Friday, February 27, 2009

Daily Briefing

Morning everyone, and a happy Friday to you! Here is today's daily briefing.

The latest victim of the recession is the Allentown Art Museum, which announced yesterday that it will close on Tuesday's, cut salaries, eliminate positions and cut money from their budget. This is a result of a drop in donations to the museum. Meanwhile, in Valley-wide news, the air quality in the Valley is improving, but standards are toughening and Lehigh and Northampton counties appear set to found to have unhealthy air quality. But, there is good news: LANTA is set to receive $10 million in stimulus money. The funding will be used to purchase more buses and other equipment.

In state-wide news, a recent poll found that a majority of Pennsylvanians are pessimistic about the future and do not approve of Governor Rendell's job performance. At the same time, they were very strongly supportive of President Obama's ability to handle the current economic crisis.

Speaking of, the President unveiled his 10-year budget plan yesterday. The budget calls for the halving of the national deficit by 2013 while also making significant investments in health care and allowing tax cuts to expire for the rich, among other changes. In other national financial news, Fannie Mae has drawn down $15 billion of its $200 billion line of credit from the federal government. In return, the government will receive preferred stock shares.

That's it for today! We hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Business Matters

Another new episode of Business Matters will air this Monday, 7:30pm on WFMZ. Make sure to check it out and read our blog about it!

Green energy in the stimulus

I was at a meeting in Coopersburg yesterday, and at the meeting we spent quite a bit of time talking about how to help the Borough go green. That had me thinking about what sort of green provisions are in the stimulus, and thus inspired this entry.

Check out this summary of the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act, as published by the House Appropriations Committee. To make life a little easier, here's a list of all of the energy provisions within the stimulus package:

CREATE JOBS WITH CLEAN, EFFICIENT, AMERICAN ENERGY
To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will make investments aimed at doubling renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient.
• Reliable, Efficient Electricity Grid: $11 billion for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program to modernize the electricity grid making it more efficient, secure, and reliable and build new power lines to transmit clean, renewable energy from sources throughout the nation.
• Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees: $6 billion for loans for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects.
• GSA Federal Buildings: $4.5 billion for renovations and repairs to federal buildings, focused on increasing energy efficiency and conservation.
• Local Government Energy Efficiency Grants: $6.3 billion to help state and local governments make investments that make them more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.
• Energy Efficiency Housing Retrofits: $250 million for a new program to upgrade HUD sponsored low-income housing to increase energy efficiency, including new insulation, windows, and furnaces. Funds will be competitively awarded.
• Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research: $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities to foster energy independence, reduce carbon emissions, and cut utility bills. Funds are awarded on a competitive basis to universities, companies, and national laboratories.
• Advanced Battery Grants: $2 billion for the Advanced Battery Grants Program, to support U.S. manufacturers of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems. America should lead the world in transforming the way automobiles are powered.
• Home Weatherization: $5 billion to help low-income families reduce their energy costs by weatherizing their homes and make our country more energy efficient.
• Smart Appliances: $300 million to provide consumers with rebates for buying energy efficient Energy Star products to replace old appliances, which will lower energy bills.
• GSA Federal Fleet: $300 million to replace older vehicles owned by the federal government with alternative fuel and plug-in automobiles that will save on fuel costs and reduce carbon emissions.
• Electric Transportation: $400 million for a new grant program to encourage electric vehicle technologies.
• Cleaning Fossil Energy: $3.4 billion for carbon capture and sequestration technology demonstration projects. This funding will provide valuable information necessary to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from industrial facilities and fossil fuel power plants.
• Department of Defense Research: $300 million for research into using renewable energy to power weapons systems and military bases.
• Alternative Buses and Trucks: $300 million to help state and local governments purchase efficient alternative fuel vehicles to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.
• Diesel Emissions Reduction: $300 million for grants and loans to state and local governments for projects that reduce diesel emissions, benefiting public health and reducing global warming. This includes technologies to retrofit emission exhaust systems on school buses, replace engines and vehicles, and establish anti-idling programs. Last year EPA was able to fund only 27% of the applications received.
• Training for Green Jobs: $500 million to prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy fields.

Daily Briefing

Good morning everyone! Here is today's daily briefing.

The Lehigh Valley's housing market has taken a pretty serious hit, with sales down a whopping 46% from this time last year and the median price of a home dropping 4%. The good news is that national prices have dropped 8%, so the Valley is performing better than the rest of the nation. In Easton, Mayor Sal Panto delivered a peek of his his State of the City address yesterday. The Mayor highlighted his efforts to make neighborhoods safe and clean. He also discussed the city's declining pension fund and what the city is doing to mitigate its effects.

In stimulus news, Lehigh and Northampton Counties will receive $12.8 million to fight homelesssness and rebuild neighborhoods. Meanwhile, a story on WFMZ discusses the rising costs of health care and how that is affecting small businesses. It also discusses how the stimulus will hopefully help ease that issue.

President Obama will announce the details of his budget later today. He is expected to roll out an ambitious agenda that addresses major changes in health care, defense spending and deficit reduction. Meanwhile, the President yesterday formally nominated former Washington Governor (D) Gary Locke as Secretary of Commerce. Obama's previous two nominees, Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) have both withdrawn. And, CNN runs an article on the fight over the Employee Free Choice Act and how small businesses say it will affect them.

We have one Chamber event today: Easton Mayor Sal Panto will give his State of the City address.

And that's it! Have a great day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chamber's help businesses during recessions

Hi everyone,

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal two days ago. The summary: Chambers of Commerce help businesses during recesions. They do this in a variety of ways, including connecting members to each other to do business, providing networking opportunities, member discounts and training on technology and social networking.

Here at The Chamber, we are working on a variety of these initiatives, with more to come on that in the future.

To see the article, you can also go here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123498011957614225.html?mod=googlenews_wsj.

Daily Briefing, 2/25/2008

Morning everyone. Here is your Chamber world today.

PPL will be laying off 200 workers, or about 6% of their nonunion work force. Half of those cuts will come from the Allentown area. And, with the special election to fill former Senator James Rhoades senate seat now only one week away, a debate was held between the two contenders that are vying for the seat. Republican State Representative David Argall and Democrat Stephen Lukach discussed their varying tax plans and the infamous 2005 pay raise in a debate last night. The 29th Senate district covers portions of Lehigh county.

President Obama gave his first address to Congress yesterday, touting his stimulus plan and calling for Congress and America to continue the work towards rebuilding the economy. Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) gave the Republican response, condemning the recent slew of government spending "irresponsible" and calling on a reduced dependence on government.

Hmm, must be a slow news day today, because that's all we have! Have a great day and we will catch you later.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Smart Transportation

At the Chamber, we are strong proponents of urban revitalization and smart growth. Accordingly, we wanted to share this website with you. Check out PennDOT's new website on Smart Transportation, a site by PennDOT dedicated towards discuss smart transportation, smart growth and PennDOT's commitment to both.

Much credit to PennDOT for being forward-thinking enough to publicly embrace such an initiative.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Daily Briefing, 2/24/2009

Good morning everyone! Here is what we have for you today.

We start today with everyone's favorite topic: the stimulus. The Morning Call reports that stimulus money can be used for energy and environmentally-friendly projects, including "greening" your house or small business or purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Meanwhile, the Lehigh Valley is set to receive $34.5 million in stimulus money for shovel ready transportation projects.

In other local news, Mack Trucks has sold its headquarters on Mack Boulevard. The 250,000 square foot office building has been sold to J.G. Petrucci Company, who will rent office space in the building as Mack moves out. And in Lower Macungie, eight candidates have announced that they will seek five of the openings on the Lower Macungie Commissioners board.

President Obama will address Congress today to discuss the various problems facing the nation. One of his expected proposals: half the deficit in four years. Obama's address comes on the heels of even more bad economic news: the stock market yesterday dropped to its lowest point since 1997 and consumer confidence is at an all-time low.

We have two Chamber events for you today: an Executive Women's Council presentation on how to survive the recession and a mixer held by the Southern Lehigh Business Organization during restaurant week at the Promenade Shops.

Business Matters aired yesterday. The show featured a one-on-one interview with Congressman Charles Dent. The interview will be available online later this morning. To comment about the show and the interview, check out the blog.

Reaching out to the community

Check out this article in Nazareth. The borough is really dedicated to an overall revitalization effort and is attempting to reach out to the community on the future of their Borough.

This is an outstanding idea and a great way to proceed with urban revitalization. Any effort designed to enhance a community can't be seen as just the efforts of a select few; instead, the revitalization has to come from the entire community in a bottom up process. It is clear that this is something Nazareth is pursuing and we recommend it to others as well.

Daily Briefing, 2/23/2009

Good morning everyone! Here is today's daily briefing.

The battle for a hockey arena in the Lehigh Valley is heating up, as Representative Jennifer Mann (D-132) of Allentown has submitted a $40 million grant to acquire state funding for the project. The question of where in the Valley the arena would go remains unanswered.

One of the things we often discuss at the Chamber is the new phenomenon of social networking and how professionals and businesses can take advantage of it. Well, the Express Times has some advice for criminals when it comes to social networking: be careful!

In stimulus news, President Obama has picked a former Secret Service agent to lead a board that will be responsible for watching the stimulus funds. Earl Devaney will be in charge of the new Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board. In other economic news, the U.S. government is in talks to take a bigger ownership share of Citigroup, pushing the banking giant closer towards nationalization. The price of oil has risen about $40 a barrel, though further increases remain unlikely in this economic climate. And, something to hope for when it comes to the economy: economists predict a bad first half of 2009, with modest gains in the 2nd half of 2009, followed by a recovery in 2010.

A brand new Business Matters will air tonight at 7:30pm on WFMZ. This week's show features a one-on-one interview with Congressman Charlie Dent. For more about the show, check out the Business Matters blog.

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

Business Matters

Hi everyone,

Business Matters will air this Monday, February 23, 7:30pm on WFMZ. The show will be a one-on-one interview with Congressman Charlie Dent. Check out the Business Matters blog for more!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Daily Briefing, 2/20/2009

Morning everyone! Here is today's daily briefing.

First, the Chamber held a meeting yesterday with business executives to discuss the effects on business if the Employee Free Choice At was passed. Local labor leaders protested the meeting, with roughly 200 union members protesting outside. Also in Bethlehem, the Mayor gave his State of the City address at a Chamber breakfast yesterday. The Mayor touted the city's success despite the bad economy. The Mayor also announced that shuttle buses will be available to attendees of the Bethlehem Sands Casino, available to take them to the city's two downtowns. And, in Allentown, the Allentown Parking Authority gave the city a check for $120,000 to improve police presence in the downtown during business hours. Meanwhile, also in Allentown, councilman Tony Phillips kicked off his campaign for Mayor last night.

In state-wide news, Pennsylvania is looking into loosening the smoking ban on bars in hotels, something that local hotel owners may be interested in.

President Obama will be meeting with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to discuss the local effect of the stimulus package. Among those attending will be Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan.

Nationally, we have a couple of pieces of bad economic news. First, the stock market dropped yesterday to below 7500, a six-year low. Second, oil prices rose 14%, thanks to an unexpected drop in supply.

And, we have one Chamber event today: a Small Business Council breakfast, which will feature a presentation on the importance of social networking.

That's it! Have a great weekend and we will see you on Monday.

Let's talk downtown

The Chamber's first entry into the blogging world was over at Lehigh Valley Main Streets, a blog dedicated to discussing urban revitalization with a specific concentration on our Borough Business Revitalization Program. We were starting to see that there was a huge overlap in topics between this blog and that one. Accordingly, future content of Lehigh Valley Main Streets will be placed over here. For the future, you can expect to hear more about Lehigh Valley's downtowns and urban revitalization as a whole, something that The Chamber is totally dedicated towards.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Daily Briefing, 2/19/2009

Morning everyone! Here is today's daily briefing.

The Morning Call runs a story on the political battle that is brewing between Allentown and Bethlehem to bring minor league hockey to their respective municipalities. In other local news, good news for Easton, as violent crime is down and arrests are up. In another Easton related story, WLVT-TV will be running a documentary on the city, set to air March 1 on channel 39. One of the guests will be Marta Gabriel, The Chamber's Chief Operating Officer.

In what is sure to be a good time and an interesting discussion, the Chamber is hosting a roundtable discussion on the effects to business on the Employee Free Choice Act. The Chamber opposes the measure. Labor plans on protesting the event, which will also feature an appearance by Congressman Charlie Dent.

President Obama revealed his $75 billion foreclosure plan yesterday. Locally, Northampton County, in conjunction with the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley has announced a plan that would force banks to the table with homeowners in danger of foreclosure. Meanwhile, in other national news, American's drove less for the 14th straight month, due largely to the recession (as opposed to a decline in gas prices).

Aside from the EFCA event, we have two other Chamber events today: a TRACC mixer and a State of the City address with Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SBA rates hit an all time low

From our friends over at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. Interest rates from the Small Business Administration are now at an all-time low.

This is clearly a very difficult economic time period, but there are opportunities within the recession.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, February 18, 2009



For more information, please contact:

Margaret McConnell

Director of Marketing and Communications

610.266.7682

484.241.6578





Small Business Administration Loan Rates Hit 10-Year Low



LEHIGH VALLEY, PA – Wednesday, February 18, 2009 – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 Debenture Loan Program has announced a decrease in interest rates to 5.704% - the lowest rate in 10 years. The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is a Certified Development Company (CDC) and administers the SBA 504 loans for Lehigh Valley businesses. LVEDC can offer this program to any business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. CDCs work with the SBA and private-sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses.



The SBA 504 loans provide long-term, fixed-rate financing to small businesses to acquire real estate, machinery or equipment for expansion or modernization. Typically a 504 project includes a loan secured from a private-sector lender with a senior lien, a loan secured from the SBA with a junior lien covering up to 40 percent of the total cost, and a contribution of at least 10 percent equity from the borrower.



SBA rates have ranged from 6.5%-7.7% over the last year. Rates change monthly depending on the sale of bonds in the capital market. “The lowered interest rate is incredibly important to our Lehigh Valley businesses, especially during this economic downturn,” says Judy Yanega, Manager of Finance for LVEDC. “It will make the loan program more accessible for companies in the region.” The Lehigh Valley has 15,000 employers in a diverse blend of industries, 10,000 of which are small businesses with 9 or fewer employees.



Borrowers of the SBA 504 enjoy 10% down payment (15% for start ups), a low fixed interest rate on SBA portion and a 20-year term. Almost all for-profit businesses are eligible to apply. Funds can be used for purchase of land, building, new construction, building renovations & associated soft cost (Term 20 years). Funds can also be used for machinery and equipment (Terms of 10 or 20 years depending on life of asset). The SBA 504 program will not finance inventory, accounts receivables or working capital.



In 2007-2008, LVEDC financed $6,029,000 through the SBA Program for 10 businesses. Loans have helped people like Dr. Tasha W. Bolden open her own practice, Schoolhouse Orthodontics in Nazareth. Allentown-based Eastern Surfaces also benefited from a SBA loan that allowed them to purchase a new facility at the “Bridgeworks by the Creek” on S. 10th Street. Eastern Surfaces is the area leader in custom fabrication of natural stone and sells primarily to kitchen and bath dealers, builders who work in both residential and commercial projects, and home centers such as Home Depot.



“This lowered interest rate is going to be an extraordinary tool for our Lehigh Valley businesses to use in their growth and start-up plans,” says Philip B. Mitman, President & CEO of LVEDC. “We have made it a priority to assist businesses with obtaining the capital they need to succeed despite the economy, and this rate will certainly enable us to help even more businesses.”



Borrowers aren’t the only ones who reap the benefits of the SBA Loan program. Banks who are the primary lender are listed as the first position on assets being purchased; they retain the deposit accounts and receive Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credits.



The SBA 504 Loan is one of numerous financing programs and incentives that LVEDC administers. These programs are available to a broad range of companies and offer lower cost alternatives and complementary financing to traditional funding resources. For more information on the SBA 504, please contact Judy Yanega, Manager of Finance, at jyanega@lehighvalley.org or 610-266-6622 or John Kingsley, VP, Economic Development Finance, at jkingsley@lehighvalley.org or 610-266-0887.



For more information, please contact Margaret McConnell at 610.266.7682 or mmcconnell@lehighvalley.org.



Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is a one-stop, full-service business and economic development agency. Created to promote and foster economic prosperity in the Lehigh Valley, LVEDC assists businesses by providing them with regional, economic and demographic information, finance and business incentives, site and facility availability, business networking, and workforce services. By coordinating with state, county, and municipal governments, chambers of commerce, industry organizations, educational institutions and utilities, the award-winning LVEDC streamlines the relocation and expansion process for businesses. Visit LVEDC online at www.lehighvalley.org.

Starting a business

I was shown this link by Lori Sywenski over at Northampton County. It is an online "entrepreneur's guide" produced by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The guide has a variety of information on starting your own business, including info on financing, business plans and legal info, among many other topics. It is a very useful guide.

Incidentally, the Borough Business Revitalization Program has produced customized guides to starting your own business in Alburtis, Coopersburg, Hellertown and Macungie.

Daily Briefing, 2/18/2009

Good morning everyone! Here is today's Daily Briefing.

Some local political news to talk about today. In Lehigh County, Executve Don Cunningham has announced that he will seek reelection as County Executive. No candidate has announced that he will oppose him yet. In Northampton County, at least three seats are opening on County Council, with Democrats Diane Neiper and Joe Capozzolo not running for reelection and Republican John Cusick running for County Executive. And, in Bethlehem, city council voted to freeze their own pay but raise that of the Mayor's.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the potential for a new minor league hockey team and stadium, Representative Richard Grucela wants to make sure that the arena comes to the eastern part of the Lehigh Valley.

In national news, President Obama signed the stimulus package into law in Denver yesterday. Meanwhile, the President will be in Arizona today to unveil his new foreclosure plan. And, two of the big three automakers (GM and Chrysler) are going to ask for more money than originally planned in order to stay afloat, thanks in part to a large decline in car sales. They also plan to cut 50,000 jobs by the end of the year.

In Chamber news, we have three events today: a seminar on "Business Killers" held by TRACC in Forks Township, an East Penn and Western Lehigh joint luncheon and a meeting of the GLV Team 100.

That's all for now! Have a great dayt!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Daily Briefing, 2/17/2009

Good morning everyone! Here is today's Chamber news.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act will be signed into law by President Obama today. It will result in billions of dollars spent in Pennsylvania over the next two years. Businesses can expect to see benefits as well. Meanwhile, automaker plans are due in Washington today. The plans will have to show how they plan on staying viable and how they will pay back $13.4 billion in government loans.

In local political news, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan announced his bid for reelection yesterday. Callahan has no challengers yet. This is in stark contrast to the Northampton County Executive race, where as many as six candidates may jump in, including County Executive John Stoffa, who has announced that he will seek reelection.

Study results released by the Federal Reserve have demonstrated that the average American apparently lost wealth since 2001 (when adjusted for inflation).

And, though Pennsylvania has its financial troubles, we have at least one thing that we can be grateful for: we aren't California. The state has a massive $41 billion budget deficit (out of a budget of $143 billion). The legislature and the Governor cannot agree on how to close the budget gap.

Business Matters aired yesterday, and the topic was health care. Should it be government controlled? The show will be available online later today.

Two Chamber events today: a Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Jessica's tea room and a Lunch with the Leaders meeting, hosted by Kostas Kalogeropoulos, Senior Vice President of Meyer Jabara Hotels.

That's it! Have a great day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Northampton County Recycles...


Hi again everyone,

Please see the flier for information on a great program from Northampton County.

Press Release: Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Addresses Infrastructure Needs of Region

This press release was sent out by Senator Rob Wonderling's office and The Chamber in regards to a meeting between The Chamber and Senator Wonderling. The Chamber isdeeply committed to enhancing the transportation network of the Lehigh Valley.

---------

Senator Rob Wonderling
Press Advisory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2/12/2009

GREATER LEHIGH VALLEY CHAMBER ADDRESSES INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS OF REGION

State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Rob Wonderling to meet with Chamber Transportation Committee

Pennsylvania Senator Rob Wonderling (R-24th) will meet with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber Transportation Committee members and other area legislators on Friday, February 13, 2009 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the state of the Lehigh Valley’s infrastructure. The roundtable discussion will be held at the Lehigh Valley International Airport board room, located on the third floor of the terminal building.

The meeting will include an interactive discussion between Senator Wonderling and Lehigh Valley transportation leaders exploring the most troubling infrastructure issues facing the region. Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce President Tony Iannelli will serve as the meeting moderator.

Thirty-three percent of Pennsylvania’s interstates and major routes are in fair to poor condition, and 23 percent of its bridges are structurally deficient. In the Allentown-Bethlehem Metro Area alone, the average commuter wastes roughly 22 hours and 14 gallons of fuel annually sitting in traffic due to outdated and poorly maintained roadways.


CONTACTS:

Liz Ferry, Office of State Senator Rob Wonderling
Phone: 215-368-1500

Michelle Griffin Young, Vice President, Public Policy, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce

Phone: 610-841-5832

Stimulus fact sheet

Hi everyone,

Here's a link to a fact sheet (courtesy of Speaker Pelosi's office) on the stimulus package, formally know as the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. The link provides information on what is actually in the bill.

If you have the time (and God bless you if you do), here's a link to the entire 647 page bill.

Daily Briefing, 2/13/2009

Good Morning, and a happy Friday the 13th to you all! Here is today's briefing.

We begin today with some good local news. First, the infamous Hotel Traylor of Allentown has new owners, and the city hopes that the stately hotel will be turned around. And, in Bethlehem, despite the slow economy that has delayed the construction of the hotel and mall portion of the project, SteelStax Arts Center has raised enough money to begin construction in the near future. And, in more economic development news, the owners of the Philadelphia Phantoms have set an August 1 deadline for Allentown or Bethlehem to acquire funding and locate a site for a new hockey arena.

The stimulus bill is set for a vote today in the House, with a Senate vote likely coming today or tomorrow. After its expected approval, the bill will go straight to President Obama's desk. The Morning Call runs a story on the benefits of the stimulus package to the average worker.

And, President Obama's cabinet woes continue, as Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew from consideration as Commerce Secretary yesterday. Gregg cited conflicts over the stimulus bill.

That's it for today. Have a great weekend, and we will see you on Monday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good economic news! Lots of it!

Yes, you did read that headline correctly.

There is actually a slew of good news today. As we noted earlier, foreclosures were down in the month of January. In addition, to the surprise of everyone, retail sales actually increased 1% in the month of January, the biggest increase in 14 months. And, the number of new jobless claims dropped slightly from last week, settling at 623,000 (down from 631,000). Though lower than last week, the number is still just shy of the 26 year high that the 631,000 number represented.

Additionally, it appears the stimulus package is on track for final passage, and regardless of if you agree or disagree with it, I'm sure we all hope it will be successful. Incidentally, the U.S. Chamber has spoken positively about the legislation.

Daily Briefing, 2/12/2009

Morning everyone! Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Lehigh County Zoo is alive and well for at least the next five years, as the County voted 7-1 to keep the zoo open. The zoo will be given $1.8 million over the next five years, but be required to submit to stricter county oversight. Meanwhile, County Executive Cunningham gave his State of the County address earlier in the day. According to the Executive, Lehigh is in a "sound" position, despite the economy. He also announced the results of the community policing grants - Allentown will get four officers, Bethlehem two and Catasauqua, Fountain Hill, Macungie and Salisbury will each get one.

A deal has been reached that reconciles the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill, even after a last second disagreement over education funding threatened to hold up the deal. The stimulus will also apparently have somewhere between $3.5 and $4 billion as part of a crime fighting package. No word yet on how that could bring funding to the Lehigh Valley. And, in Easton, Mayor Sal Panto unveiled a $39 million wish list for the stimulus.

And, in some good economic news, foreclosures were down 10% in January. The decrease is chalked up to foreclosure moratoriums across the country.


Random piece of advice of the day: if you are going to use Twitter, be careful, it may not end well.

We have one Chamber event today: a mixer hosted by Beiber Limousine and Transportation Group.

That's all for today! But be careful out there, the weather will not be pretty.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Daily Briefing, 2/11/2009

Morning everyone! Here is today's daily briefing.

Yesterday, we told you about Bethlehem considering freezing their annual raises for council members. Well, the city administration is now asking that the council consider eliminating their health care benefits, a move that would save the city dramatically more money. At least three council members expressed their support for the move. And, municipalities and school districts are now facing a difficult question: should former churches, now mothballed, be taxed?
Meanwhile, in the Saucon Valley, the school board rejected an arbitors report(while teachers voted to accept it) that offered teachers a 5.5% pay increase. The board offered 4.7%. Conflict over the pay raise caused a brief strike at the begining of the 2008-2009 school year.

A Morning Call report notes that Pennsylvania has up to $2 billion in state aid riding on the federal stimulus package. Progress has been made on ironing out a deal between the House and Senate versions, with a deal "possible" today. That said, if state aid is reduced, Governor Rendell has warned that deeper state cuts should be expected. The Governor will be joining Vice Presdient Biden at a press conference in Carsile today to discuss the stimulus.

Buy those forever stamps now: effective May 11, the cost of postage will increase 2 cents.

Treasury Secretary Geithner gave his foreclosure bailout plan yesterday, and the plan was NOT well recieved, as it was viewed to lack specifics and adequate funding. Stocks fell after Geithner's announcement, with the market dropping 4% yesterday.

Last, we have two Chamber events today: a Southern Lehigh municipal update from Coopersburg, Lower Milford and Upper Milford, and a Leadership seminar on the upside of the down economy.

That's it for today! Have a great day and we will talk to you later.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Daily Briefing, 2/10/2009

Morning everyone! Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Bethlehem, elected officials are considering a pay freeze for themselves for the next two years. The move is largely symbolic, as it would only save the city $4,500 over two years. And, good news for Easton, as the city yesterday opened a new visitors center run by the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In Pennsylvania news, Governor Rendell testified yesterday at the corruption trial of former State Senator Vince Fumo. The Governor was called by the defense as a character witness for Fumo.

And, it's been a busy time on the federal level when it comes to attempts to help the economy recover. First, President Obama held a prime-time press conference yesterday, advocating for his economic stimulus package. The stimulus package passed a key vote in the Senate yesterday, 61-36, helped along by three moderate Republicans: Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snow (R-ME) and our very own Arlen Specter (R-PA). Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Geithner is expected to lay out a $50 - $100 billion home foreclosure bailout today. And, in more good news for home buyers, the stimulus bill doubles the previous tax credit for anyone who buys a new home in the next year, from $7,500 to $15,000.

Business Matters aired last night, and the topic of debate was the recent spate of government bailouts and how good/necessary they are. The show will be available online later today.

And, we have two Chamber events today: a Dale Carnegie class on public speaking and a TRACC/PACC lunch meeting.

That's it! Have a great day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Daily Briefing, 2/9/2009

Morning everyone! Here is today's daily briefing.

The Morning Call runs an interesting story regarding the recession: its affect on campaign donations. The economy, combined with recent elections and more high profile ones in the immediate future, are having an affect on the dollars given to local candidates. The Express-Times also runs a story regarding the recession and its affect on car dealers and finds that many dealers are now selling used cars only.

In political news, Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6) has announced that he is interested in running for Governor in 2010. Gerlach, a moderate, had survived two extremely close elections in 2004 and 2006.

President Obama will give a prime-time press conference tonight to support his economic stimulus bill. it will be the first of his presidency. The bill is believed to currently have the votes necessary to pass the Senate. And, in economic news, Nissan is the latest company to announce layoffs, with 20,000 jobs expected to be cut.

Business Matters airs tonight, and the topic is a timely one: are the recent spate of Government bailouts a good idea? The show airs at 7:30pm on WFMZ.

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

Friday, February 6, 2009

Renewable Energy Program

Great grant program out of Harrisburg for small businesses that are interested in renewable energy.
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The $25 million Renewable Energy Program is directly out of Harrisburg.
The information is as follows:

The Renewable Energy Program (the Program) provides financial assistance
in the form of grant and loan funds that will be used by eligible
applicants to promote the use of alternative energy in the Commonwealth.
The Program is administered jointly by the Department of Community and
Economic Development (DCED) and the Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) under the direction of the Commonwealth Financing
Authority (CFA).

Program inquiries should be directed to:

PA Department of Community and Economic Development
Center for Business Financing - Site Development Division
Renewable Energy Program
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, 4th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0225
Telephone: (717) 787-7120
Fax (717) 772-3581
E-mail: ra-dcedcbf@state.pa.us

Daily Briefing, 2/6/2009

Happy Friday! Here is your Chamber news of the day

Governor Rendell's budget plat would allow counties to raise the sales tax from 6% to 7% and split the difference with local municipalities, a plan that would add millions to local governments. The plan's impact on consumers is less clear. Meanwhile, the proposed switch to digital TV has been delayed until June, and this move has local stations switching to accomodate this new deadline. In Northampton, County Council voted to create a new Gaming Authority that will decide how to dole out $2.8 million to five local municipalities. The money will come from the Sands Bethlehem Casino, slated to open May 22. And, believe it or not, the Morning Call has some good news about the recession: thanks to lower fuel prices, the electricity rate hikes of 2010 are projected to be lower than originally expected.

In Chamber news, the state board of education held a hearing on the merit of graduation exams. Arguing in favor of those exams was our own Michelle Young, Vice President of Public Policy, who argued that these exams help ensure that students will be prepared to be part of the workforce upon graduation.

In national news, a vote on the economic stimulus package was delayed in the Senate, as centrists from both parties worked to eliminate $100 billion from the bill in order to win the support of moderate Republicans.

And, we have one event today, and its a fun one: today is First Friday in Bethlehem!

That's it for today. Have a great weekend and we will see you on Monday!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

5 Day Mail Delivery?

Hi all! Quick news regarding a possible change in the postal service.

The recession took another victim today as the postal service looks to eliminate a day from their work week to cut deficits. The USPS ended the fiscal year -$2.8 billion in profits which can mostly be attributed to the increase in email and the decrease in mailing advertisements.

Canceling delivery on the lightest of days is thought to save between $1.9 and $3.5 billion. In order to do this, Congress has to remove the annual appropriation bill rider which requires 6 day delivery from the USPS. If it is passed, Saturday or Tuesday look like the top candidates to be cut from the team this year.

Welcome, new members!

We just wanted to take a second to welcome our new members. Here they are:

1WEBPLUS dba Glenn Wasserman Consulting
1741 Glacier Court
Allentown, PA 18104
MARKETING SERVICES/MARKET RESEARCH, CONSULTING

Advanced Mobil Power Systems LLC
876 Barbara Drive
Coplay, PA 18037
ELECTRICIANS

Alliance for Building Communities
830 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101
NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Brockerhoff Environmental Services LLC
963 Strykers Road
Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

Dale S. Cooper, Realtor
1550 Hampton Road
Allentown, PA 18104
REAL ESTATE SERVICES

Donna S. Corvino, DMD
477 Bushkill Plaza Lane
Wind Gap, PA 18091
PHYSICIANS & SURGEONS

Exhibit Studios Nimlok Central PA Lehigh Valley
1223 North Cameron Street
Harrisburg, PA 17103
EXHIBIT DESIGNERS & PRODUCERS

Flamm, Boroff & Bacine
4905 W. Tilghman Street Suite 310
Allentown, PA 18104
ATTORNEYS & JUDGES

Havighurst Insurance Agency, Inc.
247 Lehigh Gap Street
P. O. Box Q
Walnutport, PA 18088
INSURANCE

IRIS Ltd, Inc.
901 Park Road
Fleetwood, PA 19522
PHOTO IDENTIFICATION

ITRCO, LP
817 West Broad Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
ENGINEERING

Linda Krisko Insurance
1422 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18102
INSURANCE

Lehigh Valley Computers, LLC
519 Front Street
Catasauqua, PA 18032
COMPUTER NETWORKING/ PC SERVICES/ CONSULTANTS/ TRAINING

Lutheran Brethren Conference Center
3300 River Road
Mount Bethel, PA 18343
BANQUET/CONFERENCE SERVICES

The Maids, Home Services serving Northampton and Eastern Lehigh
1617 West Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18102
CLEANING SERVICE

Memory Makers of the Lehigh Valley
2916 Washington Street
Allentown, PA 18104
ENTERTAINMENT

Metem International, Inc.
302/434 Union Blvd.
Allentown, PA 18103
MACHINE SHOPS

OLV Group LLC
71 Yeats Run
Northampton, PA 18067

Once Is Not Enuff
358 Main Street
Emmaus, PA 18049
CONSIGNMENT

Phillips & Tosco Developers, Landscaping Contractors, LLC
1355 Strykers Road
Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
LANDSCAPE CONTRACTORS

Promogroup LLC
3540 Woodlea Road
Orefield, PA 18069
PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS

Red Roof Inn
1846 Catasauqua Road
Allentown, PA 18109
HOTELS/MOTELS/BED & BREAKFASTS

SABRE Health & Safety LLC
1015 Zucksville Road
Easton, PA 18040
ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

Shuze
17 E. Third Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
SHOES

Sitka Enterprises, Inc.
P.O. Box 150
East Texas, PA 18046
LIGHTING-FIXTURES & SUPPLIES

SPAINB Development
12 Crest Boulevard
Easton, PA 18045
SOFTWARE DESIGN & CONSULTANTS

The Boonswang Group
2215 West Gordon Street
Allentown, PA 18104
EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS & ORGANIZATIONS

Tom's Tobacco Shop
1880 Stefko Boulevard
Bethlehem, PA 18017
RETAIL SALES

Univest
1275 Glenlivet Drive, Suite 100
Allentown, PA 18106
FINANCIAL SERVICES

Valley Collection Services
P.O. Box 4366
546 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18105
COLLECTION AGENCIES

Mr. Joseph T. Winters
1893 Mill Run Court
Hellertown, PA 18055
INDIVIDUALS

Woodbridge Golf Club
440 Albright Road
Kutztown, PA 19530
GOLF COURSES

Xiotech Corporation
2595 Penns Ridge Boulevard
Easton, PA 18040
DATA PROCESSING/COMPUTER SERVICES/COMPUTERS

MKD Associates, LLC
25 Chestnut Ridge Circle
Easton, PA 18042
BUSINESS SERVICES & CONSULTANTS

Daily Briefing, 2/5/2008

Good morning everyone! Sorry about the lack of entry yesterday - your resident blogger had some sort of 24 hour bug that made blog entries impossible. But, we are up and running again, so here is your news of the day.

In local news, the Philadelphia Phantoms' hockey team is apparently "very high" on moving to the Lehigh Valley, potentially giving the area another minor league sports stadium. In Bethlehem, the Pennsylvania Gaming Board approved a delay of the mall, convention center and hotel portion of the casino. The slots parlor will still open in late May.


Governor Rendell delivered his budget address yesterday and was met with a harsh reception. The budget called for the legalization of video poker, the expansion of funding for education, prisons and health care, the consolidation of Pennsylvania school districts (from 501 to about 100), tapping the state's "rainy day fund," a tax increase on tobacco products and relying on $2.4 billion in federal assistance. The budget also calls for cutting 2,600 jobs. Wow. It should be an interesting debate.


In state-wide political news, former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolfe has announced that he will not run for Governor in 2010. Wolfe, a Democrat, was considered a serious contendor for the Democratic nomination. Contendors remaining are Auditor General Jack Wagner, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, Philadelphia billionare Tom Knox, and, of course, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham.

Meanwhile, the economic stimulus bill appears set for a vote in the Senate, possibly as early as tomorrow. In an effort to ease the passage, the Senate has diluted the controversial "buy American" section of the bill.

That's all for now! Have a great day and we will see you later!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Opportunity in the recession

Obviously, there can be no doubt that many businesses are hurting right now. That being said, we are firm believers at The Chamber that there is always a silver lining, and the recession is no exception. How? Because it forces us all to be more efficient and become better.

An interview with the new President of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Keefer, demonstrates that point. According to Nancy, the recession will force companies to reevaluate themselves and their various methods of doing business.

Make sure to check out the whole article.

A quick correction....

Hi everyone,

WFMZ-TV ran a story yesterday on PPL's announcement of upcoming job cuts. It's a really interesting story, and it features an interview with Marta Gabriel of The Chamber. We just wanted to clarify that Marta Gabriel is actually the Chief Operating Officer of The Chamber, not the Chief Executive Order of The Chamber. That position is held by Tony Iannelli.

Daily Briefing, 2/3/2008

Good morning everyone! Here is what we have for you today.

The Lehigh Valley unemployment rate has jumped to 7.1%, higher than the Pennsylvania average (6.7%) but lower than the national average (7.2%). That number will likely continue to increase. It also won't be helped by an announcement yesterday by PPL, stating that the company will announce layoffs during the next several weeks. In an attempt to deal with the recent spike in foreclosures, the Northampton County Court is creating procedures that would give homeowners 90 days to meet with lenders and try to save their homes. Meanwhile, in Phillipsburg, Mayor Harry Wyant has been fined $1000 for having youth offenders clean his private property in 2006. Meanwhile, WFMZ runs an interesting story on the great depression vs. the current recession. The summary? Things aren't nearly as bad now as they were then.

In state-wide news, Governor Rendell has announced that he wants to budget $128 million to allow for low-income students to attend state-owned colleges nearly for free. The Governor will be giving his budget address tomorrow.

In national news, President Obama is expected to announce today that he has selected Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) as Secretary of Commerce. Gregg has previously said he would only accept the nomination if he was assured that a Republican would be appointed in his stead, which Democratic Governor John Lynch has apparently agreed to.

Business Matters aired yesterday, and the show featured a one-on-one interview with the President & CEO of the Saint Luke's Hospital & Health Network, Richard Anderson. The show will be available for online viewing later today.

And, we have two Chamber events today: The Greater Northern Chamber of Commerce has their monthly lunch featuring local volunteer organizations. Second is a lunch on the current economic crisis, featuring tips and tools on how to survive and thrive these tough times.

And that is it for now! Have a great day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Daily Briefing, 2/2/2009

Good morning everyone! We hope you all enjoyed the Super Bowl last night. Here is your news today.

Governor Rendell will be making his budget address this Wednesday in Harrisburg. The Governor has to fill a $2.3 billion budget gap and is expected to make across the board cuts in funding. The Call runs a story on how local agencies are preparing for the expected funding cuts. On Route 78, you can expect high speed EZ-Pass by 2010, as the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has approved a new contract that will bring the system to the area. And, despite the times, Pennsylvania lottery sales have increased, up by 10% between December 2007 and Deemeber 2008.

In national, Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) appears to be the leading candidate for Secretary of Commerce. The issue, however, is that Gregg is a Republican in a state governed by a Democrat, meaning that Gregg's appointment could potentially result in a Democratic pick-up in the Senate. It is possible, however, that a deal is being brokered that would allow for the Governor to appoint a "care-taker" Republican that would not run for reelection. CNN also runs a story on six major companies that were founded during the Great Depression. And as the economic stimulus package works through the Senate, two senators - Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-KS) are working to remove the bill of "wasteful spending." The chances of the bill passing in the Senate are much slimmer than they were in the house.

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