Monday, August 31, 2009

Daily Briefing, 8/31/2009

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

The Morning Call runs an interesting story on how the recession is giving municipalities a chance to plan and control the suburban sprawl that has become such a staple of life in the Valley. And, good news for those of you in the Saucon Valley School District: despite still not having a contract, the teachers in the district will not go on strike.

Business Matters airs today - the topic is a one-on-one interview with Congressman and Senate candidate Joe Sestak. For more information, check out the Business Matters blog.

We have one Chamber event today: a meeting of the GLV team 100.

And that's it! Have a great Monday!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Personal finance websites

I thought this was interesting. In the past week, I had two websites recommended to me for personal financial management - not business finances, but personal. The websites promise to help you save your money, track where it goes and give you advice about how to best manage your own finances.

The first website was Mint, the second is MoneyRight.

Does anybody use these, or any other sites? They definitely seem more efficient than your average excel spreadsheet.

Daily Briefing, 8/28/2009

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

In Lehigh County, at a Chamber event yesterday, County Executive Don Cunningham unveiled his budget that will have no tax increase. The budget will tap tax relief funds previously set up by the County. In Allentown, the school district will cut $3.8 million from its budget, including tapping $1 million from its reserve fund, in anticipation of losing funding from the state. In business news, Mack Trucks found saw truck deliveries fall 25% compared to July of last year with its year-to-date sales down 38%.

In national news, a new poll has President Obama's approval rating below 50% - at 48% - for the first time. However, the poll also notes that 24% of Americans believe the economy is getting better (up from 4% in February) and only 36% think its getting worse (down from 69%). Two reports are expected today that economists expect to confirm that the economy is improving - increases are expected in personal income and consumer spending levels.

We have two Chamber events today: a ribbon cutting at Infini-tee and our annual End of Summer Picnic - and this is a big one!

That's it! We hope to see you at our Summer Picnic, and either way, have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Worst Traffic in America?

Your resident blogger recently found himself helplessly stuck in traffic on Route 22, but fear not - I eventually escaped. It was this (most recent) traffic-jam experience that had me thinking about our region and traffic. There's no question that traffic jams have become a way of life in the Lehigh Valley - anyone who has ever been on Route 22 during rush hour can testify to that. But, how does our region rank in terms of traffic when compared to the entire United States?

The answer can be found here. We rank as the 59th worst region for traffic in America, and 16th worst for region's of our size. Ouch. According to the survey, our region loses about 7,571,000 hours stuck in traffic, 4,664,000 gallons of fuel and $154,000,000 in overall costs.

Again - ouch.

Daily Briefing, 8/27/2009

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

In Easton, the city may have to temporarily take on the payments of two state programs: Main Street and Weed and Seed. The reason the city is currently making these payments? The lack of a state budget.

In national news, the "Cash for Clunkers" program generated over 690,000 new car sales, totaling $2.88 billion. Many car dealers are still waiting to get their payments from the government. In energy related news, natural gas prices are at a seven year low. In New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson has been cleared in a federal government probe that investigated pay-to-play allegations against the Governor and one of the Governor's donors. These are the same allegations that forced Richardson to withdraw his name from consideration as Commerce Secretary.

We have two Chamber events today: a Speed Networking event and a Phillipsburg-Easton mixer at Infini-Tee Golf Center in Phillipsburg.

And that's it! We'll have at least one more entry later today on everyone's favorite topic: TRAFFIC!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care Reform

The Chamber is proud to announce that we just signed up to join the Chamber Alliance for Health Care Reform. Below is more information on what we stand for:

CAHR supports reforms that rein in the cost of health care, improve quality and expand access. However, CAHR opposes a government-run public health care plan that would:

* Unravel the existing employer-based system where more than 160 million people currently get their coverage
* Exacerbate current cost-shifting that already inflates employer family coverage by nearly $1800 a year
* Make health systems slower, more costly and less responsive to patient needs
* Be very expensive and require large federal subsidies

Presentation tips

We found an interesting article that we wanted to share with you all: public speaking don'ts. Yes, you read that correctly. Public speaking don'ts. No dos, just don'ts.

The article comes to us courtesy of Business Week magazine.

Read it, and then ask yourself: how many times have you seen exactly this happen before?

Daily Briefing, 8/26/2009

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

In local news, Congressman Charlie Dent held a town hall meeting in Lower Saucon. This one featured a relatively divided audience on health care, but one that was still comparatively civil. Revenue at the Sands Bethlehem held steady over the past week, continuing to keep the casino as the 4th busiest in the state (behind only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh casinos), despite the opening of a new casino in Pittsburgh. When it comes to school districts, there are two interesting stories. First, in the Easton Area School District, the district's secretaries have gone on strike over their contract negotiations. The strikes takes place one day before the school year was to start. Meanwhile, in the Saucon Valley, a group of parents have asked for a meeting with the teacher's union after attacking the group at the most recent school board meeting. In Easton, an "aggressive letter writing campaign" geared towards collecting delinquent taxes is working: the city has collected over $1 million in back property taxes. In Bethlehem Township, St. Luke's announced yesterday that they are scaling back the plans for their Riverside medical complex. The new plan has 40% less square footage than the first one.

In state news, Pennsylvania has received $11.9 million from the federal government to give rebates for the purchase of energy efficient appliances, like refrigerators.

In national news, the lead story, of course, is the death of Senator Ted Kennedy from brain cancer. Kennedy died today at about 2:00am.

In other national news, in a story that will likely affect many of us, Anheuser-Busch has announced that rising commodity prices are forcing it to raise beer prices in the near future.

We have two Chamber events today: a meeting of the GLV team 100 and the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Township clambake.

That's it for now - have a great day!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Buy Local, Buy Lehigh Valley

One of the things that The Chamber is a huge support of is buying local. At The Chamber, we firmly believe that buying local can make a big improvement on the Valley's economy. There are many reasons why this is a good thing, but perhaps the most telling is the economic rationale - buying local means that more of your money stays local and enriches the local economy. Buying local is important for the Lehigh Valley, and we encourage you and all Lehigh Valley businesses to learn more about our Buy Lehigh Valley initiative.

For information that is more geared towards consumers (as opposed to business to business models), we encourage you to check out the 3/50 project. This website tries to get consumers to visit three independently owned businesses and spend $50 in them. From the website: "If half of the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 million in revenue.

That is quite a powerful number.

Daily Briefing, 8/25/2009

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

Senator Specter (D-PA) and the Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood held a forum in the Allentown yesterday at America on Wheels, where the topic was transportation. The two men were joined by representatives of many groups, including Tony Iannelli, President of The Chamber. In Bethlehem, the Sands has expanded the area that you can smoke in the casino from 25 to 50%.


In national news, the popular "cash for clunkers" program ended last night, but the Morning Call notes that many dealers closed the program early due to paperwork fears and concerns that they would not be able to get paid.

In state-wide news, Montgomery County commissioner, former Congressman and Senatorial candidate Joe Hoeffel is thinking about running for Governor, according to his website.

In national news, President Obama will reappoint Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve today. The White House is also set to announce that the national debt projections has increased from $7 billion to $9 billion.

We have one Chamber event today: the monthly luncheon of the Women's Business Council.

Business Matters aired yesterday, with the topic being the revitalization of Allentown. The show will be available online later today, and you can get more information and join in the online debate at the Business Matters blog.

That's it for now! We'll have another entry later today. See you then.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Good economic news

Hi everyone -

Some good economic news to share - actually, quite a bit of good news to share.

First, a recent report indicates that U.S. real estate/office prices rose for the first time in two years. Incidentally, I found this report by way of a LinkedIn group, the Economic Development Council of the Lehigh Valley. It's been very helpful in providing me with some really valuable information.

Second, a report on CNNMoney indicates that a slew of good economic news is bolstering the stock market. Among the highlights of the good news:

- The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq are all at 2009 high points.
- The Chief of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has said the the economy is nearly at a recovery.
- Existing home sales are at their highest points in two years.

We aren't there yet, but maybe, just maybe, the economy really is starting to turn around.

Daily Briefing, 8/24/2009

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

In Bethlehem, over 200 people gathered to protest the recent budget cuts made by the Bethlehem Area School Board. The cuts resulted in the loss of $2.8 million in funding.

In state-wide news, President Obama will appear with Senator Arlen Specter at a fundraiser on September 15, delivering on his promise to support the Senator in his upcoming 2010 campaign. In the latest story to document the troubles of the state's budget impasse, Agricultural Fairs are suffering without state support, forcing many to cut back on their festivities or even cancel. Meanwhile, Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) and former Congressman Pat Toomey have announced that they will debate health care reform at Muhlenberg College on September 2. The move is very unorthodox, since neither of them are actually their respective parties nominees yet.

Business Matters airs tonight, and the topic is the ongoing revitalization of Allentown. The show airs at 8:00pm on WFMZ. You can also check out the Business Matters blog to find out more about the show and join in the debate.

And that's it for now! Have a great day and we'll see you later.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Great Big, End of Summer, Membership Picnic & Celebrity Grill-a-thon on Friday, August 28

A Great Big, End of Summer, Membership Picnic & Celebrity Grill-a-thon on Friday, August 28 from 3 till 7 p.m. at Bethlehem Township Municipal Park Pavilion at 2900 Farmersville Road, Bethlehem, PA 18020 (Smack-dab in the center of the Valley!) Presented by AT&T, in cooperation with Coca-Cola Bottling of the Lehigh Valley, Allentown Beverage, Primo Produce, and US Foods. in cooperation with Coca-Cola Bottling of the Lehigh Valley, Allentown Beverage, Primo Produce, and US Foods.

Make it YOUR company picnic! Everyone enjoys a good old-fashioned company picnic! Bring your boss, your best clients or your whole team. Strengthen your connections and use this picnic as though it was your own company picnic. You will enjoy plenty of food and a wide array of beverages, musical entertainment and summer games and activities designed to encourage networking. PLUS, Frank Facchiano, Anne Baum and a host of celebrity “Grillmasters” will WOW you with their cookery and grill-side prowess!

Ticket Price: $40 per member, $80 per non-member
Group Rates: Call or email Marta Anglade at 610-841-5863 or martaa@lehighvalleychamber.org for group rates and we’ll make a deal!

Resume creation made easy

Creating a resume is a necessary evil, and almost all of us have done it at some point or another. We all stress over every one of the details, making sure the format is appropriate and uniform and that there aren't any grammar mistakes.

Well, thanks again to our friends at Mashable, we've found a great website that can be very helpful in this process. The website is called JobSpice, and it allows you to create a resume by simply filling in the blanks. This website will create the format - all you have to do is tell it what you want your resume to look like and fill in the content.

I'm sure we can all agree that it is far too easy to waste time on the internet. Here's a great example of how the internet can help us save time and dramatically increase productivity.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SOLEBO Event: A Great Debate: Social Networking ~ Internet vs. Face-to-Face

Hi everyone - we uploaded another video to YouTube. This one is a SOLEBO panel discussion between three networking experts. The video is below, and here's the description:

The Southern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce (SOLEBO) an affiate of The Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce presents: A Great Debate: Social Networking ~ Internet vs. Face-to-Face
Panelists include: Sam Iorio, CFO and Partner from Dale Carnegie; Joshua Ehrig, CEO Atricity; and Michael Schlossberg, Borough Business Revitalization Coordinator/Social Networking & Internet Initiatives for The Chamber.

NEWS RELEASE: The Chamber & Borough Business Revitalization Program Release Training Guide for Small Businesses

Here's a press release from The Chamber and Borough Business Revitalization Program. The two combined to produce the Business Enhancement Guide, funded by a $5,000 grant from PPL. Read below for more information:
---

Allentown, PA (August 6) – The Borough Business Revitalization Program, in conjunction with The Chamber and PPL, has released the Business Enhancement Guide, a guide to small businesses that is designed to provide assistance to business owners and employees in operating their companies.

The guide, funded by a $5,000 grant from PPL that was acquired by Lehigh County, contains a variety of information for small businesses. It is specifically designed to help businesses face the challenges of today’s difficult economy, grow their customer base and increase their bottom line. A variety of topics are discussed in the guide, including internet usage, store management, enhancing customer loyalty, promotional efforts, marketing and physical improvements.

“There is no question that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and the Lehigh Valley community,” said Mike Schlossberg, Borough Business Revitalization Coordinator for The Chamber. “At The Chamber and Borough Business Revitalization Program, our goal is to do everything we can to ensure that small businesses can succeed and thrive.” Schlossberg went on to note that the guide has a section on the various resources available to small businesses, including non-profit agencies and urban revitalization programs. “There are so many tools out there to help small businesses. We’ve found that one of the biggest problems is that small business owners aren’t aware of the resources that are available to them. Hopefully this guide will help remedy that problem.”

In addition, the guide contains information about electric choice and tools, like PPL Electric Utilities’ online Energy Analyzer at www.pplelectric.com, that can help customers track their energy use and find ways to save. “We want customers to be aware of tools, programs and information that can help them take greater control over their electric use,” said Kathy Frazier, community relations director for PPL Electric Utilities.

Anyone interested in obtaining a guide should contact Mike Schlossberg at MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Social Media and potential employers - what do you need to know?

This entry comes to us courtesy of an outstanding blog, Mashable, that covers social networking. The reason it was so interesting is it demonstrates the power of social networking...but not necessarily in a way that will be beneficial to job applicants.

The crux of the entry is this: if you are looking for a job (and really, even if you have one), be careful what you post on your social networking profiles - employers are watching.

Here are the key points from the blog entry. The conclusions were based on a survey of 2,667 HR professionals.
- 45% of employers surveyed use social networking to screen potential job candidates and another 11% are planning on doing so in the future.
- 35% of employers have not hired someone based on the content they discovered on social networking. The top three reasons included provocative photos (53% not hiring based on that), content that contains references to alcohol or drugs (44%) and insulting former employers (35%). Even using the online smiley faces (emoticons) were enough for 14% of companies not to hire an applicant.

There is an upside, however - 18% of companies found content on profiles that caused them to actually hire a candidate.

The conclusion? Be careful what you put in your profile! The lines between personal and professional lives are blurring all the time, but when it comes to using social networking, it is absolutely better to err on the side of caution.

Daily Briefing, 8/20/2009

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

It appears that PennDOT will to abandon plans to widen Route 22, saving the state $100 million. The focus will now turn to interchange improvements. And there was good news for local college, with Lehigh, Lafayette, Muhlenberg, Moravian and DeSales all scoring placements on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Schools list.

In state-wide news, Bill Cosby - yes, Bill Cosby appeared at the Capitol yesterday, to argue against more cuts to education. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans tried, unsuccessfully, to override the Governor's veto on the state budget. Only Senator Lisa Boscola (D-18) crossed party lines and voted with the Republicans.

In national news, all of our wallets got some good news, as the federal deficit is going to be less than expected, coming in at $1.58 trillion - $262 billion lower than expected. The reason for this is because the Obama administration removed a $250 billion line item that was an emergency fund in case Wall Street needed additional federal assistance.

We have two Chamber events today: a mixer on 19th street in Allentown and a TRACC event - Lafayette in the Community.

And that's it! Have a great day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Daily Briefing, 7/18/2009

Good morning everyone - here is today's Daily Briefing.

School districts are in the news today. First, in Bethlehem, in the face of a standing-room only crowd, the school district cut $2.8 million and 45 positions. The board cited the lack of a state budget as the rationale for the cuts. Meanwhile, in the Saucon Valley School District, the head of the teachers union wants an opportunity to explain to community leaders why her union voted down the latest offer from the school board. In business news, if a survey taken by The Chamber is any indication, things are starting to look up. Valley businesses are reducing layoffs and starting to hire according to a Chamber survey. Many businesses also believe that the recession is over. And speaking of money, good news for the West Ward in Easton, as CACLV and Lafayette College have announced the receipt of a $1 million grant to green houses in the area.

In state-wide news, Governor Rendell held a news conference with child care employees from around the state, noting that the lack of a budget is making dramatic cuts into these vital services.

In national news, CNN has released a list of the 100 fastest growing companies in 2009. Toping the list was Research In Motion, makers of the Blackberry. The Chamber is proud to have helped them along quite a bit in that effort!

Business Matters aired yesterday - the topic was an optional 1% sales tax increase. The show will be available online later today and you can check out the Business Matters blog for more information.

We have one Chamber event today: a Dale Carnegie seminar on managing sales performance and holding your people accountable.

And that's it! Have a great day and we'll catch you later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

CompetePA Coalition - fighting to grow Pennsylvania's economy

Hi everyone,

Another public policy briefing for you. The below is a letter that The Chamber and many other pro-business organizations signed onto to help create a better business climate in Pennsylvania.
--


The CompetePA coalition wants to reiterate its position on business tax policies as the Joint Conference Committee continues to work on the 2009-10 budget.

As you know, CompetePA formed in 2005 and brought the business community together around a common set of priorities. These priorities – removing the cap on net operating loss carryforwards (NOL), creating a singles sales factor apportionment formula (SSF) and ensuring the phase-out of the capital stock and franchise tax (CSFT) – have remained the same. More than 130 businesses and business organizations that are members of CompetePA have been diligent in attempting to accomplish gains to improve the business climate for the Commonwealth over the last four years.

CompetePA stands united and opposed to stopping the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax (CSFT), as this represents a tax increase for Pennsylvania businesses. Stopping or increasing this tax – as it has been proposed by some – will stall, not encourage, economic recovery. Businesses have already planned for this phase out and increasing it will create an unplanned expenditure at a time when businesses are struggling with cash flow and job retention.

Additionally, as stated above, CompetePA is also focused on structural business tax changes that have been a priority of the collective business community for several years – removing the cap on NOL carryforwards and creating a SSF apportionment formula. As is the case in nearly every other state, except Pennsylvania, manufacturers and other high technology firms whose business models are cyclical by nature need to see improvements in the current NOL cap to offset future liabilities with current losses. In addition, all Pennsylvania businesses should be encouraged, not punished, for increased capital investment and job creation, as is the purpose for an increased sales factor apportionment formula.

CompetePA recognizes the significance of the current state budget shortfall. We understand that the recession makes budgeting very difficult this year, and that many constituencies are asking the state for more money; not less. But Pennsylvania’s future depends on a competitive job-creating climate that can only be achieved by holding the line on spending and taxes. We understand what it means to have to tighten the budget. Businesses across the Commonwealth have been making very hard decisions over the last six months, implementing tough cuts across our companies, and we urge the Administration and the General Assembly to do the same.

Now more than ever, Pennsylvania needs to send the message that we have a competitive business climate. When the economy recovers, let’s make Pennsylvania one of the first places to grow new jobs, not the last.




###


CompetePA is a coalition of more than 130 businesses and organizations representing more than half of the private sector workforce in Pennsylvania, committed to improving the business climate in order to encourage economic investment and job creation. For more information about CompetePA and what you can do to help Pennsylvania compete successfully for new jobs and investment, visit www.CompetePA.com.

Members of the CompetePA Coalition:



 ABC Pennsylvania
 African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania
 Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
 AK Steel Corporation
 Alcoa Inc.
 Allegheny Conference on Community Development
 Allegheny Energy
 Allegheny Technologies Incorporated
 Amgen
 Aqua America, Inc.
 Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
 Bayer Corporation
 Beaver County Chamber of Commerce
 Bentley Systems, Incorporated
 Binney & Smith
 Blair County Chamber of Commerce
 BNY Mellon
 Bombardier Transportation (Holdings) USA Inc.
 C B Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh
 Cephalon, Inc.
 Channel Craft & Dist. Inc.
 Chapman Properties
 Chaska Property Advisors, Inc.
 Citizens Bank
 CNX Gas Corporation
 CONSOL Energy Inc.
 Cowden Associates, Inc.
 Crossgates, Inc.
 Crown Holdings, Inc.
 CSX Corporation
 Delaware County Chamber of Commerce
 Dick's Sporting Goods
 E.A. Quirin Machine Shop, Inc.
 Eat 'n Park Hospitality Group, Inc.
 E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
 Ellwood Group, Inc.
 Elmhurst Group
 EQT Corporation
 Forms + Surfaces, Inc.
 General Electric Company
 Gerome Manufacturing Company, Inc.
 GlaxoSmithKline
 Grant Street Associates, Inc.
 Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce
 Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
 Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
 Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
 H.J. Heinz Company
 Harrisburg Regional Chamber
 HRPT Properties Trust
 International Paper
 James Gallery
 Jaycee Foods, Inc.
 John Deklewa & Sons, Inc.
 Johnson & Johnson
 Kennametal Inc.
 Kimberly-Clark Corp.
 Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce
 Leed Foundry, Inc.
 Lord’s International
 Manufacturer & Business Association
 Manufacturers’ Association of Central Pennsylvania
 Massaro Properties
 Massey Powell
 McTish, Kunkel & Associates
 Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce
 Medrad
 MidAtlantic Employers' Association
 Mon Valley Progress Council
 Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce
 Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce
 Montgomery County Regional Business Alliance
 NAIOP Greater Philadelphia Chapter
 NAIOP Pittsburgh Chapter
 National Federation of Independent Business
 Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers & Employers Association
 Northern Allegheny County Chamber of Commerce
 Novus Staffing Solutions
 Oxford Development Company
 Parente Randolph
 Pennsylvania Bio
 Pennsylvania Business Council
 Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry
 Pennsylvania Coal Association
 Pennsylvania Convenience Store Council
 Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association
 Pennsylvania Foundry Association
 Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association
 Pennsylvania Steel Company, Inc.
 Pfizer
 Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce
 Pittsburgh Business Center
 Pittsburgh Stage, Inc.
 Pittsburgh Technology Council
 PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
 PPG Industries
 Rankin Property Management, LLC
 Regional Business Alliance
 Renal Solutions, Inc.
 Riverside Center for Innovation
 Rohm and Haas Company
 Sanofi Pasteur
 Schneider Downs
 Schultheis Automation Control Systems, Inc.
 Sheetz, Inc.
 SMC Business Councils
 Snavely Forest Products
 Somerset County Chamber of Commerce
 Sony Technology Center - Pittsburgh
 South Hills Chamber of Commerce
 Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Alliance
 Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Advocacy Council
 Specialty Steel Industry of Pennsylvania
 Sunoco Inc.
 The Hershey Company
 Timken Latrobe Steel
 TRACO
 Trant Corp
 Tregembo Ford Inc
 TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce
 Tyco Electronics Ltd.
 United States Steel Corporation
 Universal Health Services
 University City Housing Company
 Valley Tire Co. Inc.
 Value Ambridge Properties
 VVG Marketing
 Waste Management
 WESCO Distribution, Inc.
 West Branch Manufacturers Association
 Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce
 World Kitchen Inc.
 Wyeth Global Pharmaceuticals
 Zippo Manufacturing Company

Daily Briefing, 8/17/2009

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

The Sands Bethlehem is planning on adding slots this fall, but a Morning Call story says that the machines aren't necessarily earning enough to justify the addition of those new machines. The Express Times runs a story on how the current budget will eliminate $140,000 from ArtsQuest, hurting Musikfest and other local programs. WFMZ also notes that the budget crisis has many college students in limbo about the status of their student aid. The E-T also runs a story on how adult enrollment at local colleges has increased, with many individuals taking advantage of their lack of employment by returning to school.

In world-wide news, Japan exited its recession last month, posting a .9% growth. Still, many analysts are worried that the modest growth was a result of governmental stimulus spending and that the growth will stop when the stimulus money does. Economic jitters have also affected the price of oil, which dropped to a two-week low at around $66 per barrel.

Business Matters airs tonight - the topic is the proposed 1% sales tax increase on business to offset property taxes. You can watch the show at 8:00pm on WFMZ and join in the debate on the show on the Business Matters blog.

We have one Chamber event today, and its a big one: the Walla Gazoo golf tournament.

And that's it! Have a great day and we'll catch you later.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care

Hi everyone -

The Chamber was one of many organizations to sign the letter below on health care, and we wanted to share it with you. What are your thoughts?

--
July 28, 2009
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
The undersigned chambers of commerce, associations, and businesses, representing millions of
employers who create jobs and provide quality, affordable health insurance to tens of millions of
Americans, wish to urge caution in addressing one of the most difficult problems facing our
nation today – reforming the health care system.
Collectively, we are dedicated to improving our nation’s health care system, especially in terms
of lowering health care costs, improving the quality of care, and making sure every American
has access to affordable coverage. However, we believe that the legislation currently being
considered would not improve the system, but jeopardize the parts of the system that currently
work. In fact, these bills do nothing to “bend the cost curve” rather according to Doug
Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the “curve is raised.”
The creation of a new government-run insurance plan is a step in the wrong direction.
Employers currently suffer a significant cost-shift from existing public programs, and the
program described in House legislation would significantly increase costs for every American
who purchases private insurance. We do not believe that the government plan will be a fair
competitor. Because of the increased costs and lack of competition caused by a government
plan, employers will not be able to continue offering their current plans, which cover more than
170 million Americans.
We are further concerned with a proposal to mandate that employers either provide health
insurance or pay huge fines or payroll taxes. This “pay or play” mandate is especially bad
because employers are also required to pay the majority of employee premiums. Even with some
exemptions, this provision will kill many jobs. Market forces and employer autonomy should
determine what benefits employers provide, rather than Congress.
The business community is eager to work with Congress to reform the health care system.
Businesses, as providers of healthcare benefits, continue to see health care costs rise far in excess
of GDP growth or inflation. Innovative businesses have valuable outcomes to share with
legislators about approaches they have developed to help drive quality and control costs. We
urge Congress to focus on consensus areas that can accomplish our shared goals. Chief among
these should be initiatives to improve quality and lower costs, introducing fair regulation of the
insurance market, and building a robust marketplace for consumers.
We believe that responsible and constructive health reform that we all can support can be
enacted this year. We call on Congress to enact reforms that improve the health system without
jeopardizing those who currently have coverage.

Daily Briefing, 8/14/2009

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

Congressman Dent joined the town hall scene yesterday by holding one in Kempton. The audience of 250 was apparently mostly in agreement with Congressman Dent's opposition to the President's health care reform proposals. In Allentown, the city will be pursuing federal funding for a program that turns sewage into power for a waste plant. Speaking of environmentally friendly grant applications, Easton has one of their own, as the city will be applying for a $250,000 grant to build a hydro-powered turbine electric generator. In Emmaus, the borough is preparing for its 150th anniversary with three days of festivals. And, just south of us, Bucks County officials have joined Lehigh and Northampton officials in protesting the cost of a special election (to be held September 29) to fill Rob Wonderling's senate seat.

In state-wide news, a political blockbluster - a new Rasmussen poll shows that Pat Toomey has a 13% lead on Arlen Specter in the upcoming 2010 election.

On the national front, President Obama has unveiled a new bank fee structure - asking the larger banks to pay more for oversight while shrinking the fees on smaller banks.

We have one Chamber event today: a ribbon cutting at Abe's Wholesale TR in Allentown.

And we're sure you all heard about this - but apparently Michael Vick is now an Eagle? Who saw that one coming??

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Daily Briefing, 8/13/2009

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

In the Saucon Valley, teachers rejected the school board's most recent and final offer for a pay hike - leading to the possibility of a teacher strike. In Lehigh County, County Commissioners went through their first reading of the proposed five-year, $76 million capital plan. The plan calls for $16.5 million in spending over the next year. Statistics released by the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors yesterday showed good and bad news for the regions housing market - sales are up but prices are down. In Allentown, the public gets an opportunity to provide input about a controversial park expansion at Cedar Beach park tonight. And with no state budget, WFMZ takes a look at how the lack of funding is affecting other local agencies, such as food banks.

In state-wide news, the Morning Call reports on conflicting studies that indicate that the legalization of table games can potentially be a huge boom or massive bust for casinos in Pennsylvania. A new Senate polls shows that Senator Arlen Specter has a 13% lead over Congressman Joe Sestak in the fight for the Democratic Senate nomination.

Despite the relative good news that we have heard about the economy for the past few weeks, a new survey shows that we aren't there yet: there was a record number of foreclosures last month. But, there was great news for Germany and France - to everyone's surprise, the recession ended in those countries, as both showed growth over the 2nd quarter.

We have one Chamber event today: a ribbon cutting at Priority Care of Emrick.

And that's it! Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Daily Briefing, 8/12/2009

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

First, when you get a chance, check out the Morning Call's new website - its pretty sharp.

In Bethlehem, citing a lack of $3.5 million in state funding, the Bethlehem Area School District has cut 36 teacher positions. In the Saucon Valley, the teachers have voted on whether or not to accept the school board's final offer - but no one has made that vote public yet. There was good news for Musikfest, as crowds held steady from last year, reaching a little less than 1.2 million visitors but spending hundreds of thousands more in food and beverage tickets. The Chirin Brothers Sanitary Landfill was awarded a grant of $1 million (from stimulus funds) by Governor Rendell yesterday. The grant will help turn waste from the landfill into energy for a business park in Glendon. And in Easton, the city is looking into offering police officers $7,000 to buy property in the city.

In national news, an interesting story - for the first time in nearly 15 years, the average size of a new home fell. Is this the start of a trends?

In state-wide news, the anger surrounding town hall meetings and health care came to Pennsylvania yesterday, with a largely angry crowd addressing Senator Specter (D-PA) yesterday in Lebanon. Oh, and is former Senator Santorum interested in running for President in 2012? Maybe??

We have a busy day today, with three Chamber events: a Capital Blue Cross Wellness Lunch and Learn, a Lunch with the Leaders event (featuring James Petrucci) and a summer soiree with the Phillipsburg Area Chamber of Commerce at Delhanty's Tavern.

And that's it! Have a great day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Daily Briefing, 8/11/2009

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

The Morning Call runs two stories on how the state budget-impasse is affecting local schools. In Bethlehem, the Bethlehem Area School District may see $3.5 million in cuts, as no funding has come through for some of these programs yet. State subsidies also haven't come through for local day cares, resulting in massive problems for that industry as well. And in Allentown, WFMZ runs a story on crime in Allentown - Mayor Pawlowski says crime is down, while his opponent in the upcoming election, Councilman Tony Phillips, says its up.

And, in national news, while things seem to be looking up, the federal government is warning against jumping the gun just yet, saying they aren't ready to call it a recovery just yet.

Business Matters aired yesterday - the topic was voter apathy in America. You can catch the show online later tonight, or check out the Business Matters blog for more information.

And that's it! Have a great day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Do you Doodle?

We found another website that we thought might make lives a little easier. The website is Doodle. It is free and requires no pre-registration unless you are creating an event or poll. Basically, the website is a way to get a large group's opinions on scheduling options or topic preferences. It allows you to E-mail a large group of people and ask when they want to meet. It also allows you to get their topic preferences (what movie do they want to see, what sort of event are they interested in attending, etc).

From a Chamber point of view, while we wouldn't use something like this to determine the best time to hold one of our major events (probably not the most appropriate use of the website), it can be great for determining more internal meetings, like staff/office meetings. It can also be perfect for determining when to hold smaller meetings.

Anyone here use this site, and has anyone had any real good or bad experiences with it?

Daily Briefing, 8/10/2009

Good morning everyone, and hope you had a great weekend! Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Morning Call runs a story on the availability of charter schools in the Lehigh Valley, noting that there will be eight operating Valley-wide this September. In South Bethlehem, a $10,000 study will be used to determine how to better enhance the South Side. The Express Times takes a look at the economy, gas prices and their effect on local vacations, noting that a possible economic recovery means that last-minute vacations in August are possible. WFMZ, meanwhile, takes a look at the budget crisis and how it is effecting Pennsylvania schools.

In national news, a Wall Street Journal story notes that, though the economy is looking up, we are not out of the woods just yet. Gas prices are on the rise again - up $.15 in two weeks.

Business Matters airs tonight at 8:00pm on WFMZ. The show will feature a look at American voter apathy.

And that's it! Have a great day and we'll catch you later.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Daily Briefing, 8/7/2009

Good morning everyone - here is your Daily Briefing on this Friday.

In Northampton, the county has hired a special assessor to determine the value of the Bethlehem Sands casino. Bethlehem got some goo news, as a federal grant has come through in the amount of $900,000 for asbestos removal at Martin Towers. More good grant news, as the Delcaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is set to award $230,000 in grants to local projects. PPL is now offering customers the option of voluntarily enrolling in a green energy program. For an extra $2.50 a month, customers can enroll in a program that will purchase 100kilowatt-hour blocks of renewable energy. And in political news, Democrats have found their candidate to run against Rob Wonderling - Lansdale councilwoman Anne Henning Scheuring.

In state-wide news, 300 state employees will be laid off, victims of budget cuts at the state level. The cuts could rise to 800 or more.

In national news, the U.S. Senate voted yesterday to confirm Sonya Sotomayer by a vote of 68-31. And, some good financial news, as insurance giant AIG posted its first profit in almost two years. Meanwhile, today will be a big day for unemployment numbers, as the latest figures will come out at 8:30am today.

That's it! Have a great weekend and we'll catch you on Monday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Do you Yelp?

Hi everyone -

We talk here a lot about the benefits of social networking for small businesses. Here's another website that might be of interest: yelp. Though there is certainly no shortage of competitors, Yelp is this far dominating the internet market for small businesses. It is basically a listing of all sorts of services that can be searched by the type of service or the location. In that sense, it is like the yellow pages.

What is more important is that it allows customers to leave positive or negative feedback. That feedback can be viewed by the general public and commented on/addressed by the business itself. If you have a free second, you may want to check out this website and see if you are listed. Its also a great idea to encourage others to view this site and leave positive feedback based on their experiences with you.

Daily Briefing, 8/6/2009

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



In state-wide news, Governor Rendell yesterday signed the bridge budget that will allow Pennsylvania to fund government operations and pay state employees. Some are already taking their paychecks, as it appears that Pennsylvania Democrats in the House paid themselves before paying state employees.

In national news, a new CNN poll shows that 50% of people support President Obama's health care plans, while 45% of people oppose them. CNN also runs a story, showing economic data available since Obama first took office. In other news, the Senate voted late last night to extend the popular "Cash for Clunkers" program by infusing it with another $2 billion. Judge Sonya Sotomayer's confirmation vote is today - Sotomayer is expected to be easily confirmed.

We have one Chamber event today: a Cruise One Mixer at the Four Points Sheraton.

And that's it! Have a great day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Small Business Loan Pool

Hi everyone -

We recieved some information today on another loan pool that may be available to businesses that want/need funding but don't have access to it. The information is below. Another great loan pool and a solid partner for small businesses and communities is the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund.


Lehigh & Northampton Counties
Revolving Loan Fund


Contact: Joslyn Tapler
Program Administrator
(610) 758-5206
(610) 758-5030
jmt4@lehigh.edu

Lehigh University Small Business Development Center
Rauch Business Center
621 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015

Eligible Activities: Land acquisition and site preparation
Building and engineering
Machinery and equipment
Working Capital

Amount Limits: Up to 30% of total project cost
Not less than $10,000
No more than $50,000

Terms: Varies with Loan Request
Between 3 to 7 years
Average of 5 years

Rate: Fixed; Half of Prime plus 1.5%
Not less than 4%

Fees: Non-Refundable $100 application
$500-750 Legal (depending upon complexity)
1% Settlement

Special Notes: Job creation/retention a priority, one permanent full-time
position for each $10,000 borrowed
Manufacturing a primary focus with additional emphasis on service industries with job
Funds available by geographic areas: Lehigh and Northampton Counties with supplemental balances
for Bethlehem and Easton
Ideally suited to augment standard bank loans

What qualities do employeers look for?

The above question is something that has come up quite a bit lately, particularly as there are now so many unemployed people that are looking for work. What qualities, exactly, are employers looking for our of potential employees?

We took a quick look on the internet and tried to find some answers. One of the first things we found is that many of the skills and qualities can be identified relatively quickly in a job interview. One example is information that we found from a college career center: they listed communication/interpersonal skills, intelligence, enthusiasm, flexibility, leadership, high energy level, maturity and the prerequisite skill as desirous personality traits.

Another website on job searching listed relatively similar skills, albeit in a different order: communication skills, analytical/research skills, computer/technical literacy, flexibility, interpersonal abilities, leadership skills, problem solving/creativity and teamwork were all listed as good work skills. This website took it another step further and listed ten desirous personal values: honesty/integrity, flexibility, reliability, loyalty, positive attitude, professionalism, self-confidence, self-motivated & willingness to learn.

What about you? Is there anything that you look for but haven't found?

Daily Briefing, 8/5/2009

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

In Northampton County, the budget crisis has hit home, as County Executive John Stoffa said today that he will ask county employees to take voluntary unpaid leave to save money.

In state-wide news, as expected, the House approved a Republican budget yesterday, paving the way for Governor Rendell to veto most of it and sign the bill into law as a "bridge budget" that will allow state workers to be paid. Also, as expected, Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) made his primary challenge to Arlen Specter official. Specter fired back, blasting Sestak via Twitter.

In national news, debate began yesterday for the confirmation of Sonya Sotomayer to the Supreme Court. C-SPAN reports that Sotomayer has the votes to be confirmed.

We have one Chamber event today: a LeBEAM Mixer at Amore Winery.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Welcome, new members!

The Chamber is pleased to welcome the following new members:

AFLAC - Ivan Juricek
1259 South Jefferson Street
(610) 797-6917
Business Type: INSURANCE

Be the Bee Social Media Coaching and Seminars
1605 Stump Road
(610) 628-1071
www.thebeesbuzz.com
Business Type: BUSINESS CONSULTANTS, DEVELOPERS & INCUBATORS

Cafe Verde
60 South Main Street
(908) 454-7477
cafeverde@ymail.com
www.cafeverdenj.com
Business Type: RESTAURANTS & CAFES

Cedar Crest Professional Park Inc.
1251 South Cedar Crest Boulevard
(610) 435-6465
www.cedarcrestpp.com
Business Type: APARTMENTS, LEASING & RENTALS

College Hill Family Practice
412 Monroe Street
(610) 330-0464
Business Type: PHYSICIANS & SURGEONS

Creative Action Coaching LLC
225 Third Street
(610) 730-1069
Business Type: CONSULTING SERVICES & TRAINING

Cutters Bike Shop
418 East Third Street
(610) 419-4027
cuttersbikeshop@yahoo.com
www.cuttersbikeshop.com
Business Type: BICYCLING SALES & REPAIRS

William L. Diehl, Inc.
780 Delaware Avenue
(610) 838-9106
billyldiehl@verizon.net
Business Type: ENGINEERING; SURVEYORS

DJ Mike Z
P.O. Box 213
(484) 661-1923
www.mikezproductions.com
Business Type: DISC JOCKEY

Easton Home Health & Hospice
3421 Nightingale Drive
(484) 536-1300
Business Type: HOSPICE

Eye For Design Studio
383 South Third Street
(610) 377-9706
info@Eye4DesignStudio.com
www.Eye4DesignStudio.com
Business Type: GRAPHIC ARTS

Firestone Complete Auto Care
1751 Airport Road
(610) 266-1151
www.firestonecompleteautocare.com
Business Type: AUTOMOBILE REPAIRS, SERVICES & DETAILING

Freedom by Design
1925 Waldheim Road
(610) 838-0997
jgaither@ptd.net
www.catharinegaitherfbd.com
Business Type: INTERIOR DESIGN & DÉCOR

Grapevine Exhibits
1810 County Line Road, Suite 414
(215) 364-6515
www.GrapevineExhibits.com
Business Type: EXHIBIT DESIGNERS & PRODUCERS

HotDealsAtWork.com LLC
1530 Ciara Drive
(484) 707-9088
info@hotdealsatwork.com
www.hotdealsatwork.com
Business Type: TRAVEL AGENCIES & CRUISE DISCOUNTERS

Howell Benefit Services Inc.
5050 West Tilghman Street, Suite 130
(484) 661-4600
www.howellusa.com
Business Type: EMPLOYMENT SERVICES

J. Kehnel Immediate Concrete Repair, Inc.
4575 Broadway
(610) 366-0208
www.jkehnel.com
Business Type: CEMENT, CONCRETE & RELATED SERVICES

Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges
130 West Greenwich Street
(610) 625-7888
www.lvaic.org
Business Type: ASSOCIATIONS

Lehigh Valley Drycleaning
Corporate Office
1700 Sullivan Trail
(610) 253-4577
lvdc@fast.net
lvdrycleaning.com
Business Type: DRYCLEANERS

Long & Foster Real Estate - Mary Lynn Bonsall
3101 Emrick Boulevard
(610) 865-7776
Business Type: REAL ESTATE APPRAISALS, DEVELOPERS & SERVICES

MBS Credit & Collection Solutions
1227 Liberty Street, Suite 200B
(484) 223-2928
jmacrina@mbsicc.com
www.mbsicc.com
Business Type: COLLECTION AGENCIES

Quaker Maid Kitchens & Baths of the Lehigh Valley
337 Chestnut Street
(610) 437-5088
www.qmklv.com
Business Type: HOME IMPROVEMENT

Rigali's Repair Service
3111 Sherman Avenue
(610) 330-0447
Business Type: AUTOMOBILE REPAIRS, SERVICES & DETAILING

Sanford Alderfer Companies
501 Fairgrounds Road
(215) 393-3000
www.SanfordAlderferCompanies.com
Business Type: AUCTION GALLERIES & AUCTIONEERS

Schechtman Developmental Services
3711-4 Allen Street
(610) 390-5014
Business Type: EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS & ORGANIZATIONS

Sonshine Family Television, Inc WBPH
813 N. Fenwick Street
(610) 433-4400
www.wbph.org
Business Type: TELEVISION PRODUCTION

Sophia's Restaurant & Pizzeria
5 Cedarpark Boulevard
(610) 252-1057
miss.v.48@gmail.com
Business Type: RESTAURANTS & CAFES

Survey Technology and Research Center (STR)
894 Marcon Boulevard, Suite 200
(800) 482-3550
info@strcenter.com
www.strcenter.com
Business Type: RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

Tangles Salon and Spa
2414 Butler Street
(610) 250-7009
info@tanglessalonandspa.com
www.tanglessalonandspa.com
Business Type: SALONS, SPAS & BEAUTY SUPPLIES

United Employment Associates LLC
5740 Lower Macungie Road
P.O. Box 8
(610) 437-5040
www.unitedemployment.com
Business Type: EMPLOYMENT SERVICES

Young's Pharmacy
3708 Freemansburg Avenue
(610) 866-4552
youngspharmacy@choiceonemail.com
Business Type: PHARMACIES & PHARMACEUTICALS

Cobalt Cafe
77 Sands Boulevard
(610) 419-5555
Business Type: RESTAURANTS

Easton Main Street Initiative
158B Northampton Street
(610) 330-9940
www.EastonMainStreet.org
Business Type: NON-PROFIT & NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Network Directions, Inc.
P.O. Box 436
(610) 564-9797
www.networkdirections.us
Business Type: COMPUTER SALES & SERVICES

Good economic news - can YOU feel it?

So, if you've been watching the news lately, you may have seen this, but there appears to be some good news - the economy is looking up.

A variety of factors lead us (and many others) to make this point:
1) The GDP still declined last quarter but at a mere 1%, significantly lower than the 6.3% in the last quarter of 2008 and 6.1% in the first quarter on 2009. The rate of decline was also better than expected.
2) Housing sales increased by 11%, the highest increase since June 2000.
3) The banking sector appears to be on the mend as well, with many (such as Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs) posting profits in the last quarter.
4) The stock market is at its highest point since January.

We obviously aren't there yet, but things are looking up. Trouble remains though, particularly in the labor sector. In the Lehigh Valley, unemployment is at 9%, higher than Pennsylvania's 8.3% but lower than the nationwide rate of 9.5%

So, here is the question - is the recession ending? And, more importantly, can you feel a difference at your business or work?

Tell us what you think!

Daily Briefing, 8/4/2009

Good morning everyone! We are back from our conference, totally re-energized and ready to blog again. Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In the continuing saga of the Saucon Valley School District, teachers have been given an August 14 deadline to accept or reject the "final" contract offer from the school board.


In state-wide news, it comes as no surprise but will finally be official: Joe Sestak will be announcing his primary challenge to Arlen Specter. Meanwhile, in the ongoing budget saga, Governor Rendell appears set to sign a "place-holder" once in is approved by the House of Representatives. The bill will fund basic state and vendor operations but little else as negotiations continue for a permanent budget.

In national news, advocates for the popular "Cash for Clunkers" program were trying to get additional support in the Senate. An estimated $2 in additional funding was needed to keep the program going through Friday. Locally, the program's positive effects are being felt by the region's auto dealers. There has also been quite a bit of talk on how the economy is hurting state and local governments, but not much talk about the tip in federal revenue. Well, we now have some statistics there - tax revenues are expected to drop 18% this year, the largest one-year drop since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the Senate will begin debate on the confirmation of Judge Sonya Sotomayer today, with a likely confirmation vote expected by the end of the week.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a one-on-one with author Harry S Dent, an economist who who predicting a depression. The show will be available online at our website later today. If you are interested in the topic, head over to the Business Matters blog and join in on the debate.

And that's it! Talk to you soon.