Governor Wolf Launches PA Business One-Stop Shop to Support Pennsylvania Entrepreneurship

business.pa.gov is a new website intended to be a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs in PA.

From the Governor’s Office

On Feb. 7, Governor Tom Wolf launched the new PA Business One-Stop Shop to serve as a sole source to guide entrepreneurs and small businesses through all stages of development, from planning and startup to operation and expansion.

“I know first-hand how difficult it can be as a business owner to navigate through the complex web of processes, requirements, and resources that are needed to successfully run a business,” Governor Wolf said. “That’s why I tasked my administration to come together across agencies to simplify the process so entrepreneurs can get back to doing what they do best – creating, innovating, and succeeding in Pennsylvania.”

The PA Business One-Stop Shop includes resources for planning a business, registration and permitting, hiring employees, receiving funding and technical assistance, and more. It is intended to take the guesswork out of many business operations and procedures, and serves as an equalizer for any who want to do business here.

Before the One-Stop Shop, a small business owner or entrepreneur would be required to seek out information from several different agencies and organizations throughout the planning, startup, and operation processes. The PA Business One-Stop Shop consolidates all of this information into one website, and any questions can be directed to a single phone number that provides one-on-one customer service by phone as well.

“One of the biggest barriers to entry that an entrepreneur can face is the difficulty of knowing what steps to take to start a business, and then knowing what further steps to take to grow that business,” Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin said. “With the PA Business One-Stop Shop, what used to require endless searching for websites and countless phone calls – or spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on services to assist in that process – now can be found on one website, with one phone number. It’s great news for those looking to start or grow a business in Pennsylvania.”

The process for creating the PA Business One-Stop Shop was truly an interagency state government collaboration between the departments of State, Labor and Industry, Revenue, and the Office of Administration. To identify the needs of the business community, Wolf Administration officials held planning sessions and user testing with a wide variety of internal government and external stakeholders and partners to ensure different perspectives and input was received from communities and businesses across Pennsylvania.

In addition to this new one-stop shop website, the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network is available for personalized, one-on-one services for entrepreneurs. Locally, the Wilkes University SBDC and Bucknell University SBDC service Columbia and Montour counties, respectfully, and are available to meet with individuals looking into starting a small business. These meetings can take place at the SBDC locations, at the Chamber office, or at an alternate location agreed upon by each party. 

Business Continuity Strategies Discussed at Learn at Lunch Featuring Thrivent Financial [Video]

Attendees had an opportunity to learn about ways they can protect their business from going out of business in the event of an unexpected event that keeps them from running their business on a daily basis at a Learn at Lunch on Feb. 13. The lunch talk was sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities and held at the Hampton Inn Bloomsburg

Financial advisors Richard Keller and Kerry Maurer from Thrivent Financial in Bloomsburg spoke about steps that business owners can take to ensure their business continues in the event of death, extended sickness or other leave, retirement, or other unexpected event that makes them unable to fulfill their regular day-to-day duties in running the business. Things like buy/sell agreements, special life insurance policies designed for the beneficiary to be able to buy the business, key personnel insurance, and various other subject and concepts related to business succession planning and protection were discussed. 

The entire presentation was broadcast on Facebook Live, and all Learn at Lunch events this year are scheduled will be streamed on Facebook Live as well, so that other interested members and others will be able to hear the presentation should they be interested but unable to attend in person. See below for the entire presentation, which lasts just over 50 minutes. 

 

Strategy and Analysis: How Alternate Funding and Tools Can Help Control Small Group Health Plans

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

Today’s health care environment is riddled with complex plan designs and rigorous government regulations, leaving many employers to feel as though their hands are tied when it comes to finding unique, innovative and cost-saving solutions.

But a new concept is emerging that will enable small employers to identify current and future risk, influence behavior and control costs. 

Smart Business spoke with Aaron Ochs, a consultant at JRG Advisors, about strategic analysis and risk management in the small group health insurance market.

How is the small group health insurance market changing?
Typically, small employers have been unable to maximize the value of their medical benefits due to lack of claims utilization and analysis from their insurance company. In the typical buying arrangement, the small group market is a fully insured contract that does not offer the employer much control over the health plan. Self-funding works differently.

In addition to providing protection against excessive costs in years with high claims and the opportunity to keep the profits from favorable years, the availability of data, including claims utilization, is a significant advantage for the employer. Knowing the health and risk factors of the employee population helps the employer determine the appropriate benefits strategy.

Self-funding is not a new concept; but it is new to the smaller employer — with many insurance companies offering level-funding premium options (a form of self-funding) to groups with as few as 10 insured employees.

With level funding, the employer puts aside enough money to cover anticipated claim expenses and the monthly premium remains level for the entire plan year. If claims are less than the funded amount at the end of the year, a rebate or credit is issued. If claims exceed the funded amount, the employer is protected by stop loss.

How can employers use data as a tool to help?
The ability to anticipate or predict claims costs hasn’t been available in the small group market due to the absence of claims data from the insurance companies — until now.

This is where newly developed risk management and predictive modeling tools come into play, making it possible to take a much ‘deeper dive’ into the composition and risk of the smaller employer, proactively identifying members with markers for chronic illness to predict health risks and determine if self-funding is a viable solution.

The deeper dive begins with employee data that is captured through a custom access portal, scrubbed and reviewed. The portal is an insurance company-accepted, Affordable Care Act and HIPAA compliant online benefits application tool designed to reduce the amount of time, cost and paperwork for employers. Employees are asked to complete an online enrollment interview. The employer receives a confidential de-identified aggregate report with an overall analysis.

This expert analysis guides the business owner through the benefit decision process with the power of knowledge. Gaining insight into the composition and health status of the group means plan design decisions can be strategic rather than an annual game of ‘pinning the tail on the donkey’ to find a tolerable solution.

What kind of results can employers expect?
Often, the same portal technology can reduce or eliminate many administrative burdens by providing the added support of employee enrollment, communication and plan election/waivers. The solution is a faster and more efficient approach to benefits. This means employers can essentially build their own health plan, which can lead to generous cost savings, greater transparency and understanding, and better overall cost control.

Over half of an average employer’s health care budget is spent on members with preventable conditions. It’s time for small employers to take control of their health care plans. Talk to your advisor to learn how these funding arrangements and risk analysis tools can help with your strategic benefits planning needs.

Bloomsburg and Luzerne County Community College Nursing Programs Enter Into Agreement

Two Chamber members, Bloomsburg University and Luzerne County Community College, recently entered into a new agreement that will help facilitate the transfer of LCCC’s nursing program graduates to BU to complete their bachelor’s degree. Nationally, nursing is one of the most in-demand professions and with two of our area’s largest employers — Geisinger and Commonwealth Health-Berwick Hospital Center — both being affected by this national shortage of nurses, the Chamber hopes that this new agreement can, over time, help address this workforce shortage for this profession on a local level. 

Below is the official joint press release from BU and LCCC announcing this new collaboration. 

NANTICOKE–Luzerne County Community College and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania have entered into a new agreement which will help LCCC nursing graduates transfer from the community college to Bloomsburg University to complete their bachelor’s degree.

The Guaranteed Admissions Agreement is designed to facilitate the transfer of LCCC nursing graduates from The Mary Gill Carrozza, R.N. School of Nursing and Health Sciences to the BU online nursing program. LCCC graduates will be guaranteed admission into BU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) online degree program with third year (junior) status.

In order to take advantage of the program-to-program agreement, students must graduate from LCCC with an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in nursing with a minimum grade point average of 2.0. LCCC nursing graduates are also required to successfully pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX) prior to beginning courses at BU. The application fee to Bloomsburg will be waived.

“We’re pleased to continue our valuable partnership with Bloomsburg University, which has consistently ranked among the most popular choices for our students to continue their education,” says Thomas P. Leary, president, LCCC. “The College has many nursing graduates who are employed in the region and this cooperative agreement allows them to continue their education online and obtain a bachelor’s degree while working in their field.”

“This is another fine example of the strong, collaborative efforts BU maintains with its significant community college partners in Pennsylvania, with the ultimate goal of student success,” says Dr. Bashar Hanna, president, Bloomsburg University.

For more information about the new partnership, contact Jim Domzalski, director of enrollment management at LCCC at 570-740-7342 or email, or Tom Fletcher, vice president of enrollment management at BU at 570-389-5161 or email.

Executive Order Supports Broadband Infrastructure Expansion With Focus on Rural America

In an effort to support the expansion of broadband internet service in rural America, President Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 8 that streamlines the application process for locating wireless facilities on Federal property. The order sets guidelines and timelines for processing applications from private entities. It is hoped that other benefits will be realized from this policy “to use all viable tools to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable, reliable, modern high-speed broadband connectivity in rural America.” (Read the full executive order)

The Columbia Montour Chamber continues to advocate for the expansion of broadband in rural areas to support economic growth. In November, the Chamber sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission supporting a petition by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to keep $140 million for broadband expansion in Pennsylvania. While federal funds have traditionally only been available to regulated telecommunications companies such as Verizon, the PUC and Chamber are seeking greater flexibility to work with other potential providers.