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Boosting regional economy requires cooperation across state lines | Opinion

The Philadelphia Fed is ready to help because our reach allows us to convene interested parties from across state borders to learn from one another and share best practices.

Patrick Harker is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
Patrick Harker is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.Read moreSaquan Stimpson / AP

I recently marked my third year as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which includes the entire Third District: Delaware, southern New Jersey, and central and eastern Pennsylvania. During my travels, people often ask why the Philadelphia Fed is interested in their hometown or how the bank's work affects their households. The Philadelphia Fed is here to serve all residents of the Third District. Part of our mission is to collaborate with interested parties to support economic growth and mobility. Those efforts could help your household or hometown.

The Philadelphia Fed is part of the Federal Reserve System, which seeks to keep unemployment low, prices stable, and the financial system secure. To that end, the bank established the Consumer Finance Institute (CFI) to better understand the financial decisions every one of you as a consumer makes.

This research has great importance for the policy decisions of the Fed and other agencies. Our CFI work also can help individuals better understand how to safeguard their finances. For instance, our researchers are exploring how medical and financial institutions can work together and with families to reduce the risk and consequences of elder fraud and abuse, especially for those dealing with cognitive impairment.

On a broader scale, the Philadelphia Fed has a long history of partnering with communities seeking to reinvent their economies. Our Community Development and Regional Outreach department brings together community development practitioners, researchers, and lenders to support this work. In 2017, we established the Economic Mobility & Growth Project to build pathways from poverty to prosperity and promote equal access to opportunity.

I have traveled across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and everywhere I went I was struck by the resilience, hope, and ingenuity of people. Out in Johnstown, Pa., my colleagues and I saw stakeholders joining together to develop training programs to fill the skills gap and benefit both local workers and employers.  Up in Wellsboro, Tioga County, we met with residents trying to improve infrastructure, such as internet access and affordable housing, to foster economic growth in a largely rural area.

As a lifelong resident of South Jersey, I was pleased to see the revival and investment happening in Camden. Anchor institutions — like the Camden campus of Rutgers University — new businesses, and residents are striving to transform that great city.

In Atlantic County, stakeholders are working to create an economy and labor market diversified away from gaming and hospitality. We learned about opportunities to bolster civilian aviation research and testing being led by the Federal Aviation Administration to spur job growth at the county airport.

In Delaware, my colleagues and I toured a Wilmington development site that, once completed, will have affordable apartment units, restaurant space, and a commercial kitchen that will support neighborhood businesses.

During these visits, I heard people discuss the need to work together.  Yet when it comes to thinking of ways to create economic opportunity or combat problems such as homelessness or opioid addiction, plans and attitudes too often focus on one state or one locality. We — the residents of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — can do better. We must begin to think regionally.

The Philadelphia Fed is unique in that, like the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, we straddle the tristate area. We are not focused on one state or one community. I urge all those interested in bettering our area to think regionally as well. A great place to start would be infrastructure. Our three states share extensive transportation networks that must be modernized to compete in the global marketplace.

The Philadelphia Fed is ready to help because our reach allows us to convene interested parties from across state borders to learn from one another and share best practices.

Our efforts can be seen up in northeastern Pennsylvania. Community leaders along the Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton corridor saw a need to create equal access to transportation so that all could get to where they needed to go. The Philadelphia Fed, in partnership with the Scranton Area Community Foundation, helped local stakeholders organize the Northeastern Pennsylvania Equitable Transit Planning Council to explore solutions to benefit everyone in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties.

I often say that our economic fates are tied together: We all do better when our neighbors prosper. For Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, our economic sum is greater than our three individual parts.  It is essential that city, state, and county leaders as well as business and community leaders break down silos and work to create a cohesive plan that will create economic opportunities collectively for the tristate region.

Patrick T. Harker is the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.