Friday, January 29, 2010

Huge news: GDP growth of 5.7% in 4th quarter of 2010

Huge news today, as the 4th quarter GDP jumped 5.7%, the highest growth in 6th years.  Here are the bullets:

  • The strength of the recovery was greater than anticipated - one survey noted in the article indicated that economists only expected a 4.7% recovery.
  • On the whole, the economy of 2009 shrank 2.4%.  This is the first yearly decline since 1991.
  • 3.4% of the growth in 2009 came with an increase in business inventories, which were slashed in 2008 and the first half of 2009 as consumer demand dropped.
  • Consumer spending, which is 2/3 of the GDP, only grew by 2% in the 4th quarter, relatively sluggish growth.
  • The growth, though clearly good news, will not continue at this rate in the future.
  • The unemployment rate is still around 10%, and most do not expect it to significantly drop for some time.
There are many who will (rightfully) say that they are not noticing the effects of the recovery, and it is clear that will still have a long way to go - nonetheless, this report is definitely good news.

Guest Post: The Year of the Broker

Hi everyone.  Today's Guest Post is on the "Year of the Broker" - the importance of having an insurance broker today.  The post comes to us courtesy of Bob Knauss of Employee Employeer Solutions.  Bob also has his own blog, which is where this entry originally ran on.  Enjoy!
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With all the changes to health care being talked about in Washington today, the consensus seems to be that employer groups are going to be more likely to seek out the expertise of a professional employee benefits broker. In the past, employer groups have been largely split on the value and benefits they derived from dealing with a professional. Some, have been under the false assumption that if you go through a broker your premium will go up to compensate for commissions being paid out - that's just not the case. Rates are the same regardless of whether or not a broker is involved. The same is true for the individual market, yet still, many people try to got it alone on-line to secure the right health care coverage for their family. Here are some interesting facts:



Plan Sponsor's Current and Future Use of Benefit Brokers
  • Currently use a broker/consultant - 83%
  • Use of broker/consultant will increase in the next five years - 17%
  • Use of broker/consultant will stay the same in the next 5 years - 64%
  • Use of broker/consultant will decrease in the next five years - 8%
  • Don't know how use of broker/consultant will change - 11%
* source Benefits Selling Magazine January 2010 edition


Regardless of where you stand on the whole idea of overhauling our entire health care system, it doesn't negate the fact that managing employee benefits going forward will not be reduced in the level of complexity but only increased. Underscoring the need to deal with a professional benefit broker. If you don't currently work with a broker/consultant or you're not happy with the level of service you've been getting from the one your with than we should chat. It's very easy to switch. I can be reached at:


email: bknauss@employeemployersolutions.com
website: http://www.employeemployersolutions.com/
twitter: http://twitter.com/mployebenefits

Daily Briefing, 1/29/2010

Good morning everyone, and a happy Friday to you all.  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Allentown, the Department of Public Welfare has announced that it will be closing Allentown State Hopsital, effective December 31.  National Penn Bank, which owns KNBT, has announced that Scott Fainor will serve as the company's new CEO.  The company also announced that it posted a $283.3 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2009.  Cigars International has announced that it is moving to a new building in Bethlehem - the new property will allow the company to have a larger property and hire an additional 50 employees.


In national news, good news for Ford, as the company showed a profit in 2009 - the first time in four years. President Obama is set today to unveil a tax credit that he first proposed in his State of the Union address on Wednesday.  The proposal will allow small businesses that hire workers or increase their wages to claim a tax credit of up to $5,000.  The proposal will be paid for by using money returned to the government from the bank bailout.  After some initial political drama, Ben Bernanke was reconfirmed as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve for a second term.  The ultimate vote in the Senate was 70-30.

That's it for now!  We'll be back later today with a guest blog entry.  See you then.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Job Openings

Hi everyone -

As promised, here are today's job openings.  We have two job openings and one internship available today.  Please feel free to pass along to whoever you feel appropriate!  If you are a Chamber member and have a job opening or internship you'd like to advertise, please E-mail me at MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org and we will post the information.
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Stylists and/or Estheticians with a book of business needed in new salon and spa in Southern Lehigh. Part time or full-time – hours flexible. Salon has a warm and friendly atmosphere, ample parking, full service including nails, skin care, massage & tanning. Resume’s can be sent to joanne@tolspa.com or call Brenda at 610-282-2142.
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We are growing and am looking for Yellow Page sales reps.


Call me for details.

Jim
610-755-5344
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Marketing Intern: Graphic Design, Website & Video


Duties and Responsibilities:
• Update website content and format
• Design marketing communication materials e.g. flyers
• Design videos to post on website e.g. educational clips of services, case studies of projects performed
• Graphically design pictures to use in marketing material
• Update case studies to have better look & feel design
• Assist updating content on LinkedIn group and Facebook site
• Contribute new ideas to complement existing marketing strategy



Skills and Knowledge:
• Required to learn/know Joomla!, an open source content management system: http://www.joomla.org/
• Experience with website design/management desired
• Graphic design experience a plus
• Must have own laptop
Benefits:
• Flexible working hours to be scheduled around your classes/schedule
• Gain experience with online, video and print marketing communications
• Gain understanding of marketing strategy implementation
• Will receive letter of recommendation detailing experience gained

Reports to: Business Development Director
Location: 25% at Virtual Locations in Lehigh Valley, PA, 75% Home Office
Hours: Part-time, 2-3 hours per week
Compensation: Unpaid


Email cover letter and resume to Julie Westbrooks at jwestbrooks@EfficiencyEngineers.com

The cost of traffic

If you are reading this, you are likely a resident of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.  This virtually guarentees that you have had an unpleasent experience (or twelve) with traffic. Well, we found this blog entry at Good regarding the costs of traffic - and the costs are truly astounding.  The blog entry measured the costs of traffic in annual estimated fuel gallons lost, the annual delay per driver and the annual congestion cost of major metropolitan areas.  We'll focus on the third statistics, the annual cost of congestion.  Check this out:

  • Los Angels - $10,328,000
  • San Fransico/Oakland - $2,675,000
  • Washington, D.C. - $2,762,000,000
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth - $2,849,000,000
That's just a few, but you get the point.  Traffic is more than an annoyance - it is a massive waste of time and real dollars.

Daily Briefing, 1/28/10

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

In the East Penn School District, the school board has voted against a 2.9% tax increase, saying that they don't want to be "boxed in" and acknowledging that the tax increase may be higher.  At an event at DeSales University yesterday, the publishers of the Morning Call and Express Times spoke about the state of the newspaper industry, noting that the industry has changed by remains relevant.  In Northampton County, County Executive Stoffa has vetoed legislation passed by County Council that would have taken back $686,000 to finish road work in Bethlehem, saying it went against a previously negotiated settlement.  The City agreed to take $386,000 instead.  In Easton, the city will be able to make a payment of $3 million as part of its settlement to the widow of police officer Jesse Sollman - the payment will happen by Easton borrowing against its general and health care insurance funds.  At Lehigh Valley International Airport, newly released numbers showed that traffic in 2009 fell to the lowest numbers of the decade, despite an increase in traffic over the past six months.

In state-wide news, another poll shows that Pat Toomey has a lead over Arlen Specter - a Franklin and Marshall poll shows that Toomey's lead has increased to 14%.  Toomey leads Joe Sestak by 22%, and Specter holds a 30 - 13% lead over Sestak. 

President Obama delivered his State of the Union address last night, calling for an increased focus on jobs and reaffirming his commitment to health care.  In other news, three new polls show an increasingly tight race in the "generic" Democrat vs. Republican ballot, with one poll actually showing Republicans with a 5% lead.  Apple yesterday unveiled its new iPad, a brand new tablet-style computer.  Toyota yesterday expanded its car recall another 1.1 million models, bringing the total to 5.3 million. 

We have a very busy day today at The Chamber, with four events:  a Speed Networking event, a training on Social Media and specific types of content that can be used, a mixer at Allentown Symphony Hall with the Lehigh Valley Easy Pages and the PACC Board Officer installations

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are the days of outsourcing manufacturing jobs starting to end?

We found this article regarding manufacturing jobs in America and felt it was worth sharing - particularly because it may be a sign of reversing manufacturing trends that have hammered America for decades.

Here's the crux of the article: The costs and issues of doing manufacturing business in countries like China are rising.  Specific costs include items like tarrifs, rising suppply chain costs, intellectual property theft, transportation and labor.  According to an index developed for this purposes, manufacturing in China now only really has a 5% advantage over manufacturing in America.  As a result, American companies are starting to rethink whether or not such outsourcing is even worth it.

One of the key variables here, in your resident blogger's opinion, is oil.  Compared to where it was before the recession (over $100 a barrel), oil really isn't that high right now.  What happens when oil shoots through the roof again?  And what happens if the United States can get its transportation infrastructure in better shape, as well as better develop alternative routes of transportation, like rail?

This chould, potentially, be a very big deal.

The Chamber teams up with Verizon to educate members about Domestic Violence in the workplace

 We thought this was particularly noteworthy and wanted to share the press release below with you all.  As you can see, The Chamber is very interested in a variety of areas as they pertain to the workplace, and Domestic Violence is certainly no exception.  Thank you to our friends at Verizon for their generous support. 
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Lehigh Valley, PA – January 26, 2010 – The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce
(The Chamber) is pleased to announce a $15,000 grant from Verizon to help educate Chamber members about domestic violence prevention.  This funding will be used to present workshops and other
educational programming focused on prevention.
              “Verizon is proud to improve the quality of life for youth and families in the Lehigh Valley by
empowering the community with innovative tools and resources,” said Daniel J. Reavy, Director of
External Affairs for Verizon Pennsylvania. “We’re investing in programs, such as our partnership with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, to reach every type of learner across the lifespan and to touch people’s lives by focusing on education, health and family safety in the 21st century. We understand that education does not begin or end in the classroom. Visit www.thinkfinity.org to learn more.”
“We are thankful that the Verizon Foundation is helping us to educate our membership about the pervasive problem of domestic violence,” said Tony Iannelli, President and CEO of the Chamber.   “Through this significant grant, our Chamber members will learn to identify the signs of domestic violence and help individuals in the workplace who are victims to seek assistance and stop the cycle of violence.”

About Verizon:
The Verizon Foundation supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its free educa­tional Web site, Thinkfinity.org, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence.    Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation's largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and re­tirees have volunteered more than 3 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.

About The Chamber: The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to: deliver value to members through superior programs and services; advocate to advance business interests; unify the Le­high Valley business community to leverage regional resources and strengthen its collective voice; and to create opportunities for businesses to grow.  With nearly 5,000 members who employ more than 140,000 individuals, The Chamber is the 2nd largest in Pennsylvania, largest in New Jersey, and one of the fastest growing in the nation.

Tech Wednesday: Constant Contact for easy E-mail marketing

As much as we talk about Social Media being a powerful tool when it comes to marketing your business - which it is - E-mail has not gone away, and using E-mail for marketing and business related purposes is still very much an important facet of business communication.  There are multiple types of services out there for use of E-mail marketing.  One of them is Constant Contact, and its what we are going to profile today.

Quick Summary:  Constant Contact is a platform by which you can send out E-mails to massive groups of people. 

Features:  Constant Contact bills itself as useful primarily in three business areas - E-mail marketing (used to create E-mail newsletters), Online Surveys and Event Marketing.  It is the service that we use at The Chamber.  In addition to being able to send out E-mails to a large group of recipients, you can track the results and use Constant Contact to determine how many of your E-mail addresses are bad, how many people open your E-mail and click on the links, etc.  The service also boosts over 400 E-mail templates, making a sharp, professional E-mail easy to design.


Chamber discount: If you are a Chamber member, than you are able to get a 20% discount for a six-month contract and a 25% discount for a full year contract.  E-mail chamberprogram@constantcontact.com for more information if you are a member (if you are not a member, E-mail lanital@lehighvalleychamber.org for information on how to join).

Pricing: If you don't take advantage of the Chamber discount, pricing varies depending on the amount of E-mail addresses you have, ranging from $15/month (for up to 500 E-mails) to $150/month (for up to 25,000).  All of these pricing plans allow you to send out an unlimited amount of E-mails.

Daily Briefing, 1/27/2010

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


At The Chamber's Economic Outlook Luncheon and Community Investment Awards yesterday, two economists gave two presentations on the economy, with one common thread: the recession is ending and the economy is coming back, but slowly.  The results of a local survey released showed that Lehigh Valley businesses expect the economy to improve.  In Allentown, the City is suing the Morning Call, reporter Jarrett Renshaw and the state's Open Records office in a fight about releasing the Mayor and his staff's schedule and E-mails.  Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato visited and campaigned in the Valley yesterday, making political stops and receiving endorsements from local elected officials.  The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority voted yesterday to cut its membership from 19 to 15, a change that is still subject to approval by both counties.  The board also elected a new Chair and Vice Chair.  In Northampton County, Tony Verenna has agreed to resign from either Wilson Borough Council or the Wilson Area School District after a motion was filed by District Attorney John Morganelli.  Ron Angle is still holding two offices.  The Saucon Valley School District voted yesterday to raise taxes, but only by less than 2.9%.

In state-wide news, the State House voted yesterday to ban cell phone and text messages usage
while driving.  The bill now moves to the State Senate.

In national news, Democrats are now slowing their push to pass health care reform in the wake of the Scott Brown upset in Massachusets.  Meanwhile, President Obama will be delivering his State of the Union
speech later tonight.

That's it for now!  We'll see you later.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We put this video on YouTube yesterday.  It features me, your resident blogger, giving a talk to the Western Lehigh and East Penn Chambers of Commerce on the importance of LinkedIn and how to use it.  Enjoy!


Are you a Chamber member? Then you get 10 free radio ads.


There are many benefits to being a Chamber member - networking, training, discounts, marketing, etc.  Along the lines of marketing - did you know that being a Chamber Member entitles you to ten free 60-second radio ads?  It's true.  As a Chamber Member, you get 10 free 60-second commercial ads on one of Nassau Broadcasting's stations: 107.1 The Bone, 1230/1320 ESPN radio or $500 off for new advertisers with 99.9 The Hawk.  To redeem this offer if you are a Chamber Member, contact Jason A. Causa at 610-829-5520 or jcausa@nassaubroadcasting.com.   If you are not a Chamber member, but are interested in hearing more, contact Lanita Lum at lanital@lehighvalleychamber.org or 610-841-5836.

Daily Briefing, 1/26/2010

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

ArtsQuest in Bethlehem is looking to hire 100 people for their new SteelStacks project.  SteelStacks is set to open in May of 2011.  Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley has noted that, in their attempt to buy foreclosed homes, they are frequently losing those homes, and quickly, to buyers who will then likely turn the properties into rentals.

In state-wide news, Representative Sam Rohrer, a Republican candidate for Governor, has called on the Republican State Committee to hold a televised debate between him and Attorney General Tom Corbett.  Rohrer wants the debate to come before the Republican State Committee endorses either candidate, though Corbett is expected to win the endorsement.

In national news, according to a new survey from the National Association for Business Economics, business plans on spending more on capital projects and hiring more staff during the first half of 2010.  President Obama is proposing a freeze on discretionary government spending for the next three years.  The move is an attempt to reduce the U.S. deficit.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a new debate on Health Care.  The show will be available online later today.  You can also check out the Business Matters blog to jump in on the debate.

We have one Chamber event today, and its one of our major ones: The Lehigh Valley Economic Outlook Luncheon & Community Investment Award.

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

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lehigh County Grant Programs

Our friends at Lehigh County are offering two grant programs that we wanted to share with you today.  The information is below.  For additional questions or to apply, contact Virginia Savage at Lehigh County - 610-782-3809 or virginiasavage@lehighcounty.org

Streetscape Amenities Grant
Purpose:  To assist municipalities and Main Street/Elm Street-based programs in purchasing streetscape amenities such as banners and benches. When coupled with larger streetscape projects, these items will visually enhance a community’s downtown.

Eligible Organizations
  • Lehigh County municipalities and Main Street/Elm Street-based Programs.
  • Preference will be given to those Lehigh County applicants having a strategic plan in place which focuses on the improvement of the downtown area and/or have previously received a Lehigh County Main Street Initiatives Planning Grant.
Grant Amount: Applicants may apply for grants up to $15,000.00. Grantees must expend the funds and Lehigh County will reimburse upon proof of expenditure (invoices and copies of cancelled checks).

Required Match:  Lehigh County will fund up to 50% of the projected costs.  The match by the applicant may not include any funds received from other Lehigh County sources including Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.

Eligible Activities Include: Banners, benches, trash receptacles, planters and bicycle racks, gateway signs, directional signage and informational kiosks, mural projects, street tree planting programs.

Application Deadline: Round 1, February 26, 2010 – 4:00p.m.  Round 2, August 6, 2010 – 4:00p.m.

Planning Grants
Purpose: Having a comprehensive downtown or master plan that a community can implement is a critical element in the economic development and revitalization process. In order to aid in this effort, funding to develop these types of plans has been made available through the Planning Grant program.

Eligible Organizations: Lehigh County municipalities and Main Street/Elm Street-based Programs.

Grant Amount: Up to $15,000.  Grantees must expend the funds and Lehigh County will reimburse upon proof of expenditure (invoices and copies of cancelled checks).

Required Match: Up to 50%.  The match by the applicant may not include any funds received from other Lehigh County sources, including Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.

Eligible Activities: Economic development or revitalization plans, comprehensive community development plans, environmental or physical development strategy or specialized study, implementation ordinance regulating land use, land development, or environmental protection.

Application Deadline: Round 1, February 26, 2010 – 4:00p.m.  Round 2, August 6, 2010 – 4:00p.m.

Economic Outlook Luncheon and Community Investment Awards Tomorrow!

We hope you will join us at the event tomorrow!


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Lehigh Valley Economic Outlook Luncheon & Community Investment Awards







The Chamber and Wachovia are proud to present The Lehigh Valley Economic Outlook Luncheon & Community Investment Awards, presented by Capital BlueCross.  The details are as follows:

Foresight may not be 20/20, but the perspective gained from the Economic Outlook Luncheon is the next best thing. The event provides those in attendance with insight into the overall business climate, economic performance and attitudes toward future growth in the region and the nation.  Event highlights include:


  • Dr. Jay Bryson.  Dr. Bryson will provide attendees with current and relevant economic data and share insights and a financial outlook for the regional and national economies in the coming year.
  • The release of The Chamber’s Kamran Afshar Lehigh Valley Economic Report.  The publication reflects results of a Chamber member survey, business leader views and data analysis by the KAA research department.  Kamran Afshar will provide attendees with detailed, local information the and insightful analysis they need to guide strategic planning and key decision-making.
  • Back by popular demand:  The Morning Call will present the 2009 Business Section Review.
  • The Chamber’s Community Development Awards.  Presented to Lehigh Valley businesses and individuals who successfully worked to ensure the success and growth of the region’s economy and communities. The  2010 honorees are:
    • Allentown – Presented by Mayor Pawlowski to J.G. Petrucci Co., Inc.
      • Acquisition of former Mack Trucks HQ and subsequent lease to Lehigh Valley Health Network
      • Exide Battery Site – Remediation and re-positioning as retail site (with AEDC) 
    • Bethlehem – Presented by Mayor Callahan to Meyer Jabara Hotels and Posh Properties

      • Completion of Hyatt Place Bethlehem Hotel
    • Easton – Presented by Mayor Panto to George Miereles,
      • Restauranteur
    • Phillipsburg – Presented by Mayor Wyant to Charlie Braxmeier
      • Infin-Tee Golf Facility

WHEN:  Tuesday, January 26, 2010.  Doors will open at 10:00am for registration and networking.  The program and lunch will be from 11:30am to 1:00pm.

WHERE:  Holiday Inn Conference Center, 7736 Adrienne Drive, Allentown.

PRICING INFORMATION:  $49 for members, $99 for non-members.

SPONSORS:  Major event sponsors include Wachovia Bank, Capital BlueCross, 69-WFMZ-TV & wfmz.com, The Morning Call and Constellation NewEnergy.

Daily Briefing, 1/25/2010

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

An article in the Morning Call highlights the increasing strained relationship between Lehigh and Northampton Counties, noting that the possibility of joint projects between the two is rapidly shrinking.  A new survey notes that Route 22 is the 57th worst congested road in America.  In business news, Air Products saw their quarterly earnings increase over the prior year. 

In state-wide news, there may be a new entry into the Governor's race - Democratic State Senator Anthony Williams, of Philadelphia, is reportedly considering making a bid

In national news, in another sign of increasing trouble for the Democrats in the upcoming election, a new political analysis shows that the amount of Democratic House seats that are in play has increased over the past few months, while the amount of Republican seats in play has held steady.  And, here's good news: gas prices dropped slightly over the past two weeks, dropping a little more than $.01.

Business Matters airs later today, featuring a debate on the most controversial topic of the moment: health care.  The show will air tonight, 8pm on WFMZ-TV.  You can also join in the debate at the Business Matters blog.

That's it for now!  We have plenty more later.  See you then.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Haiti Charity update

Hi everyone -

As stated before, please keep sending us your Haitian fundraisers and we are happy to publish them.  Here is another one that we have receieved. 
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GEICO Local Office in Whitehall will donate $5 per auto policy sold to the Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund. Donations will be made for policies purchased from our Local GEICO Agency in Whitehall between 1/18/10 – 1/31/2010. GEICO Local Office is located at: 2701 MacArthur Rd., approx 2 miles North of Lehigh Valley Mall. Phone number: 610-437-7119.

The Chamber’s Snow Ball! Presented by Capital BlueCross and KNBT at the Holiday Inn Conference Center at I-78 and Route 100






Saturday, February 13, 2010


6pm – 12am


Holiday Inn Hotel & Conference Center, I-18 & Route 100, Fogelsville

This is The Chamber’s premier black-tie dinner dance combined with a silent auction fundraiser for a local non-profit organization. This year the Snow Ball turns 21! Since 1988, The Chamber’s Small Business Council (SBC) throws the annual Snow Ball for the Lehigh Valley business community. This sold-out event attracts a stellar audience of Lehigh Valley socialites. The Silent Auction benefits local charitable organizations. In the past 20 years, the SBC is proud to have contributed more than $325,000 to those beneficiaries. We are pleased to announce that the 2010 auction proceeds benefit Cops ‘n’ Kids Children’s Literacy Program.


$150 per member, $250 per couple

Guest Post: The Virtual Workplace

We have another guest post coming, this one from Greg Lauray.  Gregory K. Lauray, Sr, is a Certified Public Accountant and consultant with offices in Bethlehem PA and Short Hills NJ. For more information about his firm and contact information, visit http://www.gklauraycpa.com/ or e-mail him at glauray@gklauraycpa.com.  Enjoy!
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The Virtual Workplace


For small business, the current economic climate has been challenging and addressing those challenges means reassessing processes and coming up with new ways to accomplish more for less. We can’t do much about factors external to our businesses, but we often have full control over what we may do internally.

One of the areas that many small businesses tend to overlook is the use of technology to increase efficiency of service delivery while reducing the related costs. Using technology, I’ve created a virtual workplace for my practice with the primary results being the following:

• More enjoyment and flexibility. Work can fit around life rather than the other way around.

• More efficiency, higher productivity and higher levels of client service.

• A reduction in the cost to deliver the services. Depending upon the specific technologies deployed, the savings can be significant.

In the next 10-20 years, if not sooner, office space will become obsolete as virtual workplaces become the norm. If anything, the current economic conditions will accelerate this trend as space costs tend to be the second largest expense for most businesses after wages. Larger corporations are already moving towards remote workplaces, while small businesses lag in adopting this mainly because they lag in the usage of technology.

The types of businesses where the virtual office setup works very well are generally CPA firms, law firms, engineering firms, architects or any other business where one uses technical expertise with computer systems. These sorts of businesses tend to be paper intensive, which happens to lend itself well to a virtual office setup once there’s a decision made to go paperless. Also, most of these businesses maintain office space to three reasons: a place to work, a place to store client files and a place to meet clients. With the virtual office setup, you only need an office to meet clients and that alone means space costs can be substantially reduced.

Going virtual means far more than just having e-mail and internet access. You have to figure out a way for normal office functions to be accessible to you wherever you may be. The main things that you need to be accessible are:

• Telephone answering and call screening.

• Faxes

• Your remote desktop

• Your work files. For me, these are my client documents

There are many technologies that are inexpensive to deploy and that I’ve used in by own business to set up the virtual workplace for me and my staff. Here are the specific technologies I’ve deployed and the related costs the technology has reduced:

Technology: Windows Remote Desktop Connections


Cost: Nothing. Included in the Windows Operating System.

How we use it: Used for remote access.

Costs reduced: Communication Expenses.



Technology: E-voice receptionist.

Cost: $29.95 per month.

How we use it: This is an internet based telephone receptionist platform with a professionally recorded voice. The system has an announcement feature which allows you to screen calls. Your existing phone numbers can be ported over to the system, hence eliminating the phone bill for those numbers. Your calls be directed to you to whatever number you setup (i.e. home, cell and etc.). Messages left by callers are sent via e-mail. I particularly like the screening mechanism far better than having a live receptionist as you normally have to train that person on what calls to send through and which to not send.

Costs reduced: Receptionist and telephone.



Technology: Vonage.

Cost: $ 100 per month for four lines in the hunt sequence

How we use it: Although not required from a virtual office setup, this costs far less than traditional telephone services. I’ve been using internet phone services using for the past three years. Very reliable, except when there’s an occasion internet outage. In that event, you can set up a forwarding phone number so calls are not missed. I’m considering dropping this service due to the E-voice receptionist making it not as necessary

Costs reduced: Big reduction in my phone bill which was running about $ 400.00 a month prior to switching.



Technology: E-fax

Cost: $19.95 per month plus a usage fee per fax over a certain number. There are competing services that may be less expensive

How we use it: Everyone has been out of the office but in need of the fax lying in the fax machine or has experienced the loss of a fax due to a paper jam. This product allows you to get your faxes sent to via e-mail in a PDF format. You can secure the fax transmission if you like.

Costs reduced: Although the service costs more than the one time cost of a fax machine, the boosts in efficiency for those like me who work in multiple places is unparalleled. Moreover, you save on: Paper costs & Fax toner



Technology: Paperless Office Setup and scanners

Cost: Cost of Adobe Acrobat Standard (about $ 300 if you’re not upgrading from a previous version) and a scanner. Self feeding scanners that can capture both sides of a document in one pass run from $ 300 to $ 1,000 depending on features.

How we use it: All client documents (i.e. tax documents, bank statements and etc.) are scanned into their file folder upon receipt. This has virtually eliminated searching for misplaced files. Moreover, client requests for a copy of documents are quickly responded to by e-mailing the requested documents. This alone has eliminated untold headaches and frustrations.

Costs reduced: Costs reduced are: Paper, Postage, Office space, Toner, Wear and tear on printers.



Technology: Dual Monitors

Cost: $ 100 to 300 per computer

How we use it: An integral part of virtual paperless offices. We use dual monitors to look at client documents in one monitor while we work inputting the data into a program displayed on the other monitor. When working remotely, this eliminates the need to have the physical client documents in possession. Also, efficiency is much greater as adobe has search features. Often it’s easier to use search versus flipping through a multiple page document.

Costs reduced: Paper Costs

I have a couple of employees who work remotely as well and I’ve deployed some additional technologies to manage my small remote workforce. Here’s what I’ve found about managing remote workers:


• Remote workers love it and they’re more productive as a consequence as they can integrate their work life with their personal life. You will need to carefully screen who you do this with however, as not everyone likes to work independently. Folks who just have to have the water cooler conversation aren’t good candidates. The same applies to those who can’t work with the technology.

• Less supervision and less unscheduled interruptions. My work style is such that I dislike a lot of unscheduled or unnecessary meetings or discussions. The remote workplace I deployed virtually eliminates this and I manage the people and projects using a project management platform that’s deployed over the internet. This means that I respond to questions when I schedule it rather than the “fire drill” situation of dealing with client calls and questions from staff at the same time.

• Expanded recruitment pool. My firm prepares the sorts of tax returns that require well experienced and knowledgeable CPA’s. As the need is seasonal, it’s difficult to find the people. Moreover, there’s a shortage of these individuals generally and more so in the Lehigh Valley. Since the workplace is remote, my recruitment pool is expanded which addresses the shortage problem.

In summary, the virtual office setup for my firm has revolutionized how I work, has reduced operating costs and has made my business far more enjoyable to operate. I highly recommend it. As with most things like this, it must be led from the top to be effective, so the big challenge in deploying this for most small businesses is the lack of commitment from the top, particularly if management is wedded to the old way of doing things.

Daily Briefing, 1/22/2010

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

An interesting piece of news when it comes to Pennsylvania gaming: last month, Pennsylvania took more revenue than New Jersey from the industry.  The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation held its annual lunch yesterday, touting its successes during the year, including bringing 13 new employers to the area and retaining 1,300 jobs.  In Easton, the Easton Are School Board has released its preliminary budget - the budget calls for a 12% tax increase.  In Northampton County, County Council voted to not give $686,000 to Bethlehem from its budget.  The money would have gone toward road improvements at the Commerce Center Boulevard Industrial Park.  Lehigh County, 12 have applied to fill a vacancy on the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners caused by the resignation of former Commissioner Bill Leiner.

In state-wide news, Representative Karen Beyer (R-131) is proposing a law that would allow beer distributors to sell six-packs.  There are rumors today that Tom Knox, a Philadelphia businessman and one of five Democratic candidates for Governor, will drop out of the race today and endorse Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.  According to a new poll, Pat Toomey opening a 49-40% lead on Arlen Specter in the upcoming Senate race.  Interestingly, if Joe Sestak defeats Arlen Specter in the primary, Toomey's lead becomes 43-35%.  In the neighboring 8th Congressional District, former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick appears ready for a rematch and to take on Congressman Patrick Murphy.

In national news, President Obama met yesterday with Mayors from across the nation.  Locally, that included the Mayors Pawlowski, Callahan and Panto of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.  In a huge decision yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions are allowed to spend money directly from there general treasuries to influence elections.

That's it for now!  We'll be back later.  See you then!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Study: Kids consume 11 hours of media content - in 7.5 hours - PER DAY

This one is a little bit outside of the realm of what we usually talk about, but it has to do with technology and many of us have kids, so I thought it was worth reporting.

We found this study from the Kaiser Family Foundation courtesy of our friends at Mashable.  The study examines the media usage of kids aged 8-18, classified as Generation M2.  The results are interesting, insightful, and slightly horrifying.  Here is a summary.
  • Five years ago, 8-18 year olds consumed six and a half hours of media per day (TV, Music, Computer, Video Games, etc).
  • That number has now skyrocketed to 11 hours - but, because this generation multitasks, that number is actually 11 hours of media in a 7.5 hour time span!!
  • Much of the increase comes as a result of the mobility of media - meaning that since technology is portable, kids have more access to it.
  • Only roughly 3 in 10 kids had parents who set rules on how much media they could consume.
  • Time watching TV actually decreased from the last survey in favor of other media.
  • Nearly 2/3 of respondents reported TV being on during meals.
  • Heavy media users have lower grades.
  • Hispanics and blacks consume more media than whites.
  • A high percentage of 7th - 12th graders reported using more than one media at once.
There are numberous potential things to discuss with this study - but, for the business world, one that really strikes me is the degree of multitasking.  What happens when this generation enters the workforce?  How much more will be demanded of our time?

You're on Social Networking...Now What?

Training Opportunity through The Chamber - You're on Social Networking...Now What?

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 ultimately using your business.

Where & When: Chamber Office,
561 Main Street, Suite 200
Bethlehem, PA 18018

2:30 PM Registration & Networking
3:00 - 5:00 PM Program
$49 Members - $79 Non Members

To Register, visit our webpage.

Job Openings

Hi everyone -

As promised in yesterday's entry, here are some job openings that we have recieved so far.  If you would like to have your job openings posted here, just E-mail me at MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org.

---

Receptionist/Front line support person - Sperry Van Ness.  Contact:  Tom.Skeans@svn.com

Key position in a small commercial real estate firm, offering opportunity to a positive & energetic person to advance & learn about investment & development real estate


Primary duties/responsibilities include:

front office greeting and telephone reception for general & property management calls, with coordination to sales, management & appraisal divisions, basic office organization & filing, both physical and electronic,
opening and sorting mail.

Potential Future Responsibilities:

implementation of marketing initiatives, obtain real estate license, showings

Skills:

Strong personal skills, including an ability to work with others, handle customer inquiries & calls, Upbeat phone voice & manners, helpful, service oriented, Articulate

Style:

Problem solver, eager to learn; eager to support, multi-tasker

Temperament:

Happy, positive, sense of humor, inquisitive, Ability to diffuse tension desirable (…..might be too much to ask)





Work experience to date can be minimal, although some type of customer service or support position is desirable.







Tom Skeans, CCIM
Senior Advisor

Sperry Van Ness
Imperial Realty

968 Postal Road, Suite 200
Allentown, PA 18109

Phone 484.245.1003
Fax 610.266.9255

tom.skeans@svn.com
www.svn.com



This office independently owned and operated.

Daily Briefing, 1/21/2010

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

With 1,000 jobs expected to open at the Bethlehem Sands as a result of the legalization of table games, over 120 people attended a seminar on how to get those jobs at Northampton Community College.  Speaking of Bethlehem, the Bethlehem Area School District unveiled its preliminary budget yesterday - the budget would increase taxes by a little more than 10%.  There is also a new entry into the electricity market, with Gateway Electric providing customers with an electricity rate of 9.35 per kilowatt hour - the lowest rate offered so far.  In an interesting story about the media, the New York Times is going to start charging for its articles, starting in 2011.

In state-wide news, there could be a big political story brewing, as it is now rumored (but only rumored) that Tom Knox will drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination for Governor and endorse Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato - a move that would further cement Onorato's status as front runner.  Meanwhile, a poll released yesterday showed that Senator Arlen Specter had increased his lead over Congressman Joe Sestak and now leads the Democratic primary for the Senate, 53-32%.  The lead was previously 13%.

As a reminder, later today's we'll be publishing the first of our job openings that we received from members - if you have any you'd like us to advertise any, please send me an E-mail at MikeS@Lehighvalleychamber.org.

We have two Chamber events today: a mixer at Lehigh Valley Grand Prix and a LeBEAM program on how to live healthier and longer.

That's it for now!  We'll be back later.  See you then!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The tragedy in Haiti

Of course, we all know about the ongoing tragedy in Haiti and the many chairtable responses to the disaster.  The Red Cross' text messaging campaign has proven to be wildly successful, with over $10 million being donated already.  Locally, there are fundraisers as well, and we are happy to promote them however we can.  Here is what we have so far:
---
BENEFIT 4 HAITI.......in the valley


LVMA 12....WIAIPA & LVMC will co-sponsor a benefit ,with ALL proceeds going to the people of HAITI

jan 29,2010
6 to 10 pm
$10.00 donation at the door.
Pitchers Sprts Bar & Grill
570 union blvd
allentown
a night of great music 4 a great cause........
http://www.lehighvalleymusicawards.org/
---
Lifechurch in Allentown is spearheading a significant effort. Our lead Pastor, Randy Landis, and two teams of volunteers are now in Haiti.


A list of the supplies that are needed is below. The supplies can be dropped off at Lifechurch's Resource Building. (Across from the newly remodeled McDonald's on Union Blvd) The address is 1401 E Cedar St., Allentown, Pa 18109. Phone is (610) 434-3117. Anyone wishing to make a monetary contribution can send a check made out to Lifechurch and designate Haiti in the memo.

Medical Supplies*


• Eye drops
• Alcohol swabs
• Betadine
• Peroxide
• Gauze
• Band-aids
• Triple anti-biotic cream
• Anti-diarrhea
• Surgical gloves
• Wet wipes
• Hand sanitizers
• Asthma medicine
• Allergy medicine
• Cough syrup
• Cough drops
• Cotton

* Lifechurch Facebook has updates on our efforts. Interested people can call Lifechurch at 610-434-3117 ext 11 or ext 12 for updated list of needs.

New Chamber Member Benefit - Free Job Postings

(NOTE - this entry was published on Monday, but we wanted to publish it again to make sure you all saw it!)

Hi everyone -
About two months ago, we tried something relatively new at The Chamber - we had a job opening and decided to advertise it solely by using our Social Media outlets. The response was overwhelming. We recieved MORE job applicants than we would have by using more traditional outlets.
Based on our experiences, we wanted to offer a new benefit to our members. The premise is simple: we want to help you find good people. So, here is what we are going to do. If and when you have a job opening, E-mail a brief description and contact information to me, MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org. We will automatically publish the entry at our LinkedIn group and post a weekly blog entry that talks about available job openings. Thisis only available to Chamber Members - for more information on how you can join The Chamber, contact Lanita Lum at lanital@lehighvalleychamber.org.
I hope this is a useful benefit to you and your company!

Daily Briefing, 1/20/2010

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

In Allentown, the city has unveiled a new slogan, the "City without limits," complete with a new logo and marketing campaign.  In Bethlehem, City Council is weighing any of six options to deal with the Mayor's spending of over $300,000 in casino fees without Council's permission.  In Catasauqua, the Catasauqua Area School Board has raised taxes 7.44 mills.  They say that the plan is a work in progress and that budget cuts are possible.  There are personnel issues involving two local police departments; in Wind Gap, Borough Council suspended the police chief for thirty days and is requiring him to take leadership classes; in Macungie, the Police Chief and department want newly elected Mayor Rickie Hoffman to resign after allegations that Hoffman acted improperly in relation to his son's arrest for DUI in November.  In New Jersey, Chris Christie has officially been sworn in as the state's New Governor.

In state-wide news, Governor Rendell recently traveled to Haiti in an attempt to bring home orphans from the earthquake-ravaged country.  Meanwhile, in a controversial death penalty case, the Supreme Court has tossed out a ruling that removed the death sentence for Mumia Abu-Jamal.  Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer over 28 years ago.

Of course, in national news, the big story is the stunning upset in Massachusets, as Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley to take control of Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat.  The win causes the Democrats to lose their super-majority in the Senate, throwing the possibility of health care reform into jeopardy. 

We have two Chamber events today: a Speed Networking event at the Allentown Chamber of Commerce and a joint lunch from the East Penn and Western Lehigh Chambers of Commerce on why LinkedIn and Social Media matters.

That's it for now!  We'll be back later today, featuring information on a brand new Chamber member benefit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Check Presentation in Bangor



The above picture is a check presentation from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation to the Borough of Bangor and its ongoing revitalization efforts.  The check covered the costs of purchasing benches, flower planters and the implimentation of the Bangor Visioning Action Plan.

In the picture, standing (L-R) is Bonnie Labar (VP of Bangor Borough Council and Chair of the Bangor BBRP Design Committee), Anne Baum (Chairperson, Chamber Foundation) and John Katsen (Bangor Borough Manager).  Seated (L-R) are Curtis Fehnel (Bangor BBRP Design Committee), Sharon Davis (BBRP Coordinator) and Lydia Albert (BBRP Design Committee).
The check is part of the ongoing efforts of the Chamber Foundation to revitalize the urban cores of the Lehigh Valley.  It has donated approximately $100,000 in grants to various urban revitalization organizations.  The Chamber, and its Foundation, are committeed to assisting the ongoing revitalization of the Lehigh Valley, with a specific concentration on its urban cores.

Check out this video for more info:


Destination Lehigh Valley

This comes to us courtesy of our friends at partners at the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
This looks like a great opportunity. 
----
Once again, The Hospitality Career Institute of Northampton Community College is partnering with the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau to offer Destination Lehigh Valley. This very popular visitor service training program is designed to enhance the skills of your employees who come in direct contact with your customers. This course, held in 3 half day sessions, will educate front line staff on the importance of the service they offer and the image they portray of Lehigh Valley.


Who should attend?
Front Desk Staff, Retail Associates, Wait Staff, Attraction Employees, Bellmen & Van Drivers, Parking Enforcement Officers… anyone who comes in contact with the general public and visitors.

Why should you enroll your staff?
To improve guest satisfaction which generates repeat business, and to increase staff development through continuing education.

What's it going to cost me?
Just $35 per associate includes continental breakfasts, Lehigh Valley tour, lunch following the tour, graduation certificate, classroom materials and handouts.
When and where are the sessions?
Wednesday, February 3 and February 10, 2010 9:00am-12:00pm
February 17, 2010 8:30am-1:00pm
NCC Fowler Family Southside Center
Course Code: HCI-1004-U1
Wednesday, March 24 and March 31, 2010 9:00am-12:00pm
April 7, 2010 8:30am-1:00pm
NCC Fowler Family Southside Center
Course Code: HCI-1004-U2

Wednesday, May 5 and May 12, 2010 9:00am-12:00pm
May 19, 2010 8:30am-1:00pm
NCC Fowler Family Southside Center
Course Code: HCI-1004-U3



How do we register?
Just follow the link below:

http://webapp.northampton.edu/course-search/coursedetails.aspx?crsenum=HCI-1004&prog=CMED&campusfilter=%&subjectcode=HCI+


IF YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS VERY IMPORTANT TRAINING PROGRAM, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME!
Nancy Signorovitch
Director of Member Relations
Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau
840 Hamilton Street
Suite 200
Allentown, PA 18101
Phone: 610-882-9200
Fax: 610-882-0343
E-mail: nancy@LehighValleyPA.org
http://www.lehighvalleypa.org/

Guest Blog: Plan for Successful Marketing

Hi everyone,

We have another Guest Blog post for you.  This one is on an extremely important topic that is sometimes overlooked by small businesses - marketing, and making sure that you have a good marketing plan.  The post comes to us courtesy of Joan Marcus of Joan B. Marcus Communications.  Enjoy!

-----
Guest Blog: Plan for Successful Marketing

Don’t look now but we are already halfway through the first month of 2010. If you resolved to rev up your marketing this year to build your brand and grow your business, it’s time to get going. Follow these quick tips to get started and stay on track. Next New Year’s Eve, you will be happy that you did.
• Develop a written marketing plan. Even if you have never written a marketing plan before, resolve to do it this year. Get it on paper. A plan in your head is no plan at all.

• Consider your business goals. Your marketing plan should support your business goals. If a strategy does not further a business goal, it’s not a good strategy to use.

• Don’t plan in a vacuum. Consider what worked in 2009 and what didn’t. If a particular strategy was successful, is there a way to make it even more successful this year?

• Determine your marketing budget. Be realistic. If you have $5,000 to spend on marketing but develop a plan with $20,000 worth of tactics, you are going to be sadly disappointed in the results.

• Have a memorable message. Your marketing message (usually no more than 25 words) should succinctly tell your customers how you address their pain points, your solution and what makes your solution different. If you don’t have a message, develop one now.

• Use free promotion to supplement paid marketing. (Hint: Contact Lanita Lum at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber for paid and free marketing opportunities.) For example, is your listing in the Chamber membership directory up to date? Are you using social media to reach out to customers and prospects? The only cost is your time.

• Target your marketing. You can’t reach everyone with your marketing, especially if you have a low budget. Decide who are your most important publics, how best to reach them and then invest in the most effective strategies.

• Hold yourself accountable. When you develop your plan, determine who is responsible, due dates and expected results.

• Evaluate. Review your marketing efforts on a regular basis. If necessary, tweak your plan for even better results.

Here’s to a great 2010!!

Submitted by Joan B. Marcus, president of Joan B. Marcus Communications, where we help you build your brand through the power of words. Find us at www.joanbmarcuscommunications.com, on Twitter at twitter.com/marcuscomm or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/joanmarcus.


.

Daily Briefing, 1/19/2009

Good morning everyone, and we hope you had a great weekend.  Now its back to the grind.  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Easton, a group of business owners announced a $10,000 study that will work to determine position Easton as a tourism destination; this is a natural fit for the city, many argue, because of its numerous already existing destinations.  In Phillipsburg, the Urban Enterprise Zone (an urban reviatlization program) is considering how it can better distribute its funding for community events.

In national news, today is the date of the special election to fill Senator Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusets.  Polls seem to be indicating that Republican Scott Brown has gained momentum and a slight lead over Democrat Martha Coakley.  If Brown wins the election, that will leave teh Democrats with 59 seats, one short of the amount needed to stop a Republican filibuster; this could have dramatic effects on the Democratic bid for health care reform.  According to a report released yesterday, banks cuts $1 billion from small business lending in November, further tightening already difficult markets.

Today is a busy day for us at The Chamber, with three events taking place: a mixer at AnyLabTests Now, a Dale Carnegie presentation on taking the fear out of presenting and a Women's Business Council event on increasing your memory.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a show on Race and the Obama Administration.  The show will be online later today.

That's it for now!  We'll be back with more entries later today.  Enjoy your morning!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Chamber Benefit: Free Job Postings

Hi everyone -

About two months ago, we tried something relatively new at The Chamber - we had a job opening and decided to advertise it solely by using our Social Media outlets.  The response was overwhelming.  We recieved MORE job applicants than we would have by using more traditional outlets.

Based on our experiences, we wanted to offer a new benefit to our members.  The premise is simple: we want to help you find good people.  So, here is what we are going to do.  If and when you have a job opening, E-mail a brief description and contact information to me, MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org.  We will automatically publish the entry on our LinkedIn site and post a weekly blog entry that talks about available job openings.  Thisis only available to Chamber Members - for more information on how you can join The Chamber, contact Lanita Lum at lanital@lehighvalleychamber.org.

I hope this is a useful benefit to you and your company!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We'll be back!

Hi everyone -

Your resident blogger will be taking a couple of days out of the office, getting some fresh air and resting, two things that bloggers don't normally do.  We will be out of the office for Martin Luther King Jr. day, but be back on Tuesday, January 19.  Have a great weekend, and we'll see you soon!

Making the crisis real: Social Media and Haiti

As you've heard us talk about numerous times, Social Media can and will change the world.  That is what inspired the title of this entry - "Making the crisis real."

You have likely heard about the earthquake in Haiti and the ongoing devastation.  From all accounts so far, this appears to be a humanitarian disaster on a massive scale.  There are currently no concrete estimates on the amount killed or scope of the devestation, but it appears to be incredible.  There are reports of hospitals collapsing, the Haitian Presidential Palace has been destroyed and the capital city of Port-Au-Prince is in ruins.

What is making the tragedy seem even more real, and bringing it home to us all, is Social Media.  YouTube is replete with clips of the disaster and currently some featured on its home page.  Here are some examples:










The videos are chilling and help capture the scope of the tragedy.  Hopefully, this will increase awareness about the disaster and help lead to more donations.

It also brings up some truly incredible questions.  What if YouTube been as popular during Hurricane Katrina?  What if Twitter had been around during the same time and people could Tweet pictures of the disaster, or of all of the problems that there were in terms of getting aid to the region?  What if Tweets were sent out by those who were trapped, giving their locations and asking for help?  How much more donations could Social Media have led to?  How many lives could it have saved?

Hopefully, the disaster response and the ability of other groups to coordinate it will be assisted by Social Media. 

Tech Wednesday: Evernote

I think its safe to say that all of us are becoming increasingly busy and more dependent on the internet.  Thankfully, plenty of websites and Social Media has emerged to help us make more efficient use of our time.
One of those websites is Evernote


This website, like so many others, utilizes cloud computing - you store your information on its website and can retrieve it from anywhere on the internet.  It also recognizes the increasingimportance of information - and our decreasing ability to remember it all!  


Description:  Evernote bills itself as an organizer for the insanely busy people that so many of us have become.  It allows you to capture multiple forms of media, be it text, vdeo, websites, pdf files, etc.  You can then store that information on the Evernote website.  Once your information is stores on the website, you can organize it however you choose, then search when you are looking to retrieve it.  It has many other features and shortcuts, including one that allows you to put items from the internet into your Evernote account without ever even opening up a separate webpage. 


There are applications for Evernote on your iPhone, Android and Blackberry.


Users and funding:   Evernote is a website on the rise.  At the end of 2009, Evernote announced that they had surpassed two million users.  A recent round of venture capital funding also raised Evernote $10 million - this is particularly impressive when combined with the fact that Evernote has a health business model that includes advertising and users who pay for a premium service.

Pricing:  Free for the basic service, though their are charges for a premium service, which includes better word recognition, no ads, and a larger per-month upload limit to your account.

Alright readers, what do you think?  Has this service made an improvement your your own organizational and productivity?

Daily Briefing, 1/13/2010

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


In state-wide news, a political bombshell dropped yesterday, when the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, Keith McCall (D-122), announced he was retiring at the end of his term to spend more time with his family.

A new national poll has come out that shows Americans are split on the success of the first year of the Obama Presidency, with 47% saying it has been successful and 48% saying it has not.  Later today, the President will announce a plan for bank fees that will recover up to $120 billion in funding that was loaned to the banks under the TARP program.

We have one Chamber event today: a Southern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce breakfast that features an update from the Southern Lehigh School District.

Folks, it wasn't for a want of trying, there just wasn't a lot of news out there today!  If you have anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments - otherwise, we'll see you later today!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Easton Billboard on Route 22



Check it out!

State budget troubles across America

Unfortunately, as much as I hate to say it, this blog entry may be viewed as a portent of things to come for Pennsylvania for the next fiscal year.  We've come across some - many - stories about state budget's that are in severe crisis, even after taking a real beating last year.  These stories come to use from stateline.org.  Here is the information from states across America on their various budget crisis and attempts do deal:

There are plenty of reasons to worry, but for us, the real question is just how bad things will get in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Guest Blog Entry - Black Forest Deli and the Right Ways to Tweet

Hi everyone - this entry comes to us courtesy of Victoria at the Black Forest Deli.  BFD has had an incredible amount of success using Twitter - and they have some great tips that we can all learn from.  See below:

 --

Right Ways to Tweet

So its 2010 and everyone has joined the social media, well maybe most of us. It is either used for business or a blog page or just for fun but everyone is doing it. I am fairly new at this and joined twitter maybe 5 months ago. I own BlackForest Deli & Catering in Bethlehem (www.bethlehemdeli.com) and have never really been that much involved in marketing or advertising. I think my goal was always to have my food advertise itself as everything we make is made with love. I have been in business for about 7 years and it’s always has been about my customers and what I can do to make them happy. I am all about the customer service and when you step your foot into my place, I want you to feel like you are home. I think in today’s economy you don’t find as much of this because people are hungry for money. When you step your foot into someone business, you are looked upon as a dollar sign and what product can be sold to you. I have never agreed with this idea and I think when people open/start a business, if that is how they think, they won’t be in business for long. Business is all about treating someone as you would want to be treated and caring about people. We as a world lost the meaning of a community and what it means to us. I think twitter brought some of that community back. Things have changed, times have changed but we as a community could still help each other, and it is all about working together.

Twitter is a great way to advertise your business and it doesn’t cost you anything, the only trick is you have to be yourself. You can tell right away when someone is just there to sell something and is not going beyond the idea of getting to know that other person. I personally have met a lot of great people from twitter and have become good friends with some of them. If you look on my twitter page, I mostly chit chat with my followers back and forth and once in a while ill post my specials of the day. My followers know I run a deli, I don’t need to ask them to stop by but I do need/want to build a relationship with them. Twitter allows you to do so many great things, build relationships, make new friends, and get your name out there, all for free. It does take up a lot of your time to respond to everyone and read everyone’s blogs and tweets but at the end of the day twitter helps people reconnect with their communities.

So what I am trying to say is don’t sign up for twitter because you want to sell your product but let your product sell itself – and be yourself. One day in the near future twitter will be gone and there is going to be a new “twitter” – you will need to follow that same mentality which is connecting with our communities and caring about the people.

Twitter has definitely helped spread the word out about my deli, my food; and most importantly I have met a great number of people who are interested in doing some amazing big things in order to keep the community of the Lehigh Valley close to our hearts. If you would like to follow us on twitter please go to www.twitter.com/blackforestdeli