Monday, August 14, 2017

Academy Award nominated documentary "I’m Not Your Negro" spurs conversation

Marc Troutman, Met-Ed, a FirstEnergy Company
African American Business Leaders Council Vice Chair

On June 22, the African America Business Leaders Council hosted a screening of the academy award nominated documentary film I’m Not Your Negro. The event was held at the Civic Theatre in Allentown. The event was more than just a screening; guests were also participants in a panel discussion that followed the film. The discussion panel was special in the sense that it consisted of people with ties to the film as well as its subject matter. Guests on the panel included Pamela Brook, the mother of a young man mentioned in the film who was killed in a police pursuit at the age of 17; Trevor Baldwin, Nephew of the activist James Baldwin who was the main character in the film, was skyped in for the panel discussion from California; and Allentown police officer Luiz Garcia.

The event started with a brief meet and greet followed by the screening and panel discussion. The film is a documentary on race relations in the United States covering the impact and demise of several leaders such as Martin Luther King , Malcom X and Medgar Evers. James Baldwin participated with and documented experiences with these leaders over a period of time. The audience was mainly African American but included many others who were interested in the film as well as the betterment of our Lehigh Valley community. The panel discussion was interactive, not only between panelists and the moderator, but  also the audience. The piece is considered unfinished and the participants picked up on that during the discussion. It is unfinished in the sense that we still have work to do across the nation as well as the Lehigh Valley.

At the end of the evening, the common request from the audience was, "What’s next?" We need to keep the conversation going. All agreed that more discussions like this should take place but also agreed you can start the conversation any time at any place. Overall, the event was very meaningful and insightful for all involved.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Networking 101

Nate Kline, Infradapt, Ambassadors Council Committee Member

As Ambassadors, one of our goals is to assist new members in getting the most out of their Chamber membership, and we provide tips on how to maximize the value of your membership. One of those tips is to regularly attend networking events. The Chamber has eight business and diversity councils that regularly host business networking events every month. Get closer to the councils that you feel are aligned with your business, and actively participate in their events. Get to know the council  members and see if they need volunteer assistance! The truth is that networking does not happen overnight. Relationships do not happen overnight. Like any relationship, successful business relationships take time to develop. And, as they say, you get out what you put in to it.

Maybe you are shy, or maybe you think that networking is a waste of time. Here are a few networking tips to assist you at your next event.

Networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and getting to know other local business-minded people. Become a powerful resource for others and help others, so they learn to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, etc. Keep the dialogue interesting, and do not turn it into a sales pitch. The conversation will naturally turn to what you do for a living, but that does not translate into a sales pitch. Try to keep the conversational flow without making it awkward, even if that means talking about non -usiness related topics. Get to know the person that you are talking to, and see how you may be able to help them out. Lastly, create actionable takeaways, and make sure you execute on them. Whether that is a follow up meeting, or phone call, make sure to keep your word.

Please visit the Chamber calendar for this month’s events list. And, if you are at an event, look for the gold Ambassadors badge. We will gladly introduce you to as many contacts that we have in
the room!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Chamber’s Transportation Forum attracts 300 attendees

This year’s Transportation Forum proved the vital importance of this topic to the Lehigh Valley business community. To further reinforce how critical transportation is to our quality of life, a good number of elected officials and staff representing the full range of Federal, State and Local constituencies showed their much appreciated support. Many thanks to the businesses and organizations who generously sponsored to make the event possible.

To kick things off, Lehigh Valley Traffic Club past President Bill Fritchey presented much-deserved Scholarship Awards to students Baylee Zimmerman and Jacob Mann, and Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board Executive Director Nancy Dischinat informed and entertained as only she can. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Becky Bradley then did the honors of introducing esteemed keynote speaker Edward Humes, author of the must-read book “Door-to-Door.” Mr. Humes, drawing from his extensive research into our nation’s complex transportation system, challenged conventional and long-accepted car-centric planning and encouraged us to open our minds to a future less and less dependent on human-piloted vehicles. Mr. Humes then participated in a panel discussion with Ms. Bradley, PennDOT District 5-0 Executive Michael Rebert, Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority Executive Director Charles Everett and Lehigh and Northampton Transit Authority Executive Director Owen O’Neill, expertly introduced by Langan Engineering’s AnnMarie Vigilante and facilitated by non-other than Tony Iannelli.

The panel session was taped as a Business Matters episode which aired on July 3rd on WFMZ and can be watched at WFMZ website www.wfmz.com. The Chamber’s Transportation Committee looks forward to your feedback- what topic do you want see next year?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Does your business help inspire girls in STEEM?



Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director

For our youth summer, is the time for fun, exploration and memorable experiences.  Our STEEM CareerLinking Academies offer this and more for girls between the ages of 10 - 12 years old in the Lehigh Valley.

Through the support of the Bosch Community Fund, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board, Inc. developed week long CareerLinking Academies to increase the awareness of Science, Technology, Engineering, Environment, and Math (STEEM) career pathways through project-based learning and activities. 

The curriculum includes: career exploration, educational field trips, tours of manufacturers, educational institution visits, hands-on science/environmental/conservation projects, and leadership, life skills, problem-solving and critical thinking activities led by female mentors in STEEM-related occupations.

As participants complete daily STEEM CareerLinking Academy activities, they work towards a final student showcase presentation for parents, guardians, families, and mentors at the end of the week.  This final day celebration highlights STEEM CareerLinking Academy activities from the week and showcases participants’ achievements.

These CareerLinking Academies are aligned to the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Career Education and Work and are designed to develop a future workforce pipeline in high demand, high growth industries such as manufacturing.

If your business is interested in hosting these a group in summer 2018, please contact us.  I know that you will gain as much perspective as these future leaders do through your participation.  To see more photos please visit my facebook page that captured all the education and fun!

2017 June and July STEEM CareerLinking Academies 




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mamufacturing Council's 13th Summit Recap

Jack E. Pfunder, Manufacturers Resource Center, Manufacturing Council Chair

On Thursday, June 29, the Manufacturing Council held the 13th Summit at the Bethlehem ArtsQuest Center. The topic of interest was how manufacturers are taking a proactive approach with the various Career and Technical Schools and Community Colleges to build a skilled workforce for their specific needs. Several companies in the Lehigh Valley have partnered with the local schools and are finding a tremendous benefit with a more skilled and engaged workforce.

The event had two panels of experts discussing these issues. The Resource panel, moderated by Gina Kormanik of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board, discussed the different educational resources available to help solve the talent shortage. The panel members were: Christopher Gaylo, Director of Advanced Technology Center at Northampton Community College; Dean Terri Keefe, Director of Business Development at Lehigh Carbon Community College; Jim Kester, Technology and Engineering Teacher at Parkland School District; and Dr. Tim Rushton, Executive Director of Lehigh Career & Technical Institute.

The Industry panel, moderated by Scott Palochik of Enterprise Systems Partners, Inc. (espi), spoke on the specific programs they have developed in conjunction with the schools. They shared how they identified the skills gap and coordinated with the career and technical schools, as well as developing micro-credential programs and Pennsylvania’s first accredited electro-mechanical apprenticeship program. Our industry experts were: Brenda Diehl, Human Resources Manager at Bracalente Manufacturing Group; Richard “Mac” McMahon, Performance Excellence Supervisor at Ocean Spray Cranberries; Joseph Hammond, Director, Component Manufacturing Business Unit, Allentown Operations at B|Braun Medical Inc.; and Carlos Valdes, U.S. Director of Human Resources at Victaulic.

If you have any topic suggestions, questions or to be added to the e-mail list please contact Scott Palochik – SPalochik@ent-sys.com for more information.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Climate Solutions Caucus in House of Representatives offers bipartisan conversation on climate change

Randy Gyory, PA Co-Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Energy & Environment Committee Member

Healthcare, taxes, and Presidential tweets - it’s no secret we live in highly polarized times. In this highly polarized Congress, however, one new caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives offers a new way forward: the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

Wait... Respectful, bipartisan conversation, and action? On climate change? Yes. Members of Congress purposefully join the Caucus in pairs of one Republican and one Democrat.

The Caucus then offers a safe and welcoming space for conversation about how climate change will impact the citizens of this country, and which policies will best address the challenges we face. The Caucus was founded by two Floridian Representatives, Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch, who share concerns about the risk to south Florida from rising seas and worsening storms. There are now 46 Members of Congress who have chosen to engage in this productive, respectful and bipartisan conversation about our future, including Pennsylvania Republicans Brian Fitzpatrick, Ryan Costello, and Patrick Meehan.

I believe that it is crucial that the Lehigh Valley have a seat at the table as Congress discusses economically viable ways to protect our national security, infrastructure, agriculture, and public health from climate related destruction. It is my personal belief that Representatives Charlie Dent (R) and Matt Cartwright (D), who each are comfortable working together and across the aisle, should strongly consider joining the Climate Solutions Caucus together to ensure that the voices of the Valley are heard.

As Representative Fitzpatrick said recently about the Caucus, “We need to get beyond this Hatfields versus McCoys brand of politics.” The Climate Solutions Caucus offers one small but important way to do just that.

As this article was going to press, Rep. Matt Cartwright joined the Climate Solutions Caucus with Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Public Policy Committee welcomes two new members

John Hayes, New Tripoli Bank
Public Policy Committee Chair

Welcome to two new members of the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee: John Pruzinsky and Donald Flad.

John Pruzinsky of New Enterprise Stone & Lime will be our representative for Whitehall Chamber of Commerce. He is a current board member of the Western Lehigh Chamber. As Area Sales Manager for New Enterprise, he has extensive experience in construction materials and services. He is a graduate of Lehigh University and has previously served as Planning Commissioner with Whitehall Township.

Donald Flad, Jr. will be our representative for the LGBT Council where he is a Council member. He is Community Outreach and Membership Team Leader with Sam’s Club in Bethlehem. Donald has extensive community experience, currently serving as Phillipsburg Rotary Club President as well as other civic organizations. He is a graduate of Penn State University.

As we all enjoy summertime (and get those snow blowers ready), we are in our planning phase now for where we would like to see the committee active in 2017-2018. In addition, we are actively partnering with other organizations, such as the Pennsylvania Bankers Association and Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, in areas of mutual interest. This is all designed to ensure that your Chamber has the strongest voice possible and increase our ability to serve you, our membership.

In addition, we encourage our local chambers and councils to be active in their communities. You have a voice in local issues, use it!

Thanks to all of you for your support and confidence in us.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Main Street Foundation support continues Hamilton District beautification efforts

Laurie G. Hackett, Air Products
Chamber Foundation Chair, Main Street Lehigh Valley Grant Program

What a memorable way to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Chamber Main Street Foundation! In a wonderful ceremony on the steps of the Butz building in Allentown, the BB&T Economic Growth Fund and the LV Community Foundation shared the outstanding news that we were awarded a $50,000 grant to beautiful the Hamilton District Main Street. For a decade, the Chamber Foundation has worked together with hundreds of community partners to improve and enhance our business areas and this grant announcement is further proof that the Chamber Main Street Foundation is making a positive difference.

With the support of this grant, the Hamilton District can continue its beautification efforts between 10th and 12th streets in downtown Allentown to include additional plantings, seating and bike racks. Special thanks to Scott Fainor, Dave Kennedy and Bernie Story for the grant opportunity. We cannot wait to get started with the street beautification under the leadership of Chamber senior VP Miriam Huertas. Be sure to join us at the Hotel Bethlehem on Wednesday, August 23rd for the 2017 Chamber Awards which will spotlight the 25 community projects to receive Main Street Foundation support. For more information, contact Executive Director Lorie Reiner at lorier@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Our national debt is now larger than our GDP

Dr. Kamran Afshar, Chamber Chief Economist
The Chamber’s Finance Committee

National debt is now more than $19 trillion and appears to be continuing to rise for the foreseeable future. This puts the National Debt at 105% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. For the first time since the end of WWII, national debt has topped the GDP. It should be added that at the end of WWII, National Debt stood at 121% of the Gross Domestic Product. However, the interest payment on that debt then was only 1.8% of the GDP. Which was due to the very low interest rates of the time.


In the early 1980s, debt level was around 35% of the GDP. However, the interest on the debt was around 2.3% of the Gross Domestic Product - a significantly higher interest rate environment compared to the mid-1940s. By the end of the 1980s, debt levels rose to 51% of the GDP and the cost of interest on the debt rose to 3% of the Gross Domestic Product - the highest percentage in the last 70 years.

The question is: how does this affect me? As interest payment on national debt takes a larger percentage of the GDP, more of national income is diverted from everything else to paying that interest, which will eventually mean higher interest rates, higher taxes, higher inflation, and cut back in government investment and larger deficits.

Since the start of the Great Recession, national debt as a percentage of the GDP rose. However, interest payment on the debt as a percentage of the GDP has dropped below 1.3 by 2016, the lowest ratios since the late 1940s.

Major concerns have been expressed about repayment of the national debt and potential for bankruptcy. Let’s look at the repayment mechanism. How did the country pay back the huge debt created during WWII which was 121% of the GDP? The answer to that is very simple; it was never paid back. Surprised? Actually, total debt rose by $700 billion between 1946 and 1981 while the debt to GDP ratio dropped from 121% to only 32%. Magic? No, the GDP increased 13-fold during the same period.

Also, since the national debt is in US dollars, unlike the Greeks who could not print as much Euro as they needed, the US can print as many dollars as it wants and then some. Therefore, bankruptcy is a technical impossibility for the US on its own national debt.

This does not mean that the size of the national debt does not matter. It simply means that as long as the debt level stays within historical boundaries, it will not become an economic issue.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Community Development through Main Street Lehigh Valley's Grant Program

Dorota Gasienica-Kozak, Esquire
King, Spry, Herman, Freund, & Faul, LLC
Board of Governors Chair, The Chamber

Your Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is committed to providing traditional chamber services like business-to-business network building and marketing opportunities, government affairs and public policy advocacy, training and informational programs, and exclusive money saving services and discounts, all designed to make you more efficient, your job more rewarding and to help grow your business and save you money.

In addition, we are also dedicated to community development because we believe that it promotes our mission to improve the economy and quality of life in the Lehigh Valley.

Fundraising efforts at key events throughout the year, along with a growing number of street fairs and festivals produced by our affiliated chambers of commerce, bring major focus to the business districts and improve traffic to local stores. These events create communal pride as communities are showcased, celebrated and brought to life! Upcoming fairs and festival promotions can be found in the pages of the August issue of Connections.

Now in its 10th year, Main Street Lehigh Valley is The Chamber’s 501(c)3, charitable arm. MSLV uses donations from the private sector to directly fund community development projects and targeted investments in visual enhancements in every city, urban core, downtown, small town and borough. We believe that this is the key to a thriving economy.

To date, MSLV has granted more than $375,000, leveraging more than $7 million, to support 225 projects in 30 communities. Funded projects include bike racks, pavilions, murals, flower baskets, trail signage, farmer’s markets, benches, lighting, security cameras, water fountains, playgrounds and other streetscape and beautification projects.

Of course, it takes resources to accomplish these goals. The Chamber and MSLV continue to seek members and affiliates with the same dedication and the time, talent and treasure to contribute to help make every Lehigh Valley community all that it can be - On Every Main Street! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

YOUR comments for OUR local plan welcomed!


Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board.

On behalf of Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc., doing business as Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, in partnership with the Chief Elected Officials of Lehigh and Northampton Counties, is seeking public comments on its new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Multi-Year Plan for the 2017-2019 program years.  The Multi-Year Plan is consistent with guidelines issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.


The draft Multi-Year Plan has been posted on the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. website for comments. 
The Plan will remain available for comments for 30 days (through August 24, 2017).  The final plan will be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry on or before September 1, 2017.

To access the plan, or for information on where and when you can view a hard copy of the plan, visit www.lvwib.org.

Public comments should be emailed to Nancy Dischinat at ndischinat@lvwib.org within the 30 day public comment period with the subject line LOCAL PLAN COMMENTS.

For those who would prefer to provide comments in person, two public meetings will be held on Wednesday, August 9, 2017: at 11:00 am at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce/Bethlehem Chamber office, 1 E. Broad St. (5th Floor), Bethlehem, PA 18018; and, at 6:00 pm at PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley, 555 Union Blvd., Allentown, PA 18109.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact me at ndischinat@lvwib.org or by telephone at 610-841-1122.





Monday, July 31, 2017

Legislation to address the skills gap


Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board.

Representative Glenn Thompson, PA-5, introduced legislation to strengthen and improve career and technical education and give Americans the skills they need to compete for in-demand jobs. The House of Representatives passed this bipartisan legislation late June. 

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act will help more Americans earn a lifetime of success by:

• Empowering State and Local Community Leaders
• Improving Alignment with In-Demand Jobs 
• Increasing Transparency and Accountability 
• Ensuring a Limited Federal Role

Rep. Thompson stated on his website that this  "Legislation will help more students gain knowledge, skills to succeed in the workforce"

Click here to read the bill summary

Contact your US Senators and encourage them to support HR 5587!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Education + Training Strategy Lab


Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board.

I recently presented at the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s (LVPC) Education + Training Strategy Lab on Tuesday, July 18, at the LVPC, 961 Marcon Boulevard, Allentown, PA 18109.

In conjunction with our Local Plan, we partnered with LVPC to obtain public input into LVPC’s Comprehensive Plan process including the development of goals and strategies surrounding education and training.  Topics of discussion included: 
How does the Lehigh Valley fare in terms of an educated workforce?
How are we preparing youth to be successful while ensuring that adults have opportunities to stay competitive?


Click here to view my powerpoint.  Have questions?  
Call or email me 610-841-1122  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Chamber Nonprofit and Business Partners Council brings non-profit world together

Original article posted on lehighvalleylive.com

The Chamber Nonprofit and Business Partners Council is an information and networking organization with a goal of strengthening collaboration to build capacity of non-profits, and to showcase their impact on the economy and quality of life in the Lehigh Valley. 


Through networking, training and other programming, the group brings together the non-profit sector and business partners so that relationships can be formed, information can be shared, and everyone can benefit. There are more than 450 chamber member non-profit organizations and more than 6,000 businesses with over 200,000 employees that are all members of the chamber.  The Chamber Nonprofit and Business Partners Council is the largest in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and seventh largest in the United States.

Many businesses have employees that volunteer and/or are board members of these NPO's. The council has volunteer leaders representing for-profit and for-good organizations, both big and small, with geographic representation, diverse skills and experience, as well as organizational representatives from the arts, education, environment, health and human services. 

Monthly events help to nurture relationships, and introduce new ones -- the group often partners with others to present expert advice on subjects such as ethical giving, social responsibility, impact hubs, partnerships and mergers, EITC tax credits, 990 preparation, best practices for hiring interns, marketing and board development.

The group also presents an annual Collaboration Award during a conference held in the spring.  Previous winners were the Volunteer Center and Building 21 Allentown.  Let the council know of individuals or groups who have shown exemplary collaboration so that they can be highlighted. This signature event brings together an audience of elected officials, businesses and non-profits, with presentations from a nationally recognized speaker as well as local experts. 


The council is excited to bring keynote Vu Lee to the Lehigh Valley on April 25, 2018. Vu Le ("voo lay") is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces and the executive director of Rainier Valley Corp., in Seattle.  His passion to make the world better, combined with a low score on the Law School Admission Test, drove him into the field of non-profit work, where he learned that we should take the work seriously, but not ourselves. 

There's tons of humor in the non-profit world and someone needs to document it. He is going to do that, with the hope that one day, a TV producer will see how cool and interesting the field is and make a sitcom about non-profit work, featuring attractive actors attending strategic planning meetings and filing 990 tax forms. Known for his no-BS approach, irreverent sense of humor, and love of unicorns, Le has been featured in dozens, if not hundreds, of his own blog posts at nonprofitwithballs.com

For more information or get connected contact Lorie Reinert, staff liaison for the Chamber lorier@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The future is bright for the Hispanic Chamber

Luis Campos, City of Easton, Hispanic Chamber of the Lehigh Valley Chair

It has been an exciting and rewarding experience serving as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of the Lehigh Valley (HCCLV) Chairperson. I have served as Chairperson for the last six years and have been involved with the HCCLV since its inception in 2003.

Along the way, I have had the opportunity to work with many individuals who have been as enthusiastic and motivated to build a business member organization. I am proud of the many accomplishments produced by the HCCLV including: the creation of the Fe Foundation in 2008, the merger with the GLVCC in 2014, supporting a policy position with the GLVCC on immigration reform, and experiencing overall growth year after year since opening our doors. The future is bright for the Hispanic Chamber!

Our committees are aggressive and filled with members that show the same excitement that sparked the creation of the organization. This year’s expansion into downtown Easton and areas that have not been explored is particularly promising. As the Latino community continues to grow, so does the HCCLV and its efforts to create a vibrant business environment that all can benefit.

This July, my term (serving since 2012) will expire as the HCCLV Chair. Even though I will no longer be the chairperson, I will continue to serve on the board and support the mission of the organization. I am looking forward to working with the new Chairperson, Victor Salicetti, as we continue to grow and explore opportunities.

If you would like to receive more information on how you can get involved with the HCCLV please contact Samantha at samanthac@lehighvalleychamber.org.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Culture drives performance in organizations

Charles Everett, Lehigh Valley International Airport, African American Business Leaders Council Chair

What's up at Fox News, United Airlines and Wells Fargo? Is it merely inappropriate behavior and poor treatment of staff and customers or is there a broader issue?

It's the Culture... Culture or unspoken rules of behavior are critical elements of an organization.

Two predominant components of organization culture are people and values. Various examples exist of organizations which have distinctive positive culture. They include companies like Southwest Airlines, Zappos and Google.

When you think of these companies, you think of their people first. People are fundamental to any organization. As a unified team with a common purpose, people bring their unique knowledge, skills, abilities and perspectives to successful performance, problem-solving and interaction. The team embraces the culture. The culture of the organization the guides how the people (staff and customers) are treated and treat each other in the process.

A value is an intrinsically desirable principle. Values guide establishing goals, setting priorities and making decisions. Values are a factor in every action and decision by individuals, teams and organizations. Values govern how individual tasks are accomplished.

Together these components of culture (people and values) define a largely unspoken set of rules or parameters of behavior. Culture drives performance in organizations. When it becomes necessary for an organization to improve the culture through formal or informal change management initiatives, the first step is to determine the values and understand the degree to which the values are embraced by the organization's staff and customers.

To stay abreast of all AABLC activities and events visit the Facebook page at:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

10th Round of Main Street Grant funding to be announced in August

Main Street Initiatives
Laurie G. Hackett, Air Products, Chamber Foundation Chair


Please plan to join us on Wednesday, August 23 at the historic Hotel Bethlehem when we announce the 10th round of Main Street grant funding.


We want to thank the folks who have contributed to the success of this program - giving back to every community in the Lehigh Valley - we could not do this without you.


"Community Development is critical to the vibrancy of our sidewalks and business corridors. We love this event because it celebrates our business members who give back," said Lorie Reinert, executive director of the Chamber Main Street Program. "As our Chamber grows, so does our need to support our partners in Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Warren counties. No two communities are the same. We fund projects that visually contribute to each unique sense of place, positively impacting the economy and quality of life for individuals who live and work there."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chamber Ambassadors CARE (Communicate, Appreciate, Retain, and Engage)

Nate Kline, Infradapt, Ambassadors Council Committee Member

We are more than just a smiling face at your Grand Opening, Ribbon Cutting, networking event, or “Mastering Your Membership” event. Ambassadors serve our members by helping you get the most out of your membership! There are many benefits to being a chamber member, and it is our goal to help you take advantage of those benefits.


Some of the primary recommendations that we give are to become more involved and regularly attend networking events. Relationship building doesn’t happen overnight. These things take time and effort...and as they say, you get out what you put in!


Ambassadors are professional networkers. We know how to "work a room" and understand that networking may not come easy to some. If this sounds like you, please engage us at any event, and we will gladly introduce you to any one of our contacts in our “rolodex!”


Ambassadors CARE! We are your trusted resource and communicate to each other and to our members, and provide Chamber members with useful information. We appreciate your membership and work hard to help you get the full value out of your membership. We will help you formulate, build, and retain lasting relationships. Ambassadors will engage you, along with helping you get engaged.

So, the next time that you see a gold badge at your event, please stop us and say hello!

Monday, June 19, 2017

PJM - Who Are They?

Michael Gibson, K&H Custom Window Treatments, Energy & Environment Committee Member

PJM Interconnection was created 90 years ago. PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

On April 11, members of the Chamber’s Energy & Environment Committee had the pleasure to visit PJM and learn more about this hidden treasure. PJM operates as the largest RTO in North America to provide reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity to millions of customers.

Here are some of the many oversights of PJM:

  • Acting as a neutral, independent party, PJM operates a competitive wholesale electricity market and manages the high-voltage electricity grid to ensure reliability for more than 65 million people.
  • PJM’s long-term regional planning process provides a broad, interstate perspective that identifies the most effective and cost-efficient improvements to the grid to ensure reliability and economic benefits on a system-wide basis.
PJM embraces innovation and fosters collaboration with our members and other key players in the power industry to explore new and emerging technologies. One of those we observed on our visit is large scale battery storage. This technology may one day help to even the spikes in distribution.

For a full detailed review of the PJM presentation visit the Chamber’s Energy & Environment Committee’s web page www.lehighvalleychamber.org/energy--environment.html and PJM at pjm.com

Friday, June 16, 2017

Potential shortfalls in the current fiscal year

Dorota Gasienica-Kozak, Esq., King, Spry, Herman, Freund, & Faul, LLC,
Public Policy Committee Chair


As we anticipate the Pennsylvania State budget for 2017-2018, we hear Republicans insisting no tax increases and no new borrowing to support current year expenses, preferring expanded gambling and further liquor sale reforms for new state revenue and reduction in state spending. Meanwhile, Democrats and Governor Wolf are promoting a plan to raise revenue for those and other causes through proposals for about 1 billion in new taxes, including a severance tax on natural gas production in the Marcellus shale region, the elimination of certain sales tax loopholes, and some changes to state business tax structures.

As business leaders, we must reflect on the outcome of the budget for the fiscal year 2016-2017 and its potential shortfall of over $1.2 billion plus. Unfortunately, a shortfall in the current fiscal year will likely be in excess of any projections for the entire fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2017. The areas of the shortfall are projected to result from various revenue sources that did not produce revenues as anticipated. Anticipated revenue shortfall sources include corporate tax revenues, personal income tax collections, sales and use tax, realty transfer tax, inheritance tax, gambling, tobacco, and state liquor code revenues, and non-tax revenue, which includes a larger transfer from the states liquor store fund which couldn’t offset a drop-off in unclaimed property collections. Such projections create a larger burden to find more revenue than anticipated. We will all be watching to see how our legislators propose to solve this question.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lehigh Valley Economic Outlook - Spring Update

Dr. Kamaran Afshar, Chamber Chief Economist, The Chamber’s Finance Committee

The Kamran Afshar- Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce survey of the Valley Businesses is a quarterly survey that we have been doing since 1997. According to the April Survey, local business sentiment gave back some of its January gains but is still above its last October's level. The drop in April came almost entirely from the employment sector - local employers have reduced their actual as well as planed hiring since January.

The index actual hiring for the last six months dropped below its January level, giving up a lot of its January gains and dropping slightly below the range which is historically associated with faster growing in the Valley. Local employers are not only facing a smaller labor pool, but of more significance, they are facing a thinning of skills and expertise within the remaining labor market. From high-tech to low-tech to no-tech, many positions remain vacant for lack of qualified occupants.

Among those who are hiring, the transportation and warehousing industry has the lead in the number of new employees hired per company in the last six months.

The index of plans for future hiring also dropped in April. It has lost 2.4 percent of its value since last October.

Transportation and warehousing industry is again in the lead among those planning to hire in the next six months.

The index for actual purchasing over the last 6 months rose slightly over its January level; however, it is still 7.9 percent above the last April's level. This index has moved into the expansionary range since January.

 Purchasing plans for the future also recorded a small increase over its January level.

This index has also crossed into the range which is historically associated with faster growth.

Businesses participating in the survey have experienced a slight decline in their revenues over the last couple of years. However, their expected revenues for the next six months rose according to the April survey. This indicator's trend has been relatively flat.

The survey of Lehigh Valley Businesses shows that their general optimism which sprang up in January has lost some of its shine. The expenditure indices moved up in April, which is a sign of enthusiasm. However, the drop in employment indices indicate uncertainty. It appears that the more-enthusiastic January survey was amended in April with a good measure of caution.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Farewell address from Barry Fisher, outgoing Chamber Board of Governors Chair

Barry Fisher, 69-WFMZ-TV & wfmz.com, The Chamber Board of Governors Chair

It has been an honor to serve as your chairperson for two years. Time moves quickly, and it seems like the past two years have moved faster than any before. 

I started volunteering with the Chamber in the 1980's. Back then, Allentown seemed as far from Easton as Harrisburg was from New York.  Since that time, the Lehigh Valley has grown closer together and much stronger as a region. We have seen wonderful economic growth, and entertainment options are now more abundant than before.

A lot of credit to bridging the gap between the communities goes to Tony Iannelli and our Chamber team. Once served by a multitude of disconnected Chambers, the Lehigh Valley has unified to form the 7th largest Chamber in the country! I really cannot stress how important those bragging rights are to influencing the perception of the Lehigh Valley.

Along the way, many former Chamber Board members played a significant role in the growth of our Chamber. A few are no longer with us, but are still remembered for their efforts, including Elmer Gates, Henrietta Frey, Brent Peters, Ron Rucker, and many others. These members volunteered their time and talents to advance the Chamber's mission and serve our businesses. While we have a very capable and motivated staff, it is your willingness to volunteer your time and that continues to move us forward in making the Lehigh Valley a better place to live and do business.

So as I depart, many new faces will move up the ladder in July. Dorota Kozak takes the helm as Chairperson, John Hayes steps into the Vice Chair spot and will head up the Public Policy Committee. I move to the other side of the table to join other former chairpersons, Anne Baum, Buddy Lesavoy, Gregg Feinberg, and Steve Patterson, all of whom I greatly respect for their impact on our Chamber.

Thank you all for the privilege of working with you over many years. I look forward to serving with you in some other capacity as time moves on to further the progress and imprint of our beloved Lehigh Valley.




GUEST BLOG POST: What are Tiered Health Insurance Plans?

Submitted by: Populytics
Written by: Selicia Chronister

News outlets nationwide are covering the changing world of health insurance at every turn, from the controversy over the Affordable Care Act to providers’ innovative strategies to manage health population-wide. Regardless of how the market shifts, one principle remains unchanged: any business person offering employer-sponsored health insurance wants their population to have access to high-quality providers that don’t break the bank.
The desire to contain health care costs has been an objective for decades, leading to varying payment arrangements offered by insurance companies. In the 1990s for example, providers were paid a fixed annual or monthly lump sum per patient through what was called a health maintenance organization (HMO). Because this arrangement involved prior authorization and limited choices, its popularity waned. Today, insurance carriers and providers are working together to create insurance products that marry consumer cost savings, freedom of choice and, in many cases, provider quality.

What is Tiered Insurance?

Tiering is a way for insurance companies to manage what they pay for health care services, and allows patients to include cost of care as a consideration when choosing a physician or health network.
Providers in tiered plans are typically categorized as “in-network” if they have contracted with the insurance carrier and may have agreed to financial discounts for services performed. They may also have agreed to certain quality metrics, which include a pay-for-performance program. Dependent upon the insurance product plan design, there may be multiple tiers of providers included under the “in-network” umbrella. Generally the first tier of in-network providers includes lower out of pocket expense for the consumer.
The objective? Tiered insurance plans give patients financial and quality incentives to visit a hospital or physician that has been placed in a preferred tier. Members can also choose to receive care from providers who are in a secondary tier or “out of network.” By making this choice, members typically have higher out-of-pocket costs and may receive care that is not subject to agreed-upon quality measurements.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Illustration is the best way to convey the options for members participating in a tiered insurance product. Below is an example of a tiered Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) network and its levels of cost for patients:

In-Network
Tier 1: In-network providers meeting the insurance carrier’s contract terms
in cost and quality. Lowest out-of-pocket cost.

Tier 2: In-network providers that may not
meet the insurance carrier’s contract terms in cost and quality. Higher out-of-pocket cost.

Out-of-Network
Providers not included in the PPO network. Highest out-of-pocket cost.

 

Member and Employer Experience

Today’s tiered network plan designs intersect the needs of both employers and members. Employers reap the cost savings of having their employees obtain care from in-network, first-tier providers. The employee plan members benefit from an interconnected and high-quality health system offering care coordination between insurance carrier and provider, collaborative management of diagnosed conditions, closing care gaps and convenience through centralized services and potential cost containment. There is also freedom of choice: Members retain the ability to make individual decisions about where care is rendered and the implications of those choices.
Tiered network plan designs may not be the last innovation in a changing industry. For today, it is a valuable solution for aligning employers, members, providers and insurance carriers for the management of cost and quality across populations.
For more information about tiered network health plans and options available for your organization, please contact us.

Friday, June 9, 2017

GUEST BLOG POST: The Value of Collaboration, Illustrated by One Couple’s Story

Submitted by: Populytics
Written by: Mark Wendling, MD, LVHN

It is interesting to reflect on how far Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) providers have come on the journey to value-based care. I have been a family physician at LVHN since 1997 and I now have more patient information at my fingertips than ever before so that I am able to provide the right care at the right time and place. You may be seeing a great deal of news headlines lately highlighting stories of health networks and insurers working together. By partnering with insurers like Highmark, and combining their insurance data with the medical data we already have, even more care coordination is possible. Let me provide you with an example.

Patients Mr. and Ms. Jones (not their real names) had multiple health problems when they sought my care. Ms. Jones, only 48 years old, had a major heart attack, and while still in the open heart unit, suffered a massive stroke. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones, who was the caregiver for his wife, had heart disease and unfortunately ended up in the hospital the same time she did.

At the time of discharge, Mr. and Ms. Jones’ medications were reviewed with their insurer, whereby a frightening discovery was made. The medications on record with the insurer were different than what was documented on their medical charts, which were also different from what I had recorded. I suggested the couple bring all of their medications into the office so we could review them together. Upon investigation, I discovered that they were taking multiples, some of the same drug classifications. As you can imagine, this could be harmful, if not potentially deadly.

Mr. Jones also mentioned that he couldn’t see the writing on his pill bottles clearly. I reviewed when he had last received an eye exam, and noticed that he was long overdue. My team immediately made him an appointment with a retinal specialist who discovered severe bleeding at the rear of his eye. This was likely caused by the duplicative blood thinners he was taking. The specialist was able to stop the blood thinner and treat his eye, saving Mr. Jones from even further serious conditions such as muscle breakdown or liver failure.

So, what does this all mean? In the past, providers only had patient information that was gained through medical records. Now, by partnering with insurers, physicians and their clinical teams have access to insurance claims data. By means of innovative partnerships with population health management companies that have the ability to merge the medical and insurance data and turn it into actionable information, clinicians have a wealth of information that provides a complete view of a patient’s health.

“You have to get to know people, really know them, and that takes time,” says Dr. Wendling. “By utilizing population health analytics, where the aforementioned data is sliced and diced in meaningful ways, duplicative services and care gaps are identified almost automatically. This allows me to have more meaningful conversations with my patients during visits whereby I can really get to the core of their health care needs.”

In the case of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, their lives could have ended up very different had Mr. Jones issues not been caught, affecting not only him, but also his wife who depends on him for her care.

Dr. Wendling is Executive Director at Lehigh Valley Physician Hospital Organization(LVPHO)/Valley Preferred, and guest author to the eNews

Thursday, June 8, 2017

GUEST BLOG POST: DIY Market Research – for Small Businesses & Nonprofits

Chamber Member Guest Blog - Lumin Communications


Concept shot for DIY research
Research and business planning are things we all should do—and do repeatedly for various reasons and at various stages of our organization’s life.


The good news is that there are lots of online DIY market research tools at our disposal. Surely you’ve seen one or more of the following brands show up in your own “in” box. One of the most ubiquitous and longest-tenured online survey tools is SurveyMonkey. Competitors include SurveyGizmo, QuestionPro, EngageForm, Formstack, KeySurvey, Zoho Survey, Typeform, GetFeedback and QuickTapSurvey. Additionally, some other online technologies, such as the Constant Contact email marketing platform, incorporate survey functionality.

So, lots of options also mean bad news—since lots of options require examination and decision-making. You might streamline your research by asking your peers which tools they’re using. Also consider whether the tools might integrate with your other relevant software, i.e. email marketing or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.

DIY market research image
These tools are relatively powerful, forcing positive questionnaire construction via their templates and functionality and offering tutorials or helpful hints besides. But, technology is not an absolute substitute for a bit of specialized knowledge. Just as the existence of drag-and-drop graphics and web design tools don’t make all of us into fabulous designers, having similarly easy survey tools doesn’t automatically make us all master researchers.
DIY market research: The how & why of customer surveys
Some basic understanding to have and use alongside your survey tool:
  • Begin with the end in mind, borrowing a popular phrase from Stephen Covey. You’ve got to know why you’re surveying and what you’re trying to accomplish in order to create the proper survey. Sometimes it’s about what you want to accomplish, but it is ALWAYS about answering a question. If you don’t have a question that you are attempting to answer, you might as well not do the research.
  • Similarly, you’re looking to generate actionable insights. Curiosity isn’t a good enough reason to include a particular question. What’s the goal of each question? What will you do with or about the answer? DON’T ask a question if you will not DO anything with the results.
  • Ask one question at a time. It’s common to tangle more than one idea into the same question. Break each question down to its simplest element. That may mean editing one question into two – or into a single question that’s formatted differently, for example, with multiple choice answers.
  • Doing some secondary industry research may help you focus your survey and may provide some industry benchmarks that you can measure against.
  • Ask only for as much personal data as you really need.
  • Include a question that asks respondents to opt-in to be contacted for further discussion.
  • Test the questionnaire on someone!! Don’t launch a survey until you’ve done a trial run with people you trust serving as your “fake” respondents.
  • Thank people for their time and effort and be respectful of the same (perhaps expressing that sentiment in a paragraph that introduces your survey and your goals for the research).
  • When you analyze your results, look for trends and gaps to try and turn results into actionable insights. Then act on your findings!
  • Mine your research process and results for content marketing ideas relevant to your audience!
“Ask the right questions to get the right answers.”Jim Hall, Design Research Manager at Quill, a subsidiary of Staples
Some of the many reasons you might want to survey:
  • Market research (market size, market share, community needs, etc.)
  • Brand awareness
  • Customer needs and “pain points”
  • Donor/volunteer feedback
  • Fundraiser event planning/feedback
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer retention
  • Product need/demand
  • New product concept analysis
  • Purchase analysis/tracking
  • Customer attitudes or motivations
  • Gap analysis—to determine both what’s important to your customers and the current report card of “how are we doing?” on those same attributes.

More on gap analysis:

If customers consider something important, but they think you are doing a bad job—equals a huge gap that needs to be corrected. In this case, you’d want to commit resources to improving on customers’ attitudes toward the attribute. If it’s not important, but you are doing a stellar job, you can ask yourself “why bother?” And in this case, you eliminate the time and effort going towards that attribute because your customers don’t care. (Your company scores in the customers’ eyes, but you are wasting resources).
Further:

If the attribute is important and you are doing a stellar job—don’t change a thing.

If the attribute is unimportant and customers think you are doing a bad job—no worries.

Decide whether primary research—and an online survey, in particular—is right for your current DIY market research need. There are, of course, other ways to conduct primary research, including telephone and mail surveys, or in-person interviews, focus groups or observation or field trials, which have the potential to generate more qualitative data. There are also certain goals—perhaps the most basic market research about market size, community needs, etc.—that are better served by conducting secondary research, which involves collecting and synthesizing existing published research (from sources like the U.S. Census, FedStats.gov, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)).

Once you’ve got a direction and decided on a tool, here’s the process, according to Paul Mooney, director at Blue Orchid, a small business support service in the UK:
  • Step #1: Decide the questions you need answers to
  • Step #2: Decide what information you need to collect in order to answer those questions
  • Step #3: Decide how you’re going to collect the information
  • Step #4: Decide how you’re going to analyze it, and
  • Step #5: Decide what you’re going to do with the results.
Do all of this before you log into your online survey tool! Better to write things out longhand and work out the wording, question format (multiple choice, rating, write-in, etc.) and functionality you want (skip logic, for example: “If yes, then answer… If no, then continue…”) before putting your hands to your keyboard.