Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Media Opportunities through Help a Reporter Out

Every business tries to get as much positive media attention as possible.  And, as those of you in the media industry know, it can sometimes be difficult to find a source for a specific subject.  Thankfully, there is a website that can be very helpful for that.

Help a Reporter Out is a list of over 100,000 individuals.  It's not spam and they don't sell your E-mail.  What you do is sign up to receive their E-mail newsletter.  I've been receiving it for the past couple of days.  The E-mail lists reporters and authors who are looking for a source on a specific type of news story.  If you can be that source, you respond to the reporter.

This is a simple way to bring knowledgeable individuals together with reporters who want their information.  This can be a really useful tool for small businesses and we encourage you to sign up for their E-mail list.

Merchant Circle Business Survey

So this came across our desk and we wanted to share it will all of you.  The information comes to us courtesy of our friends at the Easton Main Street Initiative, and specifically Brian Pitcher of Baby Gift Clouds.  The full survey is available here.  It is a survey is "Merchant's Confidence Index."  Here is a rough summary:

  • Compared to the past 12 months, 68% of merchants surveyed believe the economy is weaker, compared to about 14% who believe it is stronger and 18% who believe it is about the same.
  • 73% of businesses saw a decline during the recession.
  • There is optimism: 40% of businesses believe their revenue will improve in the next three months, while 35% believe it will stay the same.
  • The optimism is limited: 22% believe that the worst of the recession is over, while 47% do not.
  • 6% believe that their business will not survive the recession.
  • Over half of all businesses are already or plan on using Google, Yahoo! and Facebook to promote their business. 

Tech Wednesday's - Google Alerts

Google has revolutionized the internet over the past decade - they are the most visited website in the world and it seems like their reach is expanding with every day.  This is not without merit; Google has an incredibly array of tools that can be useful for any individual or small business, and best of all, most of these tools are absolutely free.

One of those examples is Google Alerts

Description:  Google Alerts is an incredibly simple tool.  You can configure it to alert you whenever a search term of your choosing is captured by Google.  You will get an E-mail whenever one of these searches appears.  For example, say you want to know whenever your business or your name appears in a Google search.  All you do is type your name, fill in the information and hit submit.  That's it.


Features and Benefits:  Without tools like this, it is impossible to keep track of your own brand awareness or when people are talking about you on the internet.  Google also recently made a deal that allowed them to capture real-time search results; it also folds in the search results of Facebook and Twitter, meaning that when your selected search terms are noted on a publicly available page, you can capture it.  E-mails can come to you at varying times - whenever a new result is captured, once-a-day or once-a-week.

Pricing:.Free!  Free free free!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Speed Networking - Little time, lots of value

One of the biggest benefits that we have to offer as a Chamber is networking.  Specifically, we have a speed networking event that we wanted to discuss.  The event is on January 28 at the Corner Bakery in the Lehigh Valley Mall - keep in mind that we can't really fit more than 24 people at the event, so you do have to register early (all of our prior events have sold old). 
Here is how this event works: attendees are assigned to row A or B.  When the bell rings, each person has one minute to talk to the person directly across from them.  After a minute, the bell will ring again and the other person has one minute to do the same (hope you have an elevator pitch planned!).  When the bill rings again, one of the rows will move and the process starts all over.  The purpose of this event is to allow members to network in a very quick and direct matter.  We firmly believe that the most valuable resource to the modern business person is time, and this event reflects just that.

To register for the event, contact Marta at martaa@lehighvalleychamber.org.  

It's well worth it!

Chamber creates new position to help manage Social Media

As the year ends, the Chamber staff is evolving, and we wanted to share the news with you all.  As part of our shift into a more technological world, the Chamber has created a new position.  The position, Assistant Vice President of Technical & Community Management, will be responsible for Social Media in the Chamber world, both in terms of running the Chamber's various initiatives and training small businesses in how to take advantage of this rapidly expanding medium.  The position will also be responsible for Member Retention initiatives, supervising the Borough Business Revitalization Program and assisting in the production of Business Matters.

Mike Schlossberg will be filling this new role (yes, that's me, your resident blogger!). 

The press release itself is below.  You can also read about the promotion in a story in the Express-Times.

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Chamber promotes Mike Schlossberg to role of Assistant Vice President of Technical & Community Management



New position reflects a fundamental shift in communications and networking

Lehigh Valley, PA – December 28, 2009: Tony Iannelli, President & CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, announced today that The Chamber has created the new position of Assistant Vice President of Technical & Community Management.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being an organization that is ahead of the curve when it comes to communications and assisting our businesses succeed and thrive,” said Iannelli. “The fact is that the Chamber has to continue to evolve in order to be in a position to help our members prosper. This isn’t your father’s Chamber anymore.”

Filling the position will be Mike Schlossberg, who currently works for the Chamber is Borough Business Revitalization Coordinator. Schlossberg’s first date on the new job will be January 4, 2010.
Schlossberg’s job responsibilities will include managing The Chamber’s various Social Media initiatives, providing training to Chamber members on how they can use Social Media to help their businesses and assisting the multiple Chamber Councils in enhancing their presence in Social Media. Furthermore, Schlossberg will work in the Chamber’s Member Relation team on increasing member satisfaction; he will also continue to supervise the Borough Business Revitalization Program, The Chamber’s award winning urban revitalization effort.
“What I hope our members understand is that Social Media is not the trend of the future; it is the trend of right now,” said Schlossberg. “It is a fundamental shift in the way that we communicate with each other and represents a golden opportunity for companies to increase their bottom line. One of my top priorities will be to show our members how to use Social Media to help their businesses grow.”

Schlossberg comes into this position well prepared; he has, on a part-time basis, operated The Chamber’s Social Media initiatives for many months. In 2009, Schlossberg was named the Pennsylvania Downtown Center’s Main Street Manager of the Year. He was also named as one of the “Top 40 under 40” staffers by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Daily Briefing, 12/29/2009

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

While most schools are on Christmas break, the Saucon Valley School District was open to make up for days lost during the 12 day teacher's strike earlier in the year.  Overall, one in five students in the district did not attend school yesterday.  In Williams Township, the Chrin Brothers, Inc. application to renew their landfill permit has been approved, although the company will pay fines for prior violations.  Another story on electric deregulation, this one with more numbers: PPL says that 117,000 people have made the switch to another electric supplier with electric deregulation occurring.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a one-on-one interview with Robert Miller of Pegasus Advisors.  The show discussed Massachusetts experience with government-run health care.  The show will be available online later today.

It must be the holidays, because there sure isn't a lot of news to report today. . So, that's it for now, but we'll be back later.  See you then.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Chamber to offer Student Memberships

We just unrolled a new form of membership that we wanted to share with you all.  For the first time, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce will be offering student memberships to high school and college students.  The press release is below, but here's the summary: we want to involve students in the business community and give our members the chance to interact with energetic and engaged future Lehigh Valley leaders.  The cost of membership is $35, which is 10% of what our lowest standard available rate.  Anyone who is interested should connect with Lanita Lum, 610-841-5836 or lanital@lehighvalleychamber.org.

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Chamber to offer new student membership

Chamber seeks to connect energetic and talented students with local businesses

Lehigh Valley, PA – December 28, 2009: Tony Iannelli, President & CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, announced today that The Chamber will now be offering a Special Student Membership that will be available for college and high school students.

“As the largest business organization in the Valley, we believe that we have an obligation to the future leaders of this Valley,” said Iannelli. “We want to ensure that high school and college students have an opportunity to network for job and internship opportunities. We also want to connect students with local businesses and provide our members with a new source of talent and energy.”

Student membership includes:
• Student members receive all email communications
• Student members are provided entry to Chamber sponsored events at member rates
• Student members have access to Chamber Ambassadors at events for networking guidance
• Student members get preferred consideration for Chamber internships

The annual cost of a student membership is $35. This rate is 10% of the smallest available Chamber membership rate. Interested students should contact Lanita Lum, Director of Member Relations, at lanital@lehighvalleychamber.org or 610-841-5836.

New YouTube Video: Where is Your Marketing Taking You

We just uploaded a new video onto YouTube.  This was a breakfast event, held by the Small Business Council of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Lehigh Valley Ad Club (sponsored by Express Employment Professionals) that discussed marketing for small businesses. The event took place at the Four-Points Sheraton in Allentown and was filmed by Northampton Community College. 

The title of the video: Where is Your Marketing Taking You?


Daily Briefing, 12/28/2009

Good morning everyone, and welcome back from the holiday weekend!  We hope you enjoyed it.  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Forks Township, the municipality has announced plans to build one of the greenest municipal buildings in the Valley with the construction of its new $3.7 million public works building.  Lehigh County has been awarded a $2 million grant to enhance the energy efficiency of county buildings.  The grant will be used to pay for new lights, solar energy and boilers.  Speaking of stimulus money, the city of Easton will be spending about $80,000 to equip its police officers with new radios, using a grant that came from stimulus funds.  Two studies are ongoing to examine passenger rail in the Lehigh Valley - one by PennDOT and the other from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

In state-wide news, with climate regulations becoming more stringent, it now appears that the state will be examining a process known as carbon capture and sequestration, whereby carbon dioxide is injected into rocks underground and sealed off. 

In national news, with informal health care negotiations set to begin shortly on reconciling the House and Senate versions of the Health Care Reform bill, House Democrats have said they they are not optimistic about the chances of a public option surviving the Senate.

Business Matters airs today, featuring a one-on-one interview with Robert Miller of Pegasus Advisers.  The show will discuss what Massachusetts has experienced during their time with government health care and what we can learn from them.  The show airs tonight, 8pm on WFMZ-TV.

That's all for now!  We'll be back with at least one entry later today, featuring another guest post.  See you then!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Need a last minute tax-deduction? Go to Goodwill!

We all know that the year is ending and that this is the season of giving.  Based on that, we received a press release from Goodwill - they will be open on New Year's Eve to accept last-minute donations that can be written off.  Here's the message from Jennifer Ross of Goodwill:


After the holidays, we see a dramatic increase in donations. People are seeking a tax deduction, and we depend on this trend. We're hoping this year is no different and the economy doesn't affect donation. People may hang onto things a bit longer than they use to. Since we see a decrease in donations until Spring, we depend on end-of-year donations to provide enough inventory for our stores through the winter months.  Our stores fund a variety of work programs and services for people with disabilities.



And here's the press release:

Donations to Goodwill Offer Last-Minute Tax Deduction

 
(December 22, 2009) – To help with last-minute 2009 tax deductions, Goodwill Stores and Donation Centers will be open until 7pm on New Year’s Eve to accept donations and provide receipts for tax purposes. If you itemize deductions on your federal tax return, you are entitled to claim a charitable deduction for your material or clothing donations to Goodwill.
Federal law permits Goodwill donors can claim tax deductions for donated clothing and household items in good, used condition or better. Donors interested in claiming a tax deduction should create itemized lists. The Internal Revenue Service requires donors to value each item and deduct the fair market value of each item.
On New Year’s Eve, each store will open at its regular scheduled time. For more information and a complete store listing of addresses, phone numbers, and hours, visit yourgoodwill.org.
The mission of Goodwill Keystone Area is to support persons with disabilities and other barriers to independence in achieving their fullest potential as workers and as members of the broader community. In support of the mission, Goodwill collects and sells donated items in more than 30 stores in 22 counties in central and southeastern Pennsylvania. Goodwill’s philosophy is that work is a building block of community and that when people are given an opportunity to work, their self-esteem increases and other problems are minimized.

Tech Wednesday: Get Satisfaction

In our effort to introduce the business community to the newest and latest in low-cost (or free!) technology, we're going to start a new blog initiative called Tech Wednesday.  Our idea here is simple: we're going to start writing about great websites and internet applications that we have found.  We'll summarize what they are and how you can get a use out of them.  Our first such entry is below:

Get Satisfaction - http://www.getsatisfaction.com/

Description:  Get Satisfaction bills itself as "The instant-on support community for sharing answers, ideas and solutions."  Translation:  the website serves as a central location for customers and businesses to ask questions and provide customer support.

Features & Benefits:  The website allows customers to ask questions to companies and allows other customers and company representatives to respond to those questions.  It also serves as a location for feedback, complaints, suggestions, commonly asked questions/common problems and relationship building with and between customers.  Essentially, the site acts as a stream-lined Customer Relationship Management software.

Pricing:   For the basic package, this website is actually free.  For more advanced features, plans run as low as $19/month or as high as $899/month for the best package.


What do you think?  Have any of you used this tool or others like it?

Daily Briefing, 12/23/2009

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


In a survey released yesterday, 10% of Valley employers said they were planning on adding staff over the next quarter while 12% said they were planning on reducing staff - an improvement over the past quarter.  In Bethlehem, City Council approved a budget that increased spending 10% but did not increase taxes.  The additional revenue came from casino host fees.  In Easton, unionized city employees will be getting a raise, but will also be paying an increased share of health care costs.  And in Allentown, the city is set to create a Riverfront tax district that will span 130 acres and result in a total redevelopment of the area, including a new hockey arena. With electric deregulation fast approaching, PPL has announced that 8% of their customers have switched to other suppliers


In state-wide news, witnesses have alleged that the Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House, Todd Eachus, made fundraising calls from inside the Capitol and used legislative staff to assist in political operations.  In other news, the state has announced that it is offering low-interest home loans that could assist up to 11,000 individuals in purchasing homes.

In national news, a vote is set for tomorrow, 8am, for the Senate to vote on final approval of the Senate health care legislation.  The bill is expected to pass 60-40.  Congressman Parker Griffith (AL-5) yesterday switched parties, moving from the Democratic caucus to the Republican.

That's it for now!  We'll have at least one more entry later today and then we are on vacation until Monday.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thinking pragmatically about networking - online and face-to-face

If you've been reading this blog, than you know that we are big advocates for the use of Social Media at The Chamber.  One of the questions we get, on a pretty constant basis, is about the connection between online networking and face-to-face networking.  How do the two work together?  Will online networking replace face-to-face networking?  Has it already?

The answer, as far as I am concerned, is no.  At the Chamber, we don't think that online networking has replaced personal interactions, and I think we all have a hard time imagining that it every will.  That being said, there are two critical points that are worth making.

1.  Social media, in and of itself, will usually (though not always) be insufficient to making a business, event or cause a success.  However, what social media can and should do is act as an important supplement to any and all marketing, promotional and networking efforts.
2.  Using social media from a business perspective is bound to fail if all you do is talk about yourself and your business.  Social media must provide value-added content in order to be successful - this means engaging in conversation, crafting an overall message, providing valuable and interesting information, etc.

Those are our thoughts.  What are yours?

Public Policy Adoption Process

In an effort to be transparent and answer some questions that we have gotten in the past, we wanted to share with you all our Public Policy Adaption Process.  This document shows what steps have to be taken before The Chamber will formally adapt a public policy position.

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1. Any Chamber member or staff member may bring a public policy issue to the attention of the Public Policy Committee Chair or Vice President of Public Policy and request that it be considered for adoption as an “endorsed position” of the Chamber (hereinafter referred to as the “Position”).  The party making the request must complete a short form outlining the details of the proposed Position.
2.        Upon receipt of a request to take a Position, the request will be reviewed by the Public Policy Chair, the Chamber President, the Chamber Chairperson and Vice Chairperson and the Chamber’s Vice President for Public Policy.  A majority vote will determine whether the Position should be considered for adoption by the Public Policy Committee.
3.        If the Position is approved for consideration, the Public Policy Chairperson will appoint an ad hoc review committee of not less than 3 nor more than 5 persons to review the Position and make a recommendation to the Public Policy Committee, within 45 days, as to the direction that the Chamber should take on the Position and the ad hoc review committee shall present to the Public Policy Committee a proposed draft of the Position.  To the extent possible, the ad hoc review committee should be comprised of members with professional or personal familiarity with the issue(s) involved in the Position.  The members of the ad hoc review committee need not be members of the Public Policy Committee.
4.        Contemporaneous with the appointment of the ad hoc review committee, the Chamber will, if feasible, attempt to notify the Chamber membership of the proposed Position and solicit comments and opinions from the membership on the proposed Position.
5.        The Public Policy Committee will then vote on the adoption of the Position (majority vote).
6.        If the Public Policy committee rejects adopting a Position, the Public Policy Committee may determine that it wishes to pursue the issue by educating and informing the Chamber membership.
7.        If the Position is adopted by the Public Policy Committee, it will then go to the Executive Committee for a vote, and, if approved, to the Chamber Board of Governors for a final vote.

Daily Briefing, 12/22/2009

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

First, a warning to all Lehigh Valley drivers: lanes on Route 22 will be shut down again today.  In Allentown, in what many are calling a sign of the times, three Catholic schools are considering consolidating into one after enrollment has declined 50% over the past eight years.  In local budget news, Bethlehem Township passed a $14.74 million budget that does not contain a tax hike.

In national news, the government is expected to announce today that the economy grew 2.8% last quarter in its final projection of 3rd quarter growth.  It is also believed that 4th quarter growth is likely to increase 4%.  A recent survey by the government also shows that borrowers who modified their mortgage loan payments had lower rates of default than those who did not modify.

An interesting story on the changing nature of business: after this weekend's snow storm, online sales jumped 22% compared to the same time last year, likely a result of pent-up demand for shoppers who couldn't get out of their homes to buy the gifts they needed.  Incidentally, WFMZ ran a story featuring local merchants who said that their sales did take a hit as a result of the snow.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a one-on-one interview with Dr. Eliott Sussman of Lehigh Valley Health Network.  The show will be available online later today; you can also check out the Business Matters Blog for more information on the show and to debate the topic of health care reform.

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Blog Post - Travel - An Abudence of Options Await You

We have another guest post for you - this one on the state of the travel and the options (and there are many!) that are available for you.  This entry comes to us courtesy of Julia Horn at Iobst Travel.  If you are interested in learning more about the travel industry (or on going on a vacation!), we encourage you to contact them!
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The travel industry is wrapping up one of the most challenging years ever, yet we remain optimistic for
the coming year. New hotels have popped up, bigger and better cruise ships are setting sail, and the
marketplace is ready with open arms.

2009 has seen the arrival of the largest, most innovative cruise ship at sea. Oasis Of The Seas introduced
by Royal Caribbean International debuted this month featuring 7 unique neighborhoods, new and
exciting entertainment, and a 6700 guest capacity! That is a lot of beds to fill! On the other side of the
market, Las Vegas featured their grand opening of City Center. An amazing city scape on the strip with
three new resorts and luxury condos, spas, dining, and entertainment galore! Did Vegas really need
more of that…probably not, but it will be the hottest spot in 2010.

Most indications for travelers in the coming year show they have a feeling of stability…translation- a
pent up demand for vacations! The options available are bigger and better! I am amazed, considering
the state of the union, the exciting new opportunities popping up all over the world. If it isn’t new, it
has seen a huge re-do… For instance, Manhattan has some new gems... The Pierre Hotel has enjoyed a
$100 million makeover. The Surrey, with a $60 million investment, has made it quite chic with an
excellent spa!

If you have not been to New Orleans since Katrina, you must go! The French Quarter is thriving, the
food is just as fabulous, and the people are most welcoming.

Believe it or not, the Caribbean is going to see many changes this year. The first Hard Rock Hotel will
have its grand opening this spring in the Dominican Republic. Another romantic Sandals Resort has
opened on the island of Exuma, part of the chain of Bahamian Islands. Sandals Emerald Bay is all butler
service and all oceanfront. This property was formerly the luxurious Four Seasons Resort, and now
boasts the Sandals Ultra Luxury brand. Sandals does not disappoint as a couples only all inclusive resort
chain.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 2010 is the return of the Oberammergau Passion Play, which for the
past four centuries has occurred every 10 years in Germany. Only the local villagers can take part, and
they spend a year of their life re-acting the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is a small Bavarian
village set in the Ammer River Valley, which is offers easy access to explore Germany, Austria, and
Switzerland. This event is a must see and always sells out! Combine it with Oktoberfest for an even
jollier time!

Israel had a record year in 2008, with a significant drop in 2009 due to the economy and political
situation, and is expecting a good year in 2010. Israel is a unique destination, with a 45% repeat visitor
rate; it attracts religious pilgrimages as well as those looking to stamp their passports. Two of the major
cruise lines will be returning to Haifa and Ashdod this year after almost an 8 year hiatus. Might I add
Israel is a destination that requires an informative guide to really make your trip worthwhile. There is
an unbelievable amount of dates and facts to absorb!

Before we end our journey across the globe, we must stop in South America. The Chilean Patagonia
area is increasingly becoming a hot spot for my favorite type of traveler…The adventurers.
Chile has experienced an explosion of visitors in recent years with a slew of top hotel chains popping up
to accommodate them, and has been ranked in the top 10 countries that promote tourism responsibly.
They work hard to provide real benefits to their communities. Besides the amazing wines being
produced and culinary riches, there is a lot of adventure to be had. You can do some serious hiking,
biking, and ultimate skiing. Join Where in the World is Matt Lauer and hop over to Easter Island or if
you’re a cosmo…then Santiago is for you!

Mmmm now I am wondering how I can get a gig like Matt Lauer? The Adventures of Lehigh Valley’s
Adventurous Travel Agent Julia Horn? Nice ring to it…

Hope you enjoy a prosperous new year and your journeys create memorable experiences to last a
lifetime!

Daily Briefing, 12/21/2009

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

The Express Times runs a story on the 15th Congressional District race between incumbent Charlie Dent (R-15) and Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D), noting that the attacks have started early as both candidates have already launched negative ads against each other.  Some budget news out of Lower Macungie Township, as the municipality passed a budget that, once again, does not contain a property tax - although this year's budget does use budgetary reserves in order to balance.  The municipality also approved a transportation impact fee, meaning that builders will have to pay on a per-vehicle basis for new development in Macungie.  The fee will help pay for transportation improvements that are needed as a result of the development.  The parent company of WLEV and Cat County 96, Citadel Broadcasting, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  Citadel has said that their business will "continue as usual."


In state-wide news, a recent audit shows that the expansion of the state's Right-To-Know law is working, with 85% of requests for information being granted.

There was a huge vote early this morning in the Senate, and by a 60-40 vote, the Senate voted to stop debate on the proposed health care reform bill.  The vote all but assures that the Senate will pass health care reform before Christmas.

Business Matters airs today, and in a case of great timing, features a one-on-one interview with Dr. Elliot Sussman, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Health Network.  You can watch the show tonight at 8pm WFMZ-TV, and make sure you check out the Business Matters Blog to join in the debate - incidentally, the blog has has a very active debate on health care over the past few days!

That's it for now!  We have a guest blog entry later today, so make sure you check us out later in the morning.  Have a great day!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

USA Today Story - Slow growth in formerly booming states

Here's an interesting story from USA Today.  The summary: the U.S. is still growing, but slowly, and the growth has dramatically decreased in states where it had been exploding.

The key points:
  • The U.S. population grew to 307 million, up 0.86%, the slowest growth rate this decade.
  • More people moved from Florida & Nevada than moved in.
  • Most of the U.S. growth occurred in the West, with eastern states like Ohio losing population at a dramatic rate.
  • Based on demographic shifts, Pennsylvania stands to lose one House of Representatives member during the next redistricting.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poll - Legislative Bodies aren't too popular

Given all of the drama that our Pennsylvania legislature has endured this year, I thought this was an interesting poll to share.

According to polls conducted in New York and California, only 17% of respondents approve of their state legislatures.  These numbers are only slightly worse than the approval/disapproval numbers that the U.S. Congress has, with the most recent data indicating that a mere 22% of poll respondents approve of the job that Congress is doing, while 68% disapprove. 

What is it about legislatures that seems to inspire ratings like this?  And, perhaps more interestingly, why is it that overwhelming amounts of incumbents are usually reelected even in the most toxic of political climates?

We'd like to hear your thoughts!

Daily Briefing, 12/19/2009

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

Congressman Charlie Dent can expect a primary challenge in the upcoming election, as Mathew Benol, a local Tea Party activist, has announced his intention to run against Dent in the upcoming Republican primary.  The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission announced yesterday that PPL owes its customers $30 million after overcharging customers for investments in PPL power plants.  As a result, PPL customers can expect a $2 credit on their bills through 2010.  In local budget news, Lower Saucon Township approved their budget yesterday - the budget had no tax hike.


In state-wide news, Governor Rendell has approved $700 million in university subsidies to four Pennsylvania colleges - but he has also said that at least 1,000 state employees will be laid off if table games are not approved by January 8.  A poll released yesterday shows that Attorney General Tom Corbett continues his early lead in the Pennsylvania Governor's race, easily leading all Democratic contenders and the Republican primary, although large amounts of undecided voters remain in each race.  In the Democratic primary, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato maintains a slim lead in the five-way race, but again, there are massive amounts of undecided voters.

President Obama has traveled to Copenhagen to address the COP15 Climate Change conference, calling on world leaders to make signifigent changes to address growing climate problems throughout the world.  In the ongoing health care debate, the Senate now needs to debate day and night in order to meet a Christmas deadline for passing health care legislation.

We have two Chamber events today: a Small Business Council breakfast and a Valley Social party featuring Chrissy Iannelli.

And that's it for now!  We'll be back later today. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How bad is the average American's commute? Comparatively speaking...not too bad....

The Economist recently reported on a study done by Regus, a property company.  The study examined the average commuting times across the world, surveying 11,000 people in 13 countries.  I think its safe to say that Americans are located in a very auto-centric society, and if there is one thing that we are used to in the Lehigh Valley, its traffic jams.  So, you'd think America would be pretty high on the list, right?

Wrong.

Of the thirteen countries surveyed, America ranked as having the 2nd shortest commuting time.  The results:

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Belgium
  4. Germany
  5. Mexico
  6. France
  7. Britain
  8. South Africa
  9. Netherlands
  10. Australia
  11. Spain
  12. United States
  13. Canada
By way of comparison - 32% of those in China surveyed indicated that they had considered leaving their job as a result of the commute.  In America, that number was halved, with only 16% of respondents answering the same.

What to do if your Facebook or Twitter account is hacked

This actually just happened to my coworker here at The Chamber, and it occurred to me that with so many new people on Facebook and Twitter, you may not realize when your account has been hacked or what to do if it is.

How to tell if your account (or a friend's) is hacked:
If you get a non-nonsensical message or see a wall post that doesn't make sense or seems out of character/has many spelling mistakes, chances are pretty good that the account has been hacked.  For my coworker, it was "Smashing Record Along with You!" followed by a link to a webpage.  "OMG is this you in this video?" is another pretty common one, and there are many variations.  Most important thing here:  if you see something like this, DON'T CLICK ON THE LINK.  That will infect your computer as well.

What to do if your account is hacked:
1.  If it's a wall post on Facebook, click the "Remove" button on the right of the subject.  This will remove it from your profile and from the news-feed.
2.  Change your password, right away!  To do so in Facebook, click Settings, then Account settings, then Password and follow the instructions.
3.  Post a message in your status update saying that your Account was hacked and that NO ONE should click on a funny-looking link that was supposedly sent from you.  Here's exactly what my coworker typed: "ACCOUNT HACKED 5 minutes ago. Do not accept any video email posts from me! Thanks!"
4.  Run anti-virus software.  Never a bad idea after something like this.


Below is Security info from Facebook.  I hope this is helpful!


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It is possible that malicious software was downloaded to your computer or that your password was stolen by a phishing website designed to look like Facebook. Please carefully follow the steps provided:
  1. Run anti-virus software: If your computer has been infected with a virus or with malware, you will need to run anti-virus software to remove these harmful programs and keep your information secure.
  2. Reset password: From the Account Setting page, you will need to create a new password. Be sure to use a different password than you use for other sites or services, made up of a complex string of numbers, letters, and punctuation marks that is at least six characters in length. Do not use words found in the dictionary.
  3. Never click suspicious links: It is possible that your friends could unwillingly send spam, viruses, or malware through Facebook if their accounts are infected. Do not click this material and do not run any ".exe" files on your computer without knowing what they are. Also, be sure to use the most current version of your browser as they contain important security warnings and protection features. Current versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer warn you if you have navigated to a suspected phishing site, and we recommend that you upgrade your browser to the most current version. You can also find more information about phishing and how to avoid it at http://www.antiphishing.org/consumer_recs.html and http://onguardonline.gov/phishing.html.

    Phishing is an online attempt to trick a user by pretending to be an official login page or an official email from an organization that you would have an account with, such as a bank or an email provider, in order to obtain a user’s login and account information. In the case of a phishing login page, the login page may look identical to the login page you would normally go to, but the website does not belong to the organization you have an account with (the URL web address of the website should reflect this). In the case of a phishing email, the email may look like an email you would get from the organization you have an account with and get emails from, but the link in the email that it directs you to takes you to the above phishing login page, rather than a legitimate login page for that organization.

    To prevent your account information from being obtained in a phishing scheme, only log in to legitimate pages of the websites you have an account with. For example, "www.facebook.example.com" is not a legitimate Facebook page on the "www.facebook.com" domain, but "www.facebook.com/example" is a legitimate Facebook page because it has the "facebook.com" domain. When in doubt, you can always just type in "facebook.com" into your browser to return to the legitimate Facebook site.
If you are still unable to access your profile, please send us more information regarding the issue so we can investigate. Please submit your report here.

Daily Briefing, 12/17/2009

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

The conflict between teachers and the school board in the Saucon Valley School District, with the School Board approving a teacher's contract by a 5-3 vote.  In Bangor, the Borough adopted a budget that includes a 1.5 mill tax raise - smaller than the initially proposed 2 mill tax raise after Borough employees volunteered to give up raises for the year.  In Northampton County, County Executive Stoffa wants to save money and will do so by trying to renegotiate labor contracts with the County's 11 unions.


In state-wide news, the Pennsylvania Senate approved its own version of tables games by a 27-22 vote - but the vote differs from the version passed by the House on local issues and smaller "resort" casinos, and House leaders say that this version of the bill will not pass.

In national news, Time yesterday announced their 2009 Person of the Year: Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Meanwhile, with the outcome in doubt, President Obama will head to the world-wide climate summit in Copenhagen tomorrow.

We have one Chamber event today: a mixer at 3900 Hamilton Blvd.

That's all for now!  Have a great day, and we'll be back later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Valley Social Cover Model Party - Christina Iannelli


There is a great event coming up that we wanted to give a plug for.  The event features the lovely young woman in this picture to the right, Chrissy Iannelli (yes, the daughter of the Chamber's very own Tony Iannelli).  Chrissy is a model and NBA Dancer who is featured on the cover of the most recent Valley Social magazine.

The event itself begins this Friday, December 18, 5:30pm at Daniels BMW (4600 Crackersport Road, Allentown).  Here are the details from the Facebook page:

"Join Valley Social Magazine and this issues cover model Christina Iannelli at Daniels BMW for the first event of the night for cocktails, hors d'ouerves and live entertainment from 5:30-8:30pm then an exclusive afterparty at the hot new Infusion Lounge at Sands Casino from 10:00pm - 2:00am. Don't miss this special night!!"

The event is free and open to the public!  We hope to see you there!

What do you want from The Chamber's blog?

One of the things we pride ourselves on at The Chamber is being a bottom-up organization.  In the past few months, we have become increasingly active in the realm of Social Media.  In addition to this blog, we operate a Facebook Page, a LinkedIn Group, a YouTube Channel and a Twitter Feed, as well as a series of offerings in Social Media training.  We use these various tools to better connect with our members, policy makers and the Lehigh Valley as a whole.  If you follow what we discuss at all, you know that we try to offer a broad array of value-added content, providing information and advice, as well as assisting our members in networking and promoting their various business initiatives.

So, here is where these two items connect.  We think we've been doing a good job at providing content to those who follow us online - all five of our Social Media tools have seen steady increases in participation and visitors.  But, we want to be better.

Here is our question: What would you like to see on our Social Media?  Do you want to see more information on business advice?  More online networking opportunities?  Information about public policy?  Local events?  The Chamber itself?  How can we better serve you?

Comments and responses are VERY appreciated!

A Call To Action: Do You Pledge to Buy Lehigh Valley?


Obviously, one of our main goals at The Chamber is to promote local businesses.  It's good for our economy and its good for our members.  As such, we are proud promoters of the Buy Lehigh Valley pledge.

The pledge is simple: businesses, whether they are members or not, pledge to shift 5% of their spending from out of the Valley to back in.  According to our statistics, if every business in the Valley took this pledge, an additional $100 million would be spent in the Lehigh Valley.

A Call to Action:
Have you taken the Buy Lehigh Valley pledge?  You can do so right here: just leave your business name and a contact person in the comments, reply to the Facebook/LinkedIn note, or send us a Tweet at @GLVCC.


We encourage you to do your part to help the Lehigh Valley grow! 

Daily Briefing, 12/16/2009

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

In Allentown, despite City Council's veto of the Mayor's budget, the budget takes effect today as a result of stipulations in the City Charter.  Attorney General Tom Corbett announced three more incitements as part of the ongoing Bonusgate investigation.  Announced yesterday was the indictment of Representative Bill DeWeese (D-50), former Revenue Secretary and State Representative Steve Stetler and an aide to DeWeese.  DeWeese resigned his post as Majority Whip and Stetler his as Revenue Secretary.  Meanwhile, the House voted yesterday to legalize table games and send the bill to the Senate.  The Senate is expected to take up the bill immediately and possibly vote on it as soon as today.

We have one Chamber event today: a joint lunch between the East Penn and Western Lehigh Chambers of Commerce.

Hmm, slow news day today!  That's it for now though - we should be back at least once later.  See you then!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Great Facebook Promotion from one of our members

One of our Chamber member's is running a great promotion that we wanted to share with you for its originality.

Christine's Secret Garden is an exotic tea business sells tea and related items.  Christine recently started a Facebook fan page and is actively using the page to market her business.  As part of her effort to build the page's fan page, Christine has created a unique promotion.  From Christine:  "For every 50 people that become a fan, I will select one name for a $5.00 gift certificate.  If some one refers 10 fans, the person doing the referring will receive a gift."

Obviously, we are big proponents of Social Media at The Chamber and think this is a great idea, and something that should be replicated by other businesses.

(Fair warning: shameless plug approaching!) For those of you who are interested in learning more, The Chamber is running a training on using Social Media to provide value added content.

Daily Briefing, 12/15/2009

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

In the Saucon Valley School District, the local Teachers' Union has voted to accept the most recent labor contract.  The ongoing dispute, which has caused two separate strikes, must now be voted on by the Saucon Valley School Board.  Speaking of school boards, the Bethlehem Area School Board has received an $88,000 grant that allows it to restart previously transportation cut SPARK program.  The program serves low income 3 and 4 year olds in the district.  Meanwhile, Lehigh Valley police departments have received $1.3 million in funding from the federal government - the money will go to fund region-wide radio upgrades and help build a regional crime-fighting center.  In huge real estate news, Lehigh Valley home sales jumped 86% from the same month last year.  While that rate of growth cannot possibly continue, realtors believe that the extension of the tax break for home purchases will continue to accelerate sales.  Meanwhile, the political season has begun early in the Valley, as Congressman Charlie Dent (R-15) has bought radio ads attacking Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D), his presumed opponent in the race for the 15th Congressional District.


In state-wide news, table games were approved yesterday by a 97-95 vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  The House also approved funding for Pennsylvania state universities.  The bill now moves onto the State Senate.  In the upcoming Governor's race, Attorney General John Corbett leads all five Democrats in a poll released yesterday; however, Corbett never breaks 50% in any of the hypothetical match-ups, which leads analysts to conclude that the race is still very much open for anyone.

In national news, Senator John Lieberman's threat to filibuster the proposed Senate Health Care reform legislation - which included a Medicare buy-in for those over 55 - appears to have worked, with Senate Democrats appearing to be ready to remove the Medicare buy-in from the legislation.  And, in more good news when it comes to banking, Wells Fargo has said it will repay the $25 billion it was loaned as part of the TARP bank bailout of last year.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a heated debate on whether or not public funding should be used towards the arts.  You can catch the show online later today.

That's it for now!  We'll be back at least once later today.  Have a great day!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Another casualty of the recession: spending on higher education

We found this interactive map via Good.  It is an interesting (and depressing) way of displaying how state budgetting on higher education fared in the past fiscal year.  As you would expect, the answer: not well.  Here are the facts:

  • On average, states cut spending to higher education 6% this past budget cycle.  
  • Pennsylvania was slightly above the national average, cutting its spending 7% from the previous year. 
  • Somehow, five states managed to increase spending on higher education: North Dakota (one of only two states not in debt this year), Texas, Alaska, Maryland and West Virginia.  
  • On the other end of the spectrum, thirteen states cut spending more than 12%.  Not surprisingly, these are the states that we most frequently hear about having budget problems: California, Nevada, Florida, Illinois, etc.

The Chamber Kicks Off Advanced Social Media Training

Over the course of last year, we held three very successful introduction courses to Social Media.  Based on the overwhelming positive response, we are very pleased to announce the introduction of our Advanced Social Media Training!  The details are below:

You're On Social Media...Now What?

Thursday, January 28, 3:00 - 5:00pm
Chamber Offices (561 Main Street, Suite 200, Bethlehem)
$49 member cost, $79 nonmember

Social Networking provides a great way for you to engage current and new customers in a wide variety of ways..but, if poorly utilized, you will do nothing but waste your own time and time of potential businesses. This training will teach you how to provide critically needed value-added content that will keep people visiting your social networking sites and utimately using your business.

Detailed handouts will be provided so you can get started as soon as you get back to your computer.
You won't know how much business you are losing till you get in the game! You need to attend and take advantage of this important training opportunity.

For more information contact Michael Schlossberg at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.
To register contact Marta Anglade at martaa@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Daily Briefing, 12/14/2009

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

The Morning Call runs a great story on a conflict between the two County Executives and the current administration at Lehigh Valley International Airport.  The Call also runs a story on the upcoming electric deregulation and the choices that it presents to PPL customers when it comes to who will supply power to customers (incidentally, if you are a business, than the Chamber has a great electric supply program for you that can dramatically help reduce your costs).  In Bethlehem, local authorities note that the Sands Casino has not let to a massive uptick in crime, although some communities, like Hellertown, have said that it has led to an increase in certain criminal offenses.


In state-wide news, Pennsylvania's political elite spent the weekend in New York at the annual Pennsylvania Society, a weekend extravaganza of schmoozing and fundraising.  Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is considering legislation that would require that any state construction firm that receives a state contract use a system that would determine if their employees are illegal immigrants.

In national news, the Senate approved a $447 spending bill this weekend that ensures that several government agencies will be able to continue to operate.  The bill was approved 57-35 along mostly party lines.

Business Matters airs today, featuring a debate about whether or not public funding should go to the arts.  This was a pretty contentious one.  It will air at 8:00pm tonight on WFMZ-TV.  You can also join in the debate at the Business Matters blog.

That's it for now!  We'll hopefully be back later today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Daily Briefing, 12/11/2009

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

Some gaming news to lead off today: Easton will receive $450,000 of the estimated $1.8 million that the Valley will receive in tax dollars from table games, if and when they are legalized.  Easton did not receive any of the money from slots.  In Northampton County, however, some Council members are considering suing Bethlehem over disagreements for the way that Bethlehem is spending portions of the casino money.  Speaking of Northampton County, the County passed its 2010 budget - a budget that, after cuts, included no tax increases, despite Executive Stoffa's original call for a 9% tax increase. 

In state-wide news, former State Representative Sean Ramaley has been acquitted of all charges related to the Bonusgate scandal.  The trail result is a political blow to Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is also running for Governor.

In national news, a survey notes that only 4% of troubled mortgages have received help under programs established by the Obama administration.  New numbers indicate that patent filings have fallen from the previous year's filings - the first time in 13 years this has happened.  And, for the 14th straight money, the U.S. government spent more money than it took in, this month recording a $120.3 billion deficit.

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Obama jobs plan

The Obama administration recently announced its plan to stimulate jobs creation and assist small businesses.  It seemed like a topic that was worth a closer look.  Here are some of the highlights of Obama's proposed legislation:

  • Incentives for small businesses, more road construction money and rebates to home-owners who engage in energy conservation improvements, such as home weatherization.
  • Elimination of the capital-gains tax of small businesses.
  • Extension, through 2010, of a $250,000 tax-write off for small businesses.
  • Extension of a tax break that allows businesses to deduct capital expenses.
  • Elimination of fees and extension of government guarantees for loans through the Small Business Administration.
  • Increase in overall infrastructure spending.
  • Increase in subsides for green jobs.
  • Extension of unemployment benefits and other social safety-net measures.
The measure would be paid for, at least in part, by repaid loans from the TARP bank-bailout.

Guest Post: Why Should a Business Owner Care about Social Media?

So, in an effort to make our blog more diverse and reflective of our membership, we're going to start having our members write guest posts.  This post comes to us courtesy of Donna Hosfeld of Hosfeld Insurance.  Donna has done a great job of appropriately using social media to push her business and has proven that social media can help any small business, even fields that you wouldn't normally associate with this area (like insurance). 

Her post is below.  By the way, if anyone else would be interested in writing a guest post on a topic of your choosing, please E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org and let me know!

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WHY SHOULD A BUSINESS OWNER CARE ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA?




When asked to write a “guest article” for the Chamber Blog, I was flattered. Confused and bumfuzzled as to what perspective I should take, but still excited about the opportunity.

Ignoring social media would be ridiculous. Thinking it is something that will go away is just as crazy. Yet, many others still give me an “eye roll” or a chuckle when they hear that I post, tweet and blog. Odd, isn’t it? As a business owner, one needs to be alert and aware of what’s going on outside the box. We operate within the box we’ve created. Yet, we reach out on a daily basis to those outside of it. By recognizing the reach of social media, we simply extend our ability to communicate with the world around us.

I started with Linked In. It was easy to use and understand. It seemed “safe” because there were many other business professionals using it. My online resume and page did the same thing as my business website. It made me “real” and credible. Yet, it also did more. It “linked” me to other people I knew and ultimately other people I hadn’t yet met in the real world. The web of networking was never so clear and visualized.

Facebook looked like a fun thing. I didn’t really see it as anything that made sense for business, but it had all the bells and whistles that would make anyone intrigued! It was a virtual amusement park for adults! There are games and quizzes that could engage one for hours. Heck, I learned I type 92 words per minute, faster than in high school! Who said this aging thing was bad? Then the photo section! Wow! In minutes, I could “visit” high-school classmates, the countries they’ve visited, their pets, their kids…and I could post mine, too! Like Grandma at the grocery store when she pulls out her wallet to show off the grandkids…I could “whip out” my virtual wallet of history to show whenever I wished! Updating is addictive. Realizing how much we love to communicate didn’t surprise me. We’re human. But being able to process what all of my friends are doing throughout a day or week is amazing. With a telephone or email, we might know what a few are doing. But with this? Wow.

Soon I found Facebook had an option for the business! A “business page” linked to my personal page allows me to inform and advise “fans” when something interesting crosses my insurance radar screen. I can send updates about weather situations, seminars, open houses, helpful tips and news! Kind of like having my own personal podium out in the middle of Main Street!

Getting cocky with my newfound skills, I figured it was time to start a blog. Months before, I didn’t even know what a blog was. It sounded nasty…didn’t it involve a gelatinous monster that was going to eat the city? I watched enough late-night television to know that there was danger ahead for Will Robinson.



But I forged ahead and made friends with the program. You can insert photos, videos, do all kinds of creative things. Again, it became one more way to share the information I had with others. The blog is now a part of my regular website (www.hosfeldinsurance.com) and it can be updated anytime! I can do it myself, whenever I have something relevant to say. I no longer have to make my web guy nuts every time I feel a need to add something…I can do it from anywhere! He handles the big website stuff, but this is so within my skill set!

What else could there be? Ah, little grasshoppers…there was still the Mighty Twitter. I had signed up for it, decided it was useless, stupid and difficult. Made no sense. Who could ever get a point across with 140 characters? And who was listening? Strangers? No thanks. I closed the account.

Perplexed that I was missing something, I tried it again. There HAD to be something to this thing! I “followed” some folks who seemed reputable. I let them “follow” me. The whole thing screamed “STALKER” to me…

When my first stranger “followed” me, I freaked. Why would she do this? Who is she? What does she want? Oh, Lord, what have I started? I consulted with a friend who is a “social media guru” and he assured me that this is the way Twitter is SUPPOSED to work…that this was a GOOD thing. Whew! Who knew?

Eventually, I got it. I made friends with folks I’d never met! I then met them at organized gatherings at local bars and restaurants. I realized how cool this thing really was! Suddenly, I “knew” people from various towns, jobs, age groups, just through meeting on Twitter! After meeting in person, tweeting with them became even more fun!

Emoticons have become my friends. I can LOL with the best of them. I tweet with my tweeps on Twitter and I sponsor Tweetups. Oh yeah, it’s that crazy!

These venues exist and prosper because we’re human. We want to communicate. We want to share. Work is busy, life is busy…yet, with a few spare seconds, you can still reach out and know there are others out there with similar experiences. We may not have time to sit at the diner for coffee, or at the pub for a beer, but we can “chat” via the Blackberry anytime, anywhere.

When I started my insurance agency in 1998, I was incredibly lonely. Working alone, there were many days the only person I saw was the postman. Four walls and a telephone. Cold-calling strangers is not as fun as you might think.

Had that been 2009 instead of 1998, I would have had a network of “links” “friends” and “tweeps” upon which to rely. Whether you have a sick cat, a flat tire, or a bad case of the flu…there are folks who are a keystroke away from offering advice and/or a kind word of encouragement. From a personal standpoint, or a business one, this is invaluable. Fewer than 140 characters “Hang in there” “Congratulations” or “Go get ‘em” can mean the world when you need to hear them.

By providing a free-flowing stream of fresh information and data, Twitter rocks. By “following” the right folks, you are up-to-the-minute on local or global news, weather, traffic or any subject that intrigues you. Earthquakes on the other side of the world are tweeted before you see them on CNN! You can know when that new Thai restaurant opens…you can see the fabulous pasta dish that someone ordered within seconds of it arriving at their table!

I’ve been able to be a resource to others as well. Whether it’s answering a basic insurance question or arranging to meet for a personal review of someone’s policy, these models allows conversations to occur. Late at night, I can chat on the Blackberry, having conversations I wouldn’t ordinarily have in my pajamas chugging hot chocolate!

Time sucker you say? Not as much as you might think. Relatives have asked me when I find time to work since they see me on Facebook “so much”. Truth is, I work a lot. But because I can communicate from anywhere on that Blackberry, I use those empty time pockets to post. Whether I’m waiting for the dentist, bored during the commercials, or just being a passenger in a car…I can share things in an instant. Maybe it’s an amazing sunset. An astounding plate of chili-cheese fries. Or an update on a bad traffic situation. Most of what I post is useful, relevant or fun. Hopefully, all three!

Will social media replace regular networking? Never. The virtual interplay is enhanced by “meetups” and “tweetups” and informal gatherings for coffee. We’re human. We still like to see smiling faces, hear chuckles and giggles, and connect with warm, firm handshakes. Social media options simply provide valuable introductions before we enter a room.

We need not worry about our world becoming cold and impersonal. These simple tools allow us to go back to the playground and “make friends” on the most basic terms. The rules didn’t change. It’s easy. Just like Mama taught us, BE NICE, SHARE and HAVE FUN!



@hosfeldinsuranc (On Twitter)

Hosfeld Insurance, LLC (On Facebook)

www.hosfeldinsurance.com

Daily Briefing, 12/10/2009

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


In local tax news, the Borough of Emmaus increased taxes 6%.  In Bethlehem, 324 new parking meters will be installed and meter hours will increased from 6pm - 9pm in an attempt to plug a 9.5% revenue shortfall for the Bethlehem Parking Authority.  In Easton, city Council passed its 2010 budget; the budget has no tax increases.  There's good news when it comes to home sales; numbers produced by the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors have shown that home sales doubled in November when compared to last year.  There was also good news on a national level, with foreclosures filings decreasing 8%, the fourth straight month that such filings went down.  Slightly north of the Valley, Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta (R) has announced that he will make a third run for Congress against Democrat Paul Kanjorski.


In state-wide news, tax revenues were down 2% against projections, leading Governor Rendell to say that more state layoffs may be necessary event if table games are legalized and reach his desk.  Speaking of gaming, Sands revenue and the revenue of casinos state-wide took a hit last week, dropping 10%, as is standard for the industry for this time of year.

Today is a busy day at The Chamber, as we are holding three events: the Easton Area Chamber of Commerce is holding their holiday luncheon, there is a grand opening for Phoenicia's, a new restaurant in downtown Easton, and a mixer at the Liberty Bell Shrine in Allentown.

That's it for today!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Report: 29 states increase taxes

A report from the National Governor's Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers can best be summed up as follows:  OUCH.  29 states increased taxes this past budget year.  The key points:
  • 29 states increased taxes, bringing in an extra $23.9 billion.
  • 11 states increased personal income taxes, bringing in $10.7 billion in new revenue.
  • 22 states (and Puerto Rico) used layoffs.
  • 23 states used across the board cuts. 
The conclusion that we can draw from this report is just another restatement of the obvious: governments are down on their revenue as well.

Daily Briefing, 12/8/2009

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

According to a new local survey, 75% of companies plan on maintaining their current staffing level for the first quarter of 2010 - a number that is slightly above the 73% national rate, although both numbers show an improvement from previous quarters.  In the Borough of Nazareth, Borough Council voted to increase property taxes by 7.8%.  According to a consultant hired by Northampton County for the purposes of property assessment, the Bethlehem Sands property has a market value of $250 million, a number that is lower than expected.  And speaking of Northampton County, Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle was sworn in as a Bangor Area School Board Director yesterday, a move which some believe is illegal.  DA John Morganelli is currently seeking a court order to determine if that is in fact the case.

In state-wide news, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is set to vote today on the legalization of table games.  The initial tax rate on the measure would be 16%, with 2% to be split by local and county governments and the rest going to the state.  The federal Environmental Protection Agency yesterday found carbon dioxide and other related gases to be dangerous; as a result, new regulations could come into effect that will raise energy costs.  This could be particularly expensive in Pennsylvania.  The U.S. Senate is set to vote today on an amendment to the health care reform bill that would ban abortion funding - and our Senator Casey is a co-sponsor of the measure.

In national news, President Obama is set to propose the creation of a $200 billion jobs program, using TARP bailout money that has been paid back.  Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, said yesterday that it is too soon to know whether or not the current economic recovery will be a permanent one. 

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a one-on-one interview with Auditor General and Democratic candidate for Governor Jack Wagner.  The show will be online later today, and you can also check out the Business Matters blog for more info on the show.

We have one Chamber event today: the Women's Business Council is holding their Holiday Tea & Tree party.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chamber publicity in the wake of Obama's visit

So, unless you don't live in the Lehigh Valley or have been living under a rock for the past week, you know that President Obama was in the Valley on Friday.  As a result, we saw quite a bit of media coverage in the area, and The Chamber was fortunate enough to have its voice heard in a variety of stories on the President's visit.  Here are some of the examples:

WFMZ:  http://wfmz.com/view/?id=1309012
TONY IANNELLI: I do believe the private sector will specifically be the driver of the new economy and we need to set a stage that will allow then to be profitable.

WFMZ:  http://wfmz.com/view/?id=1309012
>> TONY IANNELLI: I do believe the private sector will specifically be the driver of the new economy and we need to set a stage that will allow then to be profitable.


>> REPORTER: Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce President Tony Iannelli says the focus on infrastructure will also be a key part of a very complicated recovery process.

>> I think it's been ignored for a long time.

Morning Call:  http://www.mcall.com/news/all-lyrics.7105988dec04,0,2413151.story
Hokey and trite as it sounds, the three cities and their suburbs put aside their parochial interests and combined efforts to diversify and revitalize the region.  The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. is the only major development agency. The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is the only chamber group.

Morning Call:  http://www.mcall.com/news/all-a1_5jobs.7105680dec04,0,2607348.story
Tony Iannelli, president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he was encouraged that the summit included panelists from the private sector, which he said will lead an economic recovery.  Of the Chamber's 5,000 members, about 85 percent are small businesses with 100 or fewer employees. Such small businesses are a primary focal point of the jobs summit.  Local businesses won't be ready to boost employment until they see signs they are returning to profitability, Iannelli said. The current economic environment is one in which businesses survive by containing costs rather than expanding, he said. ''The stimulus was intended to spike the economy, but at this time the stimulus has not had an overwhelming impact on the Lehigh Valley economy,'' Iannelli said…

Daily Briefing, 12/7/2009

Good morning everyone!  We hope you enjoyed your snowy weekend.  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

The Morning Call runs a story on Gracedale, Northampton County's senior citizen home, and the controversy over the its potential privatization.  In Lower Macungie Township, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has come out against a proposed quarry in the Township, saying that they are concerned over the potential for a negative impact on farming and residential properties nearby.  There appears to be some good news when it comes to H1N1, as the amount of cases has peaked, although experts are concerned for the potential of another wave of the disease.  In Easton, Chamber member Bob Buesing of East Coast Touring Company has said that he will raise the $10,000 needed to fund a tourism study to help determine if tourism and arts are the future in Easton.

In national news, the Treasury department has announced that of the they expect to recover all but $42 billion of the $340 billion they lent out last year in the bank bailout.  And, in Copenhagen, the UN Summit on Climate Change has kicked off.

Business Matters airs today, featuring a one-on-one interview with Auditor General and Democratic Candidate for Governor Jack Wagner.  The show airs tonight (Monday, December 7) on WFMZ-TV - you can also read more about the show over at our Business Matters blog.

We have one Chamber event today: a tree lighting in Phillipsburg.

And that's it for now!  Have a great day - we should be back later.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Daily Briefing, 12/4/2009

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

Of course, President Obama will be in the Valley today, appearing at Lehigh County Community College around 12:00pm.  He will be making other stops in the area, including at least one at Allentown Metal Works, though much of the rest of the President's schedule remains unknown.  This will not be the President's first visit to the region; he was here when he was campaigning back in April, and although politics will not exclusively be the focus of this visit, the Morning Call notes that this visit isn't exactly politics-free.  Meanwhile, the President held a jobs summit at the White House yesterday that was attended by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski; the visit put Allentown in the national spotlight, with the Mayor winding up on stage with the President and appearing on MSNBC's Hardball.  The President's opponents are speaking out as well; former Lehigh Valley Congressman and Senate Candidate Pat Toomey blasted the President in advance of his visit yesterday, criticizing the President's job-creation efforts.

In other news, Renew Lehigh Valley held a public forum on the bi-county public health board proposal yesterday.  In loca tax news, Upper Nazareth township was able to lower property taxes by a little more than 7% yesterday; in Northampton County, a decision by the county Retirement Board lowered the County's pension obligation, and as a result has lowered the County's proposed tax increase.  Also discussed at Northampton County yesterday was the possibility of closing Gracedale, the County's Nursing Home, with many members speaking against the possible closure.

In national news, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, had a reconfirmation hearing yesterday - some offered praise, with others criticizing the Chairman for perceived failures by the Federal Reserve.  Speaking of the economy, November's unemployment numbers are expected to be released later today.  Analysts expect the numbers to remain at 10.2%. 

Today is a busy day in The Chamber world, with three events being held: First Friday in Bethlehem, a mixer at the Roxy Theater in Northampton and a workshop on Financial and Business Mastery from ActionCOACH.

That's it for now!  Have a great weekend and we'll be back Monday.