Monday, February 28, 2011

Crisis in Wisconsin: An overview

There has been quite a bit of talk about what is happening in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, and indeed, the battle there between public unions/Democrats and the Republican Governor and Assembly have truly captured the entire nations attention.  What on earth is going on over there?  Here is an overview.

Governor Scott Walker (R) was elected this past election and took office in January, 2011.  Like many Governor's, Wisconsin faced a budget shortfall - $137 million in the current fiscal year and an estimated $3.6 billion by 2013.  On February 11, Walker introduced his "budget repair" bill.

Among other provisions, that bill would remove collective bargaining rights for most all public unions in the state (public safety unions were exempted).  It would also require higher pension contributions, higher health care contributions and limits of salary increases.  Most states are looking into requiring higher pension & health care contributions out of its public workers - what sparked the most anger, however, was the proposed removal of collective bargaining rights.

Protests began shortly after Walker introduced his bill.  Literally tens of thousands have descended upon Wisconsin, including workers from many other states.  By February 19, the number of protesters had increased to over 70,000.

After 61 hours of debate, the bill was approved by the Wisconsin State Assembly.  However, all 14 Democratic State Senators fled the state to Illinois.  This reduced the number of Senators to below 20, which is required for a vote to be held, thus temporarily stopping passage of the bill.

Thus far, one Republican State Senator, David Schultz, announced that he would not support the bill.  Schultz is the only Republican to announce his opposition to the legislation.

Thus far, no end appears to be in sight.


Daily Briefing, 2/28/2011

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

Be careful today; thunderstorms and bad weather is expected, putting Lehigh County under a flood watch.

In national news, here we go again: gas prices rose $.17 in one week, largely as a result of ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. reviews what will actually happen if Congress and the President fail to reach a budget agreement and the federal government shuts down.  A new survey of economists shows that their biggest short-term worry is the federal deficit.  And there is no movement in Wisconsin, as both sides refuse to budge in the state's ongoing budget crisis.

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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Guest Blog Entry: User Generated Content

One of the most important things when it comes to Social Media is content - creating, tracking, managing, scheduling - it can all be a little overwhelming at times.  In the mix of this, sometimes the most important question for businesses and Social Media - how it can be used to increase sales - goes unnoticed. 

Here is an examination on how to answer that question, courtesy of Phil Cameron of iTeam of the Lehigh Valley.
How to effectively use User Generated Content to increase sales.
User generated Content is an integral part of the shift from Web 1.0, in which users primarily consumed content, to Web 2.0 in which users not only consume content, but generate it themselves. By nature people are afraid of what they don't know. This translates naturally to the web, as these communication concepts are new to a large section of people, especially those who did not grow up around a computer. People also tend to look at the potential negatives before looking at the positives. 
There is no shortage of evidence to show that User Generated Content is a powerful force. Out of the top ten sites on the web (according to , I could only find 2 that do not actively solicit and make use of user generated content.  However these are the exception, since these are both ran by Microsoft, and one is the default search engine, and the other is the default homepage in thier Internet Explorer web browser.  According to a study done by Neilson, 90% of users trust recommendations left by a peer. With the benifets of User Generated Content apparent, there are still some questions and concerns about using it. The ones that come to mind are dealing with negative content and opinions, legal issues, and technology issues.
Quite frankly, we live in America. People enjoy thier freedom of speech, and everyday our soliders risk their lives to protect that freedom, among others. As a company doing business during the Social Revolution, you have two options when it comes to negative content, bury your head in the sand and let them talk behind your back, or respond.  The delete button has been for the most part taken away.  Even if the platform you are on gives you a delete button, using it causes more damage than good, especially if the comment is from a real customer. WIth that being said, it is okay to delete posts that are abusive, uses foul language, or promotes another product or service.
The best approach is to deal with these types of comments is to accept responsibility, and act quickly to rectify it. By doing this in a public forum, you are showing your customers that you care about thier satisfaction, and will take the actions required on your part to ensure they do not regret doing business with your company.
Another issue people are worried about, is what if users say something on my website, can I get sued for it? I am not a lawyer, however I do know that US law grants website owners immunity for content posted by thier users. The one way to get tripped up here is with dishonesty. Don't promise to take it down, and then don't deliver. It turns out that refusing to take the content down puts you in a better position legally than offering to take it down, as noted in this article.
The final section which may raise concerns is technology.  While the social media outlets are continuing thier efforts to make sharing easier, there is a certain amount of work behind the scences that need to be addressed. For example, Facebook uses the Open Graph protocol to display user friendly summaries of external content. Something as simple as sharing a picture on Facebook takes upto ten pieces of information, assigned in a specific format. That is this years format. We do not know yet what next year will bring. Developing an interactive application that runs inside your website and interfaces with social media sites may cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the features and interactivity desired.
By far, the most effective use of customer generated content is as a replacement for branding. Nobody wants to hear your radio ad, or your TV commercial. However if your user asks a question, records a video, or generates a review, they own that. A large number of users do not mind sharing content that they created. That is the core reason why Social Media is a big as it is now, and is continuing to grow. By encouraging your users to generate and then share content, you can add a small pitch back to you. People see your name as they consume the content thier friends and family create. This develops trust by association. Trust leads to more sales.
To achieve the maximum effect from your customer generated reviews, they should be verified by a third party. Think of it in terms of this article. If I would have told you that 90% of users trust peer reccomendations, and did not give credit to Neilson for thier study, you would have had some level of doubt about the validity of my data. I could have just typed whatever I wanted to, and hoped that noone called me on it. Web consumers are accustomed to such verifications by companies like Ebay, and Amazon, who solicit reviews on products and vendors, and provide this information to customers during the shopping experience. In fact an Ebay score can be a deciding factor in many transactions, especially in cases when the buyer has determined they will buy, but are determing who to buy from. According to this article, Ebay feedback scores often result in a higher purchase price for identical items.
As a consultant, I feel my primary mission is to listen my customers concerns. As a developer, my primary mission is to create solutions that effectively address these concerns. In response to the topics covered here, I created Poll Bunny, which simply allows you to interact with your customer through a mostly automated system. It gives you access to the benifets of user generated content, social media intergration, and third party verifcation. Our system allows you to minimize the investment required, and maximize the ROI generated. For an free estimate please check out our ROI Calculator
About the Author:
Phil Cameron is the owner of  iTeam of the Valley, a family operated consulting firm based in Whitehall, PA which serves the Lehigh Valley. iTeam specializes in Web Design and Development, and Online Marketing services for small to medium size businesses.

Daily Briefing, 2/25/2011

Good morning everyone!  Here is your rainy, Friday Daily Briefing.

PPL and MetEd each scored well in recent customer satisfaction surveys on electric utilities - PPL ranked first and MetEd ranked fifth in their respective categories.  Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski is calling on Congress to strengthen regulation of natural gas infrastructure.  The Sands Bethlehem received approval yesterday to add another 29 tables.  A new Morning Call story notes that significant issues remain before an arena can come to downtown Allentown.  Three local health systems - Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke's and Easton Hospital, ranked among the Top 50 Health Systems in America, according to a new survey.   At a Chamber President's Roundtable yesterday, the new CEO of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, Dr. Ronald Swinfard, spoke about the future of LVHN and its plans for continued growth.

A new poll contains good news for Bob Casey, as it shows him with 12% leads (or more) on former Senator Rick Santorum and Congressmen Charlie Dent & Jim Gerlach.

Oil prices went as high as $103 a barrel yesterday before dropping back slightly; fears of the ongoing revolution in Libya are pushing the prices up.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and if we don't come back, have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Benefits of your Chamber Website

If you are a Chamber member, you probably got an E-mail yesterday that detailed our new website.  It has a variety of new and dramatically enhanced features, but I did want to talk about one in particular - our business directory.

The directory lists all of our members.  The entire database is searchable in two ways - by business category or by business name.  Each business then has its own customizable page that contains a variety of different information, including your name, address (with a Google map), phone, E-mail and a contact form.  There are also some additional options that you can add or modify, including: a Business Description, list of products or services that you offer and specific coupons that people viewing your directory can print out and bring to your business.  You can direct anyone to this website (Chamber member or not) to have them learn more about your business and print out the coupon that you offer.

Don't forget, as a Chamber member, you are also entitled to three absolutely free Social Media Member Benefits:

  • Link on the Blog:  Just say the word and we will link to your website on the blog's right sidebar.  This is good not only for the added exposure, but to increase the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your website.
  • Member of the Day:  If you have a particular special, promotion, sale, fundraiser or news release that you are looking to promote, we are happy to make you our Member of the Day!  Just E-mail me the information ( and we will publish your business and a link to the material you send me on the top-right sidebar.  We will also put it on Facebook & Twitter.
  • Guest Blog Entry:  We are always looking for Guest Blog authors.  With this, we turn the blog over to you - you can then write 300-500 words on a topic of your choosing.  This isn't an advertisement, per se, but a chance for you to show off your expertise and provide added value to Chamber members.  In the process, you will gain exposure (we obviously credit the author and link to your website) in from of the 300-500 people who read our blog daily (not including reads via Facebook or LinkedIn).
If you have any questions about these benefits or want more information, just E-mail me, Mike Schlossberg, at

Job Openings - Howard Kulp Architects, PC

If you are a Chamber Member, we are happy to help you advertise any job opening. Please E-mail a description and contact information to Mike Schlossberg at We publish job openings every Thursday and are happy to help you find the talent that you are looking for!

Part Time Bookkeeper / Business Mgr opening at Howard Kulp Architects, PC
1501 Lehigh Parkway North, Allentown, PA 180103

Howard Kulp Architects, PC is a highly successful architecture firm located along the beautiful and scenic Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, PA.  The firm is currently seeking qualified candidates for a part Time (32 hours per week) position as bookkeeper / business manager / receptionist.  Duties include the management and documentation of employee timesheets for bi-weekly payroll, general billings and receptionist duties.  Must have QuickBooks, Excel and Word experience.  Send resume to Howard Kulp Architects, PC by fax: 610.434.8037 or email:

Daily Briefing, 2/24/2011

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

At a press conference yesterday, area businesses including the Iron Pigs, TD Bank, Air Products, RCN, Rodale and The Chamber have stepped up to encourage others to donate to the Allentown Family Fund - a fund established to assist the victims of the February 6 explosion.  Six banks and a Montgomery County non-profit are coming together to pool funding and make it easier for potential borrowers to have access to credit.

A new report on the state's with the worst tax burden shows that Pennsylvania has the 10th worst state and local taxes in the nation.  Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are working on a plan to avoid a government shutdown by crafting a two week stop-gap measure in exchange for about $4 billion in cuts.  The state of Indiana has dropped the idea of passing controversial right-to-work legislation that caused Senate Democrats to leave the state.

We have one Chamber event today: a President's Roundtable with Dr. Ronald Swinfard, the new CEO of the Lehigh Valley Health Network.

That is it for now, but I promise we will have more later today (sorry about the lack of a 2nd entry yesterday!).  Have a great day, and we'll see you soon!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daily Briefing, 2/23/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Daily Briefing for today.

In Allentown, city officials are working on brining a hockey arena to downtown instead of the Waterfront.  In Macungie, it appears that Borough Manager Chris Boehm is going to keep her job, as Council has pledged to work with her on a "corrective action" plan.  Seven of the twelve remaining Lehigh Valley blockbuster stores are being closed as the movie rental chain heads into bankruptcy.  Lehigh Valley International Airport is attempting to keep Larry Krauter, it's interm Executive Director.  Krauter has been named as the likely candidate to serve as the new Executive Director of a larger airport in Spokane, Washington.  In Northampton County, Executive John Stoffa has said that if a referendum passes requiring that Gracedale not be sold, the facility may have to be closed.  In Easton, Mayor Sal Panto has said that he wants to cut taxes in 2012.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie introduced a budget that cut spending and taxes.

Republican Senator John Thune (R-SD) has said that he will not run for President, potentially marking the first time in modern political history that a US Senator has not sought the Presidency.  In Chicago, former Congressman and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel earned more than 50% of the vote in yesterday's Mayoral Election, allowing him to avoid a runoff and making him the next Mayor of Chicago.

Today is a very busy day at The Chamber, with four Chamber events:  A State of the City breakfast in Easton, featuring Mayor Sal Panto, a Hellertown-Lower Saucon breakfast with an update from community police chiefs, a Southern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce mixer at Melt and a live taping of Business Matters.

That's all for now - have a great day, and we will hopefully be back later!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Four great websites - three for business, one for fun

Last Friday, I spoke at a Small Business Council breakfast.  The topic was a technology review - four speakers spoke about a variety of programs and websites that can be used by business professionals to make their lives easier and more productive.

My job was to review some websites that can be used by businesses to help them become more productive.  These are the four websites that I discussed:

1)  Google Reader:  If you read multiple blogs during a day, you know how annoying it can be to jump from website to website to read different blogs and websites.  Google Reader can help alleviate that problem.  Reader is a Blog Aggregator - meaning that you can put in as many blog addresses as you want and go to that website to read them all.  Blogs are updated automatically, so whenever a blog you read is updated, that update is automatically pushed to Reader.  As a result, you can have all of your blogs kept in one place and can check just one website instead of dozens.  Best of all, Reader is completely free - if you already have a Google account set up, you don't even need to set up a separate one.

2)  Toodledo:  I don't know about the rest of you, but could not possibly keep track of everything I have to do if it wasn't for my To Do list.  There are plenty of options out there - my preference is Toodledo.  Toodledo lets you create your own to do list that you can then sort by a myriad of options - date due, category, urgency, etc.  The customizability of Toodledo is what makes it most effective - your really can make the site work in a manner that best serves your needs.  The basic site is free, though you can pay for upgrades (most of you probably won't need it).  There are also apps available for virtually every smartphone so you can take your to do list on the road.

3)  Hootsuite:  Hootsuite is a Social Media aggregator - it allows you to manage multiple Social Media accounts across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  You can send and schedule updates and responses and customize the interface however you want - as a result, you can see whatever "streams" of information you need the most.  Instead of needing to constantly bounce between those sites, you can keep all three Social Media platforms in one location.  This site is paid, but at $6 a month, it is well worth the investment for anyone who uses Social Media on a frequent basis.

4)  Pandora:  This one has absolutely nothing to do with business, but it doesn't make the site any less awesome.  Pandora allows you to select music (artists or songs) that you like.  You can then create your own "radio station" that will play the music you like - but Pandora goes one step further in the normal music site in that it plays music that is similar to the ones that you suggested.  In other words, Pandora will say, "Oh, so you like Sting?  Try Elton John.  You'll love him to."  As a result, you will find plenty of songs and artists that you had never heard before.

These are four great sites that can help your business, but I know there are countless more.  What other websites do you use that help your business?  Let us know in the comments!

Verizon Open House

Another free open house to report!  Verizon is having an open house on March 9, 7:30am - 9:30am, at their store on 1820 Airport Road in Allentown.  Come to the event to learn more about Verizon's products and services - and stay for the free breakfast and networking opportunities!

For more information, contact Jennifer at

Daily Briefing, 2/22/2011

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

A Morning Call article takes a look at the declared candidates, so far, for Northampton County Council.  More tables are expected to open at Sands Bethlehem upon the completion of the new hotel - this also means more jobs.

Governor Corbett has already cut education funding and is expected to cut more; a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune review looks at how school districts are bracing for the additional cutbacks.

CNN runs a story on what a government shutdown would look like and what services it would effect.  This story is more interesting than anything else; in Central Falls, Rhode Island, the Mayor has been demoted to an advisor after the city went into fiscal receivership and control of the state.  

We have two Chamber events today:  the Women's Business Council is holding their annual lunch on how you can pitch your business to the press.  The Allentown Chamber of Commerce is also holding a meeting, featuring Allentown School District Superintedent Gerald Zahorchak, on his plans for the Allentown School District.

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

Monday, February 21, 2011

This Week With(out) Tony - Excellence in Business Awards

The Small Business Council is now accepting nominations for the annual Excellence in Business Awards.  For more information on the award, please view the video below:

Mack Trucks on Undercover Boss

You might have heard of the show Undercover Boss on CBS.  The premise is pretty clever: the CEO of a company goes "undercover" as a low-level employee within his own company.

Some good news for the Valley:  Mack Truck's CEO Denny Slagle appeared on the program yesterday.  He appears as an assembly line worker at three Mack Truck plants, including the Lower Macungie plant.  It did not always go smoothly for Slagle!

Congrats to Slage and Mack Trucks for the great exposure.

Daily Briefing, 2/21/2011

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

Good news for Lehigh Valley International Airport, which recorded a 12% increase in overall traffic since January 2010.  In Bethlehem, local Republicans have a full slate of candidates for City Council, the first time that this has happened in 12 years.

Bad news on a national front: gas prices may hit somewhere between $3.50 and $4.00 per gallon this summer.  In Wisconsin, protests against Governor Walker's proposed ending of collective bargaining rights for public unions are expected to continue.

We have one Chamber event today: a Grand Opening (and free lunch!) at Hibachi Grill in Bethlehem Township.

Not much news today, huh?  That's it for now - have a great day, and we'll see you later!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Grand Opening & Free Lunch at Hibachi Grill & Buffet!

We have a great Grand Opening coming up that represents an outstanding opportunity for all of our Chamber members to meet a brand new business and grab a free meal!  Please see the details below, and join us at the event to celebrate this new venture.

Event Information: Join us for a free lunch and grand opening celebration of Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet. The restaurant is brand new and boasts sparkly buffet stations with 280 selections, hibachi and a sushi bar. Waterfalls and ornate Oriental design surround the restaurant an create a truly beautiful setting. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at approximately 1:30 p.m. with local dignitaries and plenty of guests. Bring your goodwill, business card and appetite to Hibachi Grill this Monday for a grand celebration.

When: 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. Ribbon cutting ceremony to begin around 1:30 p.m.

Where: Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet, 3811 Nazareth Pike, Bethlehem (It is on the far left side of the shopping mall that houses Sears Essentials/Kmart.)

Pricing Information: Free

Guest Blog Entry: LANTA in the Valley

Hi everyone -

Our friends at the LANTA joined us today asked us for some space to talk about their mission and their role in the Lehigh Valley.  We were too happy to oblige - they do great work and have an impact on us all - regardless of if you use their services.  See the article below for more!
As Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority begins implementation of the recommendations in its exhaustive "Moving LANTA Forward" study of the local bus system, its routing, and how it communicates with riders and the general public, the bright future envisioned has clouds on the horizon. Funding challenges at the state and federal levels call into question LANTA's ability to meet demand and make the system more
responsive to community needs.

LANTA plays a key role in the social and economic life of the Lehigh Valley. More than six million trips are taken annually year on LANTA's fixed route buses with customers traveling to work (more than 50%),
shopping, school and medical services.  Metro Plus, the Authority's paratransit division, provides the elderly, people with disabilities and the financially disadvantaged with vital links to medical and other essential services.

And there seems to be no limit to demand: LANTA's ridership has risen by 70% since 1997. Even non-bus riders benefit from public transportation through less congestion, cleaner air, and increased commerce.  To
further enhance its environmental impact, LANTA recently added 5 hybrid electric buses to its fleet and, with sufficient funding, will acquire more.

Among the Authority's adopted goals are enhanced service on key corridors, more user friendly routes and better connections, flexible feeder routes in the suburbs, and a larger role in land use planning in
the Lehigh Valley.

There is obviously much to be done to improve public transit in the Lehigh Valley. The key to LANTA's continued growth and expansion is adequate funding.  Chamber support may prove to be essential in LANTA
moving forward.

Daily Briefing, 2/18/2010

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Friday Daily Briefing.

Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley and others held a press conference yesterday to decry the President's proposed budget cuts to certain programs for the poor.  In Easton, Mayor Sal Panto has announced his intention to run for reelection.  Northampton County Council decided yesterday to postpone a vote on an ordinance that would block the sale of Gracedale for the next five years.  In Allentown, Mayor Pawlowski has proposed building a park at the site of last week's explosion.  There were two Chamber events yesterday that looked at our Lehigh Valley governments: the State of the City in Bethlehem, held by Mayor John Callahan, and the State of the Lehigh County, held by County Executive Don Cunningham.

The State Liquor Control Board has announced that it will stop selling about 12% of its current inventory, removing certain slow-selling brands.

The ongoing saga in Wisconsin continues to escalate.  The Governor has proposed removing the collective bargaining rights of public unions, sparking massive protests - as a result, the 16 Democratic State Senators have actually left the state to prevent a budget vote.  President Obama met with technology CEOs yesterday, talking jobs and lobbying the CEOs to get behind the President's efforts to lobby for high tech spending.

We have one Chamber event today: the Small Business Council is holding their monthly breakfast, featuring a panel discussion on technology options for small businesses.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll have one more later.  See you soon!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Higher prices inbound

As we noted earlier today, the US can expect to see higher prices in the upcoming months.  We wanted to discuss this topic a little more, because it will obviously have a noticeable impact on you and your wallet.  

The price increases are largely related to inflation.  After some deflation in 2009, inflation began creeping up again in 2010, with total US inflation rates averaging 1.64% last year.  However, that's just in the US.  In China, retail prices rose 5% - a spike that we have largely been able to avoid here, but not for much longer.  Inflationary pressures are starting to creep into other areas of the economy, for example.  The price of gold, for example is at a four-week high, largely on inflationary concerns.

Raw material costs are also pushing prices upwards.  The price of cotton, for example, is at a fifteen year high - and that will push the price of clothing purchasing upwards.

One of the key ingredients of the US economic recovery thus far as been that consumer demand and retail sales remain strong.  This has kept prices low in the US despite rising prices elsewhere - however, as the economy continues to recover, so do the odds that price increases will be passed along to the consumer.

The conclusion is this: usually high unemployment and high inflation do not exist at the same time.  However, as noted in the previously linked article, unemployment is not expected to drop significantly this year, but inflation will rise, perhaps around 2.5%.  It is certainly something to keep an eye on - as a consumer and a business.

Daily Briefing, 2/17/2010

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

Bookstore chain Borders is declaring bankruptcy and closing 30%, or 200, of its stores - including its store in Whitehall.  Democrat Ed Koren has announced that he will be running for District Attorney, the first time that Republican Jim Martin has had an opponent in 12 years.  In Bangor, the School District may be forced to limit the size of its tax increase due to state law.  In Allentown, initial totals on overtime and personnel show that the explosion cost the city $61,000 - UGI has already paid $50,000 and has said it will pay more as costs rise.

By 2018, interest payments on the national debt will cost more than Medicare spending.  Bad news for consumers: increasing world inflation will likely hit the US soon, driving up the prices of household items.

We have two Chamber events today:  a State of the City address by Mayor Callahan in Bethlehem and a Social Networking Training seminar.

That's it for now!  We should be back later - see you soon!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where you can donate to the victims of Allentown's explosion

We have had a number of requests coming in with questions about where individuals can donate to the victims of last week's explosion.  We have three answers for you so far:

  • American Red Cross of the Lehigh Valley:  As the website notes, the money will not go directly to individuals affected by the explosion - instead, the money will go to fund future disaster efforts.  As the Red Cross noted, 30 individuals received help from the organization in the immediate aftermath of the explosion.
  • United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley:  The UWGLV has established an Allentown Family Fund.  The money donated will be "specially invested through our many programs and services to assist explosion victims as they get back on track and rebuild their lives."
  • KNBT:  KNBT has established a specific fund that will go to the long-term care of the victims.
  • The Salvation Army:  The Salvation Army is collecting clothing for the victims of the explosion.  Clothing can be dropped off at the Thrift Store on Mickley Road in Whitehall.
As you may know, The Chamber held its Snowball gala & fundraiser this past weekend, and 10% of the proceeds from the event will go to the victims of the explosion.  
There are absolutely other charities that I am missing - what are they, and can you leave the contact information?

Daily Briefing, 2/16/2011

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

The City of Allentown's credit outlook has been revised from stable to negative.  The City has also said that last week's fire cost about $26,000 in overtime.  Northampton County Judge Steven Baretta said that an ordinance to vote on the sale of Gracedale can stay on the ballot.  In Bethlehem, City Council approved a "lockbox" law that forbids the spending of certain type of funding without their approval.  The Easton Area School District approved a preliminary budget that included a 1.7% tax hike and a $10.54 million deficit.

We have one Chamber event today:  a Ski & Networking Mixer at Bear Creek, held by the East Penn & Western Lehigh Chambers of Commerce.

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How small businesses can use the new Facebook Page design

As you may have noticed, Facebook has recently unveiled a total redesign of Pages.  The redesign is similar to the recent redesign of the Facebook profile and allows Pages to act much more like actual profiles.  Among the changes:

  • You can now log-in as a page.  This enables you to Businesses can like and comment on other business pages (but not profiles - this is important).  You cannot, however, comment on a personal profile unless that person's privacy setting is set so that "everybody" can write on their wall or in their status.  
  • Businesses can receive notices about fan activity.
  • The Wall has become much more streamlined - all posts, by both the business and its fans, are now shown by default.
  • Photographs are now much more prominent and displayed at the top of a page - similar to your profile.
  • Individuals who also like a page are now highlighted in the right sidebar.  

So, what does this mean for a small business with a page?  How can you leverage the changes to make a positive difference for your business?
  • Cross-Marketing:  If you have a business that you regularly work/advertise with, or is of the same association as you (say The Chamber), you can now add a page as a favorite, or write on its wall as a business, not just a person.  This will enable businesses to work closer together (and, perhaps more importantly, appear closer together).
  • Get more visual:  Facebook has recognized that its photo-sharing feature is a powerful tool - there are currently 60 billion photos on Facebook (with an expected 100 billion to arrive by the summer of 2011).
  • Better customer service:  With a notification feature for activity on your business pages now enabled, you can get Facebook notifications (and E-mails) when someone writes on your business page.  As a result, you now have the ability to instantly be aware when someone contacts you.  You can now provide quicker customer service - and that may become an expectation.  
This unquestionably will mean more - what are we missing?

Daily Briefing, 2/15/2011

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

In Northampton Council, Ron Angle has said he will drop his legal challenge to the proposed Gracedale referendum - blogger Bernie O'Hare, however, has said that he will continue to seek to have the issue removed from the ballot.  The Bethlehem Area School District remains one vote shy of being willing to reconsider a vote for Tax Increment Financing on the redevelopment of Martin Tower.  In Allentown, Governor Tim Corbett visited Wednesday's explosion sight.  UGI removed the cracked pipe that initially appears to be the cause of the accident. The Bangor Area School Board has approved a preliminary budget that increases taxes by 2.8%.  The East Penn School District has approved a preliminary budget that contains a 4.8% property tax hike.

Senator Joe Scarnati, President Pro Tem of the State Senate, is facing controversy after accepting a trip to the Super Bowl from a Marcellus Shale company.

President Obama introduced his 2012 budget yesterday - the budget was quickly derided by Congressional Republicans as not going far enough to reduce federal spending.  Among the programs cut were heating aid to low-income residents and student loans.  The House of Representatives voted to extend the Patriot Act after the initial vote failed.  Clothing prices are on the rise across the nation as cotton prices increase.  A big story in international news: after its economy shrunk in the 4th quarter of 2010, China has overtaken Japan as the world's 2nd largest economy.

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

Monday, February 14, 2011

This Week With(out) Tony - Let's go skiing!

At The Chamber, we do everything we can to hold mixers that allow for business networking and a good time.  A big part of that is the location of the mixer.

Our East Penn & Western Lehigh Chambers are having an amazing mixer at Bear Creek Mountain Resort.  This event is this Wednesday, February 16 - for more information, visit our website and watch the video below!

Daily Briefing, 2/14/2011

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

Crews have found a crack in a 12-inch gas main on Allen Street, and that appears to be the cause of the blast that killed last week.  Also in Allentown, the Allentown School District has unveiled a new plan that will give its students more academic options in the upcoming years.

In national news, airlines are starting to add fuel surcharges to their prices as energy costs continue to rise.  President Obama's proposed cuts of the Community Development Block Grant program will effect local programs, though the exact amount of the cut remains to be seen.  Indeed, the stage seems to be set for a showdown between President Obama and House Republicans for the upcoming federal budget, with the President to release his budget today.  1/3 of the deficit reductions that the President is seeking will come through tax increases.

By the way, The Chamber held its annual Snowball Gala over the weekend.  While the amount that was raised remains to be seen, we can tell you that 10% of all proceeds from the events silent auction will go to the American Red Cross to benefit the victims of Wednesday's gas explosion in Allentown.

Business Matters airs today, featuring a debate on Medical Malpractice and the need for Tort Reform in America.

That's it for now - have a great day, and we'll be back later.  See you soon!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Chamber to host Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham’s State of the County Address

Hi everyone -

We have a great (and free) event coming up this Thursday - it is County Executive Don Cunningham's annual State of Lehigh County address, hosted by The Chamber and sponsored by our friends at Wachovia Bank, a Wells Fargo Company.

The information is below:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Using The Chamber's Community Calendar

As you likely noticed, The Chamber's Website has undergone some pretty major updates in the past month.   Among them are our new Community Calendar.  This calendar operates very similarly to our calendar that lists our Chamber events.  However, our Chamber Calendar exclusively lists Chamber-related events, while our Community Calendar can list your events.

It's pretty easy to submit an event.  If you have a sale. promotion or event you want to list, and you are a Chamber member, you can just submit the event.  We will get a notification of the submission and approve it for the calendar as fast as possible.  This is completely free and another great way of using your Chamber membership to promote your business and various marketing efforts.

Additionally, we can take the event and use it in our Social Media as well.  If you have a website or flier for whatever you are trying to promote, we cna make you our Member of the Day, whereby your website and promotion are posted on our blog, Facebook status and Twitter feed.

We're here to help!

Daily Briefing, 2/11/2011

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

Here is the latest on the explosion in Allentown.  Five are confirmed dead in Wednesday night's explosion - the victims' remains have all been recovered. Eight homes have been destroyed and another 47 properties damaged.  In terms of donations, the American Red Cross is collecting money for the victims and their families, and we absolutely encourage you to make a donation.

In other news, the City of Bethlehem saw its bond rating drop from A- to BBB. The financial outlook remains stable.

At a speech in Michigan yesterday, President Obama announced that he is setting a goal of ensuring that 98% of America has WiFi access in the next five years.  According to a report yesterday, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was planning to run for the Senate before she was shot last month.  It remains unclear if she will be in any condition to do so by 2012.  For the first time since May 2010, mortgage rates have risen above 5%.

We have one Chamber event today: a Member Benefit webinar, for both prospective and current members, that reviews the benefits of Chamber membership.

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

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Job Opening - Northampton Community College

If you are a Chamber Member, we are happy to help you advertise any job opening. Please E-mail a description and contact information to Mike Schlossberg at We publish job openings every Thursday and are happy to help you find the talent that you are looking for!

Northampton Community College

Full-Time Tenure Track Hospitality Management Faculty

Full-time tenure track faculty position beginning Fall 2011 teaching at our Southside Bethlehem campus. Primary workload includes teaching a variety of hospitality classes involving both lecture and lab. Will teach a minimum of five courses per semester of required and elective courses in the Hotel/Restaurant Management program in at least two of the following areas: hotel operations, food and...

Tenure Track Psychology Position

Tenure-track teaching faculty position in Psychology at our Monroe Campus in Tannersville, PA for Fall 2011. Primary responsibility will be to teach first and second year psychology courses. Other responsibilities include advising students, college service, and professional development.

PT Records Assistant

Part time support staff position available in fast-paced Records Office (on Main Campus, Bethlehem Township). Position to provide front counter and phone coverage, Monday – Thursday, 12 pm – 7 pm. Applicant must be able to handle multiple tasks, be detail oriented, have previous data entry/computer experience and excellent customer service skills…
Disability Services Specialist

PT 12 month positions, 24-29 hrs/wk (4 days per week), serving both the Monroe and Bethlehem campuses. Provide reasonable accommodations, educational support and academic advising to students with disabilities.

Fitness Instructor MONROE County

NCC’s Monroe campus is seeking fitness instructors for non-credit classes during the spring 2011 semester. Weeknight classes. For questions, please call 570-688-0836. NCC is EEO/AA.

Head Women's Volleyball Coach

Immediate PT opening for a Head Women’s Volleyball Coach. This position will coordinate all aspects of a women’s collegiate volleyball program, including practice and game preparation, recruiting and academic monitoring. Northampton is a member of Region XIX of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), one of the most competitive junior college conferences in the country.

Daily Briefing, 2/10/11

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

Explosion in Allentown kills one, five still missing; recovery efforts are underway.

Gracedale sale petition stands, the referendum faces another legal challenge on Friday.

My parking space!! (not) in Bethlehem. If you used a chair or other item to save your spot it was taken to prevent neighbor spats police officials said.

New York Rep.Christopher Lee resigns after sending a shirtless photo to a dating site via Craigslist.

That is all for now. Have a great day!! Please keep the families of the explosion in your thoughts, take a moment to be thankful for what you have.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

American Cities on the Edge

It is no secret - American cities are facing massive troubles right now.  In the Valley, all of our cities have various challenges, though thankfully they have been able to avoid the massive issues that are facing other urban areas in America.

Here are some examples of cities on the brink:

  • Camden, New Jersey:  Already regarded as one of the most unsafe cities in America, the city recently announced the firing of 160 police officers - nearly half of its force - due to budget cuts.  Common sense dictates that the city needs more police, not less.  No city can possibly recover under circumstances like that.  The city is considering a 21% property tax hike to hire its police back.
  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:  Our capital city is under significant financial pressure due to a trash incinerator deal gone bad.  As a result, Harrisburg is on the hook for $288 million - a debt that it cannot possibly meet.  The city is currently working with attorneys and other experts to restructure its debt and avoid bankruptcy.
  • Detroit, Michigan:  The one-time industrial powerhouse has become a symbol of the decay of American cities and industrial might.  Last year, the city faced a $280 million deficit and filled the budget hole by issuing $250 million in bonds

So, what caused these problems?  There is no one item in particular - the blame can be pointed in a few directions:

  • Pension liabilities:  Virtually all cities are still bound by defined benefit pensions, meaning that they are responsible for giving a set pension benefit, regardless of economic conditions.  Most private sector companies have a defined contribution plan.  In Allentown alone, the cost of these pensions is nearly 20% of the cities budget - last year, the pension resulted in a 35% income tax hike.
  • Stagnant tax bases:  Cities, particularly in Pennsylvania, have their revenue limited to property taxes. However, cities are also the home of numerous non-profit, educational and government-owned properties - these properties cannot be taxed.  In Easton, 25% of the cities tax base cannot be taxed.  Meanwhile, costs continue to accelerate and cities do not have the revenue to pay for basic expenses.  
  • Federal policy-making:  Prior to the 50s, suburban communities were not nearly as popular as they were now.  However, a variety of policy decisions, such as urban renewal (whereby older neighborhoods were bulldozed to make way for newer development - that never occurred), the construction of the Interstate Highway System, rise of the automobile and mortgage tax deduction all made it easier for Americans to leave cities and move to the suburbs.  
There are many more cities that are having serious issues and more than just the factors that I noted above...what am I missing?  And more importantly, what can be done?

Ed Hanna of WFMZ talks about his career and how he got started in weather

At a December East Penn/Western Lehigh luncheon, WFMZ-TV weatherman Ed Hanna discussed his career and how he got started on WFMZ.  He also answered a question I know I have always had: How does someone get involved in weather in the first place?

Below is a snippet of the event.  Enjoy!

Daily Briefing, 2/9/2011

Good morning everyone!  Here is today's Daily Briefing - and there is a lot of news to share today!

Lehigh Valley Health Network has announced a new partnership with the Moffitt Cancer Center that will allow LVHN patients access to treatment that is being researched by Moffitt.  Moravian College has unveiled a new exhibit that showcases immigration in the Lehigh Valley.  In Easton, the city is now looking for a new chair for its annual Heritage Day.  A joint event between The Chamber and the Lehigh Valley Hispanic Chamber yesterday taught attendees how to market to the growing Hispanic population in the Valley.  In Bethlehem, city crews removed a variety of markers that citizens used to claim shoveled out parking spots.  In Macungie, the fate of Borough Manager Chris Boehm remains uncertain, as Borough Council failed to pass a measure extending Boehm's job.

In state news, Governor Corbett has selected Linda Kelly, a prosecutor from Western Pennsylvania, to serve as the state's Attorney General.  Legislation that would stop abortions from being covered by the new federal health care law passed through a Senate committee yesterday.

In national news, a new survey shows that optimism in the U.S. economy is at a three-year high.  However, there is bad news in terms of home sales, as a new report shows that national home prices fell 2.6% in the last three months of 2010 - additional, 27% of homeowners have mortgages that are underwater, meaning that they owe more than their homes are worth.  A new report shows that the American tax burden is the lowest it has been since 1950.  President Obama is proposing that states pay no interest for the next two years on money they borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits.  A proposed extension of the Patriot Act failed yesterday, as 26 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the legislation.  Vice President Biden was in Philadelphia yesterday, where he used the 30th Street Station to announce that the Obama administration is going to ask Congress to invest $53 billion over six years in passenger rail.

We have one Chamber event today:  an overview of the American economy, deficit and its potential affect on your taxes.

That's it for now - wow, this really was a long one!  Anyway, we'll be back later today.  See you soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Report: Lehigh Valley businesses turned significantly optimistic in January

If you attended our Economic Outlook Luncheon last month, then you had the pleasure of hearing Kamran Afshar present his economic overview of the Lehigh Valley.  As Dr. Afshar joked, "I am used to people throwing food at me" after giving economic reports - but this time, he presented us with good news!  Things are improving in the Lehigh Valley.

Dr. Afshar has made summary of his most recent Lehigh Valley Purchasing Manager's survey available.  Some of the highlights:

  • The purchasing and employment index rose to 60.1, an improvement over the 53.2 result in October 2010, the 45.0 result of January 2010 and the 26.2 result of January 2009.
  • The actual purchase index rose from 49.1 to 58.1 between October - January.  This isn't an overview of expectations, but, in the words of Dr. Afshar, this is "where the rubber meets the road."
  • The index of hiring plans rose from 56.8 to 62.2 between October - January.
  • "The January survey clearly reflects a major change in business sentiment in the Lehigh Valley and a general improvement in business outlook since the second quarter of 2010."
This is great news.  The news needs to keep getting better, but this is absolutely good news.

Are you seeing this results in your business or place of work?

Daily Briefing, 2/8/2011

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

In Macungie, Mayor Rick Hoffman has said he is willing to discuss dropping his lawsuit with the Borough and the Police Chief.  The Bethlehem Area School District will revote to decide if it should create a special taxing district for Martin Towers.  The initial budget for the Wilson Area School District calls for a 2.8% tax hike.

According to published reports, former Governor Ed Rendell and his wife, Federal Judge Marjorie Rendell, are separating after 40 years of marriage.  A Morning Call story notes that the massive amount of snow we have had this winter has made it much harder to find rock salt.

In national news, the Democratic Leadership Council, a group that promoted moderate Democrats, has announced that it will close its doors after running out of money.

We have two Chamber events today:  Speed Networking and Lunch and a joint event with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on marketing to Hispanics.

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

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Morning Call wants to hear from you

Our friends at the Morning Call asked us to relay this information for them.  This is a great opportunity for a successful business owner to get their name out there, and we are happy to help!

From the website itself:

The Morning Call, in its Outlook 2011 section, will examine which careers and vocations are expected to be in demand in the Lehigh Valley in 2011, and how workers can prepare for them now.

We invite you to participate in this section by telling your business’s own story, and what qualities you will be looking for from prospective employees. Which jobs will you be hiring for in 2011 and why?

Sounds like a great opportunity!

Daily Briefing, 2/7/2011

Good morning everyone!  I hope you enjoyed the game yesterday...and to you Steelers fans who are reading this, well, I'm sorry, but all of us at The Chamber are very glad that you are up and moving today!  Anyway, here is today's Daily Briefing.

Bethlehem and Phillipsburg police are using a new website,, to map out crimes.  The Express Times runs a very interesting story on Facebook comments and how easily they can backfire on the commenter.  In business news, AOL is purchasing the Huffington Post for $315 million.  President Obama will address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce later today.  Here's some really good news: Ford is raising their U.S. factory production 13% to meet higher demands.  A "truce" between Senate Democrats and Republicans is holding up so far.  Under the terms of the agreement, Senate Republicans will not filibuster legislation as long as Senate Democrats allow them to offer amendments.

Business Matters airs today at 8pm on WFMZ-TV.  The show will feature a debate on Wikileaks.

That's it for now!  Have a great day, and we'll be back later.  See you soon!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Welcome, New Members!

We had a very busy January 2011, welcoming 52 new members to The Chamber.  WELCOME to the organization, everyone!

304 Smith Road
Bath, PA 18014

Access Engineering
992 Donald Drive
Emmaus, PA 18049
Business Category:  ENGINEERING

Angel Helpers Home Care
535 Wood Street
P.O. Box 444
Bethlehem, PA 18016

Arbonne- Doris Schroettner
2123 Schroettner Circle
Nazareth, PA 18064

Artfully Elegant
451 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018

Berkowitz Counseling Services
Regency Towers ~ Suite 1D
1600 Lehigh Parkway E.
Allentown, PA 18103

Boyle, DDS
3258 Cherryville Road
Northampton, PA 18067

Creative Landscapes Inc.
4961 Hanoverville Road
Bethlehem, PA 18020

Decorating Den Interiors
4518 Deerbrook Court
Walnutport, PA 18088
Business Category:  INTERIOR DESIGN & DÉCOR

Dickey's Barbecue Pit t/a T & T Enterprises LLC
1042 Mill Creek Road
Allentown, PA 18106
Business Category:  RESTAURANTS & CAFES

Door Hardware Installation LLC
418 Fox Circle
Easton, PA 18042
Business Category:  DOORS

Dottery's Heating & Air Conditioning
3140B Tilghman Street
PMB #301
Allentown, PA 18104

Eckscapes Travel
2053 Rolling Meadow Drive
Macungie, PA 18062

G & S Fastening Systems Inc.
600 Front Street
Whitehall, PA 18052

G-C Electric Co., Inc.
705 East Rock Road
Allentown, PA 18103

Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley, Inc.
245 North Graham Street
Allentown, PA 18109

Heart Care Group
1202 South Cedar Crest Boulevard
Allentown, PA 18106
Business Category:  PHYSICIANS & SURGEONS

655 Maxine Drive
Lehighton, PA 18235

Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet
3811 Linden Street
Bethlehem, PA 18017
Business Category:  RESTAURANTS & CAFES

Homebase Skateshop
14 West 4th Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Business Category:  SPORTING GOODS

Inspired Movement
521 East Fourth Street, Third Floor
(Part of) The Yoga Loft
Bethlehem, PA 18015

Jack Williams Tire Company, Inc. - MacArthur Road
2157 MacArthur Road
Whitehall, PA 18052
Business Category:  TIRE DEALERS & SERVICES

Jack Williams Tire Company, Inc. - Park Avenue
2481 Park Avenue
Easton, PA 18045
Business Category:  TIRE DEALERS & SERVICES

Jack Williams Tire Company, Inc. - Schoenersville Road
2445 Schoenersville Road
Bethlehem, PA 18017
Business Category:  TIRE DEALERS & SERVICES

Jack Williams Tire Company, Inc. - Stefko Boulevard
1747 Stefko Boulevard
Bethlehem, PA 18017
Business Category:  TIRE DEALERS & SERVICES

Jack Williams Tire Company, Inc. - Trexlertown
1122 South Trexlertown Road
Breinigsville, PA 18031
Business Category:  TIRE DEALERS & SERVICES

JMS Acoustics LLC
1035 Jeter Avenue
Bethlehem, PA 18015

Keystone Installations
953 Walnut Street
Allentown, PA 18102

Lehigh Valley Aging In Place Coalition
P.O. Box 74
Macungie, PA 18062

Maitz Home Services - Easton
30 South Sitgreaves Street
Easton, PA 18042

Maitz Home Services - Topton
2 North Main Street, Suite B
Topton, PA 19562

Mancor PA, Inc.
160 Olin Way
Allentown, PA 18106

McDonald Ophthalmology & Associates PC
522 Delaware Avenue
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Business Category:  OPTOMETRIST & EYE CARE

8462 Lyon Valley Road
New Tripoli, PA 18066

Metropolitan Consultation Associates, Inc.
2871 Donegal Drive
Macungie, PA 18062

O'Brien's Really Good Food
1922 Allen Street
Allentown, PA 18104
Business Category:  CATERING

Olio Ristorante
555 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
Business Category:  RESTAURANTS & CAFES

PD Cubed LLC
644 Locust Street
Coopersburg, PA 18036
Business Category:  ENGINEERING

Petra Mediterranean
81 West Broad Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
Business Category:  RESTAURANTS & CAFES

Revolutionary Home Health
1251 South Cedar Crest Boulevard, Suite 201 A
Allentown, PA 18103
Business Category:  HEALTH CARE SERVICES

Riley and Company Inc.
11 Knob Road
P.O. Box 171
Mount Pocono, PA 18344

RMG Insurance
731 West Broad Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
Business Category:  INSURANCE

Royal Security Services Inc.
RR6, Box 6404
Saylorsburg, PA 18353
Business Category:  SECURITY & ALARMS

Seidel's Shoes
306 Village at Stones Crossing Road
Easton, PA 18045
Business Category:  RETAIL SALES

SmartWatt Energy
932 Springbrook Avenue, Suite 1
Moosic, PA 18507

Systech Environmental Corporation
2505 North Main Street
Northampton, PA 18067

T&M Associates
74 West Broad Street, Suite 240
Bethlehem, PA 18018
Business Category:  ENGINEERING

Tencza Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
427 Cattell Street
Easton, PA 18042

TSM Recycling LLC
2002 South 12th Street
Allentown, PA 18103
Business Category:  WASTE & RECYCLING

Tub Technique, Inc.
1382 Good Road
Bangor, PA 18013
Business Category:  HOME IMPROVEMENT

Werley Electric & Telecom Inc.
2789 Bleiler Hill Road
New Tripoli, PA 18066