Healthy PA to Save Taxpayers $4 Billion

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Pennsylvania taxpayers are projected to see more than $4 billion in savings over the next eight years thanks to the federal government’s recent approval of the Corbett Administration’s new Healthy PA initiative. By reforming the state’s Medicaid program and brining it more closely in line with plans in the private sector, Healthy PA meets the goals of providing uninsured residents with access to affordable care while gaining better controls on one of the state’s largest cost-drivers.

The new healthcare program will provide 600,000 Pennsylvanians with access to affordable healthcare coverage – a laudable goal given that is will be accomplished without expanding Medicaid under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The PA Chamber has been a major proponent of the governor’s Healthy PA program since he first introduced the plan last fall. Given the rising costs of Medicaid over the last decade – a program that now accounts for nearly 30 percent of the state budget – the reform components of the plan are vital in controlling state spending and fighting new taxes on employers.

In a press release issued following the announcement of the program’s approval, PA Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Sam Denisco said, “The approval of Healthy PA represents a significant step toward controlling the rising costs of Medicaid and providing working families with new and affordable healthcare options. Reforming Medicaid responsibly, while also increasing access to private insurance coverage, is a win-win for everyone.”

2014-15 Directory Increases Member Exposure

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One of the ways members receive increased exposure through membership is the printed Membership Directory. The Chamber’s 2014-15 Directory has arrived from the printer and is being distributed to dozens of high-traffic locations throughout Columbia and Montour counties. The full-color publication was produced again this year by member Victor Koons Graphic Design.

With the help of volunteer Ambassadors, four-thousand copies of the Directory are distributed to real estate agencies to give to people moving to the area, mailed to people requesting relocation packets, and distributed at prime locations throughout the area such as hotels, professional offices, Bloomsburg University and the Visitors Bureau.

A copy of the 2014-15 Directory is being mailed to each member this week. If you would like additional copies for your place of business, or would like to become a distribution location, please contact the office at 570-784-2522.

Chamber Accepted Ice Bucket Challenge

Fred Gaffney, Chamber President, accepted ISS Solutions’ Ice Bucket Challenge. Adrienne Mael, Downtown Bloomsburg Inc.’s Manager, and Becc Ostron, Manager of Fog & Flame, also participated and passed the challenge on to InnoTek Computer Consultants, Steph’s Subs and the rest of the Fog & Flame staff. To date, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $94.3 million towards fighting ALS. Click here to view the video.

Members Approve Partnership with Visitors Bureau

Following overwhelmingly positive response from the memberships from both organizations, the Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau will be consolidating operations in order to increase the value of membership and improve service to the communities in the two counties. Scheduled to take effect October 1, the two organizations will operate under the umbrella of a new non-profit organization, called the Columbia-Montour Partnership for Community Development.

The new structure is not a merger of the two organizations. The Chamber and Visitors Bureau will continue to exist, with separate boards to maintain focus on strategic priorities. While the Visitors Bureau’s focus will remain on promoting the two county region and tourism-related economic development, the Chamber will continue to serve as an advocate for all employers and provide programs and services to encourage job growth. Members of either organization will automatically become members of both with access to all benefits. Combined, the Chamber and Visitors Bureau represent almost 600 area employers.

Staffs and operational resources will be combined under the Partnership to eliminate duplication of effort and improve efficiency in delivering programs and services. Office locations will remain in Berwick, Bloomsburg and Danville, though the main offices of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau will be consolidated. No defined timeline has been established, as possible facilities are currently being evaluated.

The boards of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau will provide strategic input to the Board of the Partnership. The chief paid executives of the two organizations will serve in parallel roles within the Partnership. Chamber President Fred Gaffney will serve as Chief Executive Officer, overseeing Chamber initiatives and representing the Partnership in regional initiatives. David “Otto” Kurecian, Executive Director of the Visitors Bureau, will serve as Chief Operating Officer, responsible for day to day operations as well as management of tourism enhancement efforts.

With the same general goal of strengthening the regional economy, the Chamber and Visitors Bureau hope the Partnership will be attractive to other organizations with similar goals. The Partnership is offering operational support, including office space, to other non-profit groups. The Chamber’s subsidiaries, Downtown Bloomsburg Inc., and the Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber, also become part of the Partnership structure upon its creation.

“The Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1941 when smart businesspeople realized that they could be more effective at strengthening the community if they worked together,” according to Richard Kwei, Chamber Board Chair. “This partnership is a continuation of that realization and we hope that we can be even more effective in strengthening Columbia and Montour counties by working with other groups.”

A task force has been working with staff and sub-committees since January to formalize the operational details of the Partnership. Final ballots were sent to all members in late July with a deadline of August 11th. Members of the Chamber were also invited to vote in person at a special meeting held yesterday morning. The results of both votes were overwhelmingly in support of the partnership.

The process was facilitated by Heather Feldhaus, Ph.D., with Bloomsburg University’s Center for Community Research and Consulting, and Chuck Laudermilch, a retired Bloomsburg University professor. “The CMVB Board of Directors is grateful to the staff of both the CMVB and the Chamber for their diligence and focus on the needs of our members as both organizations strive to deliver the best possible services to Montour and Columbia Counties,” said Bob Stoudt, Visitors Bureau Board President. “I am very optimistic that the Partnership will be a great asset for our community.”

Study Ranks PA School Systems Among Best in Nation

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

On Monday, August 4, a national study by WalletHub ranked Pennsylvania’s public education system as the 10th best in the nation, thanks largely to the total amount of education spending per student.

The ranking was established after analyzing 12 metrics that included student/teacher ratios, test scores, drop-out rates, and the percentage of the population with at least a Bachelor’s Degree. The study was conducted to show the correlation between education quality, income potential and the impact of both on the state’s economy. While the author of the report told Capitolwire that education funding itself is not a sole determinant of quality, the Economic Policy Institute connects higher income to well-educated workforces.

Pennsylvania is spending more money on education today than at any other time in state history, with this year’s budget reflecting a $10.6 billion allocation to the Department of Education – a 3.1 percent boost over last year’s budget. There has also been an infusion of $100 million into a “Ready to Learn” block grant program; along with increases in special education, Pre-K Counts and community colleges. In all, Pennsylvania’s public education funding accounts for about one third of the $29.1 billion spending plan.