Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PA Acting Secretary Pedro Rivera Lehigh Valley visit.

Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director,
Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.
PA Acting Secretary Pedro Rivera Lehigh Valley visit.

On Monday, April 27, Pennsylvania Department of Education Acting Secretary Pedro  Rivera spoke to business and education leaders at a Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Investment Board forum at Lehigh University.  I was proud to moderate the question and answer session.  Among the questions were:

Q: Are there any plans to again fund and promote dual enrollment in Pennsylvania?
A: Yes, Rivera stated that Governor Wolf’s budget includes $9 million for dual enrollment to allow students to earn college credits while still in high school.

Q: Beginning in 2017 every high school student will have to pass the Keystone exams in order to graduate. What can be done to ensure that career and technical education students meet academic standards while still completing their career and technical training?
A: Rivera responded that it would be “criminal” if a student could not finish their career or technical education program just to demonstrate proficiency through the Keystone exams. Options being considered include allowing students to use the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) scores, SAT scores, or industry certificates to demonstrate proficiency.

Q: Will you continue the pathway to ensure graduates have the educational foundation they need to transition to post-secondary education without the need for remediation?
A:  Rivera expressed support for standard concepts that every student should learn by a certain age, but stressed the importance of allowing local control of how to develop curriculum and teach the concepts.

We look forward to working with Acting Secretary Rivera and have accepted an invitation to participate in a Pennsylvania Career Readiness Forum in Harrisburg on May 29, 2015. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Main Street Initiatives

May 2015
Anne Baum, Capital BlueCross, Co Chair
610-820-2862 • anne.baum@capbluecross.com
Buddy Lesavoy, Lesavoy Butz & Seitz, LLC, Co Chair
610-530-2701 • blesavoy@LesavoyButz.com

We are pleased to announce that Round 8 Main Street Lehigh Valley grant funding has increased for 2015 by 50% over last year and we have received about 40 applications, demonstrating that there are plenty of projects planned to beautify every main street!  We have received proposals from Pburg to

Weatherly to Lower Saucon - for movies and music in our parks, farmers markets, planning, marketing, banners, flowers and landscaping, holiday lighting and murals. The mural project at Touchstone Theatre is nearing completion. Over the coming weeks, they will be adding the colors, and it will come to life with help from Jim Gloria, the Utopia Group and students from the Charter Arts High School. Once complete, it will be sealed and painted on plywood, then attached to the building.  It will have a minimum life-span of fifteen to twenty years, adding significantly to the quality of life for those passing by on the new greenway or visiting the Steel Stacks in Bethlehem.

The beauty and sustainability of our main streets is a high priority for The Chamber and the business community, and we are glad for the opportunity to provide support for projects that will provide a positive visual impact in our downtowns and on our main streets.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Is technology changing the culture of the restaurant industry?

The 7 most expensive words in business are: “We have always done it that way.” We’ve cited this famous saying before, but it bears repeating, and you don’t want to be the person to use this phrase.
So far in 2015 the Sarbari team has exhibited at the Philadelphia Hospitality ShowThe International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York, and The New England Food Show in Boston.
In May, we’ll start with the NRA Show 2015 in Chicago, the NJRHA ROC ’15 event in Edison, NJ, and a Massachusetts Restaurant Association event on May 27, also in Boston.
Why are we giving you our travel schedule for the Spring?  Well, it’s to let you know we’ve been out there meeting and talking to restaurant and foodservice experts, like you, and we’re still surprised at the number of people that say “The back-of-the-house is fine, we’ve always run it the same way.”
Are you surprised that restaurant professionals still say things like that in 2015? We definitely were (and still are!)  But the good news is that mindset, while still out there, is changing.  Many, if not most, restaurant owners and operators see the benefits that technology, like their POS systems, have brought to their business in terms of efficiency, customer satisfaction, cost savings, and employee productivity.

Our last blog asked whether or not you really need technology to run your restaurant more efficiently, and that’s a legitimate question for many owners and operators. However, there’s no denying there is a shift happening in the industry and the culture is changing.
In fact, when a member of our team meets a restaurant owner or operator that says the BOH is fine and they don’t need any technology to improve efficiency in that part of their operation we’ll respond and say “Ok, let’s unplug your POS system for a week and see what happens to the front-of-the-house.” Well the look on their face tells you that it’s not going to happen.  (We wrote about that crazy idea too.)
The fact is that paying closer attention to the back-of-the-house can yield results, usually relatively quickly.  One franchisee for Moe’s Southwest Grill, reported lowering labor costs by 1.5%, and improving food costs an average of 1.5 to 2% across the chain after implementing back-office software*.  Examples like this show us that by taking control of the processes in the back-of-the-house you can see real, measurable results that will impact your bottom line. Results like lower labor costs, lower food costs, and how about happier, more productive employees? Happier employees when you tell them they can do what they were hired to do, which is cook, serve customers, etc. and not look through stacks of paper, place multiple phone calls to place orders, or track down paper invoices from 2 months ago?

Market research tells us that in 2015 “Business Efficiency” is still the biggest factor driving new IT projects for restaurants and foodservice operations, followed by customer engagement/guest loyalty, and security/compliance.
So what’s driving the investment in new technology for your restaurant, foodservice operation, or country club?  Is it the need to be more efficient? Increase employee productivity? Enhance the customer experience? Create a guest loyalty program? Is it security/compliance? Do you want to save money on food and/or labor?
Whatever the reason is, don’t be that restaurant or foodservice professional that says those fateful words “We have always done it that way.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hellertown - Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce

May 2015
Letter from the President
Stephanie Weitzman, National Penn Bank
HLSC President
610-838-7031 • stephanie.weitzman@nationalpenn.com

PennDOT will be coming to Hellertown the morning of May 28, for what is becoming an annual tradition: An update on the PA 412 Construction Project. They gear their presentation specifically towards the business community that is affected by the work on the interchange. This is a great opportunity for our businesses to learn more to properly prepare themselves for the financial and burdening impact of this project. But it’s also an ideal chance for PennDOT to get feedback directly from the businesses.

Last year, PennDOT used our Chamber-hosted program to formally announce that the project was extended an extra year due to unforeseen issues with underground water, and was predicted to be completed in fall of 2016. While we’re hoping for better news this year, we also left last year with a better understanding of what the completion of this project entails: the businesses could visualize the successful end result of additional lanes and an enhanced interchange that will better accommodate the demands of the increase in traffic in recent years.

Dozens of businesses representing H/LS and Bethlehem attended last year, and many stayed afterwards seeking clarity on their own unique concerns and issues. PennDOT representatives took the time with each of them to listen and discuss strategy and solutions. We hope that if you’ve been affected by this project, that you stop in before heading to work on the 28th so you can best prepare your business or employer for what the future holds: may the end be in better sight this year!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce

May 2015
Letter from the President
Tony Pristash, Owner, All Things Framed
NACC President
Main: 610-262-8669 • allthingsframed@rcn.com

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Northampton Area Chamber, I am very excited to announce our 2015 “NACC Business of the Year” Recipient ... The Gin Mill and Grill!

The Gin Mill, located at 1750 Main Street, Northampton is much more than a bar, as evidenced by the growth and success of the Grill’s fantastic food offerings and the entertainment line-up in the rear music hall of the venue.  Opened in 2009 by owner George Yaniger in the former Garfield Hotel, George and his wife Shannon have continually built and remodeled... and built some more... and remodeled some more.  As the progress continues, the Gin Mill is certainly far cry from its predecessor.  As a family-friendly eatery, the extensive menu and comfortable seating is always inviting.  Of course, the Gin Mill’s wings still rule the day.

Along with a great staff, a new look and rebuilding their food service with fresh and delicious menu items, George and Shannon always strive to give back to the community.  I can personally attest to George’s charitable nature. For one, George provides a nice home for the “SteelerNation of the Lehigh Valley” fan club in the social hall, which in turn supports the Northampton Area Food Bank and other local worthy charities.

As you may know, the term Gin Mill is slang for “a local tavern where friends gather to eat, drink and celebrate their lives.” A more fitting name of George and Shannon’s business would not be possible.

Congratulations to George, Shannon and their great staff, who always make you feel welcome!

Visit the The Gin Mill and Grill’s website for daily specials and upcoming events: www.ginmillandgrille.com.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

International Business Council

May 2015
Letter from the Council
Dan Guadalupe, Esq., Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A.
Guest Writer
908-252-4274 • drguadalupe@nmmlaw.com
US-Cuba Business: Stay Tuned

I recently attended a seminar of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ on “Doing Business in Cuba.” It was quite informative. Surprisingly, two delegates to the Cuba Permanent Mission to the UN attended, briefly spoke and answered questions from the audience. A lively debate ensued - lively is perhaps understated. A Jersey-based Cuban-American developer asked a critical question:  what assurances can you give me that my investment will be protected?  Missing the gist of the question, the given answer was that Cuba is safer than America. The answer missed a fundamental concern later unsuccessfully tackled in the ensuing high-decibel, flailing-arms discussion: how do I get paid and what happens if I am not?

For all the excitement and diplomatic breakthroughs, the change in US-Cuba relations is still a long way from materializing into the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow some predict.  As an international business lawyer and arbitrator, I remain cautious because of (a) the lack of a middle class with a robust pocket to pay (or guarantee payment) for any goods or services offered by small to medium-sized American businesses; and importantly, (b) the lack of an independent judicial system which would give us assurances that the rules of commercial law, long-standing since the British ruled the world, would be honored and respected.  One sliver of hope in the legal sense is that both the U.S. and Cuba are signatories to the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which makes arbitration awards enforceable in both countries. The relevant question will be whether your customer in Cuba will agree to arbitration under that Convention.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Happy 275th Birthday, Nazareth!

Nazareth Borough
Stephanie Varone, NEDC
Nazareth Borough Manager
484-862-7405 • stephaniev@lehighvalleychamber.org

While Nazareth may be small in size with a span of only 1.7 miles, it proves to be mighty at heart! This quaint yet dedicated and determined town founded in 1740, turns 275 years old this month, and is packed full with history. Please join Nazareth as we celebrate our 275th birthday together. The Borough will host a year-long celebration honoring the 275th anniversary of its founding.

When one thinks of Nazareth, PA usually immediately the name Mario Andretti or Martin Guitar comes to mind. They are family to us here in Nazareth and we treasure them both for their commitment to quality and excellence. We also cherish our Moravian heritage and you need only ask a local resident about our rich Nazareth history and you will get at least 3 snippets proudly recited to you. Ask for the waitress Lori at the Nazareth Diner and she will share some amazing historic facts with you!  Its “that” kind of town with solid old fashioned roots even to this day.

So let’s Celebrate! We invite you to go to Nazarethnow.org for a full list of exciting community events to celebrate this wonderful town, including a night at the Iron Pigs Game where our Mayor Carl Strye will throw the first pitch and the Nazareth students will sing the national anthem. You will definitely want to get a seat on our Historical Trolley Tour and cheer at our birthday parade!

You may also visit http://nazareth275.deco-apparel.com to purchase limited edition Nazareth 275th memorabilia. Part of the proceeds will benefit Nazareth and its continued revitalization.

As always, please go to NAZARETH NOW. ORG for all the events and exciting updates in Nazareth!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Western Lehigh Chamber of Commerce

May 2015

Letter from the President
Michael J. Shafer, Esq., Zator Law
Western Lehigh Chamber President
610-432-1900 • mshafer@zatorlaw.com

The Western Lehigh Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon meetings with the East Penn Chamber of Commerce have gotten off to a late start the past few months. The March event was held at the new PPL Arena where our members attended a Phantoms game, and in April we held an evening mixer at the Good Shepherd rehabilitation facility.  Both events were well attended, and provided a nice change of pace from our typical afternoon programs.

It is quickly becoming apparent that the PPL Arena will be an asset to the entire Lehigh Valley.  Our members enjoyed early access to the arena for a pre-game networking session prior to the Phantoms game.  The tour and mixer of the Good Shepherd rehabilitation facility was equally as exciting.  It was fascinating to see the state of the art rehabilitation techniques being employed at Good Shepherd.

This past year the WLCC and the EPCC have had great success in holding events in our region that have attracted interest from outside of our area.  Having events in Allentown at the PPL Arena and Good Shepherd was a great opportunity for our members to explore the exciting things happening outside of the Western Lehigh and East Penn regions.  That is one of the best parts of The Chamber in that membership with one organization allows our members to engage locally and regionally.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Vet Friendly Valley

Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, 
Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board explaining how the PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley contributes to a “Vet Friendly Valley”

It’s no secret that many military veterans are facing obstacles to employment. The PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley is committed to helping veterans in the most comprehensive way possible.
Representatives at the Veterans Employment Center at PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley are workforce professionals who assist veterans and their family members with every aspect of employment.  Not only are they professionally qualified specialists but six out of the seven representatives are veterans themselves.

These representatives break down the barriers of employment and serve as a liaisons between the veteran and employers.  They can assist veterans with job searching, re-training, and supportive services.

The knowledge and support does not stop with career and workforce assistance. The PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley representatives are ready to refer veterans to organizations that aid veterans and their family members.  The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Social Charities, Hopes for Vet, Troops to Teachers Program, Veteran Entrepreneurship, Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council are just some of the many collaborators that work hand in hand with PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley to offer supportive services while veterans are seeking employment.
PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley can assist veterans in any stage of employment searching.  The representatives’ expertise can be valuable for veterans with service related injuries, who have been incarcerated, are financially challenged, members of the mature workforce, have been recently laid off--and possibly the most vulnerable --homeless veterans.  Employment can help combat homelessness and the PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley is ready to help.

Every fall the PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley hosts a Veterans Job Fair with over 50 employers and special events to assist job seekers.  Please visit www.careerlinklehighvalley.org periodically to learn more about free services and special events for our veterans and military family.  You can also call 610-437-5627 to receive individualized assistance.

The PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley proves to be a part of this “vet friendly valley” by way of their programs and services. If you are a veteran or know a veteran please take advantage of PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley and their extensive resources.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce: Letter from the President, Kevin Schmidt

Special thanks to our Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce
committee and volunteers for putting on a fantastic Spirit Award celebration and to all the attendees that made it a success. It was great to see Ed Bechtel receive recognition for his dedication to the community. Ed is not only a successful business owner in our community but he truly knows the power of partnerships and giving back to our community. Thank you to Ed and his family for making the Greater Northern Lehigh area a wonderful place to live and play!

Many of our past award winners were also in attendance to congratulate Ed. In addition, we raised much needed money for Forgotten Felines & Fidos of Germansville. If you are in the market for a new furry member of your family, be sure to stop by and consider adopting one of the felines that have available! Overall, the 2015 Spirit Award dinner was a fantastic night of dancing, networking and having fun with friends and family.

How would you like to hear from our surrounding township representatives in an open forum? On May 12 we are bringing them to you. This is the perfect opportunity to gain insight into the issues our local governments are facing and the potential for growth and other changes in our communities. Officials from our surrounding townships and boroughs will be on hand to address your concerns and answer any questions. This special luncheon and networking event will be held at the Otherside Restaurant in Neffs. You can register online at www.lehighvalleychamber.org or by calling Alice at 484-274-2080.

On June 9, our monthly luncheon will also feature the election of officers and our Board of Directors. The slate of nominees has been sent to all members and is listed on our website.

As you are aware, we try to provide a mix of educational and mixer events.  We value your input as to how we are doing.  Please contact us with any ideas for future events.

Would you be interested in being recognized as our Business of the Month?  Not only do you and your company get recognized in the chamber newsletter, but also the website and local newspapers. This is the perfect marketing opportunity for your business and best of all it is FREE to all GNLCC members! Contact us if you are interested or visit our website for a downloadable application. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming mixer or special event and as always, remember to support your local chamber members.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A business plan: An essential part of small business success

As the former owner of a strategic marketing and communications agency in San Francisco, I can’t stress enough the importance of a written business plan. My small business didn’t have a documented plan, but if my partners (also good friends) and I were ever asked, we’d have said we had one in our heads.
This rings true for a lot of small business owners today. In fact, only one in three in our January 2015 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index said they had a formal, written plan. But those who told us they did have plans reported greater optimism for 2015, including plans to: add jobs, increase capital spending, and generate higher sales during the next 12 months.

Why are business plans important?

Today, I have the opportunity to be part of a team at Wells Fargo that is doing everything we can to help small businesses meet today’s demands and prepare for tomorrow. We know business owners in general are very busy and mainly focused on day-to-day activities. So it’s not surprising to see that creating a written business plan isn’t top-of-mind for most entrepreneurs. However, we believe that creating a formal business plan is an important step for a successful business — which is why we recently launched Wells Fargo’s Business Plan Center as the latest Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM offering.
The primary purpose of a business plan, in addition to defining what your business is and where you’re headed, is also to clarify what needs to be done to move ahead. A business plan is a living document that should be updated as goals are met and needs change. It doesn’t last forever, so modifying your plan is an important annual or quarterly exercise to help you focus on the future as well as the day-to-day.
In looking back at my experience as a small business owner, I wish my two partners and I had created a formal plan. We ran a successful operation and the constant demands of steady work created its own positive momentum. But with a plan on paper, we could have built a more-sustainable business model to prepare for changes and challenges. Experience and instinct guided our decisions along the way, but had we gone through a planning process that included scenarios, outcomes, and potential next steps, we’d have had more clarity and been better aligned about where we were taking the business.

What we’re doing to help

Our new Business Plan Center is a free online resource available on WellsFargoWorks.com. It features a Business Plan Tool that guides you step by step through the process of developing a written business plan. It also offers a Competitive Intelligence Tool you can use to gain insights about your competition, such as maps and lists of competitors or how they compare to your business in areas like revenue, annual average worker salary, number of employees, and more.
The Business Plan Center recommends that each of these components are part of your plan to ensure long-term success:
  1. Company Overview: A description of the business, products, or services you’re selling today and enhanced offerings you’d like to bring to market.
  2. Analysis: A thorough analysis of the market and competition.
  3. Marketing Plan: A strategic plan to set your business apart from competitors and reach your prospective audience.
  4. Financial Data: Your starting balances, plans for generating revenue, and sales forecasts. Our Business Plan Tool allows you to generate financial statements – such as a detailed cash flow statement, profit and loss statement, and balance sheet.
  5. Executive Summary: A business recap – who you are, what you sell, who you sell to, and financial summary.
As I reflect on my former business, having access to an online tool like this would have made a huge difference. With a better view of the future, we might have expanded into new markets, differentiated our business model, and established formal succession plans to help with the evolution of the business. Of course in hindsight, it’s easy to identify steps we could have taken, but the message is clear: Creating a business plan is an important step for any business.
About Doug
Case is Wells Fargo’s Small Business Segment manager responsible for the strategic direction of Wells Fargo’s focus on small business, which includes the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business initiative, and the online resource WellsFargoWorks.com. Today, Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business customers across the United States and loans more money to America’s small businesses than any other bank (2002-2013 CRA government data).

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why Hire a Veteran?

Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director,
Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.
Why Hire A Veteran!

Last week I wrote about job-finding services available to veterans at Career Link. This week, I would like to outline some of the many reasons to hire veterans.  Hire Heroes USA1 lists some of the qualities that make veterans such valuable employees:

·         Accelerated Learning Curve: vets have a proven ability to learn new skills and concepts quickly
·         Leadership: veterans are trained to lead by example, delegation, motivation and inspiration
·         Teamwork: vets understand responsibility to their colleagues and how groups work together
·         Diversity and Inclusion in Action: vets have worked respectfully and cooperatively with people of different race, ethnicity, religion and gender
·         Efficient Performance under Pressure:  vets have experience achieving in spite of stress or adversity
·         Respect for Procedures: vets understand how policies and procedures yield stability, safety and production
·         Technology and Globalization Awareness: vets have a global perspective and are often on the cutting edge of technology
·         Integrity:  integrity is ingrained in vets and translates to sincerity and trustworthiness
·         Conscious of Health and Safety Standards: vets understand the importance of protection of self, others and property
·         Triumph over Adversity: vets have been tested by adversity and proven their ability to overcome challenges and obstacles.

Who wouldn't want these qualities in an employee?

In addition, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 provides expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and Special Employee Incentives (SEI) for businesses that hire certain eligible veterans.  The tax credit is determined by factors including employment and financial status and disability. The credit can be as much as $9,600 depending on the individual hired. I hope you will consider hiring a veteran for your open position.

1 www.hireheroesusa.org.  Hire Heroes USA is a national organization dedicated to assisting veterans in their career searches.