ELK COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — U.S. Senator Bob Casey visited Elk County to announce a grant for $400,000 to develop the North Central PA Manufacturing Sector.

Casey joined members of the North Central Pressed Materials Strategy Development Consortium. The award from the Tech Hubs Strategy Development Grant program will help to position North Central Pennsylvania as a leader in the pressed materials industry and become a critical part of the in-demand electric vehicle sector, create good-paying jobs, and strengthen the region`s economy.

Currently, North Central PA is home to one-third of the world’s powdered metallurgy and carbon manufacturing facilities.

“This is a victory, a win for the people of North Central Pennsylvania,” Casey said. 

But what makes it a win? You may not know it,  but it’ll expand on something we’re already reaping economic benefits from.

“15 million vehicles are made in the United States every year. Out of those 15 million, there are about 640 parts of powdered metal in each car,” Advantage Metal Powders Owner Jason Gabler said. 35% comes from this area, 15 million times, 600 times 35% is billions of parts made right from this area.” 

That amounts to nearly 1.5 billion dollars in revenue each year. Powdered metal is alloys processed into a fine, grain-like powder. It is primarily made of stainless steel, brass, copper, iron, and bronze. The metal is then heated into the desired shape needed for products.

However, times are changing and many industries need to change with it. That’s where the grant will make a difference. It’ll fund research and a tech hub specializing in what some are considered essentials of the future. 

“One of the newer aspects of that will be the production of electric vehicles, which are part of that future,” Casey said. 

Penn State DuBois is a big part of the process. With the use of advanced technologies on campus, they will be including research and development, advanced manufacturing, automation, and industry.

“You’ll be able to design a plan to transform itself into the industry of the future,” Chancellor Jungwoo Ryoo said.  

The area may have an approximate income of $1.6 billion dollars but with the new tech hub and updated industries that is only expected to grow. For that growth to happen, there also needs to be growth and retention in the workforce.

“I think we need to start talking about employee creation,” Gabler said. 

Senator Casey said that’s proven to be difficult in the post-pandemic period.

“There’s still a lot of communities still recovering from the pandemic and finding employees is part of that challenge,” Casey said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to work with employers to provide those opportunities.” 

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Creating the opportunities means investing in rural counties across the Commonwealth.

“We have to invest in it, and we have to make sure that that investment leads to the jobs and growth that will keep families here and create a better future.

Casey said this is just phase one in getting the area the help it needs to advance and become a world hub for metal products.