Discount Card Pilot to Welcome New Bloomsburg University Students Underway

This fall, Bloomsburg University will welcome over 300 new-to-Bloomsburg transfer students. A team at BU is working to welcome those students and help them become part of the Bloomsburg Town community with a convenient card listing discounts offered by area restaurants and other businesses. BU Student Life will handle design and printing of the cards. There is no fee for participating businesses or students. If the pilot is successful, the program could be expanded to include all incoming BU students in the future.

If your business offers a discount to BU students, or is willing to create one, send the information to Toni Bell, BU professor and Town Council member via email as soon as possible.

Manufacturers Invited to Discuss Ideas and Needs

Personal interaction is the best way for the Chamber to learn about member needs, help you make connections, and identify other ways we can support your organization. Downtown Bloomsburg Inc., the Montour County Task Force, and Berwick merchants are among the groups the Chamber supports in bringing businesses together to discuss and address issues. We are now proposing to form a manufacturers’ council, which would meet quarterly.

An initial meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 29, from 9-10:30 a.m. at The Greenly Center in downtown Bloomsburg. The focus will be on workforce development, specifically for existing employees. Any business interested in learning more about the manufacturers’ council should contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber at 570-784-2522 or email.

How to Increase Employee Engagement With Alternative Benefits Offerings

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

As a trusted partner and advisor, benefits brokers have the opportunity to educate and counsel employees year-round on benefits offerings to keep them engaged. All too often though, benefits professionals become entangled in the process — only focusing on the employer or HR director. They develop tunnel vision when it comes to recognizing and minimizing the impact selecting benefits each year has on employees.

“The bottom line, benefits are confusing and stressful. Many employees make their benefits decisions without fully understanding the offerings available to them, how they work and more importantly whether or not a plan is suited for their unique needs,” says Ron Carmassi, sales executive at JRG Advisors.

Smart Business spoke with Carmassi about how alternative benefits can help alleviate dissatisfaction with benefits programs.

Where do some benefits programs fall short and how can employers fix this?

A 2016 Harris Poll revealed that half of employees find benefits decisions to be stressful, 20 percent regretted their choices and 41 percent found open enrollment to be extremely confusing. The poll also found that while HR directors spend a significant amount of time and effort throughout the year preparing and sourcing options for employees, only one-third of employees actually read the material. This lack of education and knowledge creates anxiety and dissatisfaction around the benefits program.

The secret ingredient lies in education. Most employees associate ‘benefits’ with ‘health insurance.’ While health insurance is the main staple, there are a wide array of lesser-known benefits to offer and employees may not be aware of all their options. Alternative benefits offerings, aside from standard health insurance, can play a vital role in increasing employee satisfaction and ultimately their engagement.

What are examples of alternative benefits?

Voluntary benefits: These benefits are a great way to enhance your total program and increase employee satisfaction, with little impact on the budget. Some types of voluntary benefits that can deliver convenience and value are accident, critical illness and pet insurance. Employees need a clear understanding of not only how the coverage works, but also the benefits of having coverage and the potential risks of going without.

Life insurance: While it can be depressing to prepare for your mortality, it’s an important topic. LIMRA, a research and consulting firm, determined that 30 percent of Americans don’t have life insurance, and 48 percent of households have an insurance gap of $200,000 or greater. The research also found that from 2010 to 2016, life insurance enrollment increased 10 percent among millennials as they began aging, buying homes and having children. A life insurance plan can be valuable to younger employees who may be starting families. If you already offer life insurance, all employees should be reminded to review and update their policies.

Short-term/long-term disability: Regardless of whether your workforce is young or old, long-term disability should be considered. No one is immune, so take a multi-generational approach. Many of the older employee population have families and recognize the importance of protecting themselves in the event they’re unable to work. For younger employees, it’s an opportunity to remind them that disabilities are a real possibility. While ‘disability’ is commonly associated with a catastrophic condition, it could simply mean being temporarily unable to work due to back problems or surgery. In any case, it’s always better for employees to be safe than sorry.

Retirement plans/401(k): Whether employees are close to retirement or have decades left in the workforce, saving for retirement is a key component of financial security. Offering a 401(k) or other retirement benefits can increase employee loyalty and is a great recruitment and retention tool. But they are only helpful if employees are aware of and understand them. Many people participate in a 401(k) contribution plan and develop an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mindset. Open enrollment is the perfect time to review retirement savings. If an employer provides a 401(k) match up to a certain percentage, employees should be encouraged to increase their contribution to that threshold.

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by JRG Advisors.

Send Us Your Job Opportunities

The Chamber now has another tool to help members get the word out about the many job opportunities available in our area. Our online Jobs page is now live. Members are invited to email job postings to the Chamber. People can subscribe to this page to get updates when new postings are added, and we will also promote them through social media..

Also, with the school year wrapping up, the Chamber and local CareerLink office are getting calls about businesses in need of seasonal employees. We also get calls from people looking for work from home opportunities. Send us information on these openings as well.

How to Shop for Your Electricity

From PPL Electric Utilities

Once in a blue moon, things that sound too good to be true actually are true.

Like this: You may be able to pay less for electricity, in return for a few minutes of your time and attention. There’s no trick involved and no sacrifice: You don’t have to go without A/C in the summer or heat in the winter to save.

What’s the not-so-secret tip? Shop for your electricity supply.

You can buy the electricity for your home or business from a number of state-licensed suppliers, who offer a variety of prices and terms. This could save you money.

Or, if you take no action, PPL Electric Utilities will buy power for you and pass it along at no markup. We do our best to get a good price for you, but many suppliers sell power more cheaply. No matter which option you choose, PPL will bring the electricity to you safely and reliably over our delivery network.

All you really need to do to shop is visit PAPowerSwitch.com, a website operated by the state Public Utility Commission. The site lists PPL’s current price to compare, along with all the other current offers from state-licensed suppliers serving your area (If you don’t have a computer, you can call the PUC, which will send you a printout of the list).

Additionally, Columbia Montour Chamber members can utilize one of the Chamber’s affinity programs through ChamberChoice, which works with OnDemand Energy Solutions, the largest energy broker in Pennsylvania, to get the cheapest electricity generation rates for its customers. If you don’t have time to shop yourself, OnDemand has energy brokers that can shop for you with your permission and without any obligation to buy. OnDemand also recently enhanced its already numerous offerings for commercial customers through its acquisition by Kinect Energy back in January. Members of the Chamber staff can help facilitate this process for individual members, or interested members can contact energy consultant Cheryl Hefft at 717-575-4807 or email, and reference the Columbia Montour Chamber. 

You’ll need to take the time to carefully look at the offers from other suppliers. How long is the offer good for? Is the rate fixed, or is it variable – which means that it can change over the term of the contract? Is there a cancellation fee if you decide to end the contract before its term runs out?

If you find an offer that’s lower than PPL’s price to compare, and the terms of the offer suit you, you can start the process of switching suppliers right then and there. And that’s how you pay less for electricity.

At PPL Electric Utilities, we encourage customers to shop for their electricity supply. It can save you money. And shopping doesn’t hurt PPL financially, since the company doesn’t make any profit from the supply part of customers’ bills. In fact, many of our employees shop for their power. We’ll still be there to deliver the electricity, whenever you use it.

We also encourage you to consult PAPowerSwitch.com and know all your options before signing any electricity supply contract. If you’re contacted by a door-to-door solicitor, don’t be pressured into rushing into an agreement. Another company might have a better offer.

Finally, if you switched suppliers two or three years ago but haven’t looked at the market since, we encourage you to take a fresh look. There may be better deals available than the terms you are currently paying. For any and all questions about shopping, you can also visit our website at pplelectric.com/shopping.

About 45 percent of our customers shop for their electricity supply. As the season of air conditioning, pool pumps and high temperatures approaches, it’s worth giving some thought to joining them.