Friday, May 30, 2014

Economic Outlook

Guest Blog Post by Kamran Afshar, Ph.D., Chamber Economist
The Chamber’s Finance Committee

Have banks really started to lend money to businesses again?

After the financial crash and the onset of the Great Recession banks significantly reduced their lending to businesses. However, it should be noted that even in good times banks are more willing to lend to those that can guarantee repayment, i.e. those that already have resources. To be fair, banks are also businesses and must ensure that there is a reasonable certainty of debt repayment.

As a result of the Great Recession, the volume of commercial and industrial loans from all commercial banks in the US dropped rapidly. In October 2008, the total of all business loans was $1,598.8 billion but by October 2010 the amount of loans sank to $1,200.2 billion, a drop of 24.9 percent.

Beginning in October 2010, the volume of loans started to climb. On average, banks increased their commercial and industrial loans to the tune of $10 billion a month.

While the economy is in a state of recovery, the rate of the recovery has left a lot to be desired. The Great Recession was deeper and more devastating than anticipated and most forecasts underestimated the rate of the decline and projected a much faster recovery. The Great Recession, by it’s very definition, was more than just a recession and that is probably why all the estimates, based on previous recessions, were skewed towards a faster and stronger recovery.

An increase in the level of business loans is a precursor to increased business activity, which itself is the final precursor to higher employment and faster economic recovery. As of January 2014, the nominal amount of business loans has exceeded pre-crash highs by $14.3 billion, although when adjusted for inflation it is still about $100 billion below its highs, however, the gap is closing fast.

The economy is clearly in a recovery mode, and despite the devastating weather patterns experienced across the country, the spring will herald some stability in both weather and economic activity. It is expected that economic activity will pick up and be back on track with its semi-strong recovery.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Grow ur Biz - Too Good to be True

Guest blog from Carol Ritter of

The weather is starting to break and my friend decided to take her kids to a playground to kick off the summer of 2014.  After hours of climbing and running and playing in the sandbox, they moved onto the neighborhood ice cream store.  “They have the most delicious chocolate banana sorbet I’ve ever tasted.”  They all ordered their favorite flavors and she headed to the cashier to pay for this traditional dessert.  Handing the woman her credit card and she was told, “I’m sorry, we don’t except credit cards.”  My friend said, “All I have is a $10 bill and our bill is $13.” The cashier said, “Not to worry, you can pay when you come back.”  She said, “Well, how about if I give you the $10 and owe you $3?”  The cashier said, “No, just enjoy your ice cream.  Look over here, I have a blackboard of the names of people who were not able to pay, I will put your first name on it and when you come back you can pay for your ice cream.”  This was way too good to be true.  So, she asked, “Do the people come back and pay the bill?” The cashier said, “Oh yes! They pay.”

Too Good to be True or a fantastic marketing strategy?  

Here’s what I see....

  1. great way to get you to come back
  2. ice cream is so good you want to come back
  3. you are so stunned by the generousity, you tell the world
  4. paying your bill becomes top on your priority list just because it’s the right thing to do
  5. the bonus is you get to eat ice cream again

Too Good to be True or a fantastic marketing strategy?  You decide!

Last week, it was my pleasure to speak to audiences who have to be on their toes with regard to customer service.  As always, prior to the speech I researched the topic of “ Customer Service” and here’s what I found. “Consumers are FED UP with bad customer service”.  Somedays I wonder how businesses get away with it.  Is it leadership, is it lack of the ability to honor your customers or is it that some employees just don’t care anymore?

In this case, no need to be FED UP,  just enjoy the ice cream!

Carol S. Ritter, Motivational Speaker Results Only Business Coach & Featured Writer 610-442-4545
Carol serves as a featured writer for the Home News and the Lehigh Valley Chamber Blog.Carol is an accomplished professional speaker, coach and educational consultant specializing in innovative leadership, outrageous fundraising, million dollar marketing, and building organizational alliances throughout the country.  Carol’s creative  leadership with bullet proof ideas for recruiting MORE MEMBERS, MORE MONEY AND BETTER LEADERS. 610-442-4545  Like Carol on  Facebook at Caroltalks and CarolCoaches!  Carol S. Ritter, Immediate Past President, National Speakers Association Philadelphia

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Job Opportunity: Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce: Downtown Bethlehem Association Manager

#JobOpportunity: We're hiring a Downtown Bethlehem Association Manager!

We're seeking a dynamic, outgoing, organized individual, for the position of Downtown Bethlehem Association Manager. This position is responsible for the promotion of Bethlehem’s downtown shopping districts through special events and advertising programs.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

-Acts as primary staff liaison to the Downtown Bethlehem Association Council (DBA)

-Manages the administrative responsibilities relating to the DBA Council

-Manages growth of the DBA through direct sales and retention efforts

-Assists in the planning and maintenance of the DBA Council budget

-Works closely with city officials to ensure positive ongoing relationship between city administration and DBA Council

-Plans, organizes, advertises, executes and attends special events designed to drive shopper traffic to the two downtown shopping districts in Bethlehem

-Assists in the direct promotion of the downtown shopping districts in Bethlehem as a tourist destination

-Assists in the development of annual marketing and advertising plans for the DBA Council

-Coordinates public and media relations activities for events, special projects or programs; i.e., writes and distributes press releases and/or schedules press conferences

Minimum qualifications:

*College degree in marketing, communications or similar fields preferred

*Requires excellent computer skills

*Requires basic graphic design, website management, and knowledge of social media and e-marketing platforms and strategy

*Requires excellent organizational abilities and communication skills

*Requires leadership and flexibility in a changing environment

*Requires flexibility of schedule as many evening and weekend events occur

Friday, May 23, 2014

LGBT Business Council

Mary Lisicky, Morgan Stanley
Chair, LGBT Business Council

Have you wanted to become more involved with the LGBT Business Council but felt like you did not have the time to commit as a board member? Well, here’s your chance to get involved! The LGBTBC is currently forming committees that will help the Council grow and expand our reaches in the community. The various committees will each have a singular focus while working in conjunction with one another. They will assist the board in recruiting new members as well as member retention, developing and maintaining programs and events that support our members, and engaging individuals and local businesses to sponsor events throughout the year. If you have been to one of our events, you already know we’re a very inclusive group. We welcome all perspectives and viewpoints - whether a member of the LGBT community or an ally. So what are you waiting for?

If you’re interested in joining with us or want more information, please reach out to me or Daniel Diaz at 484-547-8970 or

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Want To Improve Performance? Just Ask…

Guest Blog from GAC Insights, LLC.
There are various tools and techniques you can use to assess your business or organizational performance, right? But, but which ones should I use?  I won’t get into a discussion about answering that question here. But rather, I will give you some simple advice. Use this one and it won’t cost you a thing. Get out there and talk to people. Some of the best information that you can gather comes from the folks on the front- line. From my perspective, consider asking them two basic open-ended questions and LISTEN:
  • Could you tell me the top two or three things that help you do your job well?
  • Could you tell me the top two or three things that prevent you from doing your job well?
Let them speak openly, and strike up an open conversation with them. If you give them the time and are sincere with them, you stand to gain a wealth of information to help you start improving your performance.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grow Ur Biz - Think & Act

Guest blog from Carol Ritter of

Seth Godin, a genius, and author of one of my favorite books, “The Purple Cow,”   states in a recent blog, “Don’t do what I said, Do what I meant.”  
Seth states:  “That's what most leaders, owners, bosses and customers want, isn't it?  We want employees to know the why, not just the details of the how. We want customer service people, partners and vendors who understand.”
It's in that moment, when we demand a refund, or fire someone, or insist on rules being followed to the letter—that's when it all falls apart and stops being a RELATIONSHIP based on understanding and turns into one that's built on compliance to the rules.
When I start a speech I always ask my audience to think and act. I invite them to take three ideas from my speech to improve, increase and enhance their performance at work. 
Again from Seth, “If you want the people you work with to act with understanding, then you must trust them to use their best judgment, even when that means you didn't get exactly what you said you wanted. The failure is yours, because you didn't help people understand the reasoning. When you accept responsibility for that failure, when you educate instead of demand, you can gain the benefits of working with people who understand, instead of merely comply.”
I chose to share his blog because it brings back memories of bosses who don’t get this.  A thinking employee who is trusted with a true perspective of what the employer wants can truly change your company culture.  Doesn’t every success and every failure fall in the arms of the leadership?  Isn’t it amazing to work with a boss who truly hands you the freedom to make decisions, even when you get it wrong once in a while.  All of this leads to the power of a relationship, so valued, yet sometimes overlooked.  
Strong relationships 
lead to everlasting loyalty, 
everlasting loyalty leads to an increase in productivity 
increase in productivity leads to increase in sales and revenue
If you are a boss, take this seriously.  If you are an employee, a boss who gets this will be the best boss you ever had.  One more thing, you may want to read the Purple Cow because “You're either a Purple Cow or you're not. You're either remarkable or invisible.” YOU MAKE THE CHOICE!

Carol S. Ritter, Motivational Speaker Results Only Business Coach & Featured Writer www.caroltalks.com610-442-4545
Carol serves as a featured writer for the Home News and the Lehigh Valley Chamber Blog.Carol is an accomplished professional speaker, coach and educational consultant specializing in innovative leadership, outrageous fundraising, million dollar marketing, and building organizational alliances throughout the country.  Carol’s creative  leadership with bullet proof ideas for recruiting MORE MEMBERS, MORE MONEY AND BETTER LEADERS. 610-442-4545  Like Carol on  Facebook at Caroltalks and CarolCoaches!  Carol S. Ritter, Immediate Past President, National Speakers Association Philadelphia

Colonial Life is Hiring: Sales Manager Trainee

Colonial Life has an immediate opening for a SALES MANAGER TRAINEE in Allentown, PA to learn the fundamentals of building a sales team and marketing Colonial Life’s products and services to business owners.

We pioneered worksite marketing in 1955 and celebrated our 75th anniversary in the insurance industry this year. We work with employers and their employees to provide benefit solutions in one neat package: benefits communication, enrollment and personal insurance products.

We provide the tools, training and support to help you succeed, right from the start.

With this unique opportunity:

We will pay a base plus bonus incentives throughout your training period.
You will build and grow your own sales team while earning base pay.
Learn the business through our highly structured, proven sales management training and onboarding program.
Transition to role of a sales manager and a highly competitive bonuses and incentives compensation plan.
Work with a sound company with a history of integrity and growth for more than 75 years.


We are seeking an individual with a growth mindset who wants to build their own business, and who will enjoy a tremendous support network and award-winning training programs.

For immediate consideration, send your resume to Kristi Hood at, or call (803) 467-7007.

Monday, May 19, 2014

BUSINESS MATTERS TONIGHT: Should racial preferences continue to be used in PA?

Tune-in to #BusinessMatters TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. onWFMZ to hear from panelists on how they view affirmative action. Is affirmative action needed to break stereotypes? Can a society truly be color-blind if decisions are still being based on race? Does it create reverse discrimination? This is an episode you don’t want to miss!

Guests Include:

-Ron Angle
-Juan Vidal: Offix Systems
-David Jones: Lehigh County Commissioner
-Brian Anthony: The B Radio Show

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Growing UR Biz in 2014 - Whining

Guest blog from Carol Ritter of

So, I’m walking down the hall of a hotel I stayed at recently.  Just minding my own business when I stopped to check out the weather on a TV monitor.  Two employees were sitting near the TV (dressed in the official uniform) and talking like I wasn’t there.  “Did you know I worked 12 hours yesterday?”  “I’m not going to last long in this job, they take away my social life.  How many hours did you work?”   He replied,  “10 hours, that’s just not right, I’m constantly getting called in and if you say ‘no’ there will be consequences.”   “My boss doesn’t care about me, she only is concerned with filling the shift.  I’m sick of this @#$%!”

As a customer, I’m thinking... we don’t want to know the behind the scenes issues of the hotel.  Even more, we prefer to stay in the dark as to the employee problems and the inner-workings of the hotel.

So, let’s talk about whining.  What does it mean?  (To complain or protest in a childish fashion)  We all do it at some point in our lives but I think there is absolutely “WHINING ETIQUETTE.”


  1. Don’t whine in front of customers (OMG, can’t believe I have to even say this)
  2. Only whine to people you know well and trust
  3. After a meeting, when things went terribly wrong, hold the whining until you are behind closed doors, the car, your house, etc. 
  4. In place of whining and, in the case you have a boss that truly values your opinion, how about offering suggestions
  5. Set the example for your colleagues, just DON’T DO IT!

We all need an outlet when we don’t have a good day or a good meeting.  When you feel devalued, not appreciated or overworked and underpaid make sure you think twice before you start whining in front of customers.  

You may need the WINE ONLY ZONE - lol 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Working in PA Online Career Fair

Employers, are you interested in hiring top talent from Penn State University? Are you interested in connecting with Penn State students and alumni conveniently from the comfort of your office? Are you looking for an efficient and cost-effective recruiting option?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then you will want to register today for...

Working in PA Online Career Fair

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 from 11:00am-2:00pm

For more details and to register online, visit:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

15 Takeaways for Energy Buyers

Guest Blog by Constellation

  1. Power & Gas Prices Track Together: Power prices track closely with natural gas prices and gas fundamentals are used as leading indicators to identify power price trends. Gas prices for 2013 were +35% over previous year.
  2. Weather Matters: Weather continues to be one of the most important factors influencing both energy demand and pricing. Winter weather drove both to new highs. You may want to secure some of your summer and winter electricity and gas supply prices to avoid price spikes.
  3. Plan for the Summer: Preliminary National Weather Service Summer forecast is calling for a hot summer along the East Coast and West Coast. Hot weather also expected for the South, with normal temperatures for the Midwest. Note that although the Midwest forecast is currently calling for normal temperatures you should consider planning for unexpected volatility.
  4. Increased Energy Demand Led to Lower Gas Storage & Higher Prices: Higher residential & commercial load was a key driver of record energy demand.  Year over year, this resulted in the need for an average 6 Bcf per day more of additional gas drawn from storage this winter.
  5. Natural Gas Production is Keeping Long Term Prices Down: Natural gas production hit a new all-time record in January and along with additional drilling efficiencies, production continues to grow.  The expected growth in production for 2014 of approximately 2.5% is one of biggest factors weighing down long term prices beyond 12 month strip. Now is a good time to take advantage and secure power or gas prices for the 2016-2019 timeframe (even if you have a contract for the near term).
  6. Natural Gas Storage Inventories are at 11 Year Lows: Record cold has reduced gas storage to 11 year lows and we will need to inject a record 2,600Bcf from April through October in order to return storage to at least 3,500 Bcf for the upcoming winter. Regional inventories are all below 5 year minimum levels and inventories in the Great Lakes region are low and facing continued heating demand in early April, which could exacerbate basis volatility in near term cash markets. The storage deficit/surplus ratio on a year-over-year basis has a high correlation to the 12-month gas strip and, until it begins to narrow, higher prices will likely be required to ensure enough gas injections into storage on a weekly basis.
  7. Regional Price Volatility: Severe cold weather fueled by the polar vortex in January and February reduced available pipeline capacity from storage to 0%. This caused volatility in spot cash markets during the January through March period.
  8. Nuclear Outages May Come at a Bad Time: An elevated level of nuclear plant outages this spring could mean an incremental demand for gas fired generation. This would shift gas to generation use at a time when storage injections need to be higher than normal.  A higher than average number of nuclear units are coming to the end of their 18 month fuel cycle this spring and so gas demand could be elevated in April and May.
  9. Coal’s Potential Effect on Next Winter Prices: Coal plants may displace some gas units until the storage deficit is reduced but coal inventories for power generation are extremely low this spring as well due to high winter demand and rail delivery issues.  If coal units struggle to rebuild inventories and storage is below 3,600 Bcf on November 1st, there could be increased chances for volatile prices next winter too. Spring is a great time to secure winter prices.
  10. The Drought and West Coast Supply: California is facing a record drought and low gas inventories.  Hydro output is currently 1,000 MW lower compared to this time last year and is not expected to improve.   Solar capacity, which is increasing, is now likely to help offset the effects of the lower hydro output but low gas storage levels could lead to higher gas and power prices.
  11. U.S. Demand Looks to Grow: U.S. energy demand growth is currently higher than the world average and is projected to further expand due to changes in power stack, industrial sector, vehicle application and LNG exports. DOE’s approval of the Jordan Cove LNG export license brings the total to 7 licensed facilities and the first on the U.S. West Coast (which will help supply Asian markets). Jordan Cove will still require FERC approval but this increases total approved export volume to above 9.4 Bcf/d and could lead to higher long term prices beyond 2016.
  12. Coal Plant Retirements Put Upside Pressure on Markets: The first wave of retirements were older, smaller coal units that ran only seasonally while this next wave will include more base-load units, which will require substitution by natural gas plants. This can increase gas demand and keep upside pressure on gas prices.  EIA estimates 60 GW will retire by 2020 with 90% of retirements occurring by 2016 to comply with the EPA’s Mercury Air Toxic Standards (MATS) rule.
  13. Gas Prices are Trending Up: Gas prices have steadily trended upward since hitting a 10-year low back in April 2012 and have recently been subject to extreme price volatility due to a historically cold winter the past three months.
  14. Use Long Term Contracts to Lower Your Rate: As a result of recent volatility and price pressure in the short term, customers may see better pricing for longer-term contracts. Contracts that blend in long-term prices can give you a better rate today.
  15. Winter’s Painful Lesson about Risk Management: This winter’s volatility has been a painful reminder that budget stability and price protection are key building blocks for an effective energy procurement strategy. With increased demand, pending coal retirements and winter pipeline limitations, future peak seasons may be ripe for more unexpected volatility. A stable supplier and a strategic energy plan can help you take advantage of market opportunities and mitigate the effect of price spikes.
SUMMARY: Forward markets are still near all-time lows.  Understand evolving market risks and options to manage that risk. Define goals/objectives and manage cost (through both energy price AND energy consumption) over time. Establish price targets to capitalize on pullbacks and protect against upside risk.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Free “Retirement and Estate Strategies” Events!

Thrivent Financial will be hosting free “Retirement and Estate Strategies” events!

Events will offer answers to key retirement and estate planning questions.

Thrivent Financial is hosting a series of free educational events to help attendees learn how to retire with confidence. The events will all be held at 6:30 p.m.  The events are presented Scot Guldin, Michael Gallagher, Keith Snyder, Michael Coulson and Steven Bond, financial representatives with Thrivent Financial.

5/8 – America on Wheels Museum (dessert and museum admission included)
5/22 – Allentown Art Museum (dessert and museum admission included)
5/22 – Golden Oaks Golf Club, Fleetwood (dinner included)
5/27 – Bear Creek Mountain Resort, Macungie (dinner included)

The events will offer important updates and answer questions many retirees face:

·Will I have enough to retire?

·Will my retirement income last?

·Are my assets protected?

 The events are available to the public. To register, individuals may call Vicki Lilley at 215-260-9200 or email

Monday, May 5, 2014

Economic Development Position in the City of Bethlehem!

The City of Bethlehem is seeking an energetic self-starter to join our Community & Economic Development Department. This individual has basic responsibility to direct, administer, and coordinate the Department in support of policies, goals and objectives established by the Director of Community & Economic Development. More specifically, this individual will:
  • Assist Director with coordination, implementation, and completion of economic development projects and programs, including the Enterprise Zone and the Keystone Innovation Zone;
  • Serve as Project Manager of Pi (Partnership for Innovation) and other projects as assigned;
  • Assist the Director with research, analysis, and evaluation of technical information to determine feasibility and economic impact of proposed projects and programs;
  • Assist Director with development, approval, and administration of integrated financing arrangements for eligible business and industries;
  • Assist with administration of the Bethlehem Small Business Loan Fund and other programs for the Department;
  • Assist the Director in the coordination of City activities with those of State and Federal agencies to effectively and efficiently utilize available resources to promote economic development;
  • Organizational relationships may include BEDCO, CADCB, KIZ, and BRIA.
Minimum requirements include:
  • Bachelor’s degree in Economics or Marketing or related field preferred, Master’s a plus, or equivalent professional experience;
  • Real estate marketing or development experience a plus;
  • Solid computer skills working with Microsoft Office;
  • Ability to collaborate and work in a team environment to accomplish goals;
  • Proven ability to work independently and multi-task;
  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills;
  • Professional demeanor and strong interpersonal skills, including ability to work with business and community leaders.
The City of Bethlehem offers a competitive salary and outstanding benefits. Please forward cover
letter, resume, and three references in confidence to:
HR Department
City of Bethlehem
10 E. Church St.
Bethlehem, PA 18018
Deadline for applications is Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
PHONE: (610) 865-7015
ADDRESS: 10 E. Church St., Bethlehem, PA, 18018

Grow UR Biz - Clean Latrine

Guest blog from Carol Ritter of

I suspect that most of us prefer a clean bathroom when we visit a restaurant, grocery store or department store.  Just like the public is crying out loud for extreme customer service, I believe, we are crying even harder for clean facilities.  I visited a very well know store over the weekend and went to the restroom to wash my hands.  They had the handy dandy chart on the wall that said an employee was in there checking for cleanliness 1/2 hour ago, I’m saying she had to be a no show.  The sink was so soaked with water it looked like a child took a bath in the sinks.  Big blobs of soap all over the sink, paper towels all over the floor.  Now we might have a tendency to blame the customers for being sloppy but, at the end of the day, I’ve never seen anyone messing up a washroom, so they must be doing it when no one is looking.  

I have a dream, a “CLEAN LATRINE”!  A place that is clean, well kept, and, I’ll go a step further, have it as an example of the rest of your business.  

So the question is, do your customers expect your place to be clean?  As a customer, do we prefer to shop in a clean and neat place or are we okay with so so, sloppy, and unkempt?  I have noticed that unkempt places generally have unkempt owners.  

My guess is cleanliness counts.  Your customers are spenders and spenders judge everything you do just because they believe they have spender’s rights.

Carol’s Clean Latrine Top Ten Rules

  1. Start with your Latrine-  it says a lot about you, keep it sparkling clean and don’t mask it with perfumy chemicals.
  2. Take two hours a week to straighten things up
  3. Make sure your entrance is spotless
  4. Take extra time when the weather is bad, dry up those puddles
  5. Sanitize your telephone daily, nothing worse than using a dirty phone
  6. Keep one of those sanitizing dispensers at your entrance, it sends a clear message that clean is important to you
  7. Straighten sloppy piles, it’s an optical illusion and makes it look clean
  8. Open windows when possible, fresh air indicates clean
  9. Appoint a weekly “Clean Team” to monitor progress
  10. Set the example for your staff by going the extra clean mile

If your company culture is that your office looks as great as your service and your employees are dressed to the nines, keep in mind that your customer is not only judging you by your looks and service, they may just take a peek into your latrine and saying it’s clean doesn’t mean it is.  

Carol S. Ritter, Motivational Speaker Results Only Business Coach & Featured Writer 610-442-4545
Carol serves as a featured writer for the Home News and the Lehigh Valley Chamber Blog.Carol is an accomplished professional speaker, coach and educational consultant specializing in innovative leadership, outrageous fundraising, million dollar marketing, and building organizational alliances throughout the country.  Carol’s creative  leadership with bullet proof ideas for recruiting MORE MEMBERS, MORE MONEY AND BETTER LEADERS. 610-442-4545  Like Carol on  Facebook at Caroltalks and CarolCoaches!  Carol S. Ritter, Immediate Past President, National Speakers Association Philadelphia

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County, PA is Hiring: Director of Community Development

Director of Community Development

Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County, PA, seeks a skilled and experienced individual to serve as Director of Community Development.  

This full time position reports to the Township Manager and is responsible for overseeing all functions of the Community Development Department, including planning, zoning, code enforcement, permits and inspections.  

Bachelor’s degree in planning, civil engineering, public administration or related field required.  5 years relevant experience required.  Salary commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Forward cover letter and resume to:  

Upper Saucon Township Manager
5500 Camp Meeting Road
Center Valley, PA  18034

Deadline to apply is June 6, 2014. EOE.