Thursday, May 31, 2012

Job Openings

We have two Job Openings today; one from our friends at AFC First Financial Corporation and one from the good people at Klunk & Millan.  As always, if you are a Chamber member and have a job opening you'd like to promote, please E-mail it to me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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Position Available: Corporate Accountant 

AFC First Financial Corporation , a Lehigh Valley based private financial institution which specializes in lending for residential energy efficiency projects is looking for a talented, detail-oriented and upbeat individual for the position of Corporate Accountant.

The ideal candidate will fit into a smaller company team environment, while working on interesting projects that support lending programs for energy efficiency and other "green" improvements and education across the country. AFC First, founded in 1947, is one of three Fannie Mae approved energy-lenders nationwide and administrator of state and utility programs including Pennsylvania's Keystone Home Energy Loan program, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Treasury, the Connecticut Solar Lease Program, the  national EnergyLoan program and programs for many other states and utilities. The US EPA and DOE recently named AFC First the nation's first private, non-utility Home Performance with ENERGY STAR sponsor.

Dynamic and creative thinking, financial discipline, personal integrity and conscientiousness toward employees, customers and business partners are the cornerstone beliefs of the company.

Job Description:
This position is a key part of AFC First's Energy Loan financial team. Primary functions include the effective management of financial and accounting tasks as related to Accounts Payable, Payroll and General Ledger Reconciliations. This will involve establishing and maintaining protocols and procedures for integration of our various internal financial systems with outside data sources such as banks and investors. Establishment of a positive rapport with colleagues and external constituents is essential. You will work in concert with the Accounting Analyst and Customer Service Manager, report to the Chief Financial Officer and work closely with the CEO and COO. The position is based at AFC First's headquarter in the AFC First Energy Center on Brookside Road in the West Allentown/Lower Macungie Township area.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Administration of all accounts payable in a timely manner
  • Oversight of and timely and accurate reconciliation of all depository and general ledger accounts
  • Administration of payroll and accounting aspects of HR benefit programs
  • Assist CFO with timely and accurate production of monthly financial statements reconciled to all sub accounts within 10 days of month end
  • Assist CFO with administration of all tax related issues in coordination with CPA
  • Preparation for and assistance in audits and other reporting requirements
  • Analysis of Green Energy Training Center expenses and accounts
  • Coordination of general ledger and cash accounts with co-workers responsible for loan disbursement, payment and investor reporting
  • Participate in accounting and corporate projects as assigned
  • Maintain the chart of accounts
  • Other duties as assigned (including but not limited to invoice creation, rebate processing and other duties) 
  • Full-time, salaried position, Accounting Degree required. Compensation, including medical and retirement benefits, commensurate to experience.  
Please forward resume to Laura Nelson, CFO at lnelson@afcfirst.com.
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http://klunkmillan.com/about/careers-account-executive.asp

Account Executive

Klunk & Millan is looking for an Account Executive with project management, web and marketing strategy experience. This position requires the ability to acquire new business, manage the agency's day-to-day relationship with key client contacts and drive web/interactive projects from conception to completion. Individual must acquire in-depth knowledge of, and be conversant in, each client's business – their key issues, competitive situation and industry trends. Position requires an individual with entrepreneurial spirit, a strategic-thinker who drives marketing initiatives with great organization skills and persuasive style to manage and service various accounts and multiple on-going projects.

Position responsibilities include:
Complete accountability to drive multiple on-going projects with a special focus on web/interactive projects from conception to completion.
o Assess internal and/or client issues/challenges in order to consider and supply a variety of options as the need arises in to order to keep the team moving forward on a path of success.
Creation of timelines with key milestones/checkpoints and implementation of processes to manage day-to-day workflow
Development of new business
Serve as the primary point of contact for assigned clients to resolve concerns or needs that are required throughout the operational process
Collaborate and coordinate with internal resources to ensure all client expectations and deadlines are met
Ensure compliance with agency/client Scope of Work documents
Insertion of web content for clients utilizing the Content Management System
General project planning across the web and interactive department
Develop strong relationship with clients for development of marketing programs
Anticipate client needs, keeping the agency in the position of leading rather than following
o Ensure consistent and clear communication to and provide strategic solutions for client through status reports, timelines, performance metrics, and marketing recommendations
Resolve conflicts through creative problem solving with acute decision-making skills that keep project teams motivated to overcome high-pressure situations, and ensure best possible results
Prepare materials for and participate in business development meetings, creative presentations, and strategy discussions
Requirements
Minimum of 2-5 years of project management or interactive account experience within agency environments
Bachelor's degree in related field
Strong familiarity with content management systems, social media, and ROI metrics as well as basic understanding of HTML
Intimate knowledge of agency core disciplines and capabilities
Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, with people at all levels of an organization
Strong sense of urgency and commitment to get the job done quickly and with high quality
Self-motivation, independent spirit with an analytical mindset and the ability to work independently or as a part of a team
Strong attention to detail and proven ability to manage multiple tasks with complete accountability
Proficient in Microsoft Office and the ability to quickly learn and use complex software technology
A passion for marketing
Local candidates only. No phone calls please. Send resume and cover letter toinquiries@klunkmillan.com.

Where do you get your TV news?

More or less, there are three cable news networks that cover news 24/7 (not including CNBC, Bloomerberg or other "niche" news networks): FoxNews, MSNBC and CNN.  The three networks are in constant competition with each other.  They also, of course, have dramatically different political slants - FoxNews is openly conservative, MSNBC is openly liberal and CNN is the closest to neutral of the three.

New ratings numbers also show clear winners and losers: FoxNews is, far and away, leading the pack.  Check out the link for those ratings numbers - in the all important 25-54 demographic, Fox is leading every timeslot.  MSNBC has gained ground over the past few years and is actually within striking distance of Fox in at least one timeslot (10pm).  CNN?  Not even close.

Indeed, CNN is facing a major ratings crisis, with viewership hitting a 20-year low in the month of May.  Is this a statement about people preferring news with a slant, or just not liking CNN?   That's a much larger question.

So, is FoxNews the undisputed news king?  Well, in TV, maybe, but not the internet.  Check this out:

CNN is is the 63rd most popular website in the world and 21st in the US.  FoxNews, by contrast, is the 174th most popular site in the world and 43rd in the US.  MSNBC?  They are way, way, WAY back, ranking as the 7,839th most popular website in the world and 1,477th in the US.

Funny how different mediums get different results.

Daily Briefing, 5/31/2012

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

Allentown and the Lehigh Valley's economy is recovering faster than the rest of the country's, according to Federal Reserve economist Paul Flora.  Mayor Callahan says that fire response times have actually improved since the closing of the Dewberry Fire Station.  Don Cunningham spoke at his first press conference yesterday since being appointed the new President of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).  He will resign as County Executive on July 8 and start at LVEDC the following day.  Only 2,300 property owners have filed formal appeals of their reassessments, a lower than expected number.

In state-wide news, Pennsylvania House and Senate leaders appear to be close to a budget deal and are looking to send the Governor a budget by next week.

In national news, President Obama called Mitt Romney yesterday to congratulate him on formally winning enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination.  A new report shows that foreclosures were 26% of all home sales in the first quarter of 2012, which is an increase on the same quarter last year (22%) and the previous quarter (25%).

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tips on telecommuting

If you have the discipline to make it work, there are few things as nice and comforting as being able to roll out of your bed, chill in your pajamas, and go to work.  Telecommuting can be great for many - it can save you travel time, keep you close to home, provide for a more flexible working environment and save  aton on travel costs.  That being said, it can also absolutely destroy your work ethic and productivity if you aren't prepared for it.  So, how can you better work from home?  Here are some tips:

  • Commute:  Yes, that's right, destroy one of the main benefits of working from home.  Okay, this doesn't mean that you get in your car, get stuck in traffic, spill coffee on yourself and show up late for work anyway.  Take a walk around your house or your block at the beginning/end of every day.  This can help you ease your way into a telecommuting environment by still giving you the sense that you are arriving at work and then leaving at the end of the day.  
  • Make your office sacred: Your office should be totally free from distractions that you would never accept in an actual office environment but wouldn't think twice about at home; TV, kids, washing machines, etc.  
  • Need to do errands?  Block out time:  Telecommuting does allow for doing errands at home (dishes, laundry, etc), and this isn't necessarily the end of the world - after all, every one of us takes a break at some point during the work day to make personal phone calls or check Facebook.  The issue with doing these at home is that you can wind up getting sucked into more chores than you realized.  According, it might be easier (particularly in the beginning) to actually block out times for errands, just like you would any other work meeting.  This can help you create and maintain discipline in your work day. 
  • Get dressed:  Working in PJs can be so, so comfortable - the problem is that this can trick your brain into thinking you can just chill.  Don't fall into this trap - get dressed, shave, and do whatever you would do if you were normally going into the office.  It can help make you more productive and energetic.  
  • Separate:  If you are working from home, create a new computer user name/profile that has different links/bookmarks from your personal profile.  This can help to maintain that wall between your work and personal life that you'll need to keep active if you want to be successful.
Any tips to add?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/30/2012

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

The Lehigh Valley added 100 jobs in April but more people reentered the workforce, resulting in unemployment rising from 7.9% to 8.1%.  In a response to the lawsuits filed against the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone, Governor Corbett says that the City and two related authorities should be suited, not the Commonwealth.  The City has also requested to be added to the suit and have the suit dismissed.  Don Cunningham has been formally selected to lead the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and will lay out his vision for the organization on Wednesday.  Meanwhile, Dan McCarthy, a Democratic Commissioner, has said he will apply to fill the vacancy caused by Cunningham's resignation as County Executive.  Air Products and the future Allentown Phantoms have created a new charity.  In the Slate Belt, the Bangor Area School District increased taxes by 2.2%.  St. Lukes in Bethlehem Township has received permission from planners to double the size of their hospital Emergency Room.  As you are probably well aware, storms hit the Valley hard yesterday, causing about 3,000 to lose power.

In state-wide news, Pennsylvania's casinos generated $1.5 billion in revenue, making it the top tax-revenue generating state in the country in this category.

In national news, Mitt Romney has officially won enough delegates to claim the Republican nomination for President with a win in the Texas primary yesterday.

That is the longest Daily Briefing we've had in some time!  Wow!  Anyway, have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Public Speaking: Test Yourself

At the last Chamber staff meeting, we tried something new.  Each staffer was asked to give a one minute speech that described what they did (and no, you couldn't go longer than a minute).  I actually filmed the speeches and we reviewed them, as a group, a few weeks later.  The purpose of this exercise is obvious - we wanted to help everyone on staff grow their public speaking abilities.

We all speak in public much more than we realize - in a group, to a dozen people, even one-on-one discussions are forms of public speaking, and the skills that you learn while giving a speech can help you in any situation.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend filming yourself speak.  It's not that hard - set up a camera on a tripod (or a table, any flat surface really) and give a one minute speech about what you do.  Try to give the speech in front of someone if possible - the more, the better.  From there, review the speech.

The thing that struck all of us was just how strange it is to watch yourself speak!  No matter how good or bad you are - or think you are - the perception you have in your own head about yourself and how you look when speaking never matches to the reality.

Here are a few things that we noticed about the various individuals who spoke:

  • I'm on a boat!:  Many of us looked like they were speaking on a boat - that is, people spoke while swaying or rocking.  It seemed natural and comfortable at the time, but it looked silly.  The best way to end this?  Plant your feet.  Don't move.
  • Hands...where do they go?:  Not knowing what to do with your hands is a big problem with giving a speech, which is so funny - most people, when they speak, know exactly what to do with their hands.  It takes practice, but you just have to try and let your hands do what they want (sort of the opposite advice as above, I know).
  • Slow down:  Nervous people talk fast.  Speakers have to make a very conscious effort to slow down when they speak.
  • Uhh...........:  "Umms" and "Uhhs" are commonplace in many speeches, but it makes you look unprepared and unprofessional.  The solution?  Everyone's is different.  Some people are great at ad-libbing a speech, others like just having bullet points, and some cannot speak without completely prepared text.  Do whatever makes you most comfortable!
Any tips you want to add to this?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/29/2012

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

Mayfair in Allentown suffered another difficult year thanks to the weather and may not return next year.  In state-wide news, a new plan is being pushed to privatize Pennsylvania's liquor stores.  In national news, a group of lawmakers are working on making the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan become reality.  A new analysis by the Associated Press shows that seven states are deadlocked and will likely decide the 2012 Presidential Election.

We have one Chamber event today: a mixer at Jessica's Tea Room, held by the Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fitch cuts Japan's bond rating - How does it compare to others?

Citing a rising public debt ratio and a "leisurely" effort at bringing it under control, Fitch downgraded Japan's debt rating to A+.  As you may remember from the U.S. debt ceiling fight of last year (a fight that may be restarting), three major credit rating agencies (Fitch, Standard & Poors and Moody's) rate the credit worthiness of every country in the world.  The credit worthiness essentially allows investors to judge how safe their money will be when deposited in other countries and institutions.  Credit ratings also affect interest loans that are given to debt.

S&P famously downgraded the United States' credit last year, though Fitch & Moody's held it steady at its highest rating.  Where does the rest of the industrial world lie according to Fitch?  Here's a (abbreviated) look at which countries it thinks are safest and which ones are the riskiest bets.


  • AAA:  Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States
  • AA+:  Hong Kong
  • AA:  Belgium, New Zealand
  • A+:  Chile, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan
  • A:  Israel, Spain
  • A-:  Italy
  • BBB:  Brazil, Mexico
  • CCC:  Greece

Daily Briefing, 5/22/2012

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

A proposed arena lawsuit settlement was rejected by Bethlehem Township yesterday.  The Lehigh Valley housing market continues to recover, with sales increasing 25% compared to the same time last year and prices increasing for the 2nd month in a row.  PPL Electricity rates will be increasing next month.  The Nazareth Area School Board approved a budget yesterday that raises taxes by 1.8%.  In state-wide news, State Senator Jane Orie (R-Allegheny) has resigned her seat following her conviction on corruption-related charges.

Today is a busy day in Chamber-world, with three events: the LeBEAM Chamber of Commerce is holding their Anniversary Dinner, the Women's Business Council is having an event that will teach you how to "Live Like an Athena" and the Young Professional Council is holding an event on "Financial Stability and Climbing the Corporate Ladder."

And that's it for now!  Have a good one!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Daily Briefing, 5/21/2012

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

Bethlehem Township Commissioners are set to, for the first time, publicly debate a settlement offer from Allentown on the Allentown Arena project.  Businesses on South Third street in Easton are struggling to remind the public that they are still open during construction.  In national news, as many colleges celebrate their graduations, new surveys should that college debt is at record highs.

And that's all for now!  Have a great day, and we'll see you later.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Guest Blog Post - Strategic Load Response: Uncovering the Real Value of Megawatt Reduction

We have a guest blog post today from our friends at Constellation New Energy, who have a really interesting post on electricity pricing.  For those of you who want more info, you can download a Whitepaper on the subject here.

As always, if you are a Chamber Member and want to do a Guest Blog Post, please E-mail me at mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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Strategic Load Response: Uncovering the Real Value of Megawatt Reduction
By Chris Cantone, Vice President of Load Response Sales, Constellation Energy

 Under today’s market conditions, people may find it difficult to piece all the information together to determine the many possible impacts they may have on their business.  The same is true within the Demand Response market.  Customers that have the ability to reduce their load consumption, may not be aware of the “options” that are available to them -- in particular, the difference between Demand Response and Load Response.  Last week, I was honored to join Marianne Hedin, senior analyst of Pike Research, in a conversation about the common myths as well as new, innovative programs with more than 200 energy consumers during a webinar we presented with Environmental Leader.

The webinar titled, “Strategic Load Response: Uncovering the Real Value of Your Megawatt Reduction,” provided Marianne and I the chance to present pertinent information about the many options customers have available to them today, and with a proper Load Response Strategy, customers can maximize the value they get from their ability to curtail load.  Some highlights of what we presented include:  
  • A general definition of what demand response (DR) is, its historical context, and why load response programs exists
  • Examples of DR, and how it is different than energy efficiency
  • Why DR is continuing to grow more popular
  • Market dynamics – Who the key DR market players are and the key drivers and challenges
  • What’s in store for demand response
  • The distinction between demand response and load response, including market and customer benefits
  • How load response complements renewable energy
  • The different types of load response programs such as, permanent and responsive solutions.
  • An overview of program options that are available to customers including Capacity Programs, Ancillary Services, Economic Programs, Constellation Peak Response Programs, and Constellation Price Response Programs
  • How Technology can provide value to help maximize customers Load Response participation



Following our presentation, we were happy to continue the conversation with an extensive Q&A session. Among the dozens of great questions we received, we were asked how customers are expected to identify significant load reductions that limit the impact to their operations?  
This is a commonly asked question as many companies do not have the manpower to dedicate towards this. Most curtailment service providers or CSPs will help customers indentify what type of equipment they can use as part of their curtailment plan.  However, that is only the initial step in helping customers understand how they can participate in programs.  Once you have a list of equipment that can be used, the next step is to collaborate with the customer to better understand the impact of curtailment will have on their operations and overall to the business. 
By taking the additional step to understand the customer’s willingness to curtail and determining their appetite for the amount of participation, we can align the customer’s ability with the best programs available.  Customers may have certain equipment that can be shut down for hours in length, but they may also have equipment that can only be interrupted for 10’s of minutes.  By taking a Load Response approach, each piece of equipment has a value and can help customers participate in multiple programs.
Marianne added that many commercial and industrial customers have participated in load and demand response programs by focusing on non-mission critical related operations at times designated for curtailing load.
While we answered many great questions during the webinar, we received more that I plan to shed some light on in future blog posts, so please check back.
As part of the webinar, we worked with Environmental Leader to draft a white paper. To download the white paper, go here: http:// constellation.com/ellrwp.
If you attended the webinar and have additional questions or if you didn’t attend but have questions about load response, please leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as you can.

For more energy market news and insights, visit Constellation Energy’s Energy4Business Blog:
http://blogs.constellation.com/energy4business.

Have a kid in college? Here are some tips for how they can avoid being a moron on Facebook

It seems like every day, you read someone doing something stupid on Facebook. The most recent example of astounding stupidity that I have heard of were these morons in Columbia, who committed a robbery but were caught shortly afterwards...because one of them used a computer to log into Facebook.

Wow.

Unfortunately, Facebook mistakes can be much more serious and have a significantly detrimental affect on High School and College students.  According to recent surveys, 56% of employers search for interviewees on Social Media before making a hiring decision, while over 80% of colleges use Facebook to connect with potential students.  As such, its incredibly important that students not be morons when using Social Media.  Sadly, that is not always the case.

So, if you are of that age or know others who are, here are some big fat DON'TS when it comes to high school/college kids using Social Media.

  • Anything that involves alcohol or partying - even if you are of legal age.  It gives off the impression of someone immature.
  • Drugs or illegal activity.  I can't believe I have to type this out, but yes, that happens all the time.  It's like common sense goes out the window sometimes.  
  • Big financial purchases...that can result in you getting robbed.
  • Your phone number.  Bad idea for potential stalkers.
  • Anything insulting or whiny, be it insulting a friend as a joke, a business or another school.  Bad form.
  • Anything in poor taste - good rule of thumb - would you be comfortable with something you post being on the front page of the Morning Call?
Make sure you have your privacy settings set to the max when it comes to Social Media and don't allow anyone who isn't your friend to see your content.  This should not be viewed as a catch-all, but it can certainly slow down some embarrassment.  Also - make it so that items you are tagged in only appear AFTER your approval - this can prevent embarrassing picture tags, check-ins or mentions.  

Have any good tips to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/18/2012

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

Catasauqua and Upper Saucon Township have become the latest municipalities to file a lawsuit against the Allentown Arena project.  Also in Allentown, School District taxes will rise 4.8%.  It took a jury a mere 35 minutes yesterday to find George Hitcho Jr. guilty of first degree murder for killing Freemansburg Police Officer Robert Lasso.  Northampton County Council approved of a special tax zone, known as a LERTA, in Easton yesterday.

In national news, Facebook officially goes public today with a price of $38 per share.  President Obama is likely to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as tougher sanctions on Iran take hold.

We have two Chamber events today: the 90th annual Hellertown Lower Saucon Chamber Banquet and an SBC event on Masterminds.

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Op-Ed: Area’s transportation system sorely in need of major improvements

As you may have read yesterday in the Morning Call or Lehigh Valley Business, The Chamber just held its annual Transportation Luncheon, featuring Representative Rick Geist (R-79) and Barry Schoch, Secretary of Transportation under Governor Corbett.  The event featured calls from the entire business community for Pennsylvania to make the desperately needed, major upgrades to our transportation system.

Michelle Griffin Young, The Chamber's Executive VP of Government & External Affairs, recently had an op-ed appear in the Lehigh Valley Business, and its reprinted below.  The impact of transportation on our area cannot be understated - it can create tens of thousands of jobs, invest millions into the economy and result in a better business climate and quality of life for the entire Commonwealth.  Check out Michelle's op-ed or read our Transportation Policy.
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How safe do you feel driving to work every day? Did you know that 5,000 Pennsylvania bridges are rated “structurally deficient?”

Transportation is the platform of the U.S. economy. In the long term, transportation improvements lead to economic development locally and regionally and ultimately facilitate the economic growth of the entire country. In the near term, each dollar invested in highway construction generates $1.80 of GDP, according to Source: Standard & Poor’s DRI.

Each $1 billion in federal highway investment plus the state match supports 34,000 jobs, and every dollar that taxpayers invest in public transportation generates about $6 in economic returns, according to Cambridge Systematics.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce recognizes that a modern, safe and efficient transportation infrastructure is necessary for the economic vitality of regional businesses and the mobility of our citizens. Managing roadways and providing funding for future improvements is essential to the safety of our citizens and a vital part of the efficient distribution of products and services On Wednesday, May 16, the Chamber will host an interactive luncheon forum with the state’s key decision makers. The focus of the program is to educate and engage our business community about the dire need for a solution to Pennsylvania’s infrastructure funding crisis. Join the Commonwealth’s key decision makers: Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch, Pennsylvania House Transportation Chairman Representative Rick Geist and a member of the Senate transportation committee for an interactive discussion between the Corbett Administration and both branches of the legislature. Chamber President and CEO, Tony Iannelli, will moderate.

The Chamber recommends implementing the following transportation improvements, which are vital to continued growth and sustainability of our regional infrastructure:

Bridges: Provide sufficient transportation funds to continue PaDOT’s recent initiative to repair and replace structurally deficient bridges at the 2010 or higher level as the Accelerated Bridge Program.

Roads: Provide full project funding for the completion of the Route 22 Tomorrow, American Parkway and Route 412 projects, as well as the other projects on the Lehigh Valley Surface Transportation Plan 2011 - 2030.

Public Transportation: Provide funding for public transportation to the level originally envisioned with the passage of Act 44 and to support the “Moving LANTA Forward” program to encourage increased usage of public transportation.

Air: Provide funding to assist the state’s mid-sized airports in attracting and retaining quality airline service through an air service development fund.

Freight Rail: Provide funding and continued investment in rail freight infrastructure to maintain the current infrastructure and increase capacity to promote the intermodal distribution of goods.

The Chamber understands that today is the time to act and make changes to our funding policies so that we can realize the vision of a balanced, efficient transportation system to serve the health and welfare of our citizens and to promote economic development.

As Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges, buses and rail infrastructure reach the end of their useful life, maintenance costs will rise and major capital expenditures become necessary. Failure to address these needs will lead to greater deterioration of our transportation infrastructure and result in even greater costs in the future. We believe the solution to this funding crisis will include regional and statewide planning to set our priorities, as well as sacrifices in the way of increased user costs. We support developing a long term funding strategy and the consideration of a variety of possibilities for funding transportation needs, including, but not limited to, the following:

Promote efficiency improvements in transportation projects Propose the setting of an appropriate prevailing wage Wider use of tolling on new and existing public highways The creation of dedicated funding for state police Public-Private Partnerships (P3) Gradually adjust the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax (OCFT) Implement inflation based increases in fuel tax and user fees Please join our members in advocating for real infrastructure reform. You can begin by being a part of the dialogue on Wednesday. Contact Melody Gardner at melodyg@lehighvalleyChamber.org for details.

Job Opening

We have one job opening this week, this one at Pom Services.  As always, if you are a Chamber Member and want to post a job opening, please E-mail me your name and job description to mikes@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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Pom Services is now hiring for Part-Time Housekeeper must have 3 or more years of experience and a backgrand check available.
-Must be hard worker
-Must work fast
-Must be available last min

Please call Beata at 484-894-6447.

Daily Briefing, 5/17/2012

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

According to a new poll, an overwhelming majority of Lehigh Valley residents think that the proposed Allentown arena would be a good thing for the Valley.  The Sands Event Center officially opened in Bethlehem yesterday to an Incubus concert.

In state-wide news, PA Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch and the Majority Chair of the House Transportation Committee, Rick Geist, spoke at the Chamber's Transportation Luncheon, where they were urged to make desperately needed improvements to Pennsylvania's transportation system.

In national news, there is good news in the national housing market: fewer homes were foreclosed upon in April.

We have two Chamber events today: our Allentown Chamber Annual Dinner and an Open House at the Salvation Army in Easton.

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Daily Briefing, 5/16/2012

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

Governor Corbett was in the Lehigh Valley yesterday, where he visited a Porche Plant in Palmer Township.  The Parkland School District approved its budget yesterday, raising taxes by 3.67% while eliminating 60 jobs, some (but not all) through attrition.  In national news, President Obama is meeting with the House & Senate Majority & Minority leaders later today to discuss economic proposals.

Today is a busy day in Chamber world, with three events: a free Signature Business After Five event at Brookside Country Club, our annual Transportation Luncheon and an East Penn/Western Lehigh joint lunch.

And that's it for now!  Have a good one, and we'll be back either later today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Google Forms - useful way to get data for your business

This entry is largely based on my own recent discovery.  Google seems to have a service for just about everything, and it seems like every time you turn around, you can discover something new on the site.  This leads me to talk about Google Forms, which is a great (and free) way that you and your business can get data from a small or massive set of people.

Its operation is simple (as, it seems, are most things when it comes to Google): you basically create your own form in whatever format you want.  You ask a question and then specific the type of answer you want to get back - open ended, select one, etc.  When someone is done with the form, they submit it.  You can then track that information in an easy to read spreadsheet.  You can also create a link to the survey that you can then send via E-mail, Social Media, etc.

How can this be useful for your business?  Well, you can create a very easy to respond to survey, RSVP to an event, get opinions, etc.  There is no limit on respondents, the amount of questions that you ask and relatively few formatting constraints.  From a technical perspective, these are easy to design, and the data is easy to read.    This is somewhat similar to other services like SurveyMonkey - but more stripped down.  There are no bells, no whistles (and no advertising on the site!) - its just easy to use, and if you are already addicted to Google products (as I am), this can really save you some time.

What do you think?

Daily Briefing, 5/15/2012

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

According to a new report by Kamran Afshar, the Lehigh Valley should regain all of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession by the end of the year.  Tom Slonaker has been appointed to fill a vacancy as a Whitehall Township Commissioner caused by Bruce Brinker's death.  The Bethlehem Area School District will see taxes rise by almost 5%.  In national news, Ron Paul has said that he will stop actively campaigning for President, though he will still continue to try to win delegates.

We have two Chamber events today: a seminar on ensuring compliance with current internet marketing and advertising laws and a lunch event on Career & Technical Education.

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

What to do with an intern?

As local colleges start to let out, The Chamber is filled with enthusiastic college students who on internships that will (hopefully) help them advance their professional careers.  We're always happy to welcome interns - they can bring a wealth of energy and a fresh perspective in a variety of areas.

That being said, interns are a lot of work.  You can't just say, "Here, go photocopy this" for 8-10 hours a week - not only will that intern probably quit (this isn't slave labor!), but it's not fair to them.  After all, they want to gain experience and do more than just grunt work.  As such, coming up with interesting and useful projects can sometimes be a challenge.

So, what do you do with an intern?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Orientation:  Whenever we get a new intern, the first thing I have them do is a sort of "orientation."  It isn't much - just cruising through our website, Social Media and database training - but it ensures that our interns know who we are and what we do, as well as helping to ensure that they have a sense of context that will help them know what they are doing and how what they are doing is important to the overall organization.

2.  Look at your To Do list and your calendar:  Need a source of ideas and projects?  Well, what are you working on already?  Do you have any prep work that your interns can do that can help you complete your projects?  Better yet, look at your long-term to do list. . What on there can your interns start to tackle?

3.  Research:  My experience is that interns can be very useful at researching things that you didn't even realize you needed researched.  For example, in my line of work, we are always looking for new types of Chamber programs that can be helpful to our members.  As such, I once sent an intern on a research project - check out the websites of the top ten Chambers of Commerce in the Country, summarize what programs they have, and write that information up in a report so I could use it.  The results helped us to generate a few specific  programs that have been useful to our members.

4.  Phone calls:  We need more information in our database, so I'm going to ask my intern to work on it.  We won't have him make more than 20 calls a day or so, and we'll create a script so he knows what he is doing, but we're going to have him call members and ask for information that we need from our database.  This will give him a chance to talk to people and get important information.

5.  Ask!:  This is frequently forgotten about - ask your intern what they want to work on!  From there, I bet you'll be able to get some good ideas on what they can - and want - to do.

Daily Briefing, 5/14/2012

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

In state-wide news, UGI and other utility companies now have the option of charging extra fees that can be used solely for utility upgrades.  In national news, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is leaving the company after being caught faking a computer science degree on his resume.  John Edwards' defense team is set to start its defense in Edwards' criminal trial.

We have one Chamber event today: our Board of Governors Classic & Krajsa Golf Tournament.

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Marketing by controversy - Time Magazine's current cover

Have you seen the latest issue of Time Magazine?  It is stirring a great deal of controversy, as it features a three year old breast feeding.  The picture is done to highlight "attachment parenting," which, among other things, encourages breast feeding for as long as possible.

That being said: come on.  The purpose of the picture was obviously to generate controversy, and ideally for Time, to generate magazine sales as well.  That's pretty obvious.

Of course, such a decision could go either way.  On one hand, people are talking and the news magazine is now getting news coverage itself.  The issue is an interesting one, and a controversial one, and the topic certainly matches the cover.

Of course, it could backfire.  What if stores pull the issue (as Walmart has done in the past to other forms of media), or if advertisers pull out?  The question remains about how this will be received by the public at large.

Now, here's the question for you: is there a lesson to be learned in this?  Are there ways that you can market by controversy?  For the average small business: probably not.  It really depends on your demographic and if the negatives outweigh the positives.  BUT, this does prove a point - controversy and provocative ads do sell, or at the very least, they get notices (particularly in the viral age of Social Media).

Think of your industry, and ask yourself - how can you shock?  Can you?

Daily Briefing, 5/11/2012

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

The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors will be joining the lawsuit against the Allentown NIZ.  Lehigh Valley Home Sales increased 33% compared to the same time last year.  Be warned - Route 378 in Bethlehem is closed from Route 22 to the Hill-to-Hill bridge as a result of a hazardous spill.

In national news, the prosecution has rested in the case against former Senator John Edwards.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grow your business: Peanuts and Crackerjack

Another entry today as part of our Grow Your Business series from Carol Ritter at Carol Talks.  You gotta love the baseball references.  Enjoy!
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Growing Your Small Business in 2012- Grow Your Business - Peanuts & Crackerjack

Take me out to the ball game, Take me out to the crowd, Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack, I don’t care if I ever get back, So it’s root-root-root for the home team, If they don’t win it’s a shame, For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game. Sing it aloud.   May might bring us May flowers but in Boyertown, it’s baseball season.  Fifteen hundred children marched to the beat of Take Me out to the Ballgame on Saturday to kick off baseball in their community. I liken the game of baseball to the game of relationships.  Relationships sometimes are taken for granted. You cannot be a successful business owner, a successful business leader or a successful non-profit with out strong, solid relationships.

First BASE - you just met and it feels like a connection might be there. You both would like to get to know each other better and learn about what you both do for a living.

Second BASE - the relationship solidifies and you are ready to refer, support each other and be ambassadors for each other’s businesses.

Third BASE - heading towards home plate and the relationship is strong and could even flow into a  social relationship and the mutual respect blossoms.

HOME RUN-it’s official the trust is incredible, you are working together and mutually benefiting from each other and can’t wait to refer one another.  It’s all about trust and trust is most likely the most important piece of a solid business relationship.

Did you know-the average person has 10 people in their lives who love them, trust them and will carry their message (good or bad) without even trying, how about you leverage those 10 folks in your life.

I don’t know about you but I could sure go for some peanuts and crackerjack right about now!!

Daily Briefing, 5/10/2012

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

Phillipsburg Mayor Harry Wyant gave his State of the City address yesterday at a Chamber event, where he mostly focused on the town's efforts to purchase the former Ingersoll Rand property.  In state-wide news, the Pennsylvania Senate approved its version of the 2012-2013 budget by a 39-8 vote yesterday.  Their budget raises revenues by $500 million compared to the Governor's budget.  In national news, President Obama came out in favor of same sex marriages yesterday.  Senator Bob Casey yesterday said that the federal government should do more to close the wage gap between men and women.

We have one Chamber event today, and its a big one: our Bethlehem Chamber Annual Dinner.

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Daily Briefing, 5/9/2012

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

The Wilson Area School District will be increasing taxes this year by .8%.  WFMZ takes a look at the new regional ambulance center for Cetronia Ambulance Company.

In national news, U.S. businesses posted the highest amount of job openings in four years; good news for the labor market.  In North Carolina, voters approved a constitutional amendment that would formally ban gay marriage.  In Indiana, 36-year Republican Senator Richard Lugar lost his primary.

We have three Chamber events today: our Phillipsburg Mayor's Luncheon, the Southern Lehigh Shining Star Awards and a Forks Township Business Roundtable.

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gone Fishing!!

See you tomorrow!

Monday, May 7, 2012

What could blow up the fragile economic recovery?

Most agree that the economy is recovering, although very slowly, and the recent jobs report did little to increase confidence.  More to the point, any outside event could put the economy right back in the tank.  What do you need to keep an eye out for?  Here are a few events that could destroy whatever momentum remains in the current economic crisis:

  • Europe:  The European debt crisis, though calmed, is not over.  Italy, Spain, Greece and Ireland have all faced significant debt-related challenges and are in various positions of austerity and assistance; however, significant issues remain and concern remains of any European country pulling out of the Euro. If that happens, or if the debt crisis fires up again, there will be ramifications in the United States.
  • Gas prices:  Gas prices are certainly tied to outside world events; the good news, however, is that they have decreased recently, falling an average of $.07 this week.  If this trend continues, gas will obviously not be hurting the economy.  The problem, however, lies in the potential unrest in Syria or Iran.  If an outside conflict begins in either of those countries, gas prices will increase; some even believe that it could reach as high as $7 a gallon.
  • China and India:  Recent information shows that the economy in both China and India is slowing; this will obviously hurt US exports and the rest of the world economy.  The ripple effects of such a slowdown would absolutely be felt in every corner of the U.S.
These are the three biggest (foreseeable) threats to the U.S. economy; that being said, some unforeseen event (such as a terrorist attack or global pandemic) could always rear its ugly head.  Of course, there isn't a whole lot the average small business can do to prepare for such a crisis, so let's concentrate on what can be predicted.  What do you think?  Are you concerned about any of the above?  Let us known in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/7/2012

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

The trial for George Hitcho, accused of murdering Freemansburg police officer Robert Lasso, will start today.  A 19-year old Lafayette College freshman died after a night of drinking.  In national news, the New York Times takes a look at the nine states that will likely decide this November's Presidential Election.  In international news, Vladimir Putin returns to Russia's Presidency today.  In France, Socialist Francois Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy to be elected the country's new Prime Minister.

We have one Chamber event today: First Monday at City Center Lehigh Valley in Allentown.

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Daily Briefing, 5/4/2012

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

Governor Corbett visited Pratt Industries in Lower Macungie yesterday.  Sy Traub, the head of the Allentown NIZ Authority, has proposed removing tax incentives for businesses that are recruited from within the Lehigh Valley.  Northampton County passed a non-binding resolution yesterday that called for the NIZ to be repealed.  In state-wide news, Pennsylvania collected more revenue than budgeted in April, reigniting discussions on what to do with the extra money.  Today is a big day in economic news, with an April jobs report set to be released.  In other news, Michelle Bachmann endorsed Mitt Romney.

And that's it!  Have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Presidential Election Resources

You, like me, may be an election junkie.  If that's the case - you're going to have a fun next few months as the Presidential election continues to heat up.

Assuming you are a political junkie, or even just a novice that's looking to stay informed, here are a few great sites that can keep you up to date on today's political news.


  • Electoral-Vote.com:  This will be the third election in a row that I've used this website.  In those eight years, its barely changed, but it doesn't have to.  It's simple and easy to read design takes the latest polling information, puts it on a map and calculates the electoral votes that each candidate is likely to get at that moment.  
  • Politicalwire.com:  This site is more of an aggregator than anything else - its updated multiple times a day with the latest political news from across the country.  It is also more than just the Presidential elections; it covers policy and elections at almost every level.
  • Politics1.com:  On its surface, this site looks like its just an aggregator (and not a very good one at that). That being said, dig deeper and you'll find no shortage of election resources.  It links to every political and state party website you can think of and has a detailed breakdown of every federal and most state-wide races in the country.  
  • 270towin.com:  Okay, okay, so this is barely a news site, but its fun.  You can design your own election scenarios on a map and see how they would play out in the Electoral Collage.  Want to enter an alternative universe where California is Red and Idaho is Blue?  Here's your website.  Go nuts.


THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!!!


Those are a few of my thoughts - what are yours?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/3/2012

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

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Lafayette College yesterday.  More than 80% of the businesses in the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone failed to file their NIZ paperwork on time and were thus fined by the Commonwealth.  Allentown City Council appointed Joe Davis to fill a vacancy yesterday.  The Morning Call saw its Sunday circulation expand.

In state-wide news, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted yesterday to close the Delaware loophole and reduce Pennsylvania's Corporate Net Income tax.

We have two Chamber events today: our Cinco De Mayo Fiesta and an Open House at the Shoppes at 3900.

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Economic slowdown?

I caught this story on CNN and it seemed worth elaborating on.  The story notes that two Federal Reserve Presidents are concerned that the recovery, already slow, may be slowing further.  The primary indicator of this is that GDP only grew 2.2% in the 1st quarter of 2012, compared to 3% in the last quarter of 2011.  The two men also noted that there are at least two potentially significant worries that the economy faces down the road: ongoing European debt issues and rising gas prices.  Both have cooled, at least for now, but could flare up again and damage our economic recovery.

There are also initial concerns that the job market is slowing as well.  For the second straight month, private job  growth dipped.  In April, the private sector only added 119,000 jobs, compared to 201 jobs in March and 228 jobs in February.  The same happened in the Valley, with a recent jobs report noting that the area lost 3,200 jobs - despite unemployment dropping to 7.9% from 8.1%.  The big report is expected this Friday, however, when the April unemployment numbers are expected to be released.

All indicators are preliminary, but its enough to get people worried.  What do you think?  Are you worried about the economy slowing down again, and is it something that you have noticed?  Let us know in the comments!

Daily Briefing, 5/2/2012

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

A Morning Call story notes that less people are members of an organized religion in the Valley.  Lafayette President Dan Weiss will be leaving the school to become the new President of Haverford University.  Allentown and Bethlehem have each been named "Playful Cities USA."

In state-wide news, a lawsuit has been filed that challenges Pennsylvania's recently passed Voter Identification law.  The Pennsylvania House will be voting on legislation that closes the so-called Delaware Loophole which allows corporations that do business in Pennsylvania to register in Delaware and thus avoid Pennsylvania's Corporate Net Income tax.

In national news, President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan yesterday, where he signed a pact that pulls American troops out of the country by 2014.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a four-year high yesterday.  Newt Gingrich has formally dropped out of the Presidential race.

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Free events in May!

One of the things we enjoy most at The Chamber is networking - this is why we have 20-30 events, every month, that our members can attend.  Not surprisingly, some of our most popular events are the free ones - as such, here's a look at the free events we have coming up this May:

Daily Briefing, 5/1/2012

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

After four straight months of gains, momentum in the Valley's job market slowed, though unemployment did drop to 7.9%.  The Bethlehem Area School Board agreed to increase taxes $163 for the average property owner.  The Easton Area School District unveiled its financial forecast that predicts more layoffs and tax hikes. In state-wide news, a new asset limit goes into effect today on those who can receive food stamps.  In national news, the new World Trade Center 1 once again became the largest building in New York City. Today is the one year anniversary of the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden.

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