Senator Casey Hears from Local Business

U.S. Senator Bob Casey heard about the challenges of local businesses at a roundtable meeting held Monday in Danville. Common themes among the participants included the cost of health insurance, challenges of recruiting employees, lack of broadband in rural areas, and burdensome regulations. The meeting was organized by the Danville Business Alliance and held at Old Forge Brewing Company.

The approximately 30 attendees represented a cross-section of business types including members: Bason Coffee Roasting, Pine Barn Inn, G.S. Woods Financial Solutions, U.S. Gypsum, and Danville Child Development Center. Recruiting quality employees continues to be a challenge for all sizes and types of employers. Specific issues cited at the roundtable included the need to support skilled trades education, wages levels, and the inability for small businesses to afford health insurance coverage for their employees.

Following the recent failed attempts at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Senator Casey stated that there have been “more positive discussions about health care in the last ten days than in the last ten months.” He expects that targeted reforms to the existing legislation will advance in September. Improving the affordability of health insurance for small business owners and their non-subsidized employees will take longer, he admitted.

Another widespread hindrance to business growth is burdensome regulations. Larger employers talked about excessive environmental regulations while smaller employers asked for clarification on how certain rules might apply to their businesses. Legislation has already passed the House and has been introduced in the Senate (S. 951) which would require more public input and transparency in government agency rulemaking. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and PA Chamber of Business and Industry are supporting this legislation. Senator Casey did not express his opinion on the bill.

Lack of broadband internet access in rural areas such as northern parts of Montour and Columbia counties also prohibits business development. The Senator has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to keep federal dollars intended for infrastructure expansion in Pennsylvania. He feels that a long-term solution is a nationwide infrastructure enhancement package. The Columbia Montour Chamber has advocated for improved broadband and telecommunications infrastructure to both federal and state legislators.

Senator Casey thanked the participants for their input and pledged follow up on a number of specific questions.

Welcome Comfort Keepers

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Comfort Keepers, to help us fulfill our mission.

Comfort Keepers is a national company made up of franchises that provide in-home, non-medical care for seniors and other adults. Locally, the Bloomsburg office, located at 7185B Columbia Blvd. (Rt. 11), is one of several offices run by the local franchise group, which also has offices in Allentown, Bethlehem, Hazleton, Drums, Pottsville, Quakertown, Shenandoah, Stroudsburg, Sugarloaf and Wilkes-Barre. Comfort Keepers caretakers provide personal care services such as bathing, grooming and hygiene, mobility assistance, transferring and positioning, feeding, dementia care and medication reminders. Caretakers also can provide companionship, meal preparation, laundry services, light housekeeping, grocery shopping and respite care or relief for family members. Comfort Keepers in Bloomsburg services all of Columbia County. For more information, call 888-450-0890 or visit its website.

Central Columbia School District to Host Open House for Career Pathway Program

Students from throughout the region can attend the Central Columbia School District’s award winning, state-of-the-art Career Pathway high school free of charge to parents.  By enrolling in a state-approved program at Central, students whose home school district does not offer that program may attend Central Columbia. The approved programs are three or four-year programs in agriculture operations and agriculture mechanization and three-year programs in engineering and accounting.

Incoming freshman may apply for admission in the two agricultural programs and incoming 10th graders may apply for admission to engineering, accounting or the two agricultural programs.  Once admitted, students must stay in an approved program and make progress toward graduation.  Enrolled students are fully recognized students at Central Columbia High School and may participate in all courses, activities and extra-curricular programs.

From the student’s and parent’s perspective, these programs work similar to programs at Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech where the student is enrolled in that school full time.  The difference is that the programs are hosted by Central Columbia.

Central Columbia High School’s community open house is Sunday, Aug. 20, from 2-4 p.m. when all community members and interested parents and students may tour the building.

Interested parents and students should contact Chris Snyder or Jeff Groshek at the high school office at 570-784-2850, ext. 1000 to schedule a private tour and meeting to discuss the options.  The school year begins August 24, so act quickly if interested.

Natural Gas Forecasted to Equal or Exceed Coal as Electricity Source for Second Straight Year

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its recent short-term energy outlook report, predicts that in 2017, natural gas will either exceed or equal coal as a source of electricity generation for the second straight year. Last year was the first that natural gas-fired electricity generation exceeded coal-fired generation, with coal generating 30% of U.S. electricity and natural gas responsible for 34%. In 2017, through the first four months, coal has provided 30% of U.S. electricity while natural gas has provided 28%, and the EIA expects that by the end of the year, both coal and natural gas will have each generated about 31% of the electricity in the U.S.

The EIA also recently released statistics that showed Pennsylvania as ranking second in the nation in natural gas production for the fourth straight year. Natural gas is a big part of the PA economy, and locally, a new natural gas pipeline is scheduled to get underway later this year. It will have an estimated economic impact of $85.5 million for Columbia County alone, and $1.6 billion for all of the project’s regions. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will expand the Transco gas pipeline system with a new pipe approximately 185 miles long connecting the existing pipeline just north of Columbia County to southeast Pennsylvania, which will allow for more efficient transportation of Marcellus Shale natural gas and should enable even more to be exported. 

Williams is also encouraging all workers that come into the area to work on this project to patronize local businesses. More information about the opportunities for local businesses related to this pipeline project will be available at the Chamber’s next Learn at Lunch, sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, this Tuesday, Aug. 8, at noon at Wesley United Methodist Church. Mike Atchie from Williams will talk about the different types of opportunities for local businesses to cater to the visiting workers and give an overall update on the project at this event. The cost to attend this event is $10 for lunch and those interested can register here.

Parking Restrictions on Main Street in Bloomsburg Set for Aug. 7-9

From Bloomsburg Police Department

The Bloomsburg Police Department would like to notify motorists of pending parking restrictions on Main St. in Bloomsburg.  These parking restrictions will be in effect for a micro-paving project contracted by PennDOT.  The paving is scheduled to take place during the following nights.

            Monday August 7, 2017; Parking WILL NOT be permitted on Main Street between East Street and West Street from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

            Tuesday August 8, 2017; Parking WILL NOT be permitted on Main Street between East Street and West Street from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

            Wednesday August 9, 2017; Parking WILL NOT be permitted on West Main Street between West Street and Ft. McClure Blvd. from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

Any vehicles found parked in these locations during the date and time when parking is prohibited will be subject to ticketing and towing at the owners expense.

Motorist are encouraged to use the public municipal parking lots off of Main Street while visiting downtown Bloomsburg. 

For questions contact the Bloomsburg Parking Enforcement Office or the Bloomsburg Police Department.