Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It could be worse....

Of course, everyone in America is concerned with the economy, and the Lehigh Valley is no exception. As a recent Morning Call article pointed out, the Valley has suffered, with lay-offs and shut-downs hitting local business staples like Mack, the Bethlehem Sands and Rodale.

That being said, things genuinely could be worse. The Lehigh Valley's unemployment rate is 6%, the highest since 1993. However, statistics from the Department of Labor show that things could much much, much worse. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is 6.1%, and the U.S. unemployment rate is 6.7%, obviously putting the Valley in better shape than Pennsylvania and the U.S. as a whole.

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate has increased .3% in a month (26,000 jobs) and 1.7% in a year. Still, we could be in far worse shape - compared to other rust belt states like Michigan (9.6%), Ohio (7.3%) or Indiana (7.1%), we are really not doing all that bad.

Daily Briefing, 12/30/2008

Morning everyone! Here is your Chamber news today.

The Morning Call has a story on one area that seems to be relatively unaffected by the recession: alcohol sales. Apparently, revenue is even up for the sales of alcohol at state stores when it comes to liquor, but down for beer. Hmm. Meanwhile, in an attempt to encourage the construction of enviornmentally friendly, LEED certified buildings, PPL is offering $5,000 grants to non-profits looking to construct LEED certified buildings. And, in soem good news locally, two a deal is in the works to fill the vacancies closed by two restaurants in Bethlehem.

In national news, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Republican minority leader, has announced his intention to slow down President-Elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, at least until more questions are answered. A new report shows that airline cargo and passenger traffic in shrinking, the latest victim of the global recession. And, in the wake of the failure of the auto rescue bill, the Treasury has injected $6 billion in cash to General Motors from the original $700 billion bailout.

Business Matters aired yesterday, and the topic was the economy. It will be available on the WFMZ website later this morning.

And that's it! We will be out again until the Monday. So, have a great and safe new year, and we will see you soon!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/29/2008

Good Morning everyone! We hope that everyone had a great few days of from Christmas. Now that we are back at it, here is your Chamber news.

The Morning call summarizes the top 10 business stories of the year, noting that Lehigh Valley businesses (like businesses around the country) took a hit thanks to the global issues. Local victims included Mack Trucks, the Sands Bethlehem and Air Products. In Easton, new census figures show that Hispanics are now a higher percentage of the population than African Americans, making them the largest minority group in Easton, although both groups have seen their numbers increase (both in terms of totals and overall percentage of the population) since 2000. In Bethlehem, the city is considering the addition of four new parking garages at a $30 million cost. The Mayor notes that this is a great time to be doing such projects as interest rates are very low.

In local government news, Lower Milford, Catasauqua and Slatington have approved their budgets. Lower Milford has created a fire and local services tax and Catasauqua has increased garbage fees.

Violence in the middle east is starting to affect the economy of the U.S., as oil has risen 8% on fears of an all-out war between Isreal and Hamas. The overall price of oil is still down 60%. Meanwhile, with gas prices down, truck and SUV sales are up and appear set to outpace car sales this month.

Business Matters will be discussing a very timely subject: the Election of Barack Obama. Is he really the change we need? Tune in today (Monday, 7:30pm) and hear what our guests have to say. This show features Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham, Allentown School Board President Bob Smith, Republican Activist Charles Snelling and Lehigh County Commissioner David Jones.

And, we conclude today with this: GO EAGLES!

Have a great Monday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our policy: Health Care

Public Policy advocacy is one of the most important things that we work on here at The Chamber. "We address issues of concern to your business on the local, state and federal levels. We take proactive measures to ensure that government considers business objectives and viewpoints. We'll keep you informed of relevant issues through our newsletters, and committee and council meetings."

Below is The Chamber's official stance on Health Care, one of the most important issues currently affecting our community and Lehigh Valley businesses in particular. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Michelle Griffin Young, Vice President of Public Policy.
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Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce: Healthcare Policy

Employers and employees continue to struggle with the rising costs of healthcare. 52% of Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce members said healthcare costs is the number one issue for their business. However, efforts to control costs must also take into account the affect on quality and accessibility of healthcare delivery in Pennsylvania. Balancing cost, quality and accessibility within the healthcare system remains a challenge for all stakeholders in the process, including government, insurers, providers, purchasers and consumers.

On behalf of purchasers and consumers of healthcare, the Chamber believes a private healthcare delivery system must be encouraged as a means to provide all Pennsylvanians with appropriate access to cost-effective, quality healthcare. As in any business, competition among health insurance companies and healthcare providers impacts the cost of healthcare premiums. With real competition, employers and employees should have a greater choice of health plans, enabling them to select an appropriate health plan and provider. Further, through appropriate planning, competition among providers should assure Pennsylvanians have adequate access to healthcare facilities.

Quite often, new opportunities for a stronger, more effective healthcare system surface elsewhere. State government should not hinder Pennsylvania's competitive position relative to other regions and should capitalize on emerging concepts whenever possible. In particular, Pennsylvania should support, not restrict, alternative delivery models, including advances in technology that are designed to enhance cost-effective treatment and management of healthcare.

Employers should not permit other stakeholders to alter the healthcare delivery system or payment system without business input. Similarly, employers must find ways to assist employees to make the right decisions in seeking healthcare. An active employer community will help facilitate cost-effective accessibility to quality healthcare for employees.

The Chamber represents many different types of employers. 82% of GLVCC businesses have under 100 employees, with almost 50% of having less than 5 employees. This policy statement attempts to universally represent all member businesses.

The Chamber supports the following concepts:
• Educating and engaging our members’ support of legislation and initiatives
which will control healthcare costs by affecting personal accountability, transparency, tort reform, consumerism and increasing competition;

• Encouraging fair and open competition;

• Best practices based on verifiable clinical standards for healthcare delivery that help eliminate unnecessary costs and ensure the delivery of high quality healthcare;

• Utilization of technology as a means to control the cost of treatment and improve clinical outcomes;

• Legal reforms based on fairness, common sense and personal responsibility that will allow for a stable and sustainable insurance system for providers;

• Wellness programs designed to prevent costly medical treatments;

• New options in the marketplace that provide for ongoing and/or greater access to healthcare coverage, particularly for the smaller employers that are least likely to have the resources to provide employee healthcare benefits under the current system;

• Improving the PA Department of Health's licensure process for healthcare facilities that assure appropriate balance between cost, access and quality; and

• Reforming government regulations to improve the delivery of healthcare.

The Chamber opposes:
• Shifting a disproportionate share of the funding for the cost of healthcare in any way that would impair the health or economic vitality of the Lehigh Valley;

• State interference in the administration of ERISA and self-insured plans; and

• Unfunded and underfunded government programs and the expansion of mandated benefits, unless sufficient evidence exists demonstrating that the benefits of the mandate clearly outweigh its costs.

Daily Briefing, 12/23/2008

Good morning! Here is the Chamber news of the day.

The Madoff financial scandal has hit the Berman Foundation of the Lehigh Valley, the regions largest Jewish foundation. It remains unclear how the scandal will affect the Foundation's future, although giving this year will continue unabated. Local Lehigh Valley Banks (including KNBT and Fulton Financial, the parent bank of Lafayette Ambassador) have recieved bailout funding, though the banks note that it will take time (maybe as long as several years) for the affects of these loans to be felt throughout the Valley. The City of Bethlehem has been awarded an increased bond rating, due in no small part to the future arrival of the Sands Casino. In Easton, the news is worse, as Mayor Sal Panto announced plans to not move forward with the Riverwalk development.

Well, that's actually about all that we have today! Have a GREAT Christmas holiday, and we will be back after the vacation. Take care!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Information from Senator Bob Casey

Hi everyone,

As we have noted, U.S. Senator Bob Casey gave a presentation to Lehigh Valley business leaders last week. We spoke with the Senator's office, and they were nice enough to give us permission to share the presentation with all of our readers. What is below is an abbriviated version of that presentation. It has some very interesting information on Northampton County and Senator Casey's plans for economic recovery. Please note that some of the formatting has been changed in order to fit properly into a blog entry, and that any errors in the presentation because of formatting changes are our responsibility.
-----
U.S. Senator Bob Casey
THE PENNSYLVANIA JOBS INITIATIVE


A SHORT-TERM ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN

and

A LONG-TERM ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS AGENDA

Economic Roundtable Goals
Discussion of how the economic downturn is affecting Northampton County

Outline of Congressional Action to Date in response to the economic situation

Senator Casey’s plan for helping Northampton County families

Senator Casey’s agenda for creating a 21st Century workforce in Northampton County

--
Population Growth in Northampton County
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007 Population Estimates, Census 2000, 1990 Census

Northampton County’s population has increased by 46,417 residents in less than two decades
--
Leading Economic Indicators in the Lehigh Valley

Unemployment in the Lehigh Valley is up from 4.5 percent in October 2007 to 6.0 percent in October 2008.
--
Leading Economic Indicators in Northampton County

Pennsylvania currently ranks 35th in the nation in the number of foreclosure filings

Number of foreclosure filings in recent years
2006: 673

2007: 874

2008 (thru Aug.): 768 (projected rate): 1,154
--
Responding to the Economic Downturn
Senator Casey’s efforts to help families during the economic downturn

Supported extending unemployment insurance, secured housing counseling funding to help keep struggling borrowers in their homes, and introduced legislation to combat predatory mortgage lending

Demanded taxpayer protections and limits on executive compensation in the financial recovery package. Both provisions were later included in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

Called on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to declare a temporary moratorium on all impending foreclosures.  Fannie and Freddie have since announced that they would suspend all foreclosures until January 9, 2009

Co-sponsored the Preventing Student Loan Discrimination Act, in response to reports that student lenders were denying financial assistance to students because they attended community colleges or sought to obtain two-year degrees
--
THE CASEY PLAN FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY
Targeted Investments that will Create Jobs

Rebuilding Our Transportation and Water Infrastructure - Countless studies have demonstrated that every $1 billion in new infrastructure spending creates tens of thousands of new jobs. The recovery package should make funding available to states for “ready-to-go” highways, bridges, mass transit, airports, rail, and port projects. The package should also include new funding to help states and local municipalities begin work today on water and sewer projects that will both create jobs and clean up our water.

Revitalizing Communities - To help states and local communities speed completion of “ready-to-go” economic development projects that will bring new jobs and revitalize towns and neighborhoods, the recovery package should include significant new funding for federal economic development programs
--
THE CASEY PLAN FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY
Targeted Investments that will Create Jobs

Supporting Small Businesses –To help small businesses compete, we should increase the availability of microloans for prospective small businesses; extend the business investment tax deduction; and establish a loan program for small businesses involved in technology development.

Strengthening the Manufacturing Sector - In order to help the manufacturing sector adapt to changing markets, we should immediately inject more funding into the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program.

Protecting Communities – In light of the revenue shortfalls hitting municipalities and the direct correlation between economic slowdowns and crime rates, we should immediately increase funding for federal programs that support local law enforcement.
--
ENSURING LONG-TERM COMPETITIVENESS

Preparing Our Workforce to compete in the Global Economy

Strategic Investments in Workers and Students - We need to (1) invest in early childhood education; (2) strengthen the K-12 system; and (3) improve the affordability of and access to higher education for all high school graduates, from those who will enter technical trade programs or community college, to those who will attend traditional academic institutions.

21st Century Health Care: We must work to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Unmet health care needs create ripple effects across the economy, costing employers in lost productivity and imposing greater long-term health care costs

Innovative Technology Investments: Much of our broadband and information technology must be updated and upgraded to keep American companies ahead of their competitors around the world. We must begin to meet this challenge.

Green Jobs and Green Technologies - We should invest in workers by providing high quality skills of tomorrow, invest in research and development of new, clean energy sources. We can simultaneously combating climate change and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
--

Daily Briefing, 12/22/2008

Morning everyone, and it's a cold one! Here is the news in your Chamber world today.

Both Easton and Bethlehem are considering Community Benefit Districts/Business Improvement Districts in order to fund downtown improvements. The programs would pay for the hiring of staff and support programs to enhance downtowns. They do so by levying an assessment on properties within the districts. The article on Bethlehem also heavily features The Chamber's own Lynn Logue. The Morning Call also runs a story that we have been discussing quite a bit on this blog - how local governments have been affected by the recent economic troubles. It also runs a story on how the average American wage has not kept pace with inflation. In local politics, Republicans have selected State Representative David Argall (R-124) as their nominee to replace Senator James Rhoades, who was killed in a car accident in October. The special election will take place on March 4. Democrats have yet to pick their nominee.

In national news, President-Elect Obama has raised his goal of jobs created to 3 million, up from 2.5 million. Meanwhile, in an interview with ABC, Vice President-Elect Biden says that he will be in charge of a "middle class task force" that will be assigned the goal of raising the living standards for the middle class throughout America.

And last, Business Matters today, a discussion on the biggest issue of the day: the economy. It willa ir today (Monday, December 22) at 7:30pm.

And that's it! Have a great day, and stay warm!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/19/2008

Hi everyone! Here is your Chamber world today.

As you are probably aware, a mixture of snow and rain is being predicted for this weekend, worrying some realtors that have already been hit by the bad economy. The timing is particularly bad since the Saturday before Christmas is the second busiest (or possibly busiest) day of the year for retailers. The Morning Call also reports that Lehigh County has approved an expansion of the Keystone Opportunity Zone in an area of Upper Saucon Township in the hopes of brining in Sanofi Pasteur, a pharmacutical company, and the 200 jobs that would come with it. The KOZ zone, which exempts companies from state property and income taxes, has to be approved by the township and school district as well.
In other local news, Forks Township has raised property taxes 10%.

Nationally, most of the news cycle has shut down as the holidays approach. That being said, President-Elect Obama will announce today the nomination of U.S. Representative Hilda Solis as his Secretary of Labor. Solis is a five-term Democrat from California.

That's all for today! Have a great weekend, and remember, if you go shopping, Buy Lehigh Valley!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Major Events - Winter 2009

Hi everyone,

Below is information on our three major events of the winter for 2009. Check them out, and if you are interested in attending or sponsoring, see the contact information for each event!
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The Chamber / Wachovia Lehigh Valley Economic Strategy Luncheon & Community Development Awards presented by Capital BlueCross at the Holiday Inn Conference Center at I-78 at Route 100

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
10am doors open for networking, 11:30am program & luncheon

What are the strengths we need to preserve and the weaknesses that threaten our prosperity the most? Our speakers address what to do, but also what not to do in dealing with economic challenges. Now, more than ever, you need to get active with the Chamber, promote your business, make a name for yourself and attend this major event!

Wachovia's Chief Economist, Dr. John Silvia will discuss current and relevant economic data, an outlook for the national, regional and Lehigh Valley economies and timely strategy recommendations to help you survive and thrive in these challenging times. Don't miss the opportunity to Meet Wells Fargo! Stay tuned for more information and news about this.

Capital BlueCross discusses how the full economic impact of
employee health must consider indirect costs.

Workforce Strategy Report Presentation: Integrity Personnel President, Kevin Flemming presents the popular Lehigh Valley Workforce Report and key workforce strategies to help you work through today's economic challenges.

The Morning Call presents 2008 Business Section Review.

Economic Development Awards will be presented to two of our public servants who have successfully worked to ensure the success and growth of the region's economy.

This year's recipients are:
Cindy Feinberg - Director of Community & Economic Development for Lehigh County
Tony Hanna - Director of Community & Economic Development for Bethlehem

A ticket to the Economic Strategy Luncheon is $60 for members and $120 for non-members.
To register, please contact Kathi at
kathij@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Make a name for yourself! Contact Frank Facchiano at frankf@lehighvalleychamber.org or
610-841-5810 to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities for The Economic Stategy Luncheon!
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The Chamber and KNBT Platinum Edition Snow Ball presented by
Capital BlueCross on Valentine's Day

at the Holiday Inn Conference Center at I-78 and Route 100
Saturday, February 14th, 2009
6pm cocktails, 7:30pm dinner
This year is the 20th Anniversary for Snow Ball! The Chamber's signature black-tie event since 1988, the Chamber's Small Business Council throws the annual Snow Ball for the Lehigh Valley business community. This sold-out event attracts a stellar audience of Lehigh Valley socialites.

A Silent Auction benefits local charitable organizations. In the past 20 years, the SBC is proud to have contributed more than $325,000 to those beneficiaries. We are pleased to announce that the 2009 auction proceeds benefit Family Answers. Family Answers exists to provide affordable, high-quality, preventive, educational, supportive, and therapeutic services that nurture healthy family life in our communities. To donate a silent auction item, please contact Danielle at daniellej@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Tickets are $180 each or $325 for a pair (2) of tickets for members OR $300 each or $500 for a pair (2) of tickets for non-members. To register, please contact Marta A at martaa@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Shine a light on your company! Contact Frank Facchiano at frankf@lehighvalleychamber.org or
610-841-5810 to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities for Snow Ball 2009!
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The Buy Lehigh Valley Trade Fair
presented by The Chamber and Capital BlueCross at
The Spartan Center, Northampton Community College, "It's All Here!"

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

The Chamber and Capital BlueCross bring you The Buy Lehigh Valley Trade Fair - the Valley's biggest meet, greet, buy-and-sell-your-stuff Business to Business expo of the year! Our members tell us that if they can only attend one trade show, this is the one.

The day will be packed with three different events - all at the same location. A Meet-the-Purchasers forum in the morning, Trade Fair in the afternoon, and the well-attended Networking Reception in the evening.

Meet-the-Purchasers (morning event from 8 a.m. till Noon) - Your link to the supply chain, Meet-the-Purchasers is based on a reverse trade fair concept.
Entrance Fees:
Members - $100
Future Members - $150
Trade Fair Vendors - FREE

Trade Fair (afternoon event from 12 p.m. till 6 p.m.) - Packed with more than 120 vendors from all segments of business. Each year we have a waiting list for exhibit spaces. Exhibit spaces typically sell out in December. Attendance is FREE.
Exhibit spaces available:
8' deep x 10' wide for $625 (Electricity is available by request)
8' deep x 8' wide for $525 (Electricity is available by request)

Networking Reception (evening event from 4 p.m. till 6 p.m.) - One of the biggest FREE mixers of the year and In the same venue as the Trade Fair, allowing visitors to mix, mingle and network with attendees and visit and do business with vendors.

To register for any part or all of this blockbuster networking event, please contact
Marta A at martaa@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Traditionally, it is the most highly-publicized and best-attended event of the year. Get in the game! Contact Frank Facchiano at frankf@lehighvalleychamber.org or 610-841-5810 to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities for The Buy Lehigh Valley Trade Fair.

Daily Briefing, 12/18/2008

Morning everyone! Here is your Chamber world today.

It's been an active day in local politics. In Northampton County, Patti Grube (widow of Wayne who was appointed to fill the remainder of her late husband's term) has resigned from Northampton County Council, saying that her thinking to seek and accept the appointment was clouded by the death of her husband. Council now has 30 days to fill the vacancy or it will be done by the court. With four Democrats and four Republicans now on Council, it will be difficult to find someone to appoint to the seat without tilting the balance of power on the Council. Meanwhile, in Lehigh County, Commissioner Sterling Raber announced that he will not be seeking reelection in the 2009 cycle.

In economic news, WFMZ does an interesting story on the effect of psychology on the economy. Meanwhile, Senator Casey met with Lehigh Valley business leaders (including Tony Iannelli, President & CEO of The Chamber) to discuss the economy and economic development initiatives that the Senator is pursuing. Chrysler has shut down all U.S. production for the next month, citing a lack of consumer confidence and demand. They join Ford and GM, who have already done the same. CNN also reports that some credit cards have spiked interest rates - often by as much as 20% - as a reaction to economic conditions.

And we have one Chamber event today: a mixer/grand opening at MarVal Optical Designer Eyewear
in Bethlehem.

And that's it for today! Have a good one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/16/2008

Morning everyone! Careful driving today, and be aware that there are lots of school delays. Here is what we have for you today.

The biggest local story is that Air Products has announced 1,300 in layoffs from the company's 21,000 workforce. At this point, it remains to be seen where these layoffs will occur and how the Lehigh Valley will be affected. In other news, Pennsylvania is now one of 30 states that could run out of unemployeement benefit funding, resulting in the state needing to borrow to continue paying benefits. Pennsylvania has already paid 42% more in unemoployeement than it paid last year. The Morning call runs two stories (here and here) on municipalities that have no tax increase this year. Among them are Lowhill, Slatington, North Catasauqua, Lynn, Nazareth, Lower Nazareth, Bushkill, Upper Mount Bethel and Upper Nazareth. The city of Bethlehem also passed a budget that doesn't increase property taxes. That being said, Wind Gap has a small tax increase and Coopersburg is considering a property tax and sewer fee increase that still leaves the budget unbalanced.

The Federal Reserve anounced yesterday that it was cutting the its key interest rate to a range between 0 and .25%, the lowest it has ever been, in an effort to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that 63% of Americans believe they have been affected by the economic downturn.

And, last, we have three Chamber events today: East Penn/Western Lehigh lunch, hosted by AccuWeather's Ed Hanna, on "What percentage am I right?", a TRACC networking mixer at Abington Manor in Easton and a meeting of the new GLV team 100.

And that's it! Have a great day, and drive safe!

Mission Councils

As we have mentioned in a previous entries, The Chamber is comprised largely of a series of councils that have a regional or mission oriented focus. Our two mission councils are one of the most active components of The Chamber.

One of these councils is the Executive Women's Council. The Executive Women’s Council provides information and a networking forum for women in management, professional and private enterprise. Monthly luncheons rotate between networking sessions and educational programs. Luncheon topics include health issues, sales and marketing strategies, personal growth and professional development.

As for areas that this council is active in:

Celebrating Women
You've seen us in the news, so join the committee behind one of the best women's conferences in the state! From selecting speakers to marketing the event, new ideas and new volunteers are welcome to contribute.

Scholarship Committee
This committee plans what many members proclaim to be the most dynamic holiday event of the Chamber calendar year. With Chamber members selling holiday gift items, to the fabulous gift raffle benefiting our scholarship programs, this is a great committee in which to participate. This committee plans a spring fundraising event, as well as updates scholarship applications, distributes scholarship applications to local high schools and chooses the EWC scholarship recipients.

Marketing Committee
Develops effective communications for our members and the community. Helps to promote the EWC’s mission, goals, accomplishments, events and programs. Look for The Networker, our monthly newsletter, distributed at each luncheon.

Meet the Purchasers Committee
Plans the Meet the Purchasers event, which concentrates on keeping buying in the Lehigh Valley.

Pathways
Provides positive role models (mentors) for at-risk high school students to help make a difference in young people’s lives.

Program Committee
Plans the monthly luncheons providing networking opportunities for women, and also plans various programs to promote growth and development.

Trade Fair Committee
Every year, in March, we plan the largest event on the Chamber calendar, where we encourage doing business “Member to Member.” We round out the evening with a Chamber Mixer.

Daily Briefing, 12/16/2008

Good morning everyone! Hey, it may snow today, so be careful out there! Here is your news today.


In local news, PennDOT has begun to prepare for potential financial assistance from the federal government. They are in the process of drawing up requests for bridge and road improvements that they hope will be funded, at least in part, by the federal government. Bethlehem Township is increasing property taxes by 26%, the first such tax increase in 16 years. The township also pulled funding for homeless shelters. Bethlehem Township is at least the 10th local government to raise taxes this year. The City of Bethlehem has announced its intention to isntall security cameras in selected locations in the City. Allentown has been doing so for at least the past year. In political news, according to John Micek of the Morning Call, State Representative Karen Beyer (R-131) is reportedly considering a run for Lieutenant Governor. Beyer has been in office since 2005, when she was first elected in a special election to fill out the remainder of Pat Browne's term.

On the national front, President-Elect Obama named Lisa Jackson, chief of staff to New Jersey Governor John Corzine, to run the Enviornmental Protection Agency. Yesterday, the electoral college met yesterday and officially elected Barack Obama President of the United States.

According to one report, U.S. homes have lost an estimated $2 trillion in value during 2008. Meanwhile, bankruptcies were reportedly up 30% this year, although the number still remains below 2006 levels.

Business Matters aired yesterday, and the topic of the show was the real estate market - what happened, who's to blame and what comes next. You can watch the show alter this morning on the WFMZ-TV website.

And, we have two Chamber events today: the monthly lunch of the Executive Women's Council and the Sands Vendor forum, where vendors will have an opportunity to meet with representatives of the new Sands casino.

That's all for now! Have a great day, and drive safe!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/15/2008

Good morning everyone! Here is your Chamber world today.

The Morning Call has an interesting story on Senator Arlen Specter. Senator Specter, regarded as a moderate, will prove to be a critically important voice in this upcoming political cycle, particularly with his own reelection bid coming up in 2009. Specter's importance is enhanced because the Democrats are so close to a 60-seat majority in the Senate (1 or 2 seats shy, depending on how the Minnesota recount works).

Locally, Northampton Community College is now offering classes on solar panel installation. The classes come on the heels of NCC being awarding a $15,000 grant from PPL and the Sustainable Energy Fund. And, of course, congrats to the Liberty Hurricanes, Pennsylvania's AAAA state champtions!

Nationally, gas prices rose slightly after 86 straight days of dropping. However, as a Morning Call story notes, this can sometimes hurt small, independently owned gas stations.

Business Matters, hosted by Tony Iannelli today will air a very timely show with the latest information on the real estate market. The show will air today (Monday, 12/15), 7:30pm on WFMZ.

And, we close today by welcoming some of our newest members. Be sure to check them out!


Eagle Solar Energy
1807 Mark Twain Circle
Bethlehem, PA 18017
(610) 868-4750

Easton Suburban Water Authority
3700 Hartley Avenue
Easton, PA 18045
(610) 258-7181
www.eswater.net

Haber, Corriere & Backenstoe
433 East Broad Street
P.O. Box 1217
Bethlehem, PA 18016-1217
(610) 865-5566

Hallman's Service Station
230 Main Street
Slatington, PA 18080
(610) 767-7667
www.hallmansservice.com

Hazleton Oil & Environmental, Inc
300 Tamaqua Street
Hazleton, PA 18201
(570) 929-1793
www.hazletonoil.com

H.I.M. on Call, Inc.
1033 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101
(610) 435-5724
www.himoncall.com

Inspired Living...
1440 Stonewood Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18017
(484) 554-1166
www.inspiredlivinginteriors.org

Northwestern Human Services
701 W. Broad Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 866-8331

ODS Funding Used Cars, LLC
2550 Brodhead Road
Bethlehem, PA 18020
(610) 758-8289
www.odsfundingusedcars.com

Ohm Weatherization
3208 Easton Ave
Bethlehem, PA 18020
(610) 882-9927

Patton, Harris, Rust and Associates
One Windsor Plaza, Suite 201A
7535 Windsor Drive
Allentown, PA 18195
(610) 395-7033
www.phra.com

Pediatric Therapy Associates, PC
5000 W. Tilghman St.
Suite 206
Allentown, PA 18104
(610) 821-0123
www.pediatrictherapyoflv.com

Pharma-Med, Inc.
1995 Highland Avenue, Suite 200
Bethlehem, PA 18020
(484) 505-6371
www.nuitabgum.com or www.pharma-medicine.com

Pure Sprouts Organic Delivery
1051 Sparrow Way
Breinigsville, PA 18031
(267) 421-2620
www.puresprouts.com

Quandel Enterprises, Inc.
14 Commerce Drive
Wyomissing, PA 19610
(717) 940-0058
www.quandel.com

Quench USA
780 5th Avenue, Suite 110
King of Prussia, PA 19406
(610) 277-7472x241
www.quenchusa.com

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/12/2008

Happy Friday! Here is your Chamber world



Lehigh County Authority and the City of Allentown have struck a deal that will allow Allentown to sell water to the LCA. The LCA will still be allowed to expand two wells in Lower Macungie. Northampton County ratifyed a tax free budget, though County Executive Stoffa warned that future tax increases are possible. The Executive also argued that the County should look for a way to turn the parks system over to local municipalities. In Easton, the income tax was officially raised 150% to close the budget gap. A deal was also struck with the Easton police that will allow for a 5.5% raise but mandate that police officers pay towards their health benefits. And in Lehigh County, County Commissioners reversed their earlier decision and have voted to accept funding for trees for local municipalities. The funding was originally rejected on the grounds that commissioners didn't like accepting funding for trees when they were facing cuts in human services. And, good news for the whole Valley, as the Bethlehem Brew Works is set to reopen after a small fire this past weekend.

Nationally, the auto bailout deal appears dead, at least for the moment, after the Senate failed to get the 60 votes required to stop a filibuster launched by Senate Republicans who are opposed to the measure. The bill had passed the house. Chrystler and GM are now facing a potential bankrupcy. Unemployeement numbers jumped to 573,000 filing first-time benefit claims this week, the highest since 1982. Bank of America will lay off 35,000 employees over the next three years.

That is it for today! We hope everyone has a great weekend!

Commenting

Hi everyone,

We've gotten a couple of questions in the past few days on commenting to these posts, and we just wanted to take a moment and explain it to those of you who are relatively new to this medium. If you are familiar with blogs then this will all be information that you already know.

Commenting can be made at the conclusion of each entry. At the bottom, you should see a hyper-link (something you can click on) that will read "0 comments." Of course, if there have already been comments made, than that 0 will be another number. From there, you will be taken to a separate screen that will have space for you to type in. Comments are usually (though not always) related to whatever the subject of the entry was.

Though every blog is different, we allow people to post comments anonymously, or to sign their name. Of course, we reserve the right to delete comments that are vulgar or libelous.

Hope that clears some things up!

Daily Briefing, 12/11/2008

Morning everyone! Here is your Chamber news of the day.

In local news, Lehigh County announced the awarding of $770,000 in Green Futures funding to urban parks. The funding comes from the Commonwealth. Allentown received the biggest portion of the funding for five projects. Northampton County's pension fund has lost $78 million this year, thanks to the economy, but the board was told that the fund remains in comparatively good shape.

On the jobs front, there is good and bad news. The bad news comes from Mack Trucks, who has announced that they will lay off 180 manufacturing workers. The job losses will come two days before Christmas. In good news, the Sanofi Pastuer pharmaceutical company is considering moving to Upper Saucon. Such a move would bring an unknown number of jobs to the area.

Nationally, the House of Representatives passed the auto bailout bill, totaling $14 billion in loans. Locally, Congressmen Dent and Gerlach voted against the bill. It now heads to the Senate, where it faces a possible Republican filibuster. Meanwhile, the number of states that currently have inadequate revenue to cover expenses is at 43. That number was 29 last year, and the total deficit among all the states is over $100 billion. In Pennsylvania, Governor Rendell has announced his plan to plug the $1.6 billion budget gap. The Governor's plan calls for tapping $375 million in reserves, $500 million in spending cuts, diverting $175 million in state and oil sales funding and relying on $400 million in expected federal aid from the incoming Obama administration.

And last, two Chamber events today. The first is a grand opening at the new Team Capital Bank on Tilghman Street in South Whitehall, while the second is a mixer at the Four Points Sheraton in Allentown.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top ten reasons to buy local

TOP 10 REASONS TO BUY LEHIGH VALLEY

1. Keep money in the neighborhood.For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 goes back into the community –and our tax base.

2. Embrace what makes us different! We are a Valley of neighborhoods. Where we shop, where we eat and hang out – all of it makes our neighborhood home.

3. Get better service.
Local businesses employ people who have an understanding of local conditions relating to the products they’re selling, and you can get to know them.

4. Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy.
A thriving marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses means competitive prices over the long-term. Local businesses choose products based on what their customers want and need, guaranteeing a diverse range of product choices.

5. Create more good jobs.
Small local businesses are one of the largest employers nationally and in the Lehigh Valley, and local businesses offer greater loyalty to their employees.

6. Care for the environment.Independent businesses make purchases requiring less transportation. They usually set up shop in commercial corridors and urban cores. This means less energy consumed and less pollution.

7. Support community groups.

Nonprofits receive immeasurably more support from local business owners than they do from non-local businesses.

8. Invest in the community.
Local businesses are owned by people who live here, work here, and are invested in our future.

9. Put your taxes to good use.
Local businesses pay local taxes.

10. Show the world we believe in the Lehigh Valley.
People are more likely to invest in or move to communities

Daily Briefing, 12/10/2008

Morning everyone! Here is what is going on in your world today.

The Morning Call has an interesting story on how our local governments and school boards are trying to control costs and tax increases. As you can tell from this story, everyone is struggling. According to the story, tax or fee increases are reality in the East Penn School District, Whitehall Township, Lehigh Township, West Easton and Lower Milford. In terms of property or income taxes, by my count, at least twelve local governments have seen increases this year, with more likely to come.

Meanwhile, the attempts to save money continue for our local municipalities, as Easton saves $100,000 by reworking their retirement benefits. Northampton County voted to hold the line of their taxes and float a bond of eight million dollars to pay for capital improvements.

Home sales in the Valley continued their slide, as total sales were down from this point last year and from the previous month. The average price of a home sold remained about even.

In political news, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) has been arrested on corruption charges after a federal wire-tap revealed that he tried to sell the appointment of President-Elect Barack Obama's Senate seat. Ouch. Those charges also appear to be the tip of the iceberg. Unless the Illinois legislature acts otherwise, or Governor Blagojevich resigns, the Governor retains the sole power to appoint a successor. Locally, Congressman Patrick Murphy (D)has reportedly been approached by Democratic officials about a possible Senate run against Senator Arlen Specter (R). Also in Pennsylvania, Lt. Governor Joe Scarnati (also the President the the Pennsylvania Senate) has vowed that the upcoming budget will absolutely not increase taxes.

And last, two Chamber events today: A mixer at an art gallery and a grand opening celebration.

That's it for now! Have a great day.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/9/2008

Hi everyone, hope you had a good Monday. Here is your Chamber world.

The Tribune, owner of the Morning Call (as well as other newspapers) and the Chicago Cubs, has filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcy protection. The Tribune blames the their situation on rising debt, declining ad revenues and a credit shortage. The Call reports that the situation will not affect readers.

Locally, Northampton County is considering the creation of a new authority to distribute casino cash. The move would affect the five municipalities surrounding the City of Bethlehem: Hellertown, Lower Saucon, Freemansburg, Bethlehem Township and Hanover Township. In Lehigh County, the Lehigh County Industrial Redevelopment Authority wants to declare Martin Tower as blighted. The property is vacant and filed with asbestos. Doing so would allow the building to recieve state funding for redevelopment. In Easton, concerned that money was being awarded in a "random" manner, Mayor Sal Panto is requiring that non-profits apply for funding from City Council.

In state-wide news, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is suing the legislature, asking the state to follow-up on a 21 year old court decision that mandatess the reimbursement of court costs to the counties.

It appears that the auto bailout is on track for passage, as Democrats and President Bush are in negotiations on a $15 billion loan package. Meanwhile, former Vice President Al Gore is set to meet with President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden to discuss energy & enviornmental change. Obama appears ready to name is energy & enviornmental team, possibly as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.

The second part of our Business Matters on the Employee Free Choice Act will be available later today. Make sure you try and catch it!

And, in Chamber news, we have two events today: a TRACC/PACC holiday party and the Greater Northern Holiday Social.

And that's it! Have a great day!

Christmas in Bethlehem

This post comes to use courtesy of Katie Lynch, who serves as our Downtown Bethlehem Manager. Below is some info on Christmas in Bethlehem!
--------------------------
Christmastime is here… and Bethlehem is ready! Did you know that Bethlehem’s fame as “Christmas City USA” began as a Chamber initiative?

The Christmas City was founded in 1741, but it was not until 1937 when Vernon Melhado, then-president of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce said, “Why not make Bethlehem… the Christmas City for the entire country?” The Chamber sponsored a home-lighting contest that year and earned nation-wide attention from its effort to officially make Bethlehem “Christmas City USA.”

Several years later, the Citizens Christmas City Committee (CCCC) was formed to create a consistent decorating theme throughout Bethlehem. The CCCC also works to raise money to light “Christmas City USA” without using city tax dollars. Today, the CCCC continues to operate out of the Bethlehem office of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

From Black Friday to New Year’s Day, Bethlehem presents a nationally recognized Christmas celebration. In 2007, ArtsQuest formed a partnership with various local organizations such as Historic Bethlehem Partnership, the Chamber, the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, Central Moravian Church and others to create www.christmascity.org.

Whether you’re looking for Chriskindlmarkt hours, tickets for a carriage ride, information about where to sleep, eat or shop or anything else you need to know about Christmas in Bethlehem, www.christmascity.org is the best place for information on all of the ways to experience Christmas in the city that makes it happen all year long!

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/8/2008

Good morning, everyone! Happy Monday (is that an oxymoron?). Here is your Chamber news update.

The economy has claimed two more casualities. East Bangor will see a tax incease of 14%, the first one in five years. Meanwhile, state officials are delaying a proposed $100 million rebate program for homes to use solar energy since the bond market isn't in the best shape right now. The Express Times has a story on the difficult year that it has been for Lehigh Valley Businesses

In Bethlehem, a small fire has temporarily shut down the Bethlehem Brew Works, which could at open, at least in part, shortly. Hot food cannot be cooked until the grill and stove is replaced, which could take more than a week.

In Easton, the TRACC council is saying goodbye to their Vice President, J. Michael Dowd, a Chamber staffer. Mike is also a member of Northampton County Council. Mike will be replaced by Danielle Joseph, the current Vice President of Mission Councils at the Chamber. Meanwhile, Bev Dalrymple, who currently works as a special events coordinator, will be replacing Danielle. This will be effective January. Best of luck to everyone involved!!

State-wide news: Is Chris Matthews ready to re-sign his contract with MSNBC, thus ending speculation about a possible Senate run? Also, Governor Rendell defends his comments about Arizona Governor and Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano, in which he said that the Governor would be perfect for the job because she had no life.

Business Matters airs tonight at 7:30pm. The show is on the Employee Free Choice Act.

And, last, welcome to our featured new members of the day!

Advanced Automated Controls
P.O. Box 21686
Lehigh Valley, PA 18002
(484) 661-1390
www.aac247.com

Advanced Breast Care Imaging
250 Cetronia Road, Suite 102
Allentown, PA 18104
(610) 366-0444
www.abcimaging.org

Advanced Hard Surface Cleaning, LLC
P.O. Box 789
Cherryville, PA 18083
(484) 788-8324
www.advcleaning.net

Advanced Pension Programs, Inc.
1251 South Cedar Crest Boulevard, Suite 209
Allentown, PA 18103
(484) 664-2991

Americaven, LLC
612 Elm Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 849-0474
www.americaven.com

ASTD - American Society For Trainers & Developers, Eastern PA Chapter
1874 Catasauqua Road, #382
Allentown, PA 18109
(610) 266-9131

Bayada Nurses-Bethlehem
Park Plaza
3400 Bath Pike, Suite 201
Bethlehem, PA 18017
(610) 865-8100
www.Bayada.com

Digital Graphics Inc.
3522 Skyline Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18020
(610) 868-9075
www.digitalgraphicsinc.com

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/5/2008

Morning everyone! Here is your news today.





Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Charlie Dent met yesterday with car dealers, manufactures, labor and busines leaders (including Chamber President & CEO, Tony Iannelli) to discuss the proposed auto bailout. The message they gave: if we don't do something, the Valley will suffer heavily. In other economic news, jobless claims dropped 20,000 last week, although the number still remains at a 26-year high. Is the glass half empty or half full? If you drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the answer is half full, or at least 25% full, as tolls will increase 25% in 2009 to pay for road, bridge and mass transit costs.

And here's an interesting story, especially in this economic climate - Barack Obama raised a total of $745 million during the course of his Presidential campaign, coming in with a $400 million advantage over Senator John McCain. Wow.

Locally, Northampton County appointed Patti Grube, widow of Wayne Grube, tohold his seat for the remainider of his term. Patti had indicated she would only take the seat if County Council voted unanamously to appoint her, which they did. Meanwhile, Upper Macungie Township will hold steady on their tax rates, although their sewer and garbage fees will be increasing.

And last, one Chamber event today: the Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce is having their holiday mixer & movie at the Roxy Theater. Free for members, $10 for non-memebrs.

That's all for now - have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday!

How much are blogs read?

This information comes directly from the Pew Internet Project:

“Blog reading

In our spring tracking survey we took two new measurements of blog reading, each of which captures a slightly different set of behaviors. Our first measure of blog readership uses the present-tense question, “Do you ever read someone else’s online journal or blog?”. In total, 33% of internet users (the equivalent of 24% of all adults) say they read blogs, with 11% of internet users doing so on a typical day.

Our second blog readership question is based on a slightly different question construction: the past-tense “Have you ever read someone else’s online journal or blog?” This figure is consistently higher than the one discussed above; this is because its wording captures people who once read blogs but now do not for whatever reason. 42% of internet users (representing 32% of all adults) answer this question affirmatively."


This represents a huge amount of people. 24% of all adults in America must be at least 50 million Americans - with at least 20 million doing so on a daily basis. And this is a trend that will only increase over time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/4/2008

Morning everyone!

In today's municipal budget news, Tamaqua will raise garbage rates (but not taxes) while Glendon and Hellertown will keep their tax rates steady. Emmaus is not so lucky, as the Borough appears poised to raise property, water and sewer rates. Allentown also adopted it's budget, which adds four police officers and ten police cars without increasing taxes. Allentown and Lehigh County are also set to negotiate an agreement that would allow for water-sharing between the two governments.


Meanwhile, Governor Ed Rendell is freezing the pay of more than 13,000 non-union employees and will eb discussing similiar arrangements with union leaders. He is asking that executive officials do the same and is doing that with his own salary. The Governor also announced $128 million in spending cuts.

Lehigh County Community College will also be offering free tuition to the unemployed, joining Northampton Community College.

A group of business leaders (including our very own Tony Iannelli) is set to meet with Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Charlie Dent to discuss the propsed bailout of the auto industry.

Across the river, Phillipsburg has announced the completion of a $3.8 million downtown revitalization project. That is not easy work, but it's very important. Congrats!

And, congrats to Saucon Valley Bikes in Hellertown, as they celebrate their Grand Re-Opening in a new store.

We have one Chamber event today, as Blue Sky Cafe in Bethlehem celebrates their one year anniversary. Congrats to them!

That's all for now! Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/3/2008

Good morning everyone! Here is your Chamber world today.

There is a lot of local news today. In Lehigh, the fight between the Lehigh County Authority and City of Allentown continues, with the LCA now asking residents to attend a meeting and speak on behalf of well expansion. On the tax front, Northampton county council is considering tapping the $3.6 million open space fund to help balance the budget. In Easton, property tax revenues will stay the same but the earned income tax will likely rise. In Bethlehem, Mayor Callahan is seeking $930,000 in spending cuts. In Quakertown, the tax rate will not increase. And in the Saucon Valley (Hellertown and Lower Saucon), teachers agreed to arbitration to settle their contract dispute, which earlier resulted in a strike. Northampton teachers also approved their contract.

Nationally, Barack Obama will appoint New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce today. The President-Elect also met with the nation's Governors, where he pledged his assistance in dealing with energy, infrastructure and health care crises. State governments are suffering greatly during these economic times and are asking for aid from the federal government. And, speaking of asking for aid from the federal government, the nation's automakers have come back to Congress with a plan for aid. The $34 million package will include "downsizing their manufacturing operations, moving faster to improve fuel economy, speeding their efforts to make hybrid cars, triming their dealership networks and reining in executive pay." An estimated three million jobs are tied to the automakers. Meanwhile, Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) defeated Jim Martin (D) in a run-off yesterday. The win denies the Democrats dream of sixty Senate seats. The current balance of power is 59-40 (with two independants caucusing with Democrats), with one race (Minnesota) still undecided.


And, in the better late than never department, we have two stories on the amazing event that was "A Lehigh Valley Christmas in Concert." One is in the Morning Call and the other is in the Express Times. Congrats to Miriam Huertas and all of the volunteers who put on such an amazing event. Meanwhile, across the river and state lines, Phillipsburg held a holiday celebration that the Chamber took part in.

That's all for now, have a great day!

Working together

This article appeared in advance of Black Friday in the Morning Call. The relevant quote is as follows:

"For the first time, merchants in Bethlehem have teamed with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce in an aggressive campaign to promote holiday shopping this season. Forty-two merchants put money into a fund for newspaper and radio advertising to entice people to shop in Bethlehem, especially on Black Friday.

Katie Lynch, the Chamber's downtown Bethlehem manager and organizer of the campaign, said the technique is a proactive way to make the city a destination."

Small businesses must work together if they want to get through this economy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daily Briefing, 12/2/2008

Morning everyone! Here's your news of the day.




Unfortunately, it is official: the U.S. is in a recession, and apparently has been since December 2007. According to the article, 1.2 million jobs have been lost during the first ten months of 2008. Interestingly, the Morning Call also runs an AP story about how the U.S. ignored warnings of the current financial meltdown. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped yesterday by 680 points.

On the local front, it appears National Penn Bank is in line for $150 million of the federal bailout money. Well, at least we know that the Valley will receive a piece of that pie!

As expected, President-Elect Obama nominated Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State yesterday. The Express times has a story on the reactions of local elected officials.

Locally, ten people have applied for the Northampton County Council seat vacated by Wayne Grube - five Democrats and five Republicans. Patti Grube, Wayne's widow, was not among the applicants. Meanwhile, in response to the tough economic times, Northampton Community College will be offering up to 12 credit hours, for free, to those unemployed, in an effort to get them back on their feet.

Business Matters aired yesterday, and it was quite a show! The topic was the Employee Free Choice Act. Part two will air Monday, December 8, 7:30pm on WFMZ. You can watch part one online here.

One Chamber event today to report. This is a Dale Carnegie training on managing multiple demands. RSVP required and there is a member discount.

And that's it for today! Have a good one!