Chamber & Visitors Bureau Moving Forward to Form Partnership

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau are moving forward with plans to combine the operations of the two organizations in order to increase the value of membership and improve service to the communities in the two counties.

While the Chamber and Visitors Bureau will continue to exist, a new organization will be created. The staffs, operational resources and memberships will be combined within this new organization. The partnership will represent approximately 600 area businesses and organizations with the hope of attracting additional members as well as other partner organizations with similar missions.

The two organizations have been examining ways to work together more effectively since February, 2011. An early outcome was the establishment of a Joint Governmental Affairs Committee (JGA); an advocacy-focused partnership. Via a model grassroots advocacy process the JGA seeks to influence decision-makers and prompt actions that contribute to the benefit of their collective membership and the communities they serve.  Events the JGA has sponsored include candidate forums and an annual breakfast with Congressman Lou Barletta and the Commonwealth’s Revenue Secretary.

In the fall of 2012, members of each organization as well as Commissioners from Columbia and Montour counties were asked for their input on a potential partnership through a series of focus groups and surveys. “Our members made it very clear that they value the missions and individual brands of the Visitors Bureau and Chamber,” said David “Otto” Kurecian, Executive Director of the Visitors Bureau. “This partnership structure will ensure that our missions are not lost or diluted, while enhancing value to members and allowing us to more effectively serve the region.” The Visitors Bureau will retain control of the room tax revenue for the purposes of tourism enhancement while both boards will continue to meet to identify and oversee strategic priorities.

The partnership will maintain office locations in Berwick, Bloomsburg and Danville, with the possibility of adding customer service locations. The two main offices of the organizations will be consolidated into one facility to be identified. This new location will allow for operational efficiencies and provide space for future growth.

The formal proposal was unveiled to members in the Fall of 2013 with a series of Town Hall meetings held followed by a poll of both memberships to gather member feedback. The positive response to the poll exceeded 93 percent, according to Fred Gaffney, Chamber President. After reviewing the poll results, the boards of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau voted in January to move the process forward. A task force will be working with staff and sub-committees to formalize the operational details of the partnership with the hope that the final plan will be approved by members in mid-2014.

This process has been facilitated by Heather Feldhaus, Ph.D., with Bloomsburg University’s Center for Community Research and Consulting, and Chuck Laudermilch, retired Bloomsburg University professor.

“We have been following a very deliberate process to engage members and ensure that a partnership will meet our intended goals,” said Gaffney. “We thank all who have participated in this process thus far, and while we still have many details to work out over the coming months, it is very exciting that we are in the final stages of making the partnership a reality.”

The Task Force that has been working on this proposal is seeking the expertise of members to work on specific areas the partnership. Volunteer engagement is critical to finalizing the plan in a timely manner. Individuals are needed to help research and recommend a consolidated office location. Those with human resource experience are being asked to assist with combining the two staffs. And member input is being sought on how to best combine and execute the many programs, events and other benefits offered by the two organizations. Members interested in lending their skills to this process over the next few months should contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber at 570-784-2522 or fgaffney@columbiamontourchamber.com, or Otto Kurecian at the Visitors Bureau at 570-784-8279 or kurecian@cmvb.com.

Sending the Wrong Messages to Our Youth

By Fred Gaffney, Chamber President

The following op-ed was published in the Friday, January 10th edition of Press Enterprise.

This winter has already seen a number of weather-related school closings, delays and early dismissals in the area. School superintendents have the difficult and unenviable responsibility of making these scheduling decisions. Attempting to reach the appropriate balance between the continuity of the school year and the physical safety of students is further complicated by the potential wrath of parents, including the ever-increasing threat of legal action against the districts. The backlash from the parents seems to have more influence than Mother Nature in taking a “better safe than sorry” approach.

The negative impacts of suspending the normal schedule go beyond disruption of the learning process and the inconvenience to parents and caregivers. Cancelling school for cold weather or even the threat of snow suggests to impressionable young people that it is acceptable, if not the norm, to put off one’s obligations for the sake of personal comfort and convenience. The manifestation of this cultural belief is as clear as it is disheartening and frustrating to job providers. As President of the Chamber of Commerce, I have the opportunity to speak with area employers of all sizes. A common challenge is a deteriorating work ethic, particularly in younger generations. Employees think nothing of calling off work or not even bothering to contact their employers ahead of time due to personal issues that should not warrant them missing work. This practice harms business productivity and employee relations and further deteriorates personal responsibility and accountability.

Further, the nature and tone of response from some parents when difficult decisions are made encourages a lack of respect for those in leadership positions. In the workforce, decisions and direction, while not always universally agreed upon, need to be carried out. Demonstrating to young people that it’s ok to yell, disrespect and even disregard a decision that requires a compromise on the part of the individual will hinder that person’s ability to be productive in group situations throughout their life including family and the workplace.

Developing personal ethics is most critical at young ages. The Chamber’s Foundation works with area schools to promote positive work habits in our youth. Taking personal responsibility and meeting obligations in order to be successful often requires individual sacrifices and discomfort. Parents and all adults should be sensitive to the importance of these traits in how we convey them to our youth.

Save Money on Your Home Electricity

Chamber member employees, friends and family members have access to a residential energy program to save money on home electric bills. Through the Chamber’s partnership with ChamberChoice and OnDemand Energy, a low, fixed rate on home electric generation is available. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to save money on your electric bill while also having a chance to win a year of free electric generation.

Through this special offer, you and your friends and family members can enroll with FirstEnergy Solutions to receive an exclusive price on your electric generation, which can lead to savings on your monthly electric bills. And anyone who enrolls in this offer between now and December 31, 2013, will be entered into a drawing to win free electric generation for a year.

Just like at your business, residents can choose their electricity supplier. PPL is still responsible for the distribution of electricity to homes and businesses including restoring power during an outage. The Chamber’s energy program with OnDemand was developed to help businesses and residents save money without a lot of hassle by finding the best rate among dozens of suppliers serving Pennsylvania.

Currently, the PPL price to compare is 8.37 cents per kilowatt hour. The price being offered through this promotion is 7.45 cents per kilowatt hour through June of 2016. It is easy to enroll online at www.fes.com/PAChamberChoice or by calling 1-866-699-9968 and asking for the ChamberChoice Friends and Family Program. The new rates will take effect in approximately 45 days.

The website also has a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the program. One of the most common questions is about cancellation fees. There are no fees if you move. However, if you choose to leave the program early for any other reason, there is a $25 cancellation fee. The average home will realize this amount in savings in a month or two.

Don’t miss out on this great rate and the chance to get a year of free electric generation. Sign up online today and share the information with your employees, family and friends.

CareerLink in Bloomsburg Expands Hours

Earlier this year the PA CareerLink of Columbia/Montour Counties relocated to 415 Central Road in Bloomsburg. With the move, the hours of the career resource center for jobseekers and UC recipients were reduced. Recently, some of those hours of access were restored. The CareerLink is open to the public Monday and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Office staff are available daily from 8:30 to 4:30 to assist employers and the center is also available by appointment and for worker training programs.

Meeting the Health Care Needs of the Bloomsburg Community for Over a Century

Bloomsburg Hospital first opened its doors on September 11, 1905, answering a pressing need for health care in the Bloomsburg community. Dr. John W. Bruner, a Bloomsburg surgeon, was an early proponent of a hospital and sought the help of Joseph Ratti, the principal stockholder of the Bloomsburg Silk Mill. The hospital was originally located on the corner of Fifth and Spruce Streets until 1928 when a new hospital and nursing residence were built on the current site. Since then, the 72-bed facility has undergone three major renovations.

On July 1, 2012 Bloomsburg Hospital merged into Geisinger Health System, becoming Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital (G-BH). Since the merger, Geisinger has invested many resources in G-BH that include a major renovation of the Emergency Department; the addition of Geisinger Careworks, an urgent care walk-in clinic; implementation of EPIC, an electronic medical record; expansion of the hospitalist and midwifery programs; recruitment of specialty physicians; and investments in education and wellness initiatives for employees. In early 2014, neurology will join services already housed at G-BH including cardiology, orthopaedics, women’s services, psychiatry and general surgery. Geisinger has also invested in its nearly 400 employees at G-BH with enhanced educational opportunities and health and wellness benefits.

G-BH maintains its commitment in Bloomsburg, working with independent physicians, developing strong partnerships through a new community outreach program and continuing to foster relationships like those with Bloomsburg University and the United Way. The organization also strives to learn about the health challenges of community members and ways to develop programming to support them and give back through a Community Health Needs Assessment. And as part of their non-profit status, G-BH provided community benefit of more than $4.1 million in fiscal year 2012 alone.

Geisinger Bloomsburg is proud to be part of the Bloomsburg community and will continue to develop and enhance programs to provide our patients Geisinger care close to their homes.