For Fourth Straight Year, Pennsylvania is Second in Nation in Natural Gas Production

According to statistics released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation in natural gas production in 2016, marking the fourth straight year that Pennsylvania has held this spot. Overall, the state is third in energy production and 27th in energy consumption. Pennsylvania was also the third-largest coal producing state and the only state that produced anthracite. 

Locally, both Columbia and Montour Counties contribute to that energy production either directly or indirectly through energy transportation. A big upcoming project intended to increase the ability to transport natural gas is the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project by Williams, which the Columbia Montour Chamber continues to support. This new project will expand the Transco gas pipeline system with a new pipe approximately 185 miles long connecting the existing pipeline just north of Columbia County to southeast Pennsylvania. Last month, Chamber president Fred Gaffney spoke in support of the project at a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hearing held at Bloomsburg High School.

This project will allow for more efficient transportation of Marcellus Shale natural gas and should enable even more to be exported. Additionally, the Atlantic Sunrise project, which is scheduled to begin later this year, is expected to generate an economic impact of $85.5 million for Columbia County alone, and a $1.6 billion economic impact in all of the project’s regions. 

Williams is also encouraging all workers that come into the area to work on this project to patronize local businesses. More information about the opportunities for local businesses related to this pipeline project will be available at the Chamber’s next Learn at Lunch, sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at noon at Wesley United Methodist Church. Mike Atchie from Williams will talk about the different types of opportunities for local businesses to cater to the visiting workers and give an overall update on the project at this event. The cost to attend this event is $10 for lunch and those interested can register here.

PA Department of Labor & Industry to Hold Free Safety Webinars in August

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Health & Safety Division of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry will conduct a series of free safety webinars in August. Titled PATHS (PA Training for Health and Safety), the series will covers a wide array of topics including but not limited to worker fatigue, cyberbullying, hazardous waste management, whistleblowing, ADA compliance, noise control and much more. Each webinar lasts approximately one hour depending on course material and viewer participation. 

For a complete list or to register, visit the PATHS Training Calendar

Did You Know? – Chamber Low Interest Loan Program

The Chamber recognizes that starting and successfully running a small business can be a challenge, particularly during that initial start-up phase. Some ambitious business owners may not have the ability to get a loan from a bank, or at least a loan that fits their needs. Therefore, the Chamber’s Board of Directors has designated a set amount of funds for a low interest loan program for members. 

The minimum loan amount in this program is $5,000 and the maximum is $20,000. Qualified borrowers have the option of a variable interest rate at the Prime Rate or a fixed rate of Prime plus 50 basis points. The rates are established at the time of application. The term of the loan will not exceed five years based off the useful life of collateral bring pledged. 

Any members that have a need and are interested in applying for a loan through the Chamber’s low interest loan program are invited to submit an application. The low interest loan committee, made up of members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, evaluates and makes a decision on all applications. 

Additional guidelines and an application can be downloaded here

“Did You Know” is dedicated to reviewing a specific benefit of Chamber membership as a means of reminding our members of the ways the Chamber can help you increase revenue or decrease costs in your business or organization.

Risk analysis: How to identify health conditions and costs within your workforce

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh Magazine

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 unique, innovative and cost-saving solutions. There is a new strategy and technology, however, that enables small employers to identify risk, influence behavior and ultimately control costs.

Smart Business spoke with Aaron Ochs, managing consultant at JRG Advisors, which manages the ChamberChoice program, about risk analysis.

What is risk analysis?
The ability to anticipate claims 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.

Newly developed technologies include risk analysis and predictive modeling tools that make it possible to take a deeper dive into the health composition and risk factors of an employer’s workforce. For example, companies can proactively identify markers for chronic illness in order to predict health care costs and determine if a fully insured plan or alternative strategy, such as self-funding, is viable.

Why might a self-funded plan work better?
A self-funded plan differs from a fully insured plan in that it offers an employer more control over the plan. In addition, self-funding provides protection against excessive costs in years with high claims, opportunity to keep profits from favorable years and the availability of data, including claims utilization.

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

How would a risk analysis typically work?
The deeper dive (risk analysis) begins with the collection of employee data that is captured through a custom access portal. The portal is insurance company accepted and an Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliant online benefits application tool specifically designed to reduce the amount of time, cost and paperwork for employers.

Employees are asked to complete an online enrollment interview. Once completed by employees, the employer receives a confidential de-identified aggregate report that includes an overall analysis of the employee population. This expert analysis empowers the consultants to guide the business owner through the benefit decision process with the power of knowledge.

Gaining insight into the composition and health status of the employee population means plan design decisions can be strategic rather than ‘throwing a dart blindfolded’ to find a tolerable solution.

What else do employers need to know about risk analysis?
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 the employer can essentially build its own health plan, which can lead to generous cost savings, greater transparency, understanding and better overall cost control.

A staggering 50 percent of the average employer’s health care budget is spent on members with preventable conditions. With the strategies and technologies that exist now, even small employers can take control of their health plans.

Talk to an advisor today to learn how risk analysis tools can guide you to the benefits strategy to fit your needs and ultimately reduce cost. JRG Advisors can be reached at 1-800-377-3539. 

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport Requests Your Feedback With One-Minute Survey

In an effort to best assist local organizations with airline service, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP) is exploring different opportunities for new routes, including from/to Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI).  To get the best possible opportunity for our local companies/organizations, however, AVP needs some feedback from our members. 

Please be assured that the information provided will remain confidential.  The results from individual companies/organizations would be grouped with other companies/organizations’ data to help AVP potentially retain air service between AVP/PIT and AVP/BWI, as well as other potential markets. 

This survey will take approximately one minute to complete.  Please take a moment and fill out the brief survey to assist AVP in this effort. The survey will be available until July 7. AVP thanks Chamber members for their time.