Friday, February 26, 2010

Student members

As we've blogged about a while ago, The Chamber is now offering student memberships.  There are many benefits of this type of membership, including access to Chamber correspondence and events, networking opportunities and additional professional exposure and support.  We wanted to highlight our student members, so below is an interview with two of them: Meghan Gorodov and Holly Richendrfer.  If you are interested in learning more about Chamber membership, student or otherwise, please contact me at MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org.  Enjoy!
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Name:  Meghan Godorov
College:
Undergraduate degree from Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa (F&M)
Graduate Degree in pursuit from Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pa

Major:
Undergraduate: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Women’s Studies, minor in Sociology
Graduate: Master of Education for Student Affairs in Higher Education, College Counseling Licensure

Graduating Class: May 2011

What are you interested in doing once you graduate college?
Ideally, I would like to work in a private liberal arts institution of higher education guiding students to the career of their choice while developing their awareness of personal and professional strengths.  More specifically, I would like to work with athletes by supporting them as both a career counselor and sports psychologist/consultant.  
What made you want to join The Chamber?
There are several reasons I joined The Chamber of Commerce:
1.               Opportunities for networking
2.               Understanding issues, trends, and concerns in the business sector
3.               Having access to the calendar of professional/social events taking place in the Valley
4.               The price break in the membership fee was also an incentive.
5.               Develop, to a greater extent, the skills needed to gain employment upon graduation
Are you originally from the Lehigh Valley?  Do you plan on staying here when you graduate?
No, I am not originally from the Lehigh Valley; however, I have lived in PA all my life.  My family moved here in 1999, I graduated from Parkland High School in 2002, went to F&M for my undergraduate degree and returned to the Lehigh Valley to live and work in 2006.  Then in August 2008, I began pursuing my Master of Education degree at Kutztown University. 
I will consider staying in this area for two reasons:  1. I have made some great personal and professional connections here 2. My family lives here; however, considering the job market, I have to keep my options open and seek employment opportunities outside of the Lehigh Valley and, quite possibly, even Pennsylvania.  Fortunately, there are a dozen colleges in the Lehigh Valley so the odds are high that I might be able to stay in the Lehigh Valley to work upon graduation.
What do you think the business community can do to help keep college student here once they graduate?
I have several ideas and am very glad you asked this question. 
1.               Offer networking happy hours (with a specific business or two as partners) near colleges and universities.  It might be possible to incorporate discussion of a professional development topic into this type of event as well.
2.               Meet and Greet events with business owners in the Lehigh Valley so students may:
a.               Ask questions about job searching
b.               Understand the options they have for careers with their respective majors
c.                Learn about volunteer opportunities/internships with certain companies
d.               Be aware of the impact they can have locally as a professional and encourage them to stay in the Lehigh Valley
3.               Establish a new professionals/student support network because connecting students to each other while they are still in their undergraduate programs will create connections, encourage the sharing of ideas, and, hopefully, lead them to pursue employment in the area.
4.               Businesses could work more closely with colleges by contacting the Career Development Centers on campuses to arrange informational sessions or reach out to faculty members to speak at classes. I think that this type of visibility will help increase interest in employment in the Lehigh Valley.
Anything else you want to tell us about yourself or your career interests?
I have been very fortunate to work with professionals in a variety of settings: local government, social support services, several institutions of higher education, and local business owners.  These experiences have not only shaped my career interests but have also developed my professional skills.  I now don a community-minded orientation to professionalism where I place great importance on networking as well as personal and professional development with my students, colleagues, fellow graduate students, friends, and family members.  My strengths lie in bringing people together, being resourceful, and approaching each challenge with vigor and enthusiasm.  I believe that if you take advantage of the opportunities that come your way, not only will you follow the path you are meant to take; you will also be able to be true to yourself.  
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Name: Holly Richendrfer
College: Lehigh University
Major: PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience
Graduating Class: Expected Summer of 2010

What are you interested in doing once you graduate college? After graduation,  I am changing careers and hoping to find positions in University administration.   In graduate school at Lehigh, I became highly involved in graduate student life as an executive board member.  In doing this for 6 years I came to love mentoring students, being an orientation ambassador, planning and executing events, and getting to know grad students from different cultures. 

What made you want to join The Chamber?  I want to become more involved in the community and get to know in business leaders in the Lehigh Valley.   Community service is highly important to me and I thought joining the chamber would be a great opportunity to find those different avenues. 

Are you originally from the Lehigh Valley?  No, I am originally from Bloomsburg, PA.   

Do you plan on staying here when you graduate?  I would love to stay in the area after graduation, but this all depends on finding job openings in the Lehigh Valley.  I am currently job searching in the Lehigh Valley area as well as in Philadelphia and Baltimore. 

What do you think the business community do to help keep college students here once they graduate?  Over the past 6 years since I moved to the Lehigh Valley, I have seen an enormous amount of growth in the surrounding communities.   This includes an increase in the number of businesses , enrollment of students at nearby universities, and more opportunities for extra curricular activities.   Even though right now the economy isn't the greatest for growth, I believe businesses would benefit by directly addressing the needs of young college aged individuals.  This would include opening of more positions, focusing more on social media networks, holding networking or meet and greet happy hours, or having an open house to learn more about the business. 

Anything else you want to tell us about yourself or your career interests?   I love promoting and executing events while working with businesses in the community.  If I were not able to find an administrative position at a university, I would love to be involved within  in a philanthropic,  event planning, or public relations role. 

Daily Briefing, 2/25/2010

Good morning everyone!  We hope you enjoyed the snow yesterday, because apparently its not quite done yet.  It was so bad yesterday that LANTA suspended their service at 8pm and will likely restart today on a snow emergency route.  The winter has already resulted in many municipalities, such as Bethlehem, depleting their public works budgets in an attempt to clean the snow.  Anyway, here is today's Daily Briefing.


The Northampton Area School Board approved a draft budget yesterday.  The budget will raise taxes 3.5%.

In national news, the much anticipated health care summit was held yesterday at the White House.  As you can imagine, Democrats and Republicans each had their own reactions about the summit.  In other news, yesterday marked the first face to face meeting between former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney.  Bush visited Cheney, who is recovering from a mild heart attack. 

Snow is not conducive to a lot of news, it would seem!  We'll see you folks later today.   Drive safe!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Report: Miles driven on the rise again

Over a year ago, before the recession and when gas was around $4.00/gallon, we noted the reports of others that states that the amount of miles Americans were driving was declining at a dramatic race.  That trend appears to have reversed itself - according to a story in USAToday, traffic is on the rise again, and though it has not yet increased to where it was in 2007, we will likely hit that benchmark sometime in the near future.

There are a few important points in the article.  First, as the graph below shows, traffic hasn't increased that much, never moving up more than .3% between September and the present.



The increase in traffic is tied to the improvement in the economy.  That being said, traffic is linked to the employment situation in the U.S. - as more Americans are employed, traffic increases, and visa versa.  Also on the rise - toll collections, though that comes as no surprise if traffic is increasing.

Social Media Stats at Fortune 500 Companies

The information for this entry comes to us courtesy of the amazing folks at Mashable.  The entry looks at a recent study of the largest 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list and examines their Social Media presence.  Here are the results
  • 2/3 of companies have a Twitter account (with many having more than one - the average company studied has 4.2 Twitter accounts).
  • 54% have at least one Facebook fan page.
  • Half have at least one YouTube channel.
  • 33% have at least one corporate blog.
I'll be perfectly honest - I'm surprised the numbers aren't higher.

What do you think?

Governor Rendell's budget: 74 Sales tax exemptions to be removed

Hi everyone -

Under Governor Rendell's proposed 2010 - 2011 budget, 74 items will have their sales tax exemptions removed.  Under the same proposal, the sales tax will drop from 6% to 4%. 

I thought it would be interesting to post all of those items.  Here they are:

Sales tax exemptions to be repealed under the governor's 2010-11 budget include:
Accounting, auditing and bookkeeping services
Administrative services
Advertising, public relations & related services
Air transportation and airline catering
Amusement & recreation industries
Architectural, engineering, & related services
Basic television
Candy and gum
Caskets and burial vaults
Catalogs and direct mail advertising
Coal
Coin-operated food and beverage vending machines
Construction, repair, equipment and maintenance of commercial vehicles
Construction of memorials
Consulting (scientific, environmental, & technical)
Custom programming, design & data processing
Dry-cleaning and laundry services
Electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning service fees
Financial institutions fees
Firewood
Fish feed
Flags
Funeral parlors, crematories and death care services
Gratuities
Helicopters
Horses sold to out-of-state purchasers
Information services
Investment metal bullion and investment coins
Legal
Liquor or malt beverage purchased from retail dispenser
Magazines
Museums, historical sites, zoos, and for-profit parks
Newspapers
Non-prescription drugs
Other transportation
Parking lots and garages
Personal care services
Personal hygiene products
Rail transportation equipment
Recreational parks, camps and campgrounds
Rental of films for commercial exhibition
Residential electric service
Residential oil and gas fuel
Residential telephone
School buses
Scientific research and development services
Services to buildings and dwellings
Specialized design
Spectator sports admissions (excludes schools)
Stair lift devices
Textbooks
Tourist promotion agencies
Transit and ground transportation
Trout
Truck transportation
Uniform Commercial Code filing fees
Veterinary fees
Warehouse storage
Waste management and remediation services
Water and sewage services
Wrapping and packing supplies

Daily Briefing, 2/25/2010

Good morning everyone! Here is today's Daily Briefing.  I hope you are ready to enjoy another snowy day.

Less loans were given out across the nation during 2009, and the Lehigh Valley was no exception, with local banks giving out less loans during the year.  In Easton, Mayor Panto gave his annual State of the City address, noting that the city finished 2009 with a positive fiscal balance - the 2nd straight year this has occurred.  If you were one of the many affected by RCN's recent cable outage, you will be getting a $5 refund and a free trial of a premium movie service.

A new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll notes that a majority of Pennsylvania residents believe that climate change is occurring, but the percentage of non-believers has shot up from 16% to 31% since October 2008.  A new poll released yesterday by Franklin & Marshall shows Pat Toomey still leading both potential Democratic challengers - he leads Senator Specter 44-34% and Congressman Joe Sestak 38-28%.  In the primary, Senator Specter leads Congressman Sestak 33-16%.

Today is a big day for health care, as President Obama will hold his much touted health care summit with Congressional Democrats and Republicans.  The Senate also voted to approve a jobs bill yesterday.  The bill would give tax credits to companies for hiring workers.

Our one event today - Mayor Panto's State of the City address in Easton - has been postponed due to weather concerns.  It will be rescheduled for March 2.

That's all for now - enjoy your day and drive safe!  We'll see you later.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Video: Print Media in the 21st Century

Wall Street Journal: Municipalities considering bankrupcy

Yesterday, we wrote about state's and their continuing revenue shortfalls.  As much as we hate to be a downer, there was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that was too interesting and relevant to not discuss.  Many municipalities are having trouble making payments on bonds, forcing them to consider Chapter 9 bankruptcy, something previously unheard of.

Chapter 9 is something so rarely considered because it leaves creditors, bondholders and municipal employees in an extremely uncertain position; nevertheless, it has become increasingly possible for many (including Harrisburg).  In these cases, raising taxes alone simply will not generate enough revenue to meet expenditures. 

Chapter 9 has been pursued by municipalities 600 times since 1934 (an extremely low number).

We may have our fiscal problems in the Valley, but they are nothing compared to cities like Harrisburg.  Chapter 9 bankruptcy, however, does pose serious risks, although the article makes it appear that some municipalities and governing units are considering it to get out of union contracts.

It is truly a sign of the times that bankruptcy for governments is being seen as a viable alternative by many.

Tech Wednesday: Screenr for instant screencasts

I was just researching which site to use for this week's Tech Wednesday post and came across Screenr.  As I click around and discover just how cool this website is, I turn to my fiance and comment, "You know why I love doing these Tech Wednesday posts?  Because I find out about these amazing sites!"  The Chamber (and the rest of the world) are getting involved in Webinars - and Screenr is a great example of the power and ease of this type of technology.

Summary:  Screenr allows you to create instant "screencasts" - using a microphone, you can record everything that you do on your screen, creating instant presentations with matching video and audio.

Features and Benefits:
  • Record presentations with matching video and audio without ever having to download anything.  These presentations can be used for demonstrates, to give a live power point, to make explanations on a variety of topics, etc.
  • Link those presentations to a variety of sources, including your website, YouTube, Twitter or any smart phone.
  • Sync these presentations with anything that is on your screen, including word documents, videos, or power points.
 Pricing:  Well, we couldn't find anything about the price, so free as best as we can tell!

Daily Briefing, 2/24/2010

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

We have snow heading our way - but how much snow and how bad the wind will be appears to be anyone's guess.  Sands Casino has turned in its application for table games, asking for 89 games that it says will generate 400 jobs.  The tables could arrive as soon as July.  Air Products is continuing its efforts to take over Airgas, appealing directly to Airgas' shareholders.  Airgas has advised its shareholders to reject Air Products' bid.  There is some good news for Lehigh Valley International Airport, as the Airport's traffic increased 10% in January, the 7th straight month that traffic has increased.  St. Luke's Hospital unveiled a newest facility yesterday, a place for parents of premature babies to stay near the hospital.  In Wilson, Tony Verenna has resigned from Borough Council after being elected to two offices, the second being the Wilson Area School Board.  Verenna resigned after Northampton District Attorney John Morganelli perused legal action, saying that you can only serve one elected office in Northampton County.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Stimulus Act created between 1 and 2.1 million jobs during the 4th quarter of 2009.

We have one Chamber event today: the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce is holding a business spotlight at Falk Funeral Home & Crematory.

That's it for now!  Have a great day and drive safe, the roads still aren't pretty.  We'll see you later.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

State budgets in massive trouble - again

Though the recession is officially over, state and local budgets remain in deep trouble, with the 2010-2011 budget cycle proving to be exceptionally difficult again.  Unemployment remains low, keeping consumer spending down to a minimum, causing significant hits to state income, sales and corporate tax revenue.  This all means bad news for state budgets.

Here's the depressing stats from governing.com:
  • State income estimates continue to be revised downward.
  • For fiscal year 2010 - 2012, state budgets faced a combined gap of $134 billion.
  • In January 2010, states eliminated 18,000 jobs.
  • To balance their budges, states are cutting spending and raising taxes - all of which will further dampen any economic recovery.
All bad news.

Study: Chamber members have better credit scores and pay bills faster

We try not to be too self-promotional here, but we recieved this press release from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives and it is too good to pass up. 

Here's the summary: a study, commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) and Cortera, analyzed the membership of ten different Chambers are found that Chamber members had higher credit scores and paid bills faster than non-chamber members.  Here are the details from the press release.
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The American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) today announced the publication of a new study detailing the credit scores and payment behavior of ten local chambers of commerce across the United States, comparing their member businesses with other regional, state and national business averages. Produced by Cortera™, a community-driven business credit bureau, on behalf of ACCE, the study includes the Bowling Green (KY) Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Boca Raton (FL) Chamber of Commerce, Greater Durham (NC) Chamber of Commerce, Greater Omaha (NE) Chamber of Commerce, Helena (MT) Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake Champlain (VT) Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lubbock (TX) Chamber of Commerce, Salem (OR) Area Chamber of Commerce, San Diego (CA) Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Tulsa (OK) Metro Chamber. According to the study, chamber of commerce members possess an average credit score of 629, compared to a 557 average score for businesses at large. Such scores – the payment behavior from which they are derived -- play a significant role in attracting lines of credit and securing favorable terms from lenders and suppliers.

A complete copy of the study, which includes both the aggregate findings, as well as the individual commercial credit scores for each of the ten local chambers, is available on the ACCE and Cortera sites. The study was contracted by ACCE and performed by Cortera, which reviewed payment behavior for chamber member businesses.
"Chamber members have long been seen as responsible and reliable members of their community," said Mick Fleming, president and CEO of ACCE. "What this study indicates is that the perception is right. From a credit standpoint, chamber members on average are better businesses, and as a result they have significant advantages in obtaining the funds they need. In this economy and the tight credit environment we are experiencing, that's especially important."
"The economic health of the entire supply chain is dependent on the payment behavior of each of its stakeholders," said Jim Swift, president and CEO of Cortera. "This study suggests that chamber members are among the most dependable participants in this ecosystem."

Voluntary insurnace through The Chamber

Voluntary Insurance has become very popular within the past two years, and as part of your Chamber Membership, you can have access to two outstanding plans (and I say this from personal experience!).  If you are a Chamber Member and want more information on how to take advantage of these plans, contact lanital@lehighvalleychamber.org.  If you want more information about becoming a Chamber member, contact mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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Capital BlueCross

Several voluntary benefits are offered through this program, including PersonalBlue PPO (for individuals), short-term major medical, group term life, accidental death & dismemberment, long-term disability, Accident-Cancer-Critical Care Elite and long-term care insurance. Call 1-800-451-1181 for more information.

Aflac
Aflac’s nationwide service and reputation make it natural to offer these specialized coverages to our members. Aflac policies are designed to pay cash benefits to employees to help cover expenses associated with a serious illness or injury. Because Aflac products are employee owned, group rates apply and premiums are deducted on a “pre-tax” basis. These policies pay in addition to any other insurance policies your employees currently have. Plans include Personal Accident, Sickness & Catastrophic, Specific Health & Cancer cash benefits. For more information, contact Bob or Maureen Friedman at 610-398-3727 or bobfried@ptd.net or maureens@ptd.net.

Daily Briefing, 2/23/2010

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

Former patients and current employees of Allentown State Hospital testified before state officials at a public hearing yesterday to speak against the hospital's proposed closure.  The hospital is set to be closed before the end of the year.  Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest has announced that they will open a children's emergency unit by 2011.  Elected officials and other concerned parties have expressed their concerns over PennDOT's plan to revamp the Macarthur Road interchange on Route 22.  In Coplay, a Downtown Master Plan (currently in progress) is calling for significant investment in the downtown and public buildings.  In Northampton County, District Attorney John Morganelli is seeking a hearing date regarding the legality of Ron Angle's attempts to hold two offices, one on Northampton County Council and the other on Allentown School Board.  The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has almost completed the their Violator Enforcement System for individuals who try to run tolls at the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border.  If you have RCN, fear not - the cable outage that effected customers since Sunday is now over.

President Obama's health care plan would have significant effects on Pennsylvania, as the state is only one of two in America that does not give insurance commissioners the ability to regulate health insurance costs on small businesses.

The White House has released the President's new Health Care Proposal on its website ahead of Thursday's bipartisan health care summit.  New credit card regulations are in effect nationwide, and the Express Times summarizes what sorts of changes consumers can now expect.  In the Senate, a proposed $15 billion jobs bills has passed a procedural vote 62-30.  Final passage is expected Wednesday.

We have one Chamber event today: a monthly Women's Business Council luncheon to discuss marketing your business for success.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a one-on-one interview with former Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge.  The show will be available online later today, and you can also get more information about the show at the Business Matters blog

That's it for now!  See you later today.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Poll: 86% of Americans think government is broken

I don't know about the rest of you, but it strikes me that this poll speaks volumes about what Americans believe about their their government and has massive implications for the 2010 elections and beyond. 

According to CNN poll, 86% of Americans believe that government is broken.  81% believe that it can be fixed.

What strikes me about this poll is the sheer volume.  We are an incredibly divided sociey, yet in an answer to two relatively significant poll questions, more than 8 in 10 Americans agree.  Unfortunately, no cross-tabs are provided, meaning that we can't see more specifics about answers to the question.  I'd be curious to see the partisan breakdown.

What do you think?  Is the U.S. government broken?  From a Valley perspective, what effect does this have on local government?  And what can be done to fix it?

Daily Briefing, 2/22/2010

Good morning everyone!  The weekend is over, and its time to get back to work!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

Here's an interesting fact: the number of people who Googled "Lehigh Valley" increased 14% over the past July-June fiscal year, a positive sign, according to the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.  There is some local political news to report: Matthew Benol, a Tea Party activist, has announced a primary challenge to Congressman Charlie Dent (R-15).  Senator Lisa Boscola (D-18) will be seeking re-election.  In Northampton County, Attorney and former Council Councilman Nick Sabatine announced that he will run for former Representative Craig Dally's seat as a Democrat. Republican Heidi Markow has announced her challenge to State Representative Bob Freeman (D-136).

In state-wide news, the three remaining Democrats and Republican Sam Rohrer met in Philadelphia for a wide-ranging candidates forum for Governor.

In national news, a revised health care plan from President Obama is calling for the federal government to have more regulatory oversight of the health insurance industry.  Democrats appear set to use budget reconcliliation - a parlimentary tactic that would allow them to only need 50 votes instead of the 60 required to shut down a filibuster - in order to pass health care.  Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Minority Leader, has said he is not sure if he can stop it.  And here's some good news - for the first time in three years, the amount of people falling behind in on home loans is declining.

Business Matters airs today, featuring a one-on-one interview with former Governor and Secretary of Homeland security, Tom Ridge.

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

Friday, February 19, 2010

Social Media Op-Ed

Hi everyone -

Your resident blogger had this op-ed published in the Morning Call today.  The op-ed discusses the importance of Social Media on the biggest and smallest of levels.  Check it out below.  What do you think?
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When a 7.0 earthquake ripped through Haiti a month ago, some of the first and most graphic images of the tragedy came to us not through mainstream media but through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Social media played a crucial role in making the crisis real to the average person by providing heart-wrenching stories and images about the disaster. On a philanthropic level, social media played a crucial role in turning emotion into activism, spreading to the world about various ways individuals could donate to disaster relief efforts. Videos and tweets (messages sent out over Twitter) by stars like Wyclef Jean helped raise awareness about a campaign that allowed people to donate to Haiti via text messages. That campaign has raised more than $30 million.

Last June, a fraudulent election in Iran touched off massive protests throughout the country. Twitter, a Web site previously better known for giving us the ability to instantly broadcast what we were eating for dinner, played a key role in getting word out about the protests and subsequent crackdowns by President Ahmadinejad's dictatorial regime. The role of Twitter became so important that the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to delay previously planned maintenance to avoid a shut-down during the height of the protests.

The point of these two stories? Social media's day has come.

Social media are the most popular activity on the Internet -- 17 percent of all time spent online is spent on social media, more than e-mail or online gaming. Facebook has over 400 million members worldwide and over 100 million in America. LinkedIn has over 60 million members and one new member joins every second. Twitter has experienced a more than 1,400 percent growth from 2008-2009. Over 1 billion videos a day are watched on YouTube; indeed, 15 percent of the Internet's data consumption comes from people watching videos on YouTube.

This many people have not been bound together by a similar communication method since the rise of the Internet itself, and this realization has incredible consequences for human communication on both a worldwide and a personal scale. Social media take events with enormous impact, like revolutions and natural disasters, and make them personal.

Can you imagine if social media had been popular during Hurricane Katrina? The tweets and Facebook posts would have chillingly laid out the tragedy as it unfolded and further magnified the scope of the human tragedy and the incompetence of our federal government. Can you fathom the horrific nature of the social media that would have emerged during 9/11?

Social media's impact can be felt not only on such a massive scope but also on a smaller one as well. If social media can have this kind of impact on a worldwide stage, then I guarantee that they have the ability to impact you on a personal and professional level.

Social media have to be about more than talking: They have to be about listening. For it to be effective, social media must provide value-added content that will interest readers and keep them coming back. Businesses, from multinational corporations to mom-and-pop corner groceries, can use social media to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the way they run their operations, to highlight products and services and to connect with customers. Governments can use social media to increase transparency and be more responsive to citizen input and needs.

On a personal level, social media can allow you to make new friends and reconnect with old ones.

Social media are no longer the trend of the future. They are the trend of right now. They are not a fad, but represent a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Indeed, the question is no longer ''why should I be on social media?'' The question is now, ''why aren't you?''

Mike Schlossberg is assistant vice president of technical and community management for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and an Allentown city councilman.

How does your county's health rank?

A new report has come out that evaluates the health of every county in America.  The rankings were based off of four factors - health behaviors, social & economic factors, physical environment and clinical care.  Sub-categories were arranged within each of these four broader categories to develop a composite score. 

I'm sure most of us had the same thought when we read this one: where does my county rank?  Here's the answer.

Did anyone else wonder what sort of effect a regional health department would have on the Lehigh Valley's rankings?

Guest Blog Post: The Importance of the Arts Community to the Lehigh Valley

Today's guest blog post comes to us courtesy of our friends at the Civic Theatre in Allentown.  A reminder - if you are interested in authoring a guest blog spot, just E-mail me at MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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Everyone understands the cultural importance of the arts in a community. Many people, however, fail to realize the major impact that the arts have on economic development. In fact, the Lehigh Valley's nonprofit arts industry annually generates $169.11 million in economic activity.


Arts organizations not only provide employment for area artists, but they also create the demand for additional employees in surrounding businesses. Patrons, as well as staff members, dine in or take out food from surrounding restaurants, fill their cars at local gas stations, and stay at local hotels. Parents waiting to pick up their children from classes buy coffee at nearby cafes and shop at local boutiques. The organizations purchase supplies at local stores, produce materials at local printers and buy advertising space in the local media. Without a doubt, arts organizations are cultural, economic, and tourist magnets for the communities in which they operate.
The Lehigh Valley is fortunate to have a plethora of arts organizations. Widely tauted as some of the best in the region, these arts organizations contribute to the quality of life of residents and businesses alike. In addition to providing countless educational opportunities for young people and adults, enhancing cultural visibility throughout the state, increasing regional tourism, making and providing a built-in market for local business and service industries, the Lehigh Valley arts community also enjoys a remarkable reputation for providing outstanding cultural experiences in theatre, music, dance, and visual arts.
According to the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, our local arts community includes 6,216 full-time equivalent jobs, and contributes $6,817,000 in local tax revenues. Clearly, the arts are an important local industry for our region’s financial strength, but we must never underestimate the significance of the emotional and educational impact that they also provide. No statement does more justice to our work than that of Civic Theatre of Allentown’s Board President Sharon Lee Glassman who stated on Business Matters that “the arts keep us in touch with our humanity.” The feelings people get when they see a chilling documentary film, a vibrant painting, a touching live theatre performance, a witty comic, or a majestic concert simply cannot be duplicated by any other industry. People rarely leave the market place having had their lives changed by the experience; people often exit a theatre in awe of the depths of emotion that have been touched, of the laughter, tears, and memories that have been evoked, of the answers to questions that have resulted. How many of us can suggest similar experiences from the market place?

As the market place depends on the patronage of the community to thrive and continue to exist, the arts organizations depend on the community at large. If local residents do not attend our events, if the business community doesn’t support us by advertising or donations, if the corporate structure does not financially support us with sponsorships, grants, and donations, and if the government doesn’t continue to subsidize our work, we simply will be unable to provide our vital programming to the community.
There are those who suggest that we need to be more self sufficient and rely less on public support. Historically, non-profit arts organizations have been funded by patrons, communities, businesses, corporations, and government. To change that model would require a monumental shift in not only the mindset, but also the economic system which has long been in place. Most importantly, it would require an extended time period when the arts disappeared. A community without the arts would certainly be a community in which most people would not want to live, a world without that humanity that defines a culture. In light of the fact that the arts give back so much to the society in which they thrive, financial support and patronage seem but a small price to pay. Your donations and support of our efforts are your investment in the future of the Lehigh Valley. We need your help to help us to keep the arts alive right here in our home town.

Daily Briefing, 2/19/2009

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

Mayor Pawlowski of Allentown has nominated Sara Hailstone of Scranton to serve as the City's new Director of Community and Economic Development.  Hailstone had previously held the same position in Scranton and most recently worked as a regional director for the State's Community and Economic development department.  In Allentown, Lehigh County Executie Don Cunningham gave his State of the County address yesterday at a Chamber event.  The Executive noted that times were difficult and that cuts to popular programs may have to be made.  In Bethlehem, Mayor Callahan gave an update on the State of the City at a Chamber event yesterday, saying that Bethlehem remained in a good position despite the difficult financial environment.  In his speech, the Mayor also pushed for the creation of new jobs and noted that crime in the city as down.  Meanwhile, the Bethlehem Area School District approved a draft budget that raised taxes by 10.78%.  Speaking of School Districts, the Salisbury Township School District saw their draft budget yesterday - one that calls for a tax hike of 11.3%.  In Easton, plans have been unveiled for a site on S. 3rd street that would create a new bus terminal, parking deck and space for the National High School Sports Hall of Fame Museum. 

In state-wide news, a date has been set for the special election to replace Congressman John Murtha (D-12), who died last week following complications as a result of gallbladder surgery.  The special election will be held on May 18, the same day of the Pennsylvania primary. 

Bad news for millions of seniors who are on Medicare programs: premiums increased an average of 14% this year.  Meanwhile, a new study shows that state taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $1 billion in benefit and pension plans for retirees. 

We have one Chamber event today: a Small Business Council breakfast on hiring.

That's it for now!  See you later.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Job Openings

i everyone - here are what we have in the way of job openings today.  Again, if you are a member and would like us to post one of your job openings, just E-mail me at mailto:MikeS@lehighvalleychamber.org 
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Corporate Cleaners is looking to hire 2-3 people for upcomming contracts in the Bethlehem Area. Best candidates are FT employees looking for a PT job close to home, a few hrs a night after work. $350 -$450 a month. Most work is M-F From 5:30-8:30 pm. this is PT evening janitorial work. Put on the head phones and ...destress for a few hours! Get paid to exercise and chill out at the end of the day. If interested, contact Eric Allred at eallred.corporatecleaners@gmail.com.
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Instructors
Adjunct instructors needed to teach dual enrollment college courses.  The classes will run February 8-June 7, 2010. 
    English I   3:00-6:00pm Mondays
    College Algebra  3:00-6:00pm Tuesdays
    Elementary Spanish I  9:00am-12:00pm Saturdays
Master’s Degree in the discipline is required, previous college teaching experience preferred.  Please send resume, cover letter, transcripts and three references to Denise Francois-Seeney at Northampton Community College 3 Old Mill Rd. Tannersville, PA 18372 or email to dfrancois@northampton.edu.  No phone calls please.  NCC is EEO/AA,


Instructors - Online
PT - Geography, Astronomy, Geology, Sociology, Art, Music, Spanish, English.  Master's Degree in discipline required, previous college teaching experience, preferably online. Experience using Blackboard and an understanding of multimedia technologies, preferred.  Please send cover letter, resume, unofficial transcripts, teaching evaluations, and 3 professional references to Lealan Zaccone, Northampton Community College, 3835 Green Pond Rd, Bethlehem, PA 18020, or e-mail to distanceedjobs@northampton.edu.  NCC is EEO/AA.


Instructor – MasterCAMX4
The Northampton Community College “Fab Lab” is looking for an instructor to teach MasterCAM X4 as it applies to our CNC Router.  We are offering two classes each semester each one running four weeks, one night per week from 6:30 to 9pm.  The class is focused on MasterCAM basics including the 3-D application, tool paths and posting.  This is an adjunct professor position and is taught on a contract basis.  We are looking for an instructor for our next class starting Tuesday, March 16 and runs through April 6th.  Please send cover letter, resume and contact information on 3 professional references to Carolyn Zanoni, Northampton Community College, 511 E. Third Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015, or email to czanoni@northampton.edu. NCC is EEO/AA.

Daily Briefing, 2/18/2010

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

At a Chamber event yesterday, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham gave his State of the County speech.  At the event, Cunningham spoke about the need for fiscal restraint and the possibility that good programs would have to be cut because of a lack of funding.  In Allentown, City Council heard a presentation a a parks trails plan, as well as potential obstacles.  Council voted to move the plan forward to the full body by a vote of 5-2.  In political news, the state Republican party has accused the Callahan for Congress campaign of violating campaign finance laws and has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.  In Emmaus, Borough Council unanimously appointed former Councilman R. Erick Reinhard to the body, filling a vacancy caused by Chris DeFrain's resignation.  Budget problems are hitting Moravian College in Bethlehem, forcing the school to make some difficult cuts, including ending off-campus housing and men's and women's lacrosse teams.

In political news, as reported yesterday, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty is dropping out of the Gubenatorial race to run for the State Senate, seeking Robert Mellow's seat.  Mellow is retiring.  Doherty never really made a dent in the race, and analyists don't believe that Doherty's exit will significantly shake up the race.

There is more bad news for Toyota, as the Corolla now may have safety problems related to its steering, opening the door for a possible recall.  President Obama is set to create a blue-ribbon commission on how the federal government can establish a long-term way to reduce the deficit.

Today is a busy day for The Chamber, with three events:  a training on How to Generate Leads and Sales through Social Media, the State of the City address in Bethlehem and a webinar on Information Technology and your Sales Team.

That's it for now!  See you later today.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PennDOT: Highway deaths are down to record lows

We all travel on the roads, so I thought this story was interesting.  It comes to us courtesy of a PennDOT press release:
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Pennsylvania Reports Record Low Number of Highway Deaths in 2009


Harrisburg - The number of fatalities on Pennsylvania highways in 2009 dropped to 1,256, the lowest number since recordkeeping began in 1928, PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E., said today.
The previous low was 1,328 in 1944; in 2008 the commonwealth saw 1,468 traffic fatalities.
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For all the talk that you hear about distracted and aggressive drivers, its good to see numbers like this.

Tech Wednesday - Dropbox for your cloud computing needs

Many of you have likely heard of the concept of cloud computing. The premise is simple enough: instead of storing a digital file on your computer, you store it "in the cloud," or the internet, where it is then accessible from anywhere. Dropbox is one such example of cloud computing.


Summary: Dropbox bills itself as a "magic pocket: A single, secure place for all of your stuff." It is a downloadable program that you can use to store files.

 
Features and Benefits:
  • Once you download Dropbox, you can save files that can then be accessible on any computer or smart phone. Files automatically sync across your entire Dropbox account.
  • You can also save files on the dropbox website and retrieve them at a later date.
  • You can give the Dropbox folders various levels of accessibility, meaning you can share files with whoever you want (or no one) and give them permission to view or change files.
Pricing: Like most features, the basic account (up to 2GB) is free. Beyond that, you have to pay a set fee per month, depending on how much storage you need.

Daily Briefing, 2/17/2009

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

In Bethlehem, City Council voted to inform the Mayor, Auditor and City Controller's office that the Mayor spent $335,000 without Council's permission, in violation of previously passed ordinances.  In politics, its officially that time: this is the three week window for candidates to get signatures to get on the May primary ballot.  In Wind Gap, after alleged misconduct, the Borough Police Chief Craig Armitage was reinstated by Borough Council in a 4-2 vote.  Armitage had been suspended for a month.

In state-wide news, concerned groups rallied in Harrisburg yesterday to push for a loosening of Pennsylvania liquor laws that would allow for the sale of alcohol at grocery and convenience stores.  The funeral for Congressman John Murtha was held yesterday in Johnstown.  Murtha was Pennsylvania's longest serving Congressman, serving since 1974.  He died on February 8th after complications from gallbladder surgery.  In the Governor's race, it appears that Chris Doherty, Mayor of Scranton, may be ready to exit.  This comes after his State Senator, Robert Mellow, has announced his intention to retire.  Doherty has been rumored to be considering leaving the Governor's race and running for Mellow's seat.

In national news, a new poll has come out that shows that only 34% believe that current lawmakers deserve to be reelected, while 63% say that lawmakers don't deserve it - yet, 51% of those surveyed believe that their Congressman should be reelected.  Today marks the one year anniversary of the signing of the stimulus act.  To commemorate, the White House is set to release a progress report on the stimulus' effectiveness.  The pace of the spending related to the stimulus is also set to increase: from $27 billion to $32 billion a month.

We have two Chamber events today: Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham will be giving his "State of the County" address.  The East Penn and Western Lehigh Chambers of Commerce will also be holding a joint luncheon talking about print media in the 21st century.

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Chamber's Executive VP of Public Policy on the Pennsylvania Budget

Hi everyone -

This article appeared in Friday's edition of the Morning Call.  It gave The Chamber's take on Governor Rendell's proposed budget.  The text is below. 
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Michelle Griffin Young: Rendell's budget is not friendly to business

This week, Gov. Rendell released his 2010-2011 budget of $29 billion, a spending increase of $1.2 billion or 4.1 percent more than our current budget. At least two questions come to mind:

1) What do residents get for $29 billion? Well, 91 percent goes to five areas: education, medical assistance/long-term living, other human service programs, corrections and debt service. How about our roads and bridges? We need $1.2 billion to get the job done. There is $922.5 million in the budget, but $472 million of that hinges on the Federal Highway Administration's pending decision whether to allow the tolling of I-80.

2) Where will that $29 billion come from? You and me! Facing that reality is where the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce comes in. We serve as the voice for business working with our legislators to continuously improve the business climate and foster private-sector job creation for all.

Our members tell us that in order to create jobs, the government needs to keep out of the pockets of small and large businesses. The governor did propose to lessen the state sales tax from 6 percent to 4 percent. However, his proposal adds 74 items to the list of what you pay sales tax on, including business services. That will create more of a burden on our businesses and not foster an environment for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

Our state is already ranked as one of the least business-friendly in the nation. This budget will not help. The Chamber looks forward to working with Gov. Rendell and our legislators on reforming state programs like the current pension system as well as creating a budget that will improve the business climate and the lives of every single resident.

Member Benefit: Send us your press releases

Those of you who are Chamber Members know that we send out a monthly newsletter called Connections.  Connections goes out to all of our approximately 5,000 members and is also seen at various locations throughout the Valley.  One of the primary goals of Connections, of course, is to help our members promote their business.

To that end, we want your news!  All Chamber members are entitled to subit 50 words about their new programs, offerings, employee promotions, news, etc.  These news releases will then be published in Connections. 

Let us help promote you!

Daily Briefing, 2/16/2010

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

In Allentown, City Council will vote tomorrow on the approval of a $10 million parks trail plan that would result in the creation of 14 miles of trails and the repaving/expansion of another 34 miles.  A fire at the Hotel Bethlehem yesterday forced the evacuation of the hotel; fortunately, the fire was ultimately put out with no injuries and no damage to the building.  Good news in the real estate market, as home sales have increased 22% from the same time last year.  In Easton, the city is looking to extend the pool season and cut the cost of nonresident pool passes in an attempt to generate more revenue.

In national news, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced yesterday he will be retiring.  The retirement gives Republicans a primary opportunity to pick up another Senate seat.  Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is in Iowa today, further stoking the idea that he may run for President in 2012.

Business Matters aired yesterday, featuring a panel discussion on the state of the media.  You can watch the show online later today, and make sure to check out the Business Matters blog for more info and to join in the debate with other commentators.

That's it for now!  See you all later today.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Excellence in Business Awards Video



For more information, contact Danielle at DanielleJ@lehighvalleychamber.org.

What other social networks do you use?

You hear us talk a lot about Social Media, and that falls primarily into five different networks: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Blogging.  In my opinion, these are the five most commonly used social networks.  But, they are, of course, not the be all, end all.  There are plenty others.  Here are a few:
  • Flickr:  Flickr is primarily a Social Media platform for photo sharing.  It allows you to upload and organize your photos and share them with whoever you want.
  • MySpace: The original Social Media king, MySpace has taken a hit in recent years.  It functions similarly to Facebook but with a different interface.  At one time, it had far more members than Facebook but has since been lapped by the Social Media giant.  
  • Ning:  Ning is a unique idea that has yet to go as "mainstream" as some of its bigger competitors, but certainly has the potential to do so.  In a nutshell, Ning allows individuals to create their own social network that has many of the same standard functions as platforms like Facebook.  Networks can be created around any topic or interst.
  • Plaxo:  Plaxo bills itself as "your address book for life" and allows individuals to maintain their contacts and connections wherever they are.
  • Buzz:  Google Buzz is the latest entry into the field and represents Google's strongest effort to enter the Social Media world.  It allows for content sharing, status updates and integrates with GMail accounts, among other features.
 There are literally hundreds more out there.  What are some of your favorites?
 Plaxo
ning

Welcome, Mary!

One of the most successful urban revitalization programs that we've run at The Chamber has been our Borough Business Revitalization Program.  This program is a regional Main Street program, designed to revitalize eight smaller downtowns in the Lehigh Valley.  It had been served by its two coordinators, Sharon Davis and Mike Schlossberg (yours truly).  Fans of the blog will remember that I moved onto a new role within The Chamber.  

On that note, we have hired my replacement, and I gotta say, I have no doubt that she is going to do an incredible job.  Below are excerpts from the press release on her hire.  

Borough Business Revitalization Program hires Mary Domsicz as new coordinator

Lehigh Valley, PA – February 12, 2010:  Mike Schlossberg, Assistance Vice President of Technical & Community Management for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, announced today that the Borough Business Revitalization Program has hired Mary Domsicz as the program’s new coordinator.  Domsicz will work in the Boroughs of Alburtis, Coopersburg, Hellertown and Macungie and assist the program in its ongoing urban revitalization activities and long-term sustainability.

“When we were looking to fill this position, we had three key requirements.  We wanted someone who was experienced, energetic and passionate about urban revitalization,” said Schlossberg.  “In this employment atmosphere, we had no shortage of qualified candidates. That being said, there was no doubt to us that Mary was far and away the best choice.”

Domsicz has ample experience in the area of urban revitalization, having previously served as the Marketing & Events Coordinator for the Our Town Foundation, a Community Revitalization Corporation dedicated to the revitalization of Hamburg, PA.  In that capacity, Domsicz was responsible for a wide array of activities, including the organization, promotion and execution of all annual events and fundraisers, the design and creation of marketing material and grant writing.  She also managed the planning process for Hamburg’s submission to the Elm Street grant program.

“While attending college in the Allentown area, I immediately sensed that this region had a unique identity: I appreciated the portrait of culture and quality of life that the Lehigh Valley offers,” said Domsicz. “Before I ever conceived of working in the field of community revitalization, I had a feeling that my career would eventually lead me back here.  I am eager to help these boroughs see their communities in a new light – to help them use their historical assets, visual appeal, and downtown charm as an inspiration for change.”


Domsicz starts on February 22. 

About the Borough Business Revitalization Program: The Borough Business Revitalization Program is a regional Main Street Program.  It is a  partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Lehigh & Northampton counties, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation  and the eight Boroughs:  Alburtis, Bangor, Bath, Catasauqua, Coopersburg, Hellertown, Macungie and Wilson.  The goal of the program is to revitalize the urban cores of the participating communities.

About The Chamber: The mission of The Chamber 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 member businesses who employ more than 140,000 individuals, The Chamber is the largest in Pennsylvania, largest in New Jersey, and one of the most active advocates for member businesses in the nation.
Borough Business Revitalization Program hires Mary Domsicz as new coordinator

Lehigh Valley, PA – February 12, 2010:  Mike Schlossberg, Assistance Vice President of Technical & Community Management for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, announced today that the Borough Business Revitalization Program has hired Mary Domsicz as the program’s new coordinator.  Domsicz will work in the Boroughs of Alburtis, Coopersburg, Hellertown and Macungie and assist the program in its ongoing urban revitalization activities and long-term sustainability.

“When we were looking to fill this position, we had three key requirements.  We wanted someone who was experienced, energetic and passionate about urban revitalization,” said Schlossberg.  “In this employment atmosphere, we had no shortage of qualified candidates. That being said, there was no doubt to us that Mary was far and away the best choice.”

Domsicz has ample experience in the area of urban revitalization, having previously served as the Marketing & Events Coordinator for the Our Town Foundation, a Community Revitalization Corporation dedicated to the revitalization of Hamburg, PA.  In that capacity, Domsicz was responsible for a wide array of activities, including the organization, promotion and execution of all annual events and fundraisers, the design and creation of marketing material and grant writing.  She also managed the planning process for Hamburg’s submission to the Elm Street grant program.

“While attending college in the Allentown area, I immediately sensed that this region had a unique identity: I appreciated the portrait of culture and quality of life that the Lehigh Valley offers,” said Domsicz. “Before I ever conceived of working in the field of community revitalization, I had a feeling that my career would eventually lead me back here.  I am eager to help these boroughs see their communities in a new light – to help them use their historical assets, visual appeal, and downtown charm as an inspiration for change.”

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Domsicz starts on February 22.  She replaces Schlossberg in this position.  Mike was recently promoted to his new position as Assistant Vice President of Technical & Community Management for The Chamber.  In that capacity, he will continue to supervise the BBRP. 


About the Borough Business Revitalization Program: The Borough Business Revitalization Program is a regional Main Street Program.  It is a  partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Lehigh & Northampton counties, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation  and the eight Boroughs:  Alburtis, Bangor, Bath, Catasauqua, Coopersburg, Hellertown, Macungie and Wilson.  The goal of the program is to revitalize the urban cores of the participating communities.

About The Chamber: The mission of The Chamber 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 member businesses who employ more than 140,000 individuals, The Chamber is the largest in Pennsylvania, largest in New Jersey, and one of the most active advocates for member businesses in the nation.