BAE Systems gets extended $800M contract to build armored multipurpose vehicles

BAE Systems’ facility in York is one of the company’s plants that will build armored multipurpose vehicles for the Army as part of a $797 million contract, with options for a potential total contract of $1.6 billion.

This award brings the AMPV program into full-rate production, making it the first newly designed and built tracked vehicle in the Army’s fleet to reach this production stage in three decades, a release said.

The AMPV replaces the Army’s fleet of Vietnam War-era M113 family of vehicles. The multi-mission AMPV family of vehicles provides critical survivability, mobility and interoperability upgrades to the Armored Brigade Combat Team.

“Entering full-rate production is a momentous milestone in the lifecycle of a production program for both the U.S. Army and BAE Systems,” said Jeremy Tondreault, president of the platforms and services sector at BAE Systems. “The AMPV is the next-generation replacement for the venerable M113, and we are proud that this critical capability is on its way to the men and women who need our most capable combat vehicles on the front lines.”

The Army first awarded BAE Systems the AMPV contract in 2014 and signed a low-rate initial production contract in 2018. The first LRIP vehicle was delivered in August 2020.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

York’s Susquehanna Riverlands one of three new state parks

Susquehanna Riverlands in York County is one of three new parks added to the 121-state park system, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday.

Vosburg Neck in Wyoming County and Big Elk Creek in Chester County are also part of the $45 million investment aimed at conserving close to 3,500 acres of crucial natural and cultural resources while also meeting the demand for new recreational opportunities.

The names of the three new parks are temporary. Final names will be determined during the planning process.

“Our beautiful state parks are among the finest in the nation,” Wolf said. “I’m proud to have secured funding in my final budget to make this investment in our park system which will not only preserve invaluable natural resources and habitats for wildlife but provide in-demand access for Pennsylvanians to enjoy the beauty of nature and recreational opportunities.”

Wolf in 2016 added Washington Crossing to the commonwealth’s state park system. Including the three new parks, he has added four parks in eight years, the most of any governor in the last 40 years. His final budget includes an historic $696 million investment in conservation, preservation, and recreation.

“Each new park is unique in its value to a great system,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams. “All of the new parks are steeped in cultural pre-and post-colonial history, centered around important water resources and represent fantastic natural resource value.”

Situated in Hellam Township, the Susquehanna Riverlands site warrants conservation as it occupies 1,110 acres of natural resources already preserved and protects important water and forest resources. The wooded tract is located within 30 minutes of a heavily populated area where land for recreation use is at a premium. It Is adjacent to Hellam Hills and Wizard Ranch nature preserves, which combine to protect the spacious tract along the Susquehanna River between Harrisburg, York, and Lancaster.

“By working side by side with DCNR, we are creating a conservation landscape that future generations will benefit from,” Lancaster Conservancy president Phil Wenger said. “Conservation needs both public and private organizations to partner to offset the impact increased development has on water and air quality, as well as ecological decline, to ensure our natural world doesn’t disappear before our eyes.”

Pennsylvania receives $6.8 million to promote access to unemployment compensation system 

Pennsylvania was awarded $6.8 million in grant funding to help promote fairer access to the state’s unemployment compensation system, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday. 

The Department of Labor & Industry will use the money to assist underserved populations by hiring more CareerLinks staff; adding iPad technology available to staff and claimants; and hiring staff to eliminate the backlog of pending Pandemic Unemployment Assistance appeals for the population targeted by the grant. 

The goal is to increase public awareness so more people apply for unemployment compensation; improve service delivery so claimants receive their first benefits in a timely manner; and develop a better understanding of the equity challenges. 

Funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act through the U.S. Department of Labor. 

“Particularly during the pandemic, unemployment compensation became a lifeline for Pennsylvanians, but it’s critical that all Pennsylvanians who need it have access,” the governor said in a release. 

“I’m grateful that this funding emphasizes efforts to ensure equitable access to the UC system and that it will support our Department of Labor & Industry’s ongoing efforts to ensure that our UC system is accessible and secure.” 

Pennsylvania, Oregon, Virginia and the District of Columbia were the first applicants awarded a total of $20.5 million during this first funding round. 

Gov. Wolf signs $225 million health care funding bill into law 

Following approval from both the Pennsylvania House and Senate this week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 253 into law on Wednesday. 

The bill allocates $225 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support health care professionals and strengthen Pennsylvania’s health care workforce.  

“This is a major, bipartisan investment in supporting the health care workers who have done so much for our commonwealth over the past two years,” said Wolf. “This funding will provide needed relief to our hospitals and health care workers. 

Through the bill, the state will distribute $100 million to acute care, critical access and children’s hospitals on a per-bed basis and $110 million to high-Medical Assistance hospitals, designated Critical Access hospitals and inpatient and residential behavioral health facilities for recruitment and retention payments to key staff. 

$15 million in funds will also be given to the nurse loan forgiveness program at the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga, Bradford and Potter counties, was introduced to the House in early 2021 to establish a task force to “improve the safety, well-being and permanency of substance-exposed infants and other young children adversely affected by their parents’ substance abuse disorders.” 

The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday after it was amended to include the $225 million in health care industry funding. The House then gave unanimous final approval of the newly amended bill on Wednesday. 

“We appreciate and applaud Governor Wolf and the legislature for listening to nurses and hospital workers and taking action on their demands,” said Matt Yarnell, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania, the state’s largest union for healthcare workers. “These bipartisan votes to direct emergency financial resources to the bedside and to support our essential caregivers during this pandemic is a good step towards the urgent reform that’s needed.” 

Live and in person, it’s the 2022 Farm Show 


An aerial view of the 2018 Farm Show. – PHOTO/FILE

The Pennsylvania Farm Show will go live in 2022. 

After going virtual last year because of COVID-19, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced the return to a traditional, in-person gathering. 

The 106th showcase, featuring the theme “Harvest More,” will be held Jan. 8-15 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. 

“This iconic annual event brings Pennsylvanians together to experience the very best of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry,” the Department of Community and Economic Development’s executive director of tourism, Michael Chapaloney, said in a release. “These visitors inject $39 million into the region’s economy by filling hotels, restaurants and other attractions along the way. These dollars support 5,600-plus jobs and generate $820,000 in state sales taxes.” 

Agriculture is a $132.5 billion industry in Pennsylvania, and the Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural exposition under one roof in the nation, according to farmshow.pa.gov. 

Redding said it will feature “a harvested bounty of innovative projects, sustainable practices, empowered agriculturalists, engaged youth and inspiring stories of our powerful agriculture industry.” 

The 2022 show will include popular features like the 1,000-pound butter sculpture, food court, bunny hopping, sheep shearing competitions and cooking demonstrations at the PA Preferred Culinary Connection. 

There will be virtual opportunities as well. Returning from the 2021 show are the Butter Up! competition (home butter sculptures), duckling and beehive live cams, Ag Explorer stations and the Farm Show Trail.