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.

The Advantages of Taking Work Breaks to Boost Productivity

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

Many of us spend our work time sitting at a desk, staring at the computer screen, straining our eyes and wondering why we have a nagging ache in our neck and shoulders.

“We are all guilty of not taking enough breaks at work — or any at all,” says Doug Fleisner, sales executive at JRG Advisors. “A workday without breaks drains our mental capacity and lowers productivity; while taking breaks throughout the day is extremely beneficial, both physically and mentally.”

Smart Business spoke with Fleisner about the benefits of stepping away from your office or workstation to take a breather and recharge.

What impact can short breaks have on employees?

  • It promotes creativity and passion. Even if you do not think of yourself as the meditating type, studies have proven that breaks during which meditation and mindfulness are applied lead to a boost in creativity, both in and out of the office. Mindfulness and meditation also increases your compassion and reduces your stress level, which could play a major factor in getting through your work day without flying off the handle at a co-worker, depending on your office environment.
  • It re-focuses your attention and concentration. Did you know that the average attention span for adults ranges from 15 to 40 minutes? Everything that you do throughout the course of a day subtracts from your cognitive resources, which can leave you feeling like you are running on empty at times. Your attention span and concentration need to be rebooted at several points throughout a day. Simply stepping away from your desk to take a walk can actually help the brain regroup, get back on track and focus better.
  • It trims the waistline. Who isn’t looking to trim a few inches from their waistline, right? Turns out a fancy gym membership isn’t the only solution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting up and moving around for five minutes every hour, which can lower your body mass index and help your waistline, too. Although it’s not rigorous exercise, getting up to stretch and get a glass of water for a few minutes is body movement and every little bit helps.
  • It improves brain function with lunch. Remember mom preaching that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? A midday meal is equally as important. While taking time out for lunch increases productivity, it is important to remember to choose foods that don’t make you feel tired and sluggish. Recommended foods include fish, vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts and even dark chocolate.
  • It protects against job-related accidents. Exhaustion and fatigue are the two main causes of on-the-job accidents. Keeping yourself mentally refreshed and alert with regular breaks can help prevent clouded judgement and keep on-the-job accidents to a minimum.
  • It promotes healthy and happy eyes. Constantly staring at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time can lead to a condition called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain. Taking your eyes away from your computer screen, phone or tablet every two hours for 15 minutes, and looking into the distance for 20 seconds will help keep your eyes, head, neck and shoulders feeling great.

What else should employees expect from taking regular breaks?

It keeps your stress at a minimum. Overloading your brain with continuous thoughts and concerns is not healthy. According to the American Psychological Association, taking time to step away, recharge and relax has a major impact on lowering stress and preventing work burnout.

Developing a ‘break routine’ will force you to stick to a schedule and improve your work effectiveness and productivity. Our thought process isn’t built to be continuous; it needs a breather as much as the rest of our body.

Area Businesses Invited to Participate in Video Project Highlighting Building, Construction & Trade Careers

The Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation (CPWDC) is trying to help address the shortage of skilled workers that companies need to thrive in its nine-county Central PA region, which includes Columbia and Montour counties.

As part of its strategy to find a solution, CPWDC convened career & technical education (CTE) directors and several business leaders to help define the need. It heard loud and clear that one problem is insufficient awareness of outstanding career opportunities and how programs offered at CTE organizations can help students access a pathway to a promising future, complete with community and family-sustaining wages, with area businesses. Another misperception is that a four-year degree is the only pathway to success. While some professions require a four-year degree, those in skilled trades that require less than a four-year degree can and do have happy, successful lives pursuing these careers. Finally, school administration and teachers need to be aware of the skills companies are demanding and then prepare students with the understanding the skilled trades are viable options for many students and that a four year degree is right for some students, but not all.

CPWDC is working to improve the disconnect between students, parents, teachers, school administrators and businesses by marketing the skilled trades in a number of ways. One such way depends on partnerships with cutting edge business leaders. Through a competitive grant awarded to CPWDC and with additional funding from The Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber, CPWDC is creating a series of short, engaging videos to significantly increase the awareness of locally available careers in the skilled trades. In doing so, CPWDC wants to showcase area businesses that are in need of career and technical talent. The professionally filmed and edited videos will highlight the career opportunities available now and in the future within various sectors. Interviews of both senior level management and thriving employees will show all three target audiences why the skilled trades should not be overlooked as a career choice. Connections will be made to show how CTE plays a critical role in preparing the workforce needed now and in the future. Content will be widely available to reach as many students, parents, and teachers as possible, including via an online career connections website, Path2Careers, which is scheduled to launch this fall.

If you would be willing to be part of increasing awareness of the skilled trades by being part of this project, please a media release form and return to CPWDC by Aug. 17. The momentum of the project is building quickly and production is slated to begin at the end of August. For questions about the videos or the website, contact Erica Mulberger, CPWDC executive director, or Korrie Lucas, operations manager. 

Tax Code Change Regarding Bonus Depreciation Will Improve PA’s Tax Structure, Competitiveness

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The 2018-19 fiscal year has begun and for the first time in more than three years, the Commonwealth is starting the new fiscal year with an enacted budget in place. With state revenues on an upswing and a General Election right around the corner,  legislative leaders and the governor were very clear that this year’s budget process would be different than previous years in the Wolf era – and it was. Working together, the four legislative caucuses and administration were able to come to an agreement on a $32.7 billion spending plan that increased spending by 2 percent but doesn’t include any tax increases. In a break from years past, the budget was signed into law by the governor a full week prior to the June 30 constitutional deadline. That spirit of cooperation didn’t end with budget negotiations. The first half of June also saw a flurry of legislative activity as the General Assembly worked to get several bills to the governor’s desk prior to the summer session break – including S.B.1056 – bonus depreciation legislation.

This legislation addressed a serious competitiveness issue for Pennsylvania employers that resulted from a state Department of Revenue policy change. Last December, days after the federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act was passed, the Department of Revenue issued a ruling that significantly changed employers’ tax filing on capital investments – primarily for the purchase of new equipment to expand or improve production at their facilities – to reflect those purchases when filing their income taxes. The ruling reversed a policy enacted under the Corbett administration that allowed for 100 percent bonus depreciation; and also stripped away the depreciation benefits enumerated under the recently enacted federal tax reform package.

At a time when the Commonwealth’s economy is starting to pick up – thanks in large part to federal tax reform – this policy change sent the wrong message to job creators. Shortly after the department implemented this change, we started hearing from our members that they would likely never experience tax relief under the ruling as they would be far more likely to try to repair an expensive piece of equipment before attempting to discard or sell it. Additionally, the change gave Pennsylvania the unfortunate distinction of being the only state in the nation to disallow any form of accelerated depreciation. This put the Commonwealth at a serious competitive disadvantage.

Over the past several months, the PA Chamber – with the help of our local chamber partners – led the charge in advocating for legislation to reverse this harmful rule. The state’s elected officials realized the negative impact this rule would have on Pennsylvania’s economic climate and worked to create a legislative fix. Senate Bill 1056 passed both chambers with large bipartisan support and was sent to the governor’s desk in the waning session days of June. Last month the governor signed the bill into law as Act 72 of 2018.

Following passage of S.B. 1056, we applauded the General Assembly for working quickly to address this issue. This legislation will help to put Pennsylvania on a more level playing field with other states and improve Pennsylvania’s overall competitiveness. We look forward to working with elected officials for the remainder of this Legislative session and the upcoming 2019-20 session on pro-growth policies that will continue to improve the Commonwealth’s economic climate.

Bucknell SBDC Celebrates 40 Years of Assisting Businesses

State Senate and House members presented proclamations recognizing the Bucknell SBDC for 40 years of assisting businesses at a recent anniversary celebration. Pictured (left to right): Senator John Gordner, Senator Gene Yaw, Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, Rep. Fred Keller, and Steve Stumbris, Bucknell SBDC Director.

The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has provided assistance to nearly 7,200 entrepreneurs and small businesses over its 40 year history. New businesses served by the SBDC as well as the organization’s staff, have received statewide recognition. The successes of the SBDC and its clients were celebrated recently on the Bucknell University campus.

The SBDC provides free, confidential consulting services in a variety of business areas including planning, product development, and marketing. In 2017, the Bucknell SBDC assisted 32 business start-ups and helped their clients secure a combined $10 million in financing. Bucknell client Nick Gilson of Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co. was recently recognized as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Eastern PA.

Denny Hummer, manager of the SBDC’s Startup Lewisburg incubator, was presented with the Pennsylvania State Star award, recognizing a top performer in the program. Bucknell’s Assistant Director Maureen Hauck was the recipient of the same award in 2015. The U.S. Small Business Administration recognized the Bucknell center with its Excellence and Innovation Award for Pennsylvania in 2016.

“The SBDC network is such a valuable resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Fred Gaffney, Chamber President. “Any time someone comes into our office interested in starting a business, we refer them to the SBDC. Bucknell Director Steve Stumbris and his team do a great job in supporting business growth in our region.”

The SBDC network is nationwide in partnership with local universities. The Bucknell SBDC serves Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Union, Perry, and Juniata counties. Columbia County is served by the Wilkes University SBDC. For more information about their services, or to schedule a free consulting session, visit either of their respective websites.

Bucknell SBDC website
Wilkes SBDC website