HOLLIDAYSBURG - The crowd at McLanahan Corp. fell silent Thursday as Gov. Tom Corbett peered into a gigantic metal tube.
Set for use processing oil-rich tar sands in western Canada, the tube backdrop might not have strictly matched Corbett's message of domestic energy production - but he heaped praise on its builders as paragons of Pennsylvania's "job creator" class.
Corbett's visit to McLanahan wasn't officially tied to his re-election campaign against former revenue secretary Tom Wolf, but he used the opportunity to boast of the state's business and job growth under his first term.
Mirror photo by Ryan Brown / Gov. Tom Corbett (second from right) inspects a rotary wet screen used for tar sands processing during a visit to McLanahan Corp. in Hollidaysburg on Thursday.
"Four years ago, job creators across Pennsylvania were facing a very uncertain future," he said. "Now small businesses and entire industries are being revived and reinvigorated."
Rattling off statistics and job numbers, Corbett revisited his common point that employment has increased in the state during his administration. Corbett and Wolf's campaigns have sparred over the numbers, with some noting that Pennsylvania's job growth falls far behind most states and the incumbent arguing that blunted local damage from the 2008 recession skewed the relative statistics.
Corbett reminded the crowd of his work to reduce business taxes and red tape, changes he said would ultimately put more money in workers' pockets.
The comments came a day after the governor told Associated Press editors that, if re-elected, he wouldn't renew his first-term pledge not to raise any taxes.
In that interview, Corbett acknowledged some fees rose in recent years, but argued that no one could have predicted the financial concerns that forced some tax hikes. Most voters would agree that, overall, he tried to avoid tax increases, he said.
"It all depends on how the economy's going. We can't control the economy because there's so many outside influences," he said of the tax pledge at the McLanahan facility. "We can affect those influences, and taxes are one of them. We certainly do need revenue."
With the election 2 months away, Corbett and Wolf appear set to spar further on the tax issue, with Corbett's campaign accusing the Democrat of promising to raise taxes. Opponents even in Corbett's party have called attention to his own tax and fee increases, however, including a gas-tax hike set to pay for years of road work.
Nevertheless, at McLanahan on Thursday, Corbett painted himself as a slasher of the red tape constraining corporations.
"I hope it's become a little bit easier in Pennsylvania since I've become governor," he told McLanahan President George Sidney. "I've been working on that."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.