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.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Greetings from Emmaus!

John Hayes, SVP/CLO, New Tripoli Bank, Emmaus Main Street Partners Chair

I’m going to let you in on a little secret… given publishing dates for Connections, at times we all write articles about events that haven’t yet happened, describing the wonderful event we had. At times this backfires (e.g., in the event of a rainout), but most of the time it works.


With that background, I am happy to say that the Restaurant Week that we ran jointly with the East Penn Chamber of Commerce in early March, really and truly was the success that I wrote about last month! Seventeen restaurants, community support, and a great time was had by all. Thanks again to New Tripoli Bank, Master Supply, Adams Outdoor Advertising, B-104, WAEB 790 and all for their sponsorships and support.


A reminder, the 12th Annual Emmaus Main Street Partners Golf Classic is set for Monday June 19 at Green Pond Country Club. It’s a “must” tournament. Golf slots are selling out quickly. Sponsorships are available and it’s a great opportunity to showcase your business in front of a great crowd, and registration to play is open with early bird specials on tap. You can find details on our website www.emmausmainstreet.com or give Jessica O’Donnell a shout anytime at jessicao@lehighvalleychamber.com.


We are also hard at work on our next major events, Farewell to Summer and Old Fashioned Christmas (not kidding, we’re thinking Christmas already). If you have an interest in helping, please give us a call and join in the fun!


As always, keep an eye on Facebook @EmmausMSP, Twitter @emmausmainst1, and our website www.emmausmainstreet.com for all the details on the happenings in Emmaus.

You can also give Meghan Reed, our Main Street Manager, a shout at meghanr@lehighvalleychamber.org or 610-739-1273 for details on what we’re up to, and to get involved.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New Member Highlight: East Allen Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Mary Kositz, ESSA Bank & Trust, Greater Bath Chair

East Allen Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps has been proudly serving their community since 1979. Since its inception, EATVAC has been dispatched to over 30,000 calls with nearly 20,000 resulting in patients being transported to local hospitals.

Their volunteers span many generations, from teenagers to retirees, volunteering their time to provide for their neighbors in their time of need. Many do so while balancing the responsibilities of family, work and school. Many also volunteer for other EMS and fire departments. Others hold jobs as nurses, fire fighters, and there is even a police officer and pilot. One long time member just celebrated his 35th anniversary with the Corps!

Along with 911 emergency ambulance services, EATVAC provides East Allen Township and surrounding communities with Fire Rehab Services, EMS stand-by services for community events such as the LV Air Show and High School “Arrive Alive” programs, and work often with youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts. They also provide numerous training opportunities such as CPR and First Aid for adults and youth, emergency vehicle operations and driver training, and much more.