Workforce Needs the Leading Issue for Members

From main street retail shops to non-profit organizations to the area’s largest manufacturers, finding skilled employees is a common need among employers. Within the last two weeks, the Chamber had meetings with a group of downtown Berwick businesses as well as one of the area’s largest manufacturing facilities, who all shared this issue. The Chamber and its Foundation are spending more resources than ever helping to build the workforce for the future while meeting the current needs of members so they can be successful and grow.

The Chamber Foundation has traditionally focused the majority of its attention supporting programs which develop good work ethics in K-12 youth. Ongoing programs include The Leader in Me, School Counts, and Student in the Work. For more information about these programs, visit the Foundation website.

The Foundation is also working with regional partners to help young people, and their parents, understand career opportunities that exist in our area. Thanks to support from the Arconic Foundation (Kawneer) and Williams, a website is being developed that will provide information about local career options in a wide variety of fields, to include education requirements and wage levels. Members will be able to post opportunities for job shadowing, facility tours, internships, career day speakers, etc. This website is being developed now to be ready for the start of the 2018-19 school year.

To assist members with their current workforce needs, the Chamber is working to leverage the substantial network of education providers in the region to provide employee testing and training in filling skills gaps, and within the next few weeks, we hope to be able to make an official announcement about a big new member benefit in this area that we’ve been working on for the last several months.

Additionally, a meeting with local employers and education providers is being organized to identify specific educational needs and opportunities. If you are interested in being a part of this conversation, or in learning more, please contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber at 570-784-2522 or email.

Mini Casino Survey Results

Last month, we asked our members to respond to a brief, three-question survey regarding a possible casino in our area, which followed the Bloomsburg Town Council passing a resolution that would allow a “mini casino” to locate within the town. Several other municipalities in Columbia and Montour counties have also indicated they are open to consideration. 

As a part of the 2017-18 state budget law that was signed last fall, Pennsylvania made 10 Category 4 casino licenses available through an auction process, which is currently underway. Under the legislation, local municipalities have the option as to whether or not they would allow such establishments.

Here are the results of the survey:

1. Do you think a mini casino located in our area would benefit your business?
Yes          29      40%
No           32      44%
Unsure   11       15%

2. Would you be in favor of a mini casino locating in our area?
Yes          35       49%
No           23       32%
Unsure   14       19%

3. What type of organization do you represent?
Retail                               8       11%
Restaurant/Food          11       15%
Entertainment/Arts     3        4%
Service                            25      35%
Manufacturing              7        10%
Non-profit                      18      25%

Thanks to all that took the time to respond, and congratulations to the winner of the free month of ads in E-Biz, JDog Junk Removal & Hauling.

Penn College and Focus Central Pennsylvania Representatives to Tout Region For Investment at International Plastics Showcase

From Focus Central Pennsylvania

Focus Central Pennsylvania will be joining several partners, including Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Plastics Innovation & Resource Center, in the Pennsylvania booth to promote the region for capital investment and company location expansion projects at the NPE Plastics Show, May 7-11. Focus Central PA is excited to be joined by the PIRC at Penn College because it is a powerful, value-add differentiator for making Central Pennsylvania a smart place for a company investment. The Pennsylvania booth will be located in the South Hall Level 1 – Expo Hall – S12037. The NPE Plastics Show brings together more than 65,000 business professionals from more than 20,000 companies in the plastics industry from across the world.

“The NPE show is a significant opportunity to put the Central Pennsylvania region on the radar of companies from across the world that are expanding and searching for locations for their investment and career generating projects” said Lauren Bryson, executive director of Focus Central Pennsylvania “We want quality companies that are expanding to consider this part of Pennsylvania for their investment project and we are looking forward to communicating the benefits our region has to offer those companies, like the PIRC.”

Why invest in attracting plastics companies and manufacturers to the Central Pennsylvania region? Focus Central PA has strategically chosen to target companies expanding in the plastics industry because it is an industry predicted to have strong, sustainable growth and provides high paying career opportunities. Central Pennsylvania is home to several successful, growing plastics companies that have the advantage of being located within 60% of US and Canada’s population and major US markets; extensive network of trade schools, technical colleges and universities; quality workforce; research and development resources; available industrial buildings and sites; world class rail infrastructure and service; low cost of living; high quality of life and much more. Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources are creating opportunities for growth in the plastics industry as well. Ethane and propane, two important feedstocks for plastics processing, are forecasted to grow in production in Pennsylvania. The abundance of natural gas resources in the region, in combination with specialized workforce training and plastics engineering programs, and proximity to key U.S. consumer markets can translate into significant competitive advantages for plastics companies located in Pennsylvania. In short, Central Pennsylvania has what it takes to make and move product and is a smart investment for quality companies looking to grow.

Focus Central Pennsylvania is a non-profit dedicating 100% of its time and resources to attracting corporate investment to the region to create jobs and is supported by partners in seven contiguous counties in the central part of Pennsylvania, USA including Columbia (Bloomsburg, Berwick); Montour (Danville); Union (Lewisburg, Mifflinburg); Snyder (Selinsgrove); Northumberland (Sunbury, Milton); Mifflin (Lewistown); and Centre (State College).

Calling All Skilled Trade Students: Apply Now For a Scholarship Toward a Rewarding Career

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Starting this week, individuals with a goal of pursuing a career in the skilled trades can apply online for the 2018 Work Ethic Scholarship that will help to make this goal a reality. In 2017, through donations from Pennsylvania’s business community, the PA Chamber Educational Foundation and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, $135,000 in scholarship dollars was provided to 47 deserving students across Pennsylvania. Some of those students were highlighted in the fall 2017 edition of Catalystthe PA Chamber’s quarterly magazine, and were also spotlighted on the PA Chamber’s new workforce-focused website.

Given the success of last year’s program and with a goal to expand the program’s reach, the PA Chamber is working to educate students, their families, educators and businesses throughout Pennsylvania about various good-paying skilled trade jobs that are waiting to be filled and the requirements necessary to enter into those occupations. We’re also telling business leaders that by contributing toward the scholarship, they aren’t just helping advance the lives of people in their communities – they’re helping to build tomorrow’s skilled workforce, which will better position Pennsylvania for a vibrant economic future.

Students with an interest in learning more about the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, applying for the scholarship and signing Mike Rowe’s famed S.W.E.A.T. Pledge (essentially, a promise that they will exhibit a hard work ethic if chosen for a scholarship) can visit the website, profoundlydisconnected.com

This scholarship program, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and the PA Chamber’s workforce-focused website all have the same goals as the Columbia Montour Chamber with regards to workforce development, which is educating young people about the various types of good-paying jobs available in our area in skilled trades, in which there is a shortage of qualified people, not just in our area but statewide and nationally. Later this year, the Chamber, in conjunction with several other partner organizations, will be launching a similar website as the PA Chamber’s workforce development website, but with a more local focus. 

Governor Announces Initiative to Expand Broadband Access

On Monday, March 19, Governor Tom Wolf announced a new initiative aimed at expanding broadband access to businesses and households in Pennsylvania through the creation of a new office dedicated to ensuring every Pennsylvanian has access to high-speed internet. The announcement also included the introduction of the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program, which offers incentives to private providers willing to invest in underserved and unserved areas throughout Pennsylvania.

To spearhead the initiative the governor has created the Pennsylvania Office of Broadband Initiatives which will be responsible for developing and executing a statewide strategy to expand access to every Pennsylvanian by the end of 2022. To lead this initiative the governor appointed Mark Smith as the Executive Director of Broadband Initiatives. Smith, a former Bradford County Commissioner, has been with the Wolf Administration since 2015 serving as a Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Government Affairs and Outreach.

Currently, over 800,000 Pennsylvanians still lack access to robust, reliable, High-Speed Internet. Over 520,000 of residents without access reside in rural areas and over 250,000 reside in urban areas. 

Additionally, the governor announced the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program. Through this program, the Wolf Administration is offering up to $35 million in financial incentives to private providers bidding on service areas within Pennsylvania in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) upcoming Connect America Fund Phase II (CAFII) Auction. The FCC CAF Phase II Auction is making nearly $2 billion available nationwide to providers willing to expand broadband access in unserved areas.

The program is available to all service providers interested in the CAFII Auction. Guidelines will be released March 22, with April 2 being the first day to file Preliminary Expressions of Interest. Any provider who wishes to participate will be subject to state guidelines and requirements that will ensure that service is delivered by June 30, 2022 and broadband speeds meet or exceed 100 Mbps, while encouraging the delivery of gigabit service.

The above noted $35 million of incentive funding is being provided through PennDOT to fulfill its strategic goal of building network along roadways, right of ways, and intersections and furthering connections between all its facilities. As the needs and demands of vehicle technology increase, including autonomous vehicles, so will the demands on the state to support digital transportation needs. PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards spoke about this future planning at the Cabinet in Your Community meeting held March 12 at Bloomsburg University. Broadband buildout benefits for PennDOT include better communications for public safety devices, the ability to provide high speed access and communication between PennDOT and emergency management partners, the ability to connect key traffic signals to PennDOT’s traffic management centers, and the success of deployment of automated vehicles.

The Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program is the first, but not the only effort the Office of Broadband Initiatives will undertake to expand broadband access. The new office is also developing a longer-term approach to deliver service to those areas not included in the FCC CAFII auction. This endeavor will require further assistance from the private sector, FCC or other federal agencies, and the state legislature. The Chamber has joined with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in calling for greater flexibility in the use of federal funds to expand broadband infrastructure.