disposal company.
As a business owner, I strongly support policies and programs that create jobs, limit government spending, and ease the tax and regulatory burden on job creators. Having won two terms in the Pennsylvania Senate, I’ve been a strong advocate for government reform and committed to making state government accessible and accountable to the people I serve.
For the current legislative session, I’m honored to have been chosen to chair the Senate Majority Policy Committee. The committee often serves as a staging ground where legislative ideas can be dissected, critiqued and improved. The committee has held hearings throughout the state, gathering input on issues important to the prosperity of the people of Pennsylvania.
A recent policy committee hearing in Pittsburgh focused on the significant innovation assets and opportunity in Pennsylvania and examined how innovation industries are vitally important to regional and statewide economies. During that hearing, assisting the development and retention of start-up businesses was discussed.
Testimony at this hearing mentioned that innovation is in decline in smaller communities outside of the state’s three largest innovation hubs. We should not be satisfied with a system that makes your zip code a determinate factor in the success of your business. Rather than focus on location when it comes to incentivizing entrepreneurship, Pennsylvania needs to promote innovation and empower creative thinking no matter where it occurs in the Commonwealth.
While creating and retaining businesses is important to Pennsylvania and its citizens, just as important is ensuring the state has a workforce that can support, attract and keep those businesses. That is why the policy committee held a hearing to explore workforce challenges in rural Williamsport, Pennsylvania, focusing on population decline, labor and housing shortages, and their economic impact on communities and businesses.
I believe an issue we need to address in that regard is to stop this system we have created where the private sector has to compete against government benefits to find employees. We have essentially incentivized not working, or at least made it achievable for some.
There’s more to explore with the Policy Committee that impacts all Pennsylvanians. For one, restoring safe communities and reducing the crime that has ravaged our neighborhoods. I also want to make sure that we begin to put the drug overdose epidemic behind us by creating a pathway for mandatory rehab for those in addiction who need a lifeline.
More locally, my main focus since arriving in the Senate has been to get a CRIZ (City Revitalization and Improvement Zone) designation for the City of Erie. This economic tool will re-energize development in the city, and I am confident that this can be achieved within the next year. Working with the mayor’s office, Erie Insurance, Infinite Erie, City Council and my Senate colleagues, I know our collective efforts will bear fruit for the citizens of Erie.