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OP-ED: We lost Glatfelter. What’s next?

State Rep. Kate Klunk
A proposed self-storage center will be taking over the former retail space occupied by The Bon-Ton in the York Galleria Mall, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

There are several names synonymous with York County. There’s Utz and Martin’s, the snack food giants based in the western end of the county; Wright, who gave Wrightsville its name; and many others that have withstood the test of time.

Sadly, some York County staples, like the Bon-Ton, opened by the Grumbacher family in York in 1898, and Pfaltzgraff, founded here in the county in 1811, no longer have strong ties to their place of birth. Another prominent name and business was recently added to the list: Glatfelter.

For decades it was nearly impossible to not have one of these businesses in our lives. Who hasn’t eaten dinner off a Pfaltzgraff plate, or bought that special dress at the Bon-Ton, or drove through Spring Grove and smelled the famous, or infamous, Glatfelter paper mill smell?

Though the paper mill, now owned and operated by Pixelle Specialty Solutions, will remain open, Glatfelter’s footprint on York County will soon be but a memory after the company announced it’s moving its headquarters to Charlotte, N.C. If you’re keeping tabs, Glatfelter is the second business to move its headquarters from York County to the Charlotte area in just as many years. Longtime York-based business Dentsply Sirona moved south in 2018.

More:Glatfelter moving HQ, about 50 employees from York City to North Carolina

More:Reuters: Bon-Ton heading for liquidation

Rep. Kate Klunk discusses concerns as York County Commissioners meet with state lawmakers and poll workers to discuss last weeks election as well as  address necessary improvements needed for future elections, at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The loss of these businesses should sound alarm bells for everyone. Particularly troubling is why Glatfelter opted to leave our community. Some of the reasons Glatfelter left, as listed in its announcement, include “access to a larger pool of critical resources and talent for (the) future,” a local international airport in Charlotte and “access to major universities and industry trade associations.”

The House has long championed improving career and technical education so jobs these businesses offer can be filled locally. We placed a comprehensive workforce development and career/technical education bill on the governor’s desk, which he signed into law last fall. Act 76 of 2019 works to enhance job training and workforce development, while also providing high school and college students with access to information regarding the transfer policies of other educational institutions.

Act 76 also includes legislation that I drafted, which creates a pilot grant program that would encourage schools and local businesses to collaborate to provide work-based learning opportunities for high school students. This legislation aims to replicate successful local workforce development partnerships found in my district between the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, numerous Hanover-area businesses, the Hanover Public School District and South Western School District.

We are working to ensure our students are ready for careers, which will help improve our economy and bolster our middle class. But more work must be done.

I suspect one of the reasons Glatfelter and other companies have moved their headquarters is because of the favorable tax climate in North Carolina.

Years before the federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act was enacted, Republican state legislators in North Carolina passed multiple rounds of tax relief that significantly cut income tax rates, both personal and corporate. Essentially, North Carolina led the charge on tax cuts to build its economy and is now reaping the benefits. All the while, here in Pennsylvania we are losing businesses to the state that was “first in flight.”

In fact, North Carolina has a corporate income tax rate of 2.5%. Pennsylvania’s rate is at a staggering 9.99%. It’s no wonder companies are leaving. If you had a choice to pay nearly 75% less in taxes, wouldn’t you consider moving?

One of the things we’ve learned by standing up against Gov. Tom Wolf’s constant calls for a tax increase is that tax revenue does go up even when tax rates don’t. During the last fiscal year, Pennsylvania was able to put more than $300 million into its Rainy Day Fund because of its budget surplus. We are expected to do it again this fiscal year, despite Wolf’s doom-and-gloom calls to raise taxes.

It is high time Pennsylvania provides relief to all taxpayers, particularly businesses that pay one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the nation. By allowing these businesses to keep more of their income, they will continue to be able to offer family-sustaining jobs. We owe it to our citizens to keep working to ensure good-paying jobs stay here in Pennsylvania. If our businesses succeed, then so do the citizens we represent. But we must act soon before another business moves south to more tax-friendly pastures and leaves Pennsylvanians wondering if they should leave too.