Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Google Wallet - and what it might mean for your wallet

Last week, Google introduced its latest revolutionary product: Google Wallet.  The project is still very much in the testing phase, but it could conceivably change the way that all of us do business.

Here's how it works:  once you set up the software, you can make a payment with your phone (it looks like this is only for an Android phone at the moment).  You do so by taping your phone against a card reader (just like scanning a credit card).  The credit/debit card you set up on the Wallet will then be charged.  Additionally, a merchant will have the option to give you special discounts or loyalty points - so, no more walking around with those key-ring discount cards!  If someone stole your phone, fear not - a PIN number is still required.

At the moment, Google Wallet is in the testing phase, though you can type in your Zip Code and see where it is currently available.

There are plenty of ways that this can make life more convenient for a customer, but it does leave other questions for business owners.  Businesses already get hit with credit card processing fees - do the exact same fees still apply here?  How much will it cost to get the equipment set up?  Will Google Wallet by compatible with the various other systems currently available?

These questions are all still largely unanswered since the technology is so new, but this does appear to be on the verge of becoming a big deal within the next few years.  As a business owner, how might this affect you?  Do you currently use any of this technology?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/31/2011

Good morning everyone, and welcome back to work after what was hopefully a nice long weekend.  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

In Bethlehem, Controller Meg Holland says that Musikfest is not paying enough for the services it receives from the city.  Phillipsburg began festivities for its 150th anniversary.  In Easton, the city will be installing new smart meters for street parking.  The Southern Lehigh School District has to now deal with an accounting error that will force the district to find an additional $1 in its budget.  The annual Mayfair Festival in Allentown concluded yesterday, with the festival's attendance down about 13,000 compared to last year. Former Vice Presidential nominee and possible Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was in Gettysburg yesterday as part of her nation-wide bus tour.  In national news, Goldman Sachs has downgraded prospects for growth in the U.S. economy.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Facebook Profiles vs. Pages

For years, The Chamber has had a Facebook Profile - not a Fan Page.  It may sound the same, but there is a striking difference.  Profiles are meant for individuals - its the Facebook norm for actually people.  If you are a business, cause, etc., however, you are supposed to have a fan page.  The interfaces are pretty similiar at this point, but there are differences.

Many businesses, The Chamber being one of them, started a Facebook Profile as opposed to a fan page.  I set up our Profile two and a half years ago - Pages were just starting and it was still pretty normal for profiles to be run this way.  There are many drawbacks to having a business run through a Profile, however.

About six weeks ago, Facebook introduced a Profile Migration tool, designed to switch over Facebook Profiles to Pages.  After some initial kinks, the tool has basically been a hit and useful for businesses that were in a situation like we were.  There are some distruptions to switching pages - you lose all of your wall posts and group memberships (though you can "back up" your profile).

Two days ago, we decided we'd waited long enough, and used the tool to switch to a Page.  So far, we are certainly happy with the results.

If you are in the same situation that we were, here are the pros and cons of making the switch:

  • It's the norm:  Given the rise of Pages, people expect to connect with a Business or Brand via a Page - not a Profile.  Doing otherwise looks unprofessional at this point.
  • It's in-line with Facebook's Terms of Service:  Businesses have to have a Page, not a profile, according to Facebook's Terms of Service.  If you have a Profile for your business, and you get caught, Facebook is within their rights to delete your account and you will lose everything.
  • No more 5,000 limit:  With a Facebook Profile, you could only have up to 5,000 friends.  With a page, that limit is gone - you can literally have millions of friends.
  • Very similiar to a profile:  The interface is almost identical - it really doesn't take much time to get started and learn how to manage the Page.
  • Amazing analytics: The analytics you get are incredible - you can track likes, when you get fans, total engagement and determine what content you post is the most effective.
  • No more wall posting or messaging:  Unless someone has their privacy settings set the right way, you cannot post on their wall or send them a private message anymore.
  • No more birthday wishes:  This is related - we liked to wish people a happy birthday - but, alas, we can't do that anymore.
  • You can't add friends anymore:  You no longer have friends with a Page - you have likes.  However, you cannot send anyone a request to have them "like" you unless you upload a contact file.  This makes it a little more difficult to engage, but it also prevents others from being deluged with requests to like a business that they may never have heard of.
What have your experiences been when it comes to a Facebook Profile or Page?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/26/2011

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

Lafayette College announced yesterday that Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, will speak at the school in the fall.  In Easton, City Council voted to extend same-sex partner benefits to its employees.  Lehigh County unveiled two of its union contracts yesterday.  The Bethlehem Parking Authority has hired a new Executive Directory, Thomas Harley.  Harley had previously worked at Disney and Mohegan Sun.  In Bangor, layoffs are now likely after the teachers union voted down a proposed pay freeze.

A grand jury report blasted the Pennsylvania Gaming Board as having gone out of its way to ignore potentially incriminating evidence against applicants.

In national news, Jared Lee Loughner, the man who killed six and nearly killed Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during a shooting in January, was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial.  The United States Senate voted down a proposed federal budget by Senator Pat Toomey by a 42-55 margin.  It also voted down Congressman Ryan's controversial budget, 40-57.

We have one Chamber event today: a mixer at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Allentown.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Need a vacation? You might want to move out of the US....

I caught this article in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, and it is pretty depressing for those of us who like to actually get away from work every now and then.  The article details the difficulties that the average American  has in terms of taking a real, solid vacation.  Among the sad, sad statistics: Only 57% of American workers actually use up all the vacation time they are given (we don't even take all of the time off we are entitled to!).  Even when Americans do take vacation, many feel a constant pressure to check in with their office or answer E-mail/phone calls.

This is very different in other parts of the world.  In the US, there are no laws mandating that vacation time be given.  In another two-dozen industrialized nations, such as Germany, Australia and Japan, there are laws requiring that employees be given at least four weeks of paid vacation.  Indeed, in the U.S., a full 1/4 of employees have no paid vacation at all.  Previous efforts to mandate at least some vacation time have not moved.

I did a little more digging and came across a 2007 report by the Center for Economic & Policy Research.  The report lays it out pretty clearly: when it comes to vacation time compared to other countries, the United States is well behind.

Here's the real question: is this that bad of a thing?  Americans do derive more happiness from work than Europeans - so, if this is what makes us happy, how big of a problem is it?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments....

Daily Briefing, 5/25/2011

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

Northampton County has awarded more than $700,000 in grants to seven municipalities from casino revenue.  The Lehigh Valley International Airport is set to hire an outside firm to run the airport - however, it is also advertising for a new executive director.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a budget by a 109-92 vote.  The budget restores some education funding by cutting money from the Department of Welfare.  The budget now moves to the State Senate.  The House also approved a "sexting" bill that would no longer charge teens with a felony for sending certain sexually explicit messages.  In New Jersey, a state Supreme Court decision found that Governor Christie's proposed school funding is unconstitutional because it fails to adequately fund poorer schools.  Barring state action, Pennsylvania unemployment benefits will expire on June 11 barring legislative action; the State Senate has approved an extension, while the House has not yet done so.

In national news, another round of tornadoes struck the country yesterday, touching down in Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma.  In New York, Democrat Kathy Hochul scored an upset victory in a special election for the 26th Congressional District.  Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is likely to formerly declare his Presidential candidacy the week of June 5.  Published reports now indicate that former Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards is likely to have criminal charges filed against him by the Department of Justice.  And here's some good news: gas prices are falling.

We have two Chamber events today: a mixer/grand opening at Oral Dynamics in Allentown and a business spotlight at Sagra, held by the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber.

Whew!  Busy day today, huh?  Anyway, we'll be back soon.  Have a good one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nedna and the power of the crowd

A quick look at The Simpson's Website will reveal an awesome twist that allows the fans to affect the outcome of the show.  In last week's season finale, two characters appeared to be on the verge of a long-term relationship: neighber-ino Ned Flanders and teacher Edna Krabappel.  However, Edna's past threatened to tear the two apart, and the episode ended with Ned asking for advice from a higher power...the internet.  Fans were directed to Thesimpsons.com and given the chance to vote - in next season's season, should the two break-up or stay together?  Each vote comes with its own graphics, Social Media sharing options and video clips.

From a business perspective, this is brilliant.  In an effort to engage their fans, The Simpson's producers are turning the plot over to the entire world.  Another way of describing this is crowdsourcing - essentially turning product control to the entire world.

The Simpson's has it easy when it comes to crowd sourcing: they have a fan base of millions and the resources to be able to successfully pull off such a ploy.  For the average small business, the challenge is far steeper.  The question itself, however, is more basic.  As a small business, WHY do you want to crowdsource?

Here are some reasons:

1)  Interaction & engagement:  With the popularity of Social Media, customers have come to expect that they will be able to communicate with businesses and employees.  More to the point, interacting with customers, be it through Social Media or otherwise, is a great way to ultimately create a customer (or help retain an existing one).  Crowdsourced questions can help bring positive engagement with your business and/or brand - as such, you can ultimately use them to enhance your bottom line.

2)  The possibility of insight:  Most of the time, if you ask a simple question (for example, "Which product would you rather have a discount on?" or "What ice cream flavor do you want us to sell?"), you will get a simple answer.  Sure, these surveys can be useful, but the results aren't scientific so it may be difficult to extrapolate anything further from the results.  However, it isn't the possibility of many answers that can help you with crowd-sourced questions - its the possibility of one.  What if you get that one answer that inspires you to your next great product/marketing/promotional idea?  Crowdsourcing can be a great source of inspiration.

3)  Show that you care:  People like being asked for their opinions.  If you ask your customers for their opinion (as long as its done sparingly - no one likes being annoyed), they will feel like their opinion matters - and this is always a good thing in business.

Do you have any experience with crowdsourcing that you can share with us?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/24/2011

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

In Easton, the Easton Area Education Association agreed to major pay freezes and give-backs in order to avoid lay-offs.  A tornado warning was in effect for the entire Lehigh Valley yesterday, and tornados did make very brief appearances in the area (but no touchdowns), with no damage was reported.  Sands Casino and a union representing security guards could not reach an agreement over whether or not there could be union elections, forcing the issue to the National Labor Relations Board.  In school district news, the Nazareth Area School District gave preliminary approval to a 1.7% tax hike, while the Bangor Area School Board did the same to a 2.5% hike.

In national news, President Obama will visit the tornado-devastated area of Joplin.  Vice President Biden apparently told donors at a fundraiser to keep him in mind for a 2016 Presidential run.  Donald Trump called into Foxnews yesterday and implied that he may reenter the race for the Republican nomination.

We have two Chamber events today: a LeBEAM anniversary and awards night celebration and the annual Women's Business Council scholarship luncheon.

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

Monday, May 23, 2011

This Week With(out) Tony - Blues, Brew & BBQs

We have a new This Week With(out) Tony, featuring Mike and Leslie talking about an upcoming Chamber & Allentown event, Blues, Brew & BBQs, to be held on Saturday, June 11, 12pm - 8pm in downtown Allentown. For more info on the event, as well as the very successful Hamilton District Main Street Program.

Daily Briefing, 5/23/2011

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

The Express-Times runs a story on the large amount of young, female entrepreneurs that own stories in Bethlehem.  Speaking of Bethlehem, city officials are planning a memorial to firefighters who died in the line of duty.

In national news, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has announced that he will not seek the Republican nomination for President, largely solidifying the GOP field.  Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota, has moved past the exploration stage and will formally be declaring his candidacy later today.  A tornado devestated the city of Joplin, Missouri yesterday, killing at least 30.

We have one Chamber event today: a Trefoil TTA training on Emergency Response.

That's it for now!  Have a good one and we'll be back later.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Amazon.Com: eBooks now outselling regular books

I came across this report earlier today and I thought it was worth sharing for a variety of reasons.  According to Amazon.com, for the first time, customers are buying more eBooks than all print books combined.  This is an astounding development, especially when you consider that eBooks have only been on sale for less than four years!

The rate that eBooks are growing is absolutely phenomenal.  Look at these two graphs below, courtesy of the International Digital Publishing Forum.  The first details the US Trade Electronic Book Sales, which were $119.7 million in the 3rd quarter of 2010:

The rate of growth is obviously accelerating, and that growth becomes even more dramatic when you look at eBook sales on a yearly basis.

So, here's the real question, at least as far as I'm concerned: so what?  Why is this so important?

There's many reasons, but here are two very specific ones:

  • From a business perspective, in a changing world, innovation counts more than ever.  Those who stick to outdated business models (see Borders & Blockbuster for an example) fail - those who adapt to changing technology see increases in sales.  So, for your business, ask yourself:  Am I doing everything I can to be on the cutting edge of emerging business trends and technology?  If not - what can you do to fix this problem?
  • More specifically: technology matters.  An ad-ology survey in 2009 found that 46% of small businesses don't even have a website.  This is horrendous.  Between rising costs, a shaky economic recovery and enhanced competition, small businesses already face enough issues:  not having a website can be a death sentence for any business.  
Am I crazy here, or does this matter to your business?  Let us know what you think in the comments.

Daily Briefing, 5/20/2011

Good morning everyone!  Here is your Friday Daily Briefing.

In a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College Quality of Life survey, Lehigh Valley residents remain happy with the Valley as a place to live and raise a family, although they are more pessimistic about the future.  The City of Bethlehem has announced that it will no longer enforce its cell & text ban while driving as a result of a Lehigh County Judge's decision that Allentown's ordinance was illegal.  In Northampton County, County Council has begun to work on how to best manage and keep Gracedale.  In Lehigh, Brad Osborne has defeated David Najarian to claim the 4th nomination for Lehigh County Commissioner.  Lehigh Valley home sales slowed last month, although the average price of sale increased.

In national news, Senate Republicans successfully fillibustered Goodwin Liu, a pick by President Obama to be a federal judge.  President Obama spoke on the Middle East yesterday, calling for Israel to shrink its borders to their 1967 status.  Congressional leaders and the President also reached a deal to extend portions of the Patriot Act for four years.

Today is a very busy day in the Chamber world, with four events: our 2011 Transportation Breakfast, an SBC breakfast on E-mail marketing, an all day seminar from Dale Carnegie and a seminar on Emergency Response Training.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What does the International Monetary Fund (IMF) do?

As has been reported across the world, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, resigned yesterday amid allegations of sexual assault.  The story has captured the world's attention, as we have all watched in horror as a powerful man, one who was thought to have been a leading candidate for the next Prime Minister of France, has been accused of committing such a heinous act.  However, among many, this has raised a new question:  What does the IMF do?  Here are some answers.

The mission of the IMF is to help ensure the stability of the international financial system.  It does so in three ways:

  • Surveillance:  The IMF monitors the international monetary system and the economics of its member countries.  It then updates those countries (and indeed, the rest of the world) on various ongoing economic trends.  Think of the IMF as CNN Money on steroids.
  • Technical Assistance:  For lower and middle income countries, the IMF provides training and assistance on a variety of macro-financial areas that will assist these countries in developing sound economic policies.
  • Lending:  When all else fails, the IMF acts as a bank, lending money to countries that cannot meet international debt payments in an effort to enhance the stability of the world financial system.  

The International Monetary Fund is made up of 187 member countries, or most of the countries in the world. Member countries pay dues, though most of the dues come from its richest countries: the US, Japan, Germany, France & England.

In recent times, the IMF has had a critical role in a variety of economic crises, including assisting Far East Asia during its economic crises of the 1990s.  It also helped to negotiate and fund the recent bailouts in Greece and Ireland, as well as having a role in the ongoing talks in Portugal.

Put simply: the IMF is one of the largest economic organizations in the world, and their actions can influence the world economy.


Daily Briefing, 5/19/2011

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

In Allentown, City Council voted by 6-1 to take properties along 7th and Hamilton by eminent domain for the construction of the proposed hockey arena.  In Lehigh County, some candidates for county commissioner say they want to know more about possibly selling Cedarbrook, the Lehigh County nursing home.  In Parkland, school taxes will rise 3.8%.  In Easton, the Safe Harbor homeless shelter has been saved from closure by an anonymousness non-profit.  Air Products has declared a dividend for its stockholders.  Joe Brake, VP & General Manager of Coca-Cola of the Lehigh Valley, spoke to a group of Chamber members at a President's Roundtable yesterday.  In Northampton County, Controller Steve Barron and County Executive John Stoffa argued over complaints about air quality and asbestos at Gracedale.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as the head of the International Monetary Fund after being accused of attempted rape.

We have two Chamber events today, and both are mixers: one is on 19th Street in Allentown and one is at Sam's Club.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

November Match-ups

With the primary over, all candidates and voters can now look towards the November elections.  Most major races appeared to be closed, so lets take a look at who you'll have a chance to vote for state-wide and in Lehigh & Northampton County.

Judge of the Superior Court:  Vic Stabile (R) vs. David Wecht (D)
Judge of the Commonwealth Court:  Paul Panepinto (R) vs. Kathryn Boockvar (Voockvar has a .4% lead over Barbara Behrend Ernsberger, which may be enough to trigger an automatic recount).

Northampton County
District 1:  Seth Vaughn (R) vs. Ken Kraft (D)
District 2:  J. Michael Dowd (R-Inc.) vs. Robert Werner (D)
District 3:  Matt Connolly (R) vs. Lamont McClure (D)
District 4:  Ron Angle (R) vs. Scott Parsons (D)
Controller:  Steve Barron (D-Inc) vs. Steve Salvesen (R)

Lehigh County
Court of Common Pleas:  Doug Reichley (R) vs. Dan McCarthy (D)
County Commissioner:  Scott Ott, Lisa Scheller, Vic Maziotti & David Najarian (R) vs. Gloria Hamm, Geoff Brace, Tim Waitkus & Dennis Pearson (D)
County Controller:  Tom Slonaker (D-Inc) vs. Glenn Eckhart (R)
District Attorney:  Jim Martin (R-Inc) vs. Ed Koren
Sheriff:  Ron Rossi (D-Inc) vs. Andy Roman (R)

Lehigh Valley Senators speak on Governor Corbett's proposed budget

On May 13, The Chamber held an event featuring three of the Lehigh Valley's State Senators:  Senator Pat Browne (R-16), Senator Lisa Boscola (D-18) and Senator Bob Mensch (R-24).  The three addresses a variety of topics, including Governor Corbett's proposed budget.  Below is a brief video in which the three lay out their thoughts on the budget:

Daily Briefing, 5/18/2011

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

Of course, the biggest story in the news is yesterday's elections.  By a 3-1 margin, voters voted to keep Gracedale in county hands.  In Lehigh County, incumbent Republican Dean Browning was handily defeated by Scott Ott's reform slate.  Three of the four members of that slate won nominations, with a fourth still too close to call between David Najarian and Brad Osborne.  In Whitehall, Mayor Ed Hozza easily fended off a challenger from Mary Dadonna, winning by a 4-1 margin.  In the Lehigh County Judge Race, State Representative Doug Reichley easily won the Republican nomination and Democrat Dan McCarthy had a slim lead over Melissa Pavlack for the Democratic nod.

In other news, UGI gas rates will rise 3.9% this year.  Mack Trucks doubled its sales compared to the same time a year ago.  The Sands Bethlehem reported its second-highest month of revenues since it first opened up table games.  In Allentown, the city appears set to use its powers of eminent domain to take properties for its ongoing arena project.

In national news, Real Clear Politics is reporting that associates of Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) are beginning to look into the possibility of running for President.  Senator Tom Coburn, one of the three Republicans of the so-called "Gang of Six," has withdrawn from the group over difficulties related to entitlement spending.

We have two Chamber events today: a President's Roundtable featuring Joe Brake of Coca-Cola of the Lehigh Valley and an East Penn/Western Lehigh luncheon on a school district update with East Penn & Parkland.

That's it for now!  Have a good one and we'll see you later.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Governor Tom Corbett addresses the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce

As you may know, Governor Corbett addressed The Chamber last week, defending his budget cuts in front of an audience of about 200.  If you weren't there, you can watch the entire address at WFMZ's website.  For a quick look at the topics he discussed, check out the first six minutes of his address:

Daily Briefing, 5/16/2011

Good morning everyone!  Sorry about the lack of an entry on Friday - Blogger was down and we couldn't update.  But, we are back - and here is today's Daily Briefing.

A new poll shows that nearly 80% of Lehigh Valley residents want the state to require gas utilities to remove older pipes faster, and virtually the same amount of people would pay more to accelerate the removal.

A new report finds that New Jersey is the 4th most expensive state in America to live in.  Governor Tom Corbett will be having back surgery today - the surgery is described as routine and the Governor should be back in Harrisburg by the end of next week.

In national news, the federal debt ceiling is expected to be hit today.  Donald Trump is expected to announce today if he will run for President.  The head of the International Monetary Fund has been arrested for attempted rape in New York.

We have one Chamber event today: our annual Board of Governors & Krajsa Golf Tournement.

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

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What you are voting on this Tuesday

As you are likely aware, this Tuesday will be Pennsylvania's primary.  It is an off-year election - and as a a result, many don't know what is even on the ballot.  We're here to help break it down with you.  Here is what you can vote on this Tuesday.

A standard note of caution: this election is a primary, and since the state has a closed primary, only Republicans and Democrats can vote for candidates.  Members of non-affiliated parties can vote, however, on referendum's (like Gracedale in Northampton County).

Thanks to the Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters for producing their excellent guide once again.


  • Judge of the Superior Court:  One of the two intermediate courts in Pennsylvania - where cases go if they are appealed from the County Court of Common Pleas.  There is one opening - Republicans have two candidates, Democrats have one.
  • Commonwealth Court:  The second of the two intermediate courts in Pennsylvania.  Appeals heard here are limited to matters dealing with state government, local government and regulatory agencies.  Again, there is one opening - Republicans and Demcorats each have two candidates.
Lehigh County
  • Court of Common Pleas:  The County-wide Court system.  There is one opening with four candidates running.  All four candidates have cross-filed, meaning that they are running as Democrats and Republicans.
  • County Commissioner:  The legislative branch of Lehigh County.  Up for reelection are the four at-large (County-wide) seats.  Eight Republicans are seeking their four nominations; there are only four Democratic candidates.  
  • County Row Offices:  Positions include Sheriff, District Attorney, Clerk of Judicial Records and Coroner.  There are no contested primaries for any of these positions; there are also no Republican candidates for Clerk of Judicial Records or Coroner   
Northampton County
  • Ballot Question:  "The County Nursing Home, known as Gracedale, shall not be sold and/or leased by the County of Northampton for a period of five (5) years from the date of the approval of this initiative."  All voters are eligible to vote on this ballot question.  
  • County Row Offices:  Two offices, District Attorney & County Controller, are up for reelection.  There is only one Democratic candidate for DA and one Republican & one Democrat for County Controller.
  • County Council:  Northampton County has five district seats; all five are up for election.  There is only a contested primary on the Republican side of District 2.  
Additionally, there are a variety of smaller, local races, including City/Borough/Township Council, Magisterial District Judge and School District.  

Go vote on Tuesday!

Daily Briefing, 5/12/2011

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

In Easton, the city appears poised to give same-sex benefits to its employees.  The city also formally awarded special-event grants to a variety of city events.  The Morning Call runs a "Just The Facts" guide to the vote to stop the sale of Gracedale this Tuesday.  Meanwhile, one of the unions representing Gracedale employees has filed an unfair labor complaint.  In Phillipsburg, the town is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a contest on the "Best of the 'Burg" at lehighvalleylive.com.

CEOs of the five biggest oil companies are headed to Washington today to testify in front of the Senate Finance committee.  The rise of gas prices is causing public transit use to rise across America.  There is some good economic news; foreclosures are down for the 7th straight month.

We have two Chamber events today, and they are both big ones: a lunch with Governor Corbett and our Annual Bethlehem Chamber dinner.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Week With(out Tony) - Your chance to ask a question to Governor Corbett

In today's This Week With(out) Tony, Michelle and I talk about two upcoming public policy events - A Conversation with Governor Corbett and our Lehigh Valley Senators Luncheon.  One of the nice things about these events is that you can get your questions answered by the Governor or any of the three Senators.  To that end, if you have a question, please E-mail it (with your name) to Michelle Griffin-Young at michelley@lehighvalleychamber.org.

For more info on the events, watch the video below:

Daily Briefing, 5/11/2011

Good morning!  Here is today's Daily Briefing.

According to a new Greater Lehigh Valley Economic Report, 27% of businesses expect to hire more over the next six months - and only 5% expect to reduce staff levels.  Teachers and other staffers in the Northampton and East Penn School Districts have agreed to pay freezes and other concessions.  Lehigh County Republicans held a contentious debate ahead of this Tuesday's primary.  In Allentown, city officials unveiled their plans to host  their 250th anniversary celebrations.  The City of Easton achieved significant budget savings through an early retirement plan.

Senator Pat Toomey has unveiled a budget proposal that would balance the budget by 2020.  Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype, a video-conferencing tool.

Today is a very busy day at The Chamber, with three events:  The Southern Lehigh Business Council is holding their Shining Star awards, the Allentown Chamber of Commerce is holding its Annual Dinner and the Phillipsburg Chamber of Commerce is holdings its State of the City address with Mayor Wyant.

That's it for now!  See you later!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Using Google Trends for your business

Have you checked out Google Trends lately?  If not, you should.  Here's why.

First, what is Google Trends?  It is exactly what it sounds like - the site shows you what search terms are the hottest trending topics on Google at any given moment.  As I type this entry, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver are the top two trending topics, likely due to their recent separation.

That's nice, but as a business person, what do you care?  It's not like that affects you at all, right?

Well, it does, but indirectly.  One of the nice things about Google Trends is that it gives you insight into our collective consciousness.  By checking Google Trends every now and then, you can see what search term/current event/controversy is most on the mind of the American people at any given moment.  If you are in sales or service, this might be a good way to start a conversation or an idea for content that may build engagement for your Social Media presence.   

Of course there is more to Google Trends than pop culture insight, however.  Using Google Trends, you can analyze what search terms are hot, when they were hot and what events might have made a search term spike.  You can also compare trends against each other - for example, check out what happened when I typed in the four Lehigh Valley cities - Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Phillipsburg:

There are multiple ways to interpret this data - Easton seemed to have the highest and most consistent amount of searches, though Bethlehem's searches had the highest peaks (particularly around Christmas time, which makes sense).  Thus, as you can see, the search lets us know which terms are most popular on Google and what news stories may be influencing that popularity.  Though you can't see it here, you can also adjust the search by timeframe - for example, searching in the last four months shows Allentown having a significant spike after the February gas explosions.

If you are doing market research, R&D or trying to get more insight into your customers, you might want to check out Google Trends before doing anything else.  It can provide some great "quick and dirty" analysis that can point you down the right path.

Daily Briefing, 5/10/2011

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

The Bethlehem Area School Board voted yesterday to ask teachers to consider a pay freeze.  At the same meeting, the board approved a 1.7% tax hike and eliminated 150 jobs.  State Senator Bob Mensch was found guilty of disorderly conduct for showing another driver a handgun while driving.  In Macungie, the dispute between the Mayor and Police Department was argued yesterday in front of the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas.  Big news for the upcoming Allentown Fair, who landed singer Bruno Mars for the concert series.

Governor Corbett spoke to a pro-voucher group in Washington, D.C.  He spent much of his speech attacking teachers unions.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, is expected to formally announce his candidacy for President tomorrow.

We have one Chamber event today:  the Business & Commerce Association of Forks will be holding an event on how to grow your business.

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Daily Briefing, 5/9/2011

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

The Trexler Trust has awarded nearly $4.2 million in grants this year, an increase on last year made possible due to a better year for its investments.  In Easton, the redevelopment of the Pomeroy is continuing.  The Allentown School District approved a major curriculum overhaul.  In Bethlehem, City Officials (including Lynn Logue of The Chamber have renamed the North & South Sides the Historic Moravian and Shopping District & South Side Arts & Shopping District for tourism purposes.

In national news, President Obama appeared on an interview with 60 Minutes yesterday, discussing the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  The national average price of gas hit $4 a gallon nationwide.  Prominent Iowa Republicans are meeting with New Jersey Governor Christie in an attempt to get him to consider running for President.

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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Protecting your information online

Online security has been in the news quite a bit lately.  First, Epsilon, one of the largest online marketing firms in the world, had its databases hacked, leading to the personal information of millions being compromised.  Then, last week, Sony announced that its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services had been hacked, compromising the personal information (and possibly credit card info) for 77 million people.  Next, yesterday, the LastPass service announced that it had been hacked and all customers had to change their passwords.  LastPass is a service that allows you to store all of your usernames and passwords to various internet sites - so this service getting hacked is a pretty big deal and can compromise accounts across thousands of internet services.

Okay, so it seems that online security is in need of some improvements lately!  That being said, we are all residents of the digital world - and we have to store our information online in order to use a countless variety of services.  What, then, can you do to protect your information online and try to minimize the damage if your info is stolen?

1.  Change your passwords frequently:  Keeping a password for too long is asking for trouble.  Change your passwords frequently - once every three months or so - to avoid getting hacked.

2.  Consider using an alternative E-mail address:  One technique that many use is to create an alternative E-mail address for accounts that they then check periodically.  Let's face it - most of the time, if you sign up for an online service, you are only going to get two types of E-mails from that service: confirming an activity or ads.  You don't need that going to your main E-mail - so create a secondary E-mail address for online service use and just make sure to check it periodically.

3.  Don't use the same password:  If your E-mail address and password is stolen, hackers may try to use the same info to access different accounts of yours.  To that end, try to use different passwords for different online accounts.

4.  Don't make your password easy!:  The top ten passwords in the world:  Your username, your username followed by 123, 123456, password, 1234, 12345, passwd, 123, test, 1.  Sound familiar?  If so, change your password, or you leave yourself vulnerable.

What tips do you have?  Let us know in the comments!

Welcome, New Members!

Welcome to this month's New Members!  As always, if you are interested in Chamber Membership, please E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Name: Accessories Boutique
Phone: (610) 625-8700
Address: 459 Main Street, Bethlehem PA 18018
Category: JEWELERS

Name: Advanced Paving & Construction
Phone: 610-395-1619
Address: 4697 Grubers Road, New Tripoli PA 18066
Website: http://www.advancedpavingandconstruction.com

Name: Allentown Center City Diner
Phone: (610) 432-1234
Address: 845 Linden Street, Allentown PA 18102

Name: Alta Enterprises Inc.
Phone: (610) 866-8866
Address: 2600 East Saucon Valley Road, Center Valley PA 18034
Website: http://www.altamachinetools.com

Name: Amazon Fulfillment Center
Address: 705 Boulder Drive, Breinigsville PA 18031
Website: www.amazon.com

Name: Artsy Diva Boutique
Phone: (610) 442-9335
Address: 458 Main Street, Bethlehem PA 18018

Name: Bar None Weddings
Phone: (484) 857-2693
Address: 315 East Main Street, Macungie PA 18042
Website: www.barnoneweddings.com

Name: C. Ryan Consulting LLC
Phone: (610) 393-5193
Address: 4480 Spring Hill Drive, Schnecksville PA 18078
Website: http://www.cryanconsulting.com

Name: Clementine Salon
Phone: (610) 419-8899
Address: 77 West Broad Street, Unit C, Bethlehem PA 18018
Website: http://www.clementinesalon.com

Name: Compliance Design, LLC
Phone: 484-767-3722
Address: , Easton PA 18042
Website: www.compliance-design.com

Name: Debra J. Romberger, Ph.D., LPC
Phone: (610) 554-0144
Address: 1125 South Cedar Crest Boulevard, Suite 101, Allentown PA 18103
Website: http://www.drombergertherapy.com

Name: Drug Free Pennsylvania
Phone: (800) 533-3394
Address: 300 North Second Street, Suite 1215, Harrisburg PA 17101
Website: www.drugfreesolutions.org

Name: Fastpage Radio Inc.
Phone: (610) 770-6656
Address: 1027 Union Boulevard, Allentown PA 18109
Website: www.fastpageradio.com

Name: Franklin Paine Business Brokers Inc.
Phone: (610) 351-9695
Address: 822 Prospect Avenue, Bethlehem PA 18018
Website: www.franklinpaine.net

Name: Gipson Studio LLC
Phone: (610) 366-1702
Address: 1119 Prospect Lane, Orefield PA 18069
Website: http://www.gipsonstudio.com/

Name: Granich, DMD
Phone: (610) 395-3541
Address: 5940 Hamilton Boulevard, Wescosville PA 18106

Name: Heckenberger's Seafood
Phone: (610) 770-0860
Address: 1835 Chew Street (Allentown Farmers Market), Allentown PA 18104

Name: Humanscale
Phone: (215) 496-1950
Address: 1011 North Hancock Street, Philadelphia PA 19123
Website: http://www.humanscale.com

Name: Indicon, Inc.
Phone: (610) 398-9050
Address: 682 North Brookside Road, Allentown PA 18106

Name: JAS Wholesale
Phone: (610) 967-0663
Address: 4501 Colebrook Avenue, Emmaus PA 18049
Website: http://www.jaswholesale.com

Name: Johnny's Bagel, Inc.
Phone: (610) 739-4876
Address: 472 Main Street, Bethlehem PA 18018
Website: www.johnnysbagels.com

Name: Johnny's Bagel - Southside
Phone: (484) 895-3712
Address: 3 Asa Drive, Bethlehem PA 18015
Website: www.johnnysbagels.com

Name: Koller Concrete Inc.
Phone: (610) 865-5034
Address: 900 Marshall Street, Bethlehem PA 18017

Name: Lawrence Roth Salon and Day Spa
Phone: (610) 740-0190
Address: 1741 Liberty Street, Allentown PA 18104
Website: www.lrothsalon.com

Name: Lehigh Tech LLC
Phone: (484) 661-1572
Address: 1013 Brookside Road, Suite 209, Allentown PA 18106
Website: http://www.lehightech.com

Name: Lehigh Valley Sleep Diagnostics
Phone: (610) 841-0400
Address: 3420 Walbert Avenue, Suite 201, Allentown PA 18014
Website: http://www.lvsleep.com

Name: Lehigh Valley Urologic Associates
Phone: (610) 867-4545
Address: 2597 Schoenersville Road, Suite 307, Bethlehem PA 18017
Website: http://www.lvh.com

Name: Macro Energy
Phone: (484) 678-7131
Address: 105 Montgomergy Avenue, Montgomeryville PA 18936
Website: http://www.macro-energy.com
Category: ENERGY

Name: Marketing Works On-Hold
Phone: (800) 210-3366
Address: P.O. Box 247, Hilltown PA 18927
Website: www.marketingworksonhold.com

Name: Matador Development LLC
Phone: (610) 867-3900
Address: 2005 City Line Road, Bethlehem PA 18018

Name: Law Office of Edward J. McKarski
Phone: (610) 866-0198
Address: 901 West Lehigh Street, Bethlehem PA 18018
Website: http://www.mckarski-law.com

Name: Moyer Plumbing Inc.
Phone: (610) 432-6629
Address: 224-226 North 10th Street, Allentown PA 18102
Website: http://www.fredjmoyer.com

Name: Noshery
Phone: (610) 776-1710
Address: 835 Hamilton Street, Allentown PA 18101
Website: http://www.thenosheryallentown.com

Name: Oakmont Tennis Club
Phone: (610) 437-1281
Address: 2101 Allen Street, Allentown PA 18104
Website: www.oakmonttennis.com

Phone: (415) 516-8888
Address: 335 North 8th Street, Allentown PA 18102
Website: http://www.protek-intl.com

Name: Reese Custom Marketing
Phone: (267) 315-4764
Address: 2317 Stonewall Drive, Macungie PA 18062

Name: Romberger, Debra
Phone: (610) 554-0144
Address: 1125 South Cedar Crest Boulevard, Suite 101, Allentown PA 18103
Website: http://www.drombergertherapy.com

Name: Scentsy
Phone: (908) 859-2696
Address: 79 Miller Street, Phillipsburg NJ 08865
Website: http://www.wickfreenj.scentsy.us

Name: Sharp Financial Solutions
Phone: (610) 683-5060
Address: 818 Dunkels Church Road, Kutztown PA 19530
Website: http://www.sharpfinancialsolutions.com

Name: Springleaf Financial Services
Phone: (610) 437-9785
Address: 1253 Airport Road, Allentown PA 18109
Website: http://www.springleaffinancial.com

Name: Starfish Brasserie
Phone: (610) 332-8888
Address: 51 West Broad Street, Bethlehem PA 18018
Website: www.starfishbrasserie.com

Name: Student Member Joseph R. Tricarico
Phone: (610) 458-7850
Address: 774 West Central Avenue Rear, Alpha NJ 08865

Name: Sunesys LLC
Phone: (267) 927-2042
Address: 185 Titus Avenue, Warrington PA 18976
Website: http://www.sunesys.com

Name: THB, Inc.
Phone: (610) 395-3827
Address: Lehigh Valley Electrical Inspection Service, Orefield PA 18069
Website: www.lehighvalleyinspectionservice.com

Name: Total Cleaning Service
Phone: (610) 349-6865
Address: 5997 Old Bethlehem Pike, Center Valley PA 18034
Website: http://www.totalcleaningservicelv.com

Name: Viridian - Catherine Abreu
Phone: (908) 528-3977
Address: 903 Hillside Road, Phillipsburg NJ 08865
Website: http://www.FreeGreenAndClean.com
Category: ENERGY