WILKES-BARRE — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said Thursday he believes a key to Pennsylvania’s economic future is to boost manufacturing.
“For decades, the thinking was to take advantage of the low cost of manufacturing at places around the world,” Wolf, 65, said while touring Mountain Productions on New Frederick Street. “But we now know that American made products are more durable, safer and can be done at competitive prices. We can go head-to-head with anyone in the world.”
Wolf used Mountain Productions as a clear example of what can be done in the U.S.
“Places like this prove we are really good at manufacturing,” Wolf said. “They integrate all aspects of manufacturing, from design to production to implementation, right here in one place. That’s a combination that can’t be beat.”
Owner Jim Evans, 65, started his company 35 years ago and he has seen it grow into a multi-million dollar international business. He told Wolf he has provided staging for nine appearances of the Pope, the last nine Super Bowls, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the ball drop on Times Square and the Miss America pageant.
Evans said his 123 employees — all local except for two transplants — stage 400-plus events per year. He said this week has been the busiest in his company’s history.
Wolf noted that Evans’ business has consistently improved in performance and in quality of materials over its 35 years.
“If you integrate all of the necessary components, over time you get better and better,” Wolf said.
Wolf said he is traveling around Pennsylvania and one of his priorities is showcasing manufacturing and talking about it as a key to the state’s economic future.
“My plan is to get more of this in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Megan Sweeney, communications director for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said Wolf is talking about growing the state’s manufacturing industry, yet he outsourced jobs for his company to other states.
“Tom Wolf conveniently forgets to tell voters how he willingly shipped jobs out of Pennsylvania,” Sweeney said. “In fact, most of his organization’s products are made in other states. Why did he choose to send jobs away from Pennsylvania?”
Sweeney said Gov. Tom Corbett is creating 184,000 new private sector jobs.
Sweeney said in 2011, Wolf boasted about his company’s presence in other states, stating, “For example, our Wolf Classic Cabinets are made in Indiana by American workers using American components. Our PVC Trim boards are made in Texas and Alabama; our decking is made in Florida; our porch flooring is made in New Jersey; and our cultured marble tops are made in Pennsylvania.”
Wolf said he firmly believes that American workers can produce goods that compete on both price and quality with anybody making anything anywhere in the world.
He said when he and his wife Frances bought back their kitchen, bath and home products business, they turned it around by investing in people, innovating and thinking about the future differently.
Wolf said he and his wife turned the business from a wholesale distributor of other people’s products, into a company that sources their own American-made products that compete directly with products made in China.
The company headquarters and distribution center are both located in York. And all Wolf products are made in the United States, with several of them manufactured in Pennsylvania.
Wolf said he favors implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, which he said would provide an unprecedented opportunity to give more than 500,000 currently uninsured, middle and low-income Pennsylvanians access to affordable health care.
“Expanding health care to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and their families is not just the right thing to do; it’s good for the economy and will create jobs,” Wolf said.
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, was with Wolf and he said expanding Medicaid would add some 35,000 to 40,000 new jobs to the state’s economy.
Wolf said Medicaid expansion would do much more than give many Pennsylvanians an opportunity to gain health insurance coverage. He said it will provide a much needed economic stimulus to the state.
Wolf also refuted some of the recent claims of the Corbett campaign concerning the state’s pension system and taxes.
On the pension system, Wolf said lawmakers should let Act 120 work. Act 120, the law that sets the state’s pension contributions, should be utilized, Wolf said.
“One thing I won’t do is kick the can down the road,” Wolf said. “We have to plug the hole that has been created over the last decade or so, and I intend to work with the Legislature on a solution that is fair to both the beneficiaries and the taxpayers.”
On his intent to raise taxes, Wolf smiled and noted that as secretary of revenue during the Gov. Ed Rendell administration, he did not have the authority to raise or lower taxes. The Corbett campaign has aired commercials that show Wolf discussing possible new or increased taxes, none of which, he noted, were never implemented.
In response to the early attacks from his opponent’s campaign, Wolf noted the large gap in polls that show him as a clear leader in the gubernatorial race.
“I think he (Corbett) knows he can’t close that gap on his record, so he feels he has to attack mine,” Wolf said.
Wolf also said if he is elected, the last place he would look to cut funding would be education. He said some 20,000 educators have lost their jobs during the Corbett administration.