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Under Gov. Wolf, Pa. is primed for business | Opinion

Pennsylvania's quality of life must not go unnoticed amid this business powerhouse. The state boasts the lowest cost of living in the Northeast, affordable real estate, prominent world-ranked universities, and premier health-care and cultural institutions.

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By Guest Editorial By Brent Vernon When Pennsylvania communities submitted proposals last month in the continent-wide competition to land Amazon's coveted second headquarters project, it signified more than just local confidence in a state whose $724 billion GDP ranks it as the world's 19th-largest economy. Brent Vernon (Commonwealth of Paphoto)David Williams  It showcased the formidable strength of Pennsylvania's business climate under GovTom Wolf's leadership. Many factors magnify the strength of the commonwealth, all set against the backdrop of our comprehensive infrastructure. The commonwealth's strategic proximity to the commercial heart of the Northeast places it within a day's drive of nearly 40 percent of all U.Smarkets (including six of the 10 largest markets) and 60 percent of Canadian markets. With an outstanding network of interstate highways, four of North America's seven class I freight railroads, six international airports, and three major ports accessing the Atlantic Ocean, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, Pennsylvania's infrastructure is perfectly positioned for business and global trade. Pennsylvania's highly skilled workforce fortifies this economic success story. While the state ranks fifth nationally in the most STEM graduates, eighth in largest tech employment and 10th for technology and innovation, Governor Wolf has accelerated training initiatives to further meet the needs of companies competing in today's global marketplace. There's no doubt Pennsylvania today is setting a new standard for economic developmentCommunities that once depended on single-source, heavy-industry employers are being revitalized through technology and innovation. Investments in incumbent training programs over the past three years has assisted more than 120,000 employees in more than 2,200 businesses statewide. Additionally, GovWolf established the Apprenticeship and Training Office which has significantly expanded the apprenticeship footprint in Pennsylvania, bringing the total number of registered programs to 750 and the total number of registered apprentices to 15,201 statewide. In just three years, the Wolf administration - delivering on the promise of jobs that pay, schools that teach, and government that works - has provided a solid foundation for this strong business climate. That started with the elimination of burdensome taxes such as the final Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, and continuing with targeted investments in economic growth. The successful recapitalization of the Business in Our Sites initiative has reallocated funds from underutilized programs to grow Pennsylvania's inventory of pad-ready sites for business development. Administered through the Commonwealth Finance Authority, Business in Our Sites is a valuable tool for businesses seeking prepared locations conducive to ready growthIt's no wonder Site Selection magazine named Pennsylvania the No1 Northeast state for business investment. Focused infrastructure development is making it easier for manufacturers to transport their products and to access low-cost energy, which has emerged as another prime mover for economic growthPennsylvania sits atop the Marcellus Shale, the largest natural gas field in the United States and the third largest on earth. Fast-developing pipeline infrastructure has been boosted by Governor Wolf's Pipeline Investment Program to make more natural gas available to manufacturers who see the great value of doing business here. Pennsylvania's quality of life must not go unnoticed amid this business powerhouseThe state boasts the lowest cost of living in the Northeast, affordable real estate, prominent world-ranked universities, and premier health-care and cultural institutions. Looking ahead, we should certainly welcome the intriguing possibility of adding huge projects like Amazon's HQ2 to our economic landscape. But dare to look beyond themLook across the statePennsylvania's strong business climate is right now attracting a diverse array of enterprises that - in concert with our schools, our workers, and our communities - are primed to grow, thrive, and succeed.  And our economic success story has just begun. Brent Vernon is executive director of the Pennsylvania Governor's Action TeamHe writes from Harrisburg. 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