U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania who holds sway as chairman of the influential House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has long championed the idea that infrastructure is the backbone of a strong economy, both for Pennsylvania and the nation. He follows in the footsteps of his father, former Congressman Bud Shuster, who was also committed to creating and maintaining the best possible road, bridge and infrastructure system in the commonwealth.
Marty Marasco, president and CEO of the Altoona Blair County Development Corp. (ABCD), spoke with TI News Daily about how Shuster's congressional efforts have supported Pennsylvania’s transportation system and also the continued economic development of the commonwealth.
Located in Altoona, Pa., ABCD is a private, not-for-profit economic development organization. In the past 10 years, the organization has been involved in 439 projects totaling $651 million that have helped create more than 10,000 jobs.
TI News Daily: What does it mean to your customers and the commonwealth to have a local congressman serve as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee?
Marasco: We try to work with elected officials at all levels, state, federal, municipal, and try to develop relationships with them. Much of what we do is in the private sector but partnerships are critical. Shuster has played a big role in transportation and infrastructure improvements to people in the community at large. He has asked, “What are we interested in?” Bill has followed suit, like his dad before him, who was also very dedicated to infrastructure issues. He’s open to chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and businesses. He’s always been very open to listen to what we feel the needs and concerns are in the community. It’s beneficial, with his open-mindedness, to assist in our needs.
TI News Daily: Can you name any actions that Shuster has taken on the transportation committee that have had a positive impact on your business and your customers?
Marasco: I think his overall support and funding that goes along with that has been instrumental in helping us advance our strategies for the encouragement of jobs. We’ve always placed investment in highways in general a very top priority item. The availability of roads that lead to everywhere, they’ve always been critical. The heart of the I-99 corridor, for example, is a high traffic destination. It’s his emphasis on those types of programs, and the needs of our area and the nation’s improvements over the last 30 years that has served as a major contributor to the economic vitality of the I-99 corridor.
TI News Daily: What actions do you think the transportation committee must take in order to create the best possible infrastructure system for your customers?
Marasco: Our needs are not so much more highways, but rather, the continuing need to maintain what we have. Our company has developed eight business parks in our area and each project requires access improvements to the successful development of those projects, so transportation improvements are critical. Each time you develop a project you have to comply with access improvements, so we’re making on and off-site improvements. We have some issues with a few of our bridges and some need improvements. We’re trying to work on upgrades to those bridges to locate a company that can expand, create and retain jobs. In one business park there are 1,000 employees and they’re going to impact the roads. All of our business parks require access improvements.