Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW) Hosts 10 Students from Columbia and Montour Counties

Lillian Aronson (2nd row, far right) and Allison Diehl (3rd row, 2nd from the left) were elected CEOs of their student companies during PFEW, Week 4 at Lycoming College. 

The Columbia Montour Chamber and the Chamber Foundation support not only local business, but also educating our youth about business and future employment opportunities right here in Columbia and Montour counties. That’s why for years, both organizations have supported Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW). This award-winning program teaches students to understand and celebrate the American private enterprise system and provides a unique, hands-on learning experience that helps students develop the vital skills businesses need to succeed. This summer, 10 students from Bloomsburg, Central Columbia, and Millville School Districts, as well as Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School, joined over 2,000 students from across the state to participate in the 40th annual PFEW summer program recently concluded in Williamsport.

At PFEW, students form management teams of approximately eighteen students and run their own manufacturing company, competing against other student companies. Throughout the week, world class speakers address the students on a wide variety of topics germane to the business world and their personal and professional development. It is not only a powerful educational experience, it can be positively life-changing. Here are a few quotes from local students who attended this year’s program:

“Even though I am not currently looking into a career in business, the information that I learned here will help me to have success in whatever my future holds… The changes and experiences I have gone through this week will stay with me forever and mold who I am in the future” Owen Flaugh, Central Columbia High School

“I’ve had amazing opportunities to participate in programs that allowed me to travel the world and make a difference. I didn’t think PFEW could beat that, yet it did.” Lillian Aronson, Millville Area JSHS

The program is taught entirely by volunteer practitioners from the PA business community, and each year, over 200 volunteers are needed to put on this world-class program. Students attend via a $625 scholarship donated by a local business, foundation, civic organization or individual. This year, the Chamber Foundation provided scholarships through a donation from First Keystone Community Bank, which was one of six organizations from Columbia and Montour Counties that provided scholarship support. The Foundation will also be able to fund scholarship next year through grants from First Keystone. To get involved as a donor or volunteer, or to discover more about PFEW or learn more about how to apply to participate in this program, visit PFEW’s website, or call Scott Lee at 814-833-9576.

Central Susquehanna Community Foundation Offering Grants For Flooding Relief

The Central Susquehanna Community Foundation is offering a round of grants to support nonprofit 501(c)3 and government organizations that are providing disaster relief from the recent flooding within the Foundation’s service area, which encompasses Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Union, Snyder and lower Luzerne counties. The maximum grant available is $5,000, and a total of approximately $40,000 is available through the CSCF Disaster Relief Fund and the Berwick Health & Wellness Fund. 

The deadline to submit a grant application is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. Grant decisions will be announced in Oct. 2018. Only 501(c)3 nonprofit and government organizations are eligible and 100% of the requested funding must be invested within the CSCF service area. Individuals are not eligible to apply.

For more information, read the press release, and for additional questions, contact Christine Pangelinan at 570-752-3930 ext. 2 or by email

Businesses Discuss Workforce Challenges and Opportunities

Area employers continue to discuss the challenges of finding quality employees. Low unemployment rates have led to higher base wages, training and advancement opportunities, and other incentives for employees. Businesses in the Berwick area recently shared ideas during a business roundtable meeting held at the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation.

Common themes across the area include the need to strengthen basic employability skills, and difficulty in recruiting employees to a rural area. Recognizing that retaining young people is a key component of a strong workforce, the Chamber’s Foundation coordinates or supports several programs in area schools to help build skills in children. A website is being launched this fall in coordination with the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation to increase the awareness among students and their parents of the quality opportunities and employers that exist in our area, and to facilitate connections with these local employers. Understanding the culture of younger generations is also important in attracting new talent and was the subject of a recent seminar offered by the Chamber and PA CareerLink Columbia/Montour Counties.

To meet workforce demands today, employers are increasing base wages and adjusting work schedules to provide longer weekends and greater flexibility for employees to spend with families and attend to personal matters. Members are using the Chamber’s online jobs page and conference for employee recruiting.  As management positions are increasing being filled by existing employees, Leadership Central Penn provides programming to strengthen leadership skills, and the Chamber and its Foundation are working on another program to offer leadership and management training.

Workforce development is multi-faceted. Having an area that is an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family is critical. Individuals need to understand the expectations of the workplace and have basic skills while employers need to be sensitive to the needs of their employees. Access to training and professional development opportunities are important to allowing committed employees to evolve with their organizations. With so many area employers ready and willing to grow, the Chamber and its Foundation are involved in all of these areas so that these organizations are able to grow.

Flood Recovery Information

Updated 10:00 a.m. 8/17/18

As flood waters are receding and cleanup and repair efforts are underway across the area, local officials are assessing the scope of damage in applying for federal disaster declarations. With such a declaration, federal assistance programs would become available for businesses and homeowners. Columbia County officials anticipate that the scope of damage to local infrastructure will be sufficient to receive disaster declarations. Therefore, it is not critical that businesses there report damage at this time. Montour County is urging all businesses and residents to document damage and report the information to their local municipality.

Impacted businesses are advised to keep track of time and resources being used for recovery. A Disaster Survey Sheet from the U.S. Small Business Administration is attached to help document appropriate information. Details on assistance programs will be provided as they become available.

In the mean time, members are encouraged to contact the Chamber with any recovery related needs at 570-784-2522 or [email protected].

The Columbia County Emergency Management Agency will be opening a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) for any individual/family or business affected by the recent flooding event. The location will be the Benton High School in Benton Borough on Friday, August 17th and Saturday, August 18th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Columbia County EMA has confirmed that Rt. 487 between Bloomsburg and Benton is open. The following agencies will have a representative present for questions, concerns, and to provide information:
     The American Red Cross
     CMSU
     Columbia County Agriculture Department
     Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
     Columbia County Emergency Management Agency
     Tri County COG Inspection Services
     Other State Agencies

Residents are encouraged to attend and bring their completed Damage Assessment Forms with them.

Update as of Aug. 20 – If you weren’t able to attend the MARC last weekend, please contact your local municipality for more information.

PPL Foundation Grant Applications Now Available

PPL Electric Utilities offers major grants once a year to nonprofit organizations through its charitable Foundation and is now accepting applications for major grants. The grant application period opened on Aug. 1 and will close Sept. 15.

The PPL Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to partnering with community organizations to improve the lives of people in the communities in the 29 counties the PPL serves in North and Central Pennsylvania. The PPL Foundation supports a variety of nonprofit organizations with a special focus on those that support education and sustainable communities.

Grant applications are reviewed by regional review committees made up of PPL employees that live and work in the communities PPL serves. Recommendations are made to the PPL Foundation board, which makes the final decision. Major grants range between $25,000 and $100,000, and the application process is competitive. 

Interested organizations can learn more and apply at pplcares.com.