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.

Don’t Reduce Employee Hours Unnecessarily

The Affordable Care Act will likely continue to be a source of confusion and frustration for employers and individuals throughout implementation. While the employer penalties for the “pay or play” rules have been delayed until January 2015, many employers have already begun adjusting employee hours for the coming year to avoid the mandate. Make sure your business would fall within the large employer threshold before unnecessarily adjusting hours and impacting your employees.

The provision that employers must provide minimum levels of coverage to employees or pay a penalty only applies to those with 50 or more full-time equivalents. Employers that fall below the threshold are not required to provide health insurance. All employers are required to inform employees about the Health Insurance Marketplaces starting this fall.

The employee size calculator and other information and resources related to the Affordable Care Act are available on the Chamber’s website. Members with questions about Marketplaces or providing benefits to members can contact ChamberChoice at 1-800-377-3539.