Here’s how we write the next great chapter for southwestern Pa. | Opinion

February 27, 2019 6:30 am

D. Raja, Republican candidate for the 37th Senate special election, launched a TV ad yesterday. The election is April 2. (Raja campaign)

By D. Raja

Going door to door in my campaign for the 37th Senate District, I’ve learned that my story isn’t so different from the last generation of opportunity-seekers who came to Pittsburgh to build a better life. 

This community rewards good character, hard work, and takes care of those still struggling to succeed. 

The neighborhoods built on coal-rich hillsides under the shadow of the mills left us with a diversity of food and culture. And most importantly, the value of family that’s held our region together through the good and lean years alike. 

 My journey to southwestern Pennsylvania began over thirty years ago. Like most who weren’t born here, but fell in love and stayed, we were promised a conditional opportunity—come here legally, be a good citizen, and you’ll only be limited by your ability and integrity.

For me, my wife Neeta, and our two girls, Pittsburgh is truly the most welcoming neighborhood in the world. 

My initial days of university experience wasn’t glamorous but it built character. Part-time jobs that included cleaning out cockroach traps in research labs and doing dishes in the cafeteria eventually led to financial assistantship and an unmatched academic experience. 

My graduate work at The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University allowed me to interact with some of the smartest young women and men in the world. Each of us was given the opportunity to learn from the best. To this day, I still feel overwhelmed knowing that this community gave me the gift of a world-class education.  

In the years that followed, I surrounded myself with people who shared a vision for integrity and problem solving. From the spare bedroom of my townhome an idea grew into an international business that today employs over 500 in Pittsburgh and across the country.

The company I co-founded in 1992, CEI, has been privileged to participate in the region’s resurgence by providing custom software development solutions to Fortune 1000 companies. Our company has also placed more than 10,000 skilled, contract IT employees into positions with many of these companies—helping many realize the rewards of solving complex challenges. 

My campaign for Senate is built on an idea that our region’s comeback needs an organizing vision to keep us on track and plan for the future.

The dips and declines of the steel and coal era taught us the importance of economic diversity, and the need to realize the full potential of natural resources. To achieve this will take private-sector innovation and a state government that is a full partner in their success. 

While some activist groups, and the politicians they support, frame this as a choice between economic growth and environmental stewardship, I don’t see it this way.

We don’t have to accept dirty air and water as a reality of an economic resurgence. The lessons of past of taught us how to build businesses that are smarter, greener, but still economically viable. We can choose both.  

The 37th Senate District in southern Allegheny County and northern Washington County is the heart of Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry—placed atop the third largest natural gas and natural gas liquids deposits on the planet. 

According to a report, with policies aimed at allowing this area industry to unleash its potential, Pennsylvania could realize some 100,000 new jobs and upwards of $60 billion in GDP growth over the next ten years. Only political decision-making—unmoored from scientific reason or commonsense—will keep SWPA from being the world’s energy leader.  

The research also points to a realistic projection of up to $3 billion in new state revenue driven by sustainable growth, not new taxes or more severe regulations. 

Lawmakers in Harrisburg must choose growth by supporting job training (and re-training) programs for industry-demanded skills like IT, engineering, and other skilled trades. Education at both vocation and college levels is critical.

Government must be partner, not a roadblock. 

 When business, government, and academia unite to develop job-ready skills, our region wins. 

When political leaders reject trendy mega taxes in favor of creating a level playing field for energy-sector job creators and manufacturers, we win. 

And when state government reforms the regulatory structure to make it fairer and more predictable for those willing to risk and build, the next generation of workers wins. 

 If Pennsylvania’s lawmakers keep their attention on making Pennsylvania—and southwestern Pennsylvania in particular—investment ready, we’ll finally be able to maximize home-grown human and energy resources.

Our region needs a voice in Harrisburg for these ideas. We need leaders who understand the conditions that create, and destroy, the potential for family-supporting jobs. 

 Pittsburgh has always been a magnet for inventors, dreamers, and builders. State government can support those dreams or deflate them before they ever leave the minds of a generation of entrepreneurs.

We need servant leaders who understand the lessons of the past, but believe in the potential of anyone willing to make their future here. That’s why I’m running for State Senate. 

D. Raja is the co-Founder and Chairman of Pittsburgh-based CEI, the chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee, and the the Republican nominee in the April 2 special election for Pennsylvania’s 37th Senate District. 

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