Executive Order Supports Broadband Infrastructure Expansion With Focus on Rural America

In an effort to support the expansion of broadband internet service in rural America, President Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 8 that streamlines the application process for locating wireless facilities on Federal property. The order sets guidelines and timelines for processing applications from private entities. It is hoped that other benefits will be realized from this policy “to use all viable tools to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America.” (Read the full executive order)

The Columbia Montour Chamber continues to advocate for the expansion of broadband in rural areas to support economic growth. In November, the Chamber sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission supporting a petition by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to keep $140 million for broadband expansion in Pennsylvania. While federal funds have traditionally only been available to regulated telecommunications companies such as Verizon, the PUC and Chamber are seeking greater flexibility to work with other potential providers.

New Legislation Makes $30 Million Available in Grants for Businesses in Solar Energy Field

From Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy

In an effort to help develop and maintain solar jobs and manufacturing in Pennsylvania, new bipartisan legislation was recently passed and signed into law to do just that. Act 40 is designed to keep solar energy jobs within the Keystone State instead of sourcing them to neighboring states, as has been practice in recent years.

Additionally, $30 million in grants and loans is now available through the Solar Energy Program (SEP) to businesses that manufacture solar equipment, or generate or distribute solar power. The goal is to support Pennsylvania’s efforts to strengthen its position in the clean energy space.

“The Solar Energy Program is vital in our efforts to make Pennsylvania a leader in clean energy,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “Developing new renewable energy sources including solar is critical to ensuring Pennsylvania has a balanced and diverse energy mix that maintains our position as a major energy producing state.”

Many local Pennsylvania chamber member businesses can benefit from the SEP as it provides financial assistance in the form of grant and loan funds to promote the use of solar energy in Pennsylvania.

If your organization is interested in applying for a SEP loan or grant, please visit the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development page.

PA Department of Labor Offers Free Workplace Safety Webinars During January

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Health & Safety Division will offer a series of free webinars on workplace safety throughout the month of January.  Titled PATHS (PA Training for Health and Safety), these webinars will cover subjects such as safe driving in inclement weather, dealing with angry people, snowblower safety, safety incentive programs, mold awareness, ADA compliance, social media safety and much more. Each webinar lasts approximately one hour depending on course material and viewer participation. 

For more information, to register, and for a complete listing of each webinar, visit the PATHS training calendar

Early-Stage, Technology-Oriented Businesses and Entrepreneurs Benefit from Tax Credits Through Keystone Innovation Zone Program

Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) tax credits for 273 early-stage companies totaling $15 million were announced by Governor Tom Wolf on Dec. 28, 2017. Included are 11 companies located within the Greater Susquehanna Keystone Innovation Zone, which includes portions of Bloomsburg, Danville, Lewisburg, Sunbury, and Selinsgrove.

The Keystone Innovation Zone Program is designed to support and encourage entrepreneurship in and around Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities by providing young Pennsylvania companies with vital working capital to meet critical needs, including covering capital expenditures, workforce expansion, operational expenses, and making companies more attractive to venture investment.

Run out of the PA Department of Community & Economic Development, the program provides tax credits for companies that have been in operation for less than eight years, whose gross revenues have increased over the previous year, are located in a Keystone Innovation Zone, and are operating within a targeted industry sector such as information technology or advanced manufacturing/diversified materials.

“By providing these tax credits, we’re helping to reduce the burden placed on companies as they go through the early stages of growth, thereby helping new ideas take root while pushing both our economy and the thriving tech sector forward,” said Governor Wolf.

For more information about the KIZ program, contact the Rural Business Innovation office in Bloomsburg at 570-245-0096.

Tax Reform Bill Provides More Benefits for Small Business

A final tax reform package is expected to be on President Trump’s desk as early as Wednesday, Dec. 20. Following the passage of differing bills in the House and Senate, a conference committee with leaders from both chambers was formed to come to reach a compromise. A representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told local chambers that the final legislation provides additional benefits to small businesses and middle class taxpayers.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act conference report was filed on Friday evening, Dec. 15. A few technical changes had to be made prior to the Senate vote, which then needed to be confirmed in the House. Here is an executive summary prepared by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.