Monday, February 27, 2017

Trump Administration Brings Changes to Healthcare

Bill Bloss, Regan Levin Bloss Brown & Savchak, P.C., Chamber Healthcare Committee Chairman

On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. The candidate who promised to “Make America Great Again” has also promised major healthcare reform. So what can we expect during the next four years from President Trump’s administration as it pertains to healthcare? If the President’s nomination of six-term Republican Congressman Tom Price to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services is any indication, significant change is on the way.

Mr. Price has previously introduced “The Empowering Patients First Act” that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, to be replaced by a completely new plan. The main features of this new plan include incentives to utilize Health Savings Accounts, age-based tax credits for health insurance, provisions to allow insurance providers to sell plans across state lines, and reforms making lawsuits against physicians more difficult, among other things. For his part, Mr. Trump had campaigned on the promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act as well. His plan mirrors much of Mr. Price’s, including required price transparency from all healthcare providers.

So what can you expect in the coming months? In a word…change. For small business owners, healthare costs have been a major source of pain over the last several years. Just know that the Chamber’s Healthcare Committee is dedicated to keeping you informed of any changes through regular communication and education.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Global Warming Regulatory Activities

James M. Policelli, P.E., Consultant Energy & Environment Committee Member

The 2016 presidential election was a turning point for global warming regulatory activities to force fossil fuels out of our energy mix.  The premiere initiative to do this is the Obama era “Clean Power Plan,” designed to shut down hundreds of powerplants.  Now tied up in the courts, the CPP will likely be withdrawn and not defended in court by the Trump administration.  Reversing this initiative will be complex and will take time.  Activist groups are preparing to obstruct the move.  Meanwhile, its implementation remains halted by a U.S. Supreme Court order.

If the CPP were fully implemented and worked as planned, it would prevent a global temperature rise of only 0.007 degree Celsius.

Germany already has in place an equivalent to the CPP.  It produces over 30 percent of its electricity from renewables.  This resulted in a destabilized power grid, extremely high electricity prices and a growing segment of its population known as “energy poor.”  It is a major factor in companies looking outside of Germany to reinvest earnings.

The state of South Australia gets 40 percent of its electricity from renewables.  Recently, major wind farms failed during a storm triggering a statewide blackout that caused at least $367 million in losses.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce advocated our opposition of the CPP to both the Environmental Protection Agency and to our U.S. Senators and Congressmen.  Our Chamber also became a signatory to the Amicus Brief filed by the U.S. Chamber in the suit by 27 states and numerous other interested parties against the CPP.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Public Policy Committee Meets with PA Legislatures

Dorota Gasienica-Kozak, Esq., King Spry Herman Freund & Faul, LLC, Public Policy Committee Chair

The Public Policy Committee once again met with our legislators for further discussion about the Chamber’s policies and how we can make a greater impact for our members.  Pennsylvania State Representatives Peter Schweyer and Mike Schlossberg joined us to review our policies, discuss upcoming new legislation and describe their biggest goals for 2017. 

Per Representative Peter Schweyer, “2017 will prove to be a difficult year as Pennsylvania is facing a significant budget shortfall that will require us to reimagine how government works while still investing in our communities and our future.  I believe that we can craft a responsible budget that invests in our schools and provides responsible human services without harming the business and job climates.  Partisanship has not prevented us in the Legislature from working with Governor Wolf to accomplish meaningful change as we did by legalizing medical marijuana, modernizing liquor sales and addressing the heroin epidemic.”

Per Representative Mike Schlossberg, “During the 2017-2018 session, I will continue my efforts on mental health, fighting for resources to deliver critical care and working to break down stigmas that cause people to not seek the health care they need.  Community schools will also be a priority, as we make do with what is necessary to support our students.  Pennsylvania voters told us loud and clear that we need to build a stronger economy.  I look forward to continuing the fight for workers, our neighborhoods, taxpayers and small businesses. We have a lot of difficult decisions to make this year. It is up to all of us to do this together and find solutions that work and deliver for Pennsylvania.” 

The Committee will continue in its efforts to meet with our legislators to discuss our continued three policy goals in 2017 which are transportation, workforce development and the pension crisis.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Employers Did you Know?

Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board.

Employers....Did You Know?

We have programs that can help your workforce...either current or future!  If you have not used our services- you don't know what you are missing.

For all the programs available to your business please visit the link below- or better yet call me 610-841-1122 and we can discuss how we can help.

Recruiting a trained, reliable workforce can be a real challenge for any employer. Let us be your strategic partner in developing and implementing the most effective recruitment plan that offers a wide range of services to assist you in making the right hiring choice.
Our trained workforce development professionals are members of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP).
The Lehigh Valley Chapter of SHRM exists to promote the highest level of professionalism in Human Resource Management. It offers members professional development opportunities, shares Chapter resources with the communities served, and fosters awareness of the role of Human Resource Management in creating high performance organizations.
NAWDP is the national voice for the professional and meets the individual professional development needs of the membership.
The PA CareerLink staff is focused on the employment issues that are important to you and can assist you in designing a customized menu of services that will meet your recruitment and training objectives. To obtain additional information, contact a workforce development professional at 610-437-5627, extension 136, or email us at
Lehigh Valley Targeted Industry Clusters
These clusters were targeted because we believe that they will:
 •     Provide above-average wages and be less reliant upon low-wage labor. •     Incorporate a high-technology, knowledge, skill-set component. •     Have synergy with existing Lehigh Valley workforce, infrastructure, educational and other institutions.•     Leverage existing Lehigh Valley assets to minimize land, energy and other resources. •     Expand upon established competitive positioning in the U.S. and globally. •     Have a high value-added component in the local economy. •     Be classified as growth industries at the state and/or national level.  
PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley sponsors regional job fairs that bring together over 150 employers that draw an audience of 5,200 job seekers. View the Job Fair Schedule to get the date for our next fair, as well as information on how you can participate.
When your business is gearing up, you may not have time to wait for the next regional job fair. PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley understands this and works with employers by hosting specialized job fairs. Our staff is highly skilled and can organize and coordinate your customized job fair by providing:
a location to host your job fair
assistance in advertising and marketing your job fair
workforce professionals to assist at your job fair
screening of applicants and applications
scheduling of employment interviews
employer assessments
and whatever it takes to meet your workforce needs

Staff  Development
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) OJT
Drastically Reduce New Employee Training Costs.
The cost of training a new employee can amount to many thousands of dollars due to lost productivity and supervisory time alone. On-the-job training (OJT) has been proven to be one of the most successful means of training new employees in the skills and performance levels required.
PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley’s On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program can help in defraying those expensive costs. For new, full-time, eligible employees, your company may be reimbursed 50-90% of their wages during an initial training period.
To find out how this program can meet your hiring and training needs, call PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley at 610-437-5627, extension 136 or email us at
Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) OJT
Reduce New Employee Training Costs AND Increase the Diversity of Your Business at the Same Time.
OVR’s On-the-Job Training (OJT) program can offer employers reimbursement through the PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).  OJT helps businesses reduce hiring costs and provides a job opportunity for OVR qualified job seekers with disabilities.
The program is flexible - you may be eligible for a significant percentage reimbursement of wages paid to new employees during their initial period of training. Also, OVR can provide technical support and certification of additional business tax credits when employers hire job-ready OVR customers.
Any business in good standing with local, state, and federal laws and is able to provide on-the-job training at the work place may be eligible for this hiring incentive.
If interested, call OVR Business Services at 610-821-6441; ask for either Ann Burke at extension 3119 or Jonathan Santana at extension 3118.
We have the people and the funds to help you hire qualified workers!  
For further information, click: OVR - OJT

Lehigh Valley's 2017 Economic Outlook

Dr. Kamran Afshar, Chamber Chief Economist, The Chamber's Finance Committee

Twenty-sixteen was a great year for people looking for work. Nationwide 2 million new payroll jobs were created during the first 11 months of the year, for a total of 15 million new jobs over the last 6 years. Lehigh Valley, however, was not that lucky. The total number of payroll jobs dropped by 3,000 in the Greater Lehigh Valley area, which also includes Carbon and Warren counties. This is despite the fact that layoffs are exceptionally low and the labor market is tight. To add to the puzzlement, all of this is happening when employers are telling us that they want to hire more people. There appears to be a large gap between the needs of the local employers and the skills and expertise of the remaining labor pool in the Valley. 

Twenty-sixteen was also a great year if you were selling a property. The number of residential units sold in the Valley rose by a healthy 7% over last year’s level, while the average sales price of local residences gained a modest 2% over its previous year. However, considering that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate in 2016 averaged at 3.65%, housing affordability was still pretty reasonable.

The headline grabber for 2016, however, was the jump in stock prices. The DJIA rose by 13% in 2016. Most of the increase came after the election in November. Of course, it should be added that DJIA rose by 107%. It more than doubled between December 2008 and October 2016, just before the election. The average price of gasoline in 2016, despite its recent increase, was lower than 2015. On average, we paid $2.15 for a gallon of gas in 2016, well below the $2.42 that we paid in 2015, and significantly cheaper than its $3.36 average price in 2014. For the first three months of last year, price of gasoline averaged at $1.89, something that we will not see again anytime soon!

And of course, the major economic event of 2016 was Donald Trump’s election. As much as can be discerned from the president’s campaign promises, two major economic policies will be in the lead: a trillion-dollar infra-structure plan, and a sizable reduction in corporate taxes. Both policies, should they become law, would be beneficial to the corporations, particularly for those involved in the construction industry. The 1,500 points jump in the DJIA after the election clearly reflected those expectations. The infra-structure plan, however, will significantly increase the federal budget. The accompanying huge tax cuts will reduce revenues, thus a major spike in deficits is unavoidable, at least at the beginning. This is also reflected in the market as both the short and long term interest rates vaulted by significant amounts right after the election. This data indicates that the market anticipates most of these policies to take effect. Based on that, the market expects a period of higher growth as well as higher government expenditures and borrowing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Chamber Main Street Foundation Celebrates 10 Years

Laurie Hackett, Air Products, Chamber Main Street Foundation Chair

Ten years is a great reason to celebrate! We are proud that 2017 marks the tenth year that the Chamber Main Street Foundation has been making a difference and improving Main Streets throughout the Lehigh Valley. Since 2007, we have been able to support our townships, municipalities, cities and neighborhoods through grants and support for much-needed projects and programs. And because it has been a decade of work, the Foundation board is excited to make this year of grant-making the best one yet!

If you are interested in applying for support for improvements on your Main Street, let us know! Applications will be available beginning next month and we cannot wait to see the opportunities for the Chamber Main Street Foundation. Lorie Reinert ( can give you all of the details – we look forward to celebrating 10 years with our Chamber communities across the region

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Upcoming Events with the Bethlehem Chamber

Scott Babashak, GFP Investment Services Inc., Bethlehem Chamber Chair

Please be aware that the date of our State of the City Address with Mayor Bob Donchez has been changed from February to March. The event’s new date is Thursday, March 9 - and as before – will be in the Musikfest Café at the ArtsQuest Center on the SteelStacks Campus. The breakfast will be served at 7:30am and the program will be over by 9:00am. In the last few years, this has become the Bethlehem Chamber’s highest attended event. It is not only informative and entertaining, but it is also a great networking opportunity.

In late January, we released a new Dining, Shopping and Nightlife video for Bethlehem. It has gotten a ton of views:  reaching close to 50,000 people with over 250 shares on social media in just two weeks! We’ve been planning the year and have been working on everything from festivals to a new visitor’s website to informational events and …. yes, even Christmas 2017.

Three upcoming events:
Manufacturing Momentum in Bethlehem
This event will have a panel discussion about manufacturing in Bethlehem, including the “new” manufacturers of today. The event will be held in the Foundry Room of the Sands Casino Bethlehem Hotel on Thursday, April 12 at 4:00pm. Cocktails and appetizers will be served.  Stay tuned for more details.

Bethlehem Chamber’s Annual Dinner
On Wednesday, May 3rd we will be holding our Bethlehem Chamber’s Annual Dinner. This event honors certain individuals and businesses/organizations and highlights a few of the Bethlehem Chamber’s initiatives from the past year. The Bethlehem Chamber staff’s favorite event, it will be held in the Musikfest Café at the ArtsQuest Center at 5-8 p.m.

The Second Annual Bethlehem Italian Festival
This festival will be held on Main St. and the Sun Inn Courtyard on Saturday, June 17. Food, music, a Meatball Contest, a Wine Trail and a Pasta Trail will all be featured. More details will be forthcoming.

For more information on any of these ventures, please contact Lynn Cunningham at