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Economy & Business

DCED Nominee Looks at Development Options

As Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes the oath of office Tuesday many in the state have high hopes that he will lead Pennsylvania into an improved business and economic climate but most analysts admit the governor has very little day-to-day impact on the state’s economy. 

However, the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development seems to hold a little more sway.

Dennis Davin is Wolf’s nominee to head the DCED. Davin is currently the director of economic development for Allegheny County. He also worked for the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh and spent a year in the Rendell Administration.

“I really appreciate what [Wolf] has had to say and his take on economic development and community development ... in terms of making Pennsylvania a transportation hub of the north east, taking advantage of all of the opportunities that we have here, smart growth principals, connecting colleges and universities and really doing what we can do to help create family sustaining jobs,” Davin said.

The Senate still must approve Davin, but as of yet no opposition has surfaced. As the head of economic development in Allegheny County, Davin served as treasurer of the Pittsburgh International Airport Authority where a lease was recently signed to allow fracking on airport land. Fracking on state lands has been the subject of a legal fight under the Corbett administration.

“I can’t really speak to the remainder of the commonwealth right now until we know what the governor[elect]’s thoughts are,” Davin said.  

During the campaign Wolf promised to increase taxes on non-traditional gas drilling and then use the income to fund education.

Davin said it was important to him while working on the deal at the airport that it be done in a way that had the least environmental impact.

Davin will take office at a time that many of the state’s tax incentive and grant programs have come under fire for being ineffective and poorly audited. He said he has not yet had a chance to fully review all of the programs but is familiar with the ones used by the county. 

“Some of the programs were good, some of the programs need some more work,” Davin said. “I would love to get in there and start looking at the programs … but make sure there is also some accountability for the funds that are spent.” 

Davin also hopes to use his experience at the county level to build stronger ties between the state and counties and municipalities.

Wolf has put an emphasis on improving the state’s multimodal transportation systems. Davin said businesses continue to stress that they rely on robust systems to move people and goods to jobs and markets.

“Hopefully there will be additional funding that we will be able to raise through the feds and through other sources,” said Davin. “We are trying to create the climate for companies to create jobs and transportation is a big part of that.” 

Davin believes capitalizing on the state’s robust institutions of higher education will also be key in moving the states economy forward.

“Our universities have done a great job of developing not only their campuses but also the areas round their campuses,” he said.

And it’s important for the DCED to continue to help create jobs and to help technologies spin out of the schools creating high quality jobs, Davin said.

No date has yet been set for Davin’s confirmation hearing.