Former Pennsylvania governor and current businessman Mark Schweiker says he doesn’t like to surround himself with yes-men. Instead, he prefers a diverse group of advisors. “When I was the governor, I had an eclectic team of individuals, and we would gather ideas and come up with best solutions to issues,” he says. “There is always a wide array of suggestions, opinions, and discussions from a diverse group of people and not just a select and chosen few.”
Schweiker, a Republican, was governor of Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2003. He was previously lieutenant governor from 1995 to 2001. In August he was appointed as executive in residence to Rider University’s Department of Political Science. He is also vice president of Renmatix, a King of Prussia-based biotech company that converts waste plant products into food, industrial products, fuel, and even makeup.
Schweiker will speak at the Princeton Regional Chamber’s January Monthly membership luncheon on Thursday, January 10, at 11:30 a.m. at the Princeton Marriott Hotel & Conference Center at 100 College Road East. The title of his address is, “Be Bold in 2019: Sound Government Relations will Lead to Future Economic Development Success.” For more information, visit www.princetonchamber.org.
A native of Pennsylvania, Schweiker says his parents were influential in his career path — both in business and politics. “My father was the accountant turned businessman,” he says. His mother was a civic-minded homemaker who was at the forefront of just about every community event or social cause throughout Bucks County.
“My early memories are of a home constantly full of family and community action,” he says. Schweiker earned a bachelor’s from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. He later earned a master’s in business administration from Rider. He was awarded an honorary law degree from Rider in 2004 and has remain an active alumnus. Schweicker also served as president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and was the president of PRWT Business Process Solutions in Philadelphia — one of the nation’s largest minority-owned business enterprises. He joined the senior administrative ranks of Renmatix Inc. in 2012.
Schweiker says business advocacy groups like the Princeton Chamber play a vital role in influencing lawmakers to support business-friendly policies.
“Residents expect respected organizations like the PRCC to influence the public policy debate around successful economy-building strategies locally, in Trenton and Washington, D.C.,” he says. “The approach includes communicating legislative priorities and the recruitment of legislative supporters to support and facilitate the cause.”
Schweiker believes that businesses must prepare for a dramatically changing economy in the coming years. He cites the work of economist Klaus Schwab, who says we are in the midst of a “fourth industrial revolution” characterized by the fusing of the digital, physical, and biological realms. These rapid changes come with the promise of improving efficiency and even undoing the environmental damage of the previous industrial revolutions, but carry the risk of fragmenting society and increasing inequality, a risk that politicians must manage carefully.
Schweiker said that these projections are “alarming” and “disconcerting” and that organizations like the Princeton Chamber must help businesses adapt using a wide variety of strategies. “This includes urging education and training systems to prepare current and future workers in critical thinking skills,” he says. Ignoring the trend could mean a job market that is deeply divided and segregated into a “low skill/low pay” versus “high skill/high pay” level with little in between — thus widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. “This socioeconomic outcome means less competitive companies and the loss of middle-class jobs, which over time will inhibit regional economic development,” he says.
In his role as an executive in residence at Rider, Schweiker says he hopes by sharing some of his experiences as both a politician and business executive, he will provide students with a clear view of defending and safeguarding the country. The university currently offers a 36-credit master of arts degree in homeland security. Schweiker was the only U.S. governor to assume his position as a direct result of the September 11 terrorist attacks. He was second in Pennsylvania’s line of succession when Governor Tom Ridge accepted a job leading the newly formed Department of Homeland Security following the attacks.
Schweiker is credited with ramping up security measures across the state of Pennsylvania following the attacks and created the state’s first Office of Homeland Security. He has participated in memorial tributes to all of the victims of the attacks — including special tributes to the victims of United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. “Rider understands the important dimensions of graduating qualified and spirited people who want to protect our nation,” he says. “The strength of Rider’s homeland security program is unmatched.”