Annual Award Winners Announced at Chamber’s Annual Meeting

Member businesses and individuals of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce were recognized during the organization’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, at Rolling Pines Golf Course & Banquet Facility in Berwick, and sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities.

More than 200 people attended the dinner meeting, which celebrated outstanding member achievements, elected members to the Board of Directors, highlighted Chamber activities of the past year, and previewed the year ahead.

The Chamber’s four annual awards were presented businesses and individuals for their significant contributions to the community. The following awards were presented to the following recipients:

Small Business of the Year
(Sponsored by First Columbia Bank & Trust)
Steph’s Subs

Large Business of the Year
(Sponsored by The Columbia Alliance of Economic Growth)
SEKISUI SPI

Community Progress Award
(Sponsored by Commonwealth Health-Berwick Hospital Center)
LCBC Church Columbia-Montour

Outstanding Citizen
(Sponsored by Berwick Industrial Development Association)
Denise Stone, Geisinger

The Small Business of the Year award goes to a member business of 30 employees or fewer than has done one or more of the following: demonstrated business leadership evidenced by diversification and creativity in the development of new products, services and/or markets; demonstrated staying power and positive response to adversity; or demonstrated community involvement.

In an area full of giving people and businesses that support their community, Steph’s Subs sets the example. There aren’t many positive community causes, especially those in Bloomsburg, that owner Steph Severn doesn’t support, and her personality matches her generosity, as she is one of the most genuine people one will ever meet.

The list of ways that Steph and her business support the community is very lengthy. For instance, each fall Friday for the last several years, before every Bloomsburg High School football game, she has invited the team to her restaurant for a free meal. There probably isn’t a nonprofit in the area that she has not donated to in some way, and she also generously gives her time through service on a number of boards and advisory committees throughout her career, including the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc., and Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital’s patient-family advisory boards.

In terms of staying power, Steph’s product is an area mainstay. Whether one bit into a sub that she made in 1978, or 2005 after she decided to open her own business, or yesterday, the taste is the same. Steady and constant quality is a hallmark of a good business, and Steph and her business certainly have those attributes.

Another part of being a community-minded business is encouraging the next generation. Many a Bloomsburg University or high school student have worked at Steph’s Subs over the years, but these many students have received far more than just a paycheck. Steph personally takes these students under her wing and serves as a mentor to them, imploring them to continue their education, but also do volunteer work and be active, positive citizens in their community, whether that’s here or elsewhere. When we consider the challenges of workforce, this may be the most important thing of the many that Steph and her business contribute.

The Large Business of the Year Award, goes to a business with 31 or more employees, and the criteria is the same as for the Small Business of the Year honor.

Many in the local business community as well as others that work with SEKISUI SPI or its employees have heard great things about its culture and purpose. SEKISUI’s culture includes ensuring total customer satisfaction, providing superior value, caring for the environment, promoting a team spirit among all personnel, and recognizing and rewarding excellence of individuals. Its purpose comes from making positive contributions to society, such as through research and development, being environmentally conscious and committing to zero-landfill, as well as empowering its employees.

Over the last several years, SEKISUI has greatly invested in its culture and its people, as well as its facilities in Columbia County. In 2016, it opened its second manufacturing plant here, its “South campus,” which was part of a $15 million investment in the area. Any business that makes such a significant investment in a region usually only does so if it knows it has an adequate workforce. SEKISUI president and COO Ronn Cort, who has worked around the world and in areas with far larger populations than Columbia County during his career, noted that the workforce in this area is the best he has ever worked with. He serves as an Ambassador for our area in spreading that message.

The people that make up that workforce have been empowered to make a difference in their community, and one conduit of doing so has been the United Way of Columbia & Montour County. Over the last five years, SEKISUI’s employee campaign has grown by 79%, and when combined with the corporate matching and additional donations, SEKISUI’s contributions over the last five years to the United Way have grown by over 250%. SEKISUI also sponsors programs such as Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s Theatre in the Classroom, the Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Central Penn, scholarships at both Bloomsburg University and Penn College, and through its “Noble Acts” program, has also given corporate and employee donations to organizations such as Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, AGAPE, Bloomsburg University’s STEM Magnet Program, the Columbia County Traveling Library, Central Columbia School District and many more.

The Community Progress Award goes to a member business or organization that showed improvement in the internal or external appearance of a commercial property through either new construction, renovation, restoration or remodeling, and completed that construction within the last three calendar years or by December 2017.

Founded in 1986 in the Lancaster area, LCBC Church has grown to 11 campuses in Pennsylvania and is now one of the largest and fastest growing churches not only here but in the country. The Columbia-Montour campus was launched in 2015 in Berwick, and in 2016, plans were made to move to have it more centrally located in the area and have a building that would be able accommodate continued growth.

LCBC Church chose the former Giant Food Stores building on Rt. 11 and Central Road that had sat vacant for well over a decade. It invested $4.2 million to transform this building from an eyesore, to a vibrant, uplifting and inspirational location for its hundreds of weekly churchgoers. Since opening the new church in July of last year, LCBC’s high-energy worship services have attracted thousands. The church here averages about 1,000 in attendance per week, and all LCBC campuses average just over 17,000.

With this investment also comes a commitment, as LCBC Church has a 15-year lease on this property, with options to extend it to nearly 30 years if they choose. Occupancy rates for both homes and commercial buildings are one indicator of a community’s overall health, and how much progress they can truly make. Thanks to LCBC Church, our community has progressed and gotten that much healthier.

The Outstanding Citizen Award is presented to an individual that is an employee or volunteer of a member organization who is involved in civic activities beneficial to the Columbia Montour region and who projects a positive community image.

Now in her second stint at Geisinger, where she currently is a director of service line development with the Geisinger Foundation, Denise Stone has lent her expertise to several community organizations throughout her career, all of which have helped make our community and these respective organizations better.

She currently serves on the Columbia Montour Chamber and Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. boards, the Chamber’s membership committee, and is a member of the Bloomsburg Rotary Club, Bloomsburg American Legion and Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital Auxiliary. For just short of a decade, while her sons where in school, she also served as the president of the Bloomsburg High School football boosters.

One of her most notable contributions to our community was as part of her recently concluded service on the board of the Columbia County Traveling Library, which last year purchased a new bookmobile for the first time in over 20 years, with a price tag of $280,000. Additionally, the Traveling Library needs to raise about $40,000 each year to deliver the service the community expects, so it had some pretty significant work to do.

She was instrumental in helping the Traveling Library develop its fundraising capacity, and she immediately lent her expertise and took over as chair of the bookmobile campaign. The Traveling Library board did not have her level of fundraising experience or network, so Denise helped them develop those relationships and expand their network. Her depth of knowledge, personable nature, and determined approach served the Traveling Library extremely well, just as these same attributes have served every organization that Denise has been associated with. When it came time for her service to the board to end a few months ago, the Traveling Library had already raised $200,000 of the $280,000 that it needs to finance the bookmobile.

Denise resides in Bloomsburg with her husband, Matt, and two college-aged sons.

Chamber Announces 2018-19 Board of Directors

The 2018 – 2019 Board of Directors of The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce was announced at the organization’s Annual Meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 8, at Rolling Pines Golf Course & Banquet Facility in Berwick, and sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities

The following individuals were elected to the Board of Directors:
 

Nominated to serve a 3-year term on the Chamber Board:
Dan Knorr, II, Bloomsburg University
Mary Radle, Key Partners Realty
Denise Stone, Geisinger
Jeff Whitenight, First Columbia Bank & Trust


Nominated to serve a 1-year term on the Chamber Board:
Donna Coombs, GordnerCoombs Insurance
Sam Haulman, Service Electric
Chris Stamatedes, PPL Electric Utilities


Nominated to serve as Chamber Officers
Chair (2-year term)     Karen Wood, Service 1st Federal Credit Union
Vice Chair                      Dan Knorr, II, Bloomsburg University
Treasurer                       Denise Stone, Geisinger
Immediate Past Chair Mark Gardner, M&T Bank
President                        Fred Gaffney


Appointed by Board Chair for 1-year appointments
Jim Micklow, Press Enterprise
Holly Morrison, Central Susquehanna Community Foundation
Tom Neal, Commonwealth Health-Berwick Hospital Center

Columbia Alliance For Economic Growth Presents Board Candidates & By-Law Changes

The Columbia Alliance for Economic Growth is scheduled to hold its annual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at The Inn at Turkey Hill. In addition to electing members to the Board of Directors, several changes to the by-laws have been proposed. Members of the Chamber are automatically members of the Alliance and invited to participate in the meeting.

Nominated to serve three-year terms on the Board are:

Tim Karr, Villager Realty
Vic Klein
Harry Mathias, Central Columbia School District

A listing of the Alliance’s current Board of Directors is available online.

Prior to voting on Directors, several changes to the organization’s by-laws are being proposed as follows. Deletions are noted as strikethroughs, additions as underlines:

ARTICLE I, Section 2 – The mailing address of this organization for legal notices shall be the office of the organization’s solicitor 17 Woodbine Lane, Suite 103, Danville, PA 17821.

ARTICLE V, Section 1 – Control and management of this organization shall be vested in the Board of Directors consisting of not less than fifteen (15) nine (9) nor more than thirty (30).  Funds of the organization shall be withdrawn from the depository bank by check upon the signature of the President, Treasurer, or other persons designated by action of the Board.  The depository bank of the organization for ensuing year shall be chosen by the Board of Directors at the annual board reorganization meeting.

ARTICLE VI, Section 3 – Election of members to the Board of Directors shall be held at the Annual Meeting.  At each election, not less than five (5) three (3) nor more than ten (10) Directors shall be elected for terms of three (3) years each or until succeeded, to replace or renew the Directorships whose terms expire.

If you are interested in attending the meeting, contact Jennifer Wakeman at the DRIVE office at 570-284-4296 or by email

Planning for Spring Festivals Underway

Coordination of the spring festivals that bring people into our communities is well underway. Following Renaissance Jamboree in Bloomsburg on April 28 and Spring Fling in Danville on May 5, Celebrate Berwick will be returning to Market Street in the Borough. A planning meeting for Celebrate Berwick is scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at Berwick Brewing Company. Anyone interested in helping with the event is welcome to attend.

Leadership Central Penn Goes Nuclear

When one thinks about nuclear power it doesn’t usually conjure the most positive images. Whether those images are from movies like Godzilla, or stark reality, like Three Mile Island, Fukishima and Chernobyl, it just never seems to go well.  Leadership Central Penn was lucky enough to be hosted by Talen Energy at the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant, to learn the reality of this awesome power.  The facts were shared with the group by Todd Martin, corporate communications manager, and Alise Seibert, nuclear training supervisor.

The facts are that nuclear power in the 21st century is safe, as with all things, there are risks, but with Talen’s safety first approach, and the oversight of the National Regulator Commission, nuclear power in our community and the United States is not a public risk, but a benefit. The facility is secure and meets the highest standards with rigorous training metrics. As they generate power for the grid, it is sold, as they are not a public utility.  This competitive market has caused some touch choices to be made by the organization.

One effort to maintain flexibility in a market that has spiking load requirements, especially in winter cold snaps, is their ability to bring the Montour Coal Power Plant on line.  This plant is maintained locally at all times, and used when the grid has a demand for more competitively priced energy. The class asked what the lowest cost fuel is for generation. However that is like asking which taste better, an apple or a watermelon?  There are too many factors that influence that answer. Some include demand, pricing of raw materials, subsidies of generation fuel, etc. 

The program from Talen concluded with a tour of the simulator for nuclear training. The class was walked though a program of very excited engineers that liked to challenge themselves with scenarios. They want to simulated load needs, melt down preventions, system failures, and more to ensure safety of the plant, employees and community. Their philosophy is simple – if one safety step is good, two is better, and three is necessary. 

After a wonderful lunch from Lucy’s Kitchen & Catering, the class focused on economic development in this region. This discussion and presentation was led by Fred Gaffney, president of the Columbia Montour Chamber. The group learned about the successes and challenges of economic development efforts in the area related to government support, workforce development, and impact on public works. One example that was shared is the ongoing Columbia County Business Park. The class was very engaged in the discussion about the creation and ultimate goals that lead to the development of this industrial/commercial park. The future success of this project is growing with one site currently developed and occupied by the Fairfield Inn & Suites, and two additional sites currently being developed.

Everyone also learned more about the role of The Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce in the economic development of our counties.  These efforts are focused on workforce development and partnership between industry and school districts. Additionally, programming like LCP allows for lifelong learning and community impact programming for professionals. 

The final presenter of the day was David “Otto” Kurechian, executive director of the Columbia-Montour Visitor’s Bureau.  First, Otto allowed the group to follow-up on the Visitor’s Bureau’s role in economic development and success of the Fairfield Inn at the business park. Everyone is aware that tourism is a large business for our area, especially during the spring, summer and fall season with fairs, wine and craft beer trails, outdoor activities and more. However, the class learned about the impact of certain economic development projects like the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. This project has brought many workers to the areas that are staying in local rentals and hotels, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local businesses. 

After economic development wrapped up, Otto discussed boardmanship, what it means to serve on a local Board of Directors or Board of Trustees.  The presentation focused on how to decide if when and how to serve on these boards.  First, he said one should never, ever say yes when initially asked to join a board. Even if it is by one’s employer, and strongly encouraged, or a best friend, neighbor, etc. There are questions people should ask themselves and the organization. The first thing is why do you want to join this organization in this capacity and what you offer them with your skills and interest? You’ll be asked to express these very things when you formally apply to join and are being vetted.  You also need to ask to see the organization’s by-laws, financials, and strategic plan. What is your expected time commitment, how long are you expected to serve, what is the financial situation of the organization, and where are they headed? If you can’t be at the first Tuesday of each month meeting, then don’t join. If you don’t agree with the strategic plan, or finances worry you from the organization, don’t join. This is much like looking for a job, and should be scrutinized as such.

When you find the right fit, you will get extreme amounts of personal satisfaction from your service. The organization will benefit from your skills and passion. The community will be impacted positively. This is the goal of boardsmanship, and the LCP class in general. 

Leadership Central Penn is sponsored by Bloomsburg UniversityKawneerSEKISUI SPI and USG.