Manufacturers seek to forge Pa. policy initiatives

Is it really necessary for Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett to form a public-private council on manufacturing?

Probably not, and I doubt he'll be counting the days until he can read the report that the 23-member panel, announced on Nov. 21, will cobble together during 2012.

In fact, you and I could probably toss off the highlights right now: lower taxes on manufacturers, reduced regulation, more support for exporting, lower energy costs, new incentives for research and development, and renewed emphasis on math and science education.

And really, isn't that most of what businesspeople who aren't manufacturers want anyway?

But no. We'll have to wait for the panel (did I mention it has 23 members?) to conduct meetings over six months starting in January. At least no taxpayer dollars will be shed in the manufacture of this policy report. The dough comes from the nonprofit Team Pennsylvania Foundation, which has worked with several governors since 1997.

Even with its smaller footprint, the manufacturing sector has a big impact in the state. At $72.21 billion in valued created, manufacturing accounted for about 13 percent of Pennsylvania's gross domestic product in 2010, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

At the same time, manufacturing employment has been declining for generations. BEA lists 589,342 people as being employed in manufacturing in Pennsylvania in 2010, down from 879,168 in 2000 and 973,326 in 1990.

If the manufacturing council sticks to the schedule, its report should leave the factory floor in June or July. That would be just in time for Sunoco Inc. to complete its "exit" from oil refining, eliminating hundreds of manufacturing jobs in the Philadelphia area.