Columbia Montour Chamber Year in Review: Top 25 Stories of 2018

What do a handful of initiatives and actions of Bloomsburg University and the Town of Bloomsburg, 2018 new members ALTERA Life, LLC and Green Thumb Industries, Leadership Central Penn’s largest class ever, a couple of initiatives of PPL Electric Utilities and its foundation, Department of Homeland Security resources and the Downtown Berwick enhancement committee all have in common? 

Stories about these subjects and/or Chamber members were among the top 25 most read stories on the Chamber website in 2018. 

Listed below are the 25 most-read stories from the Chamber website (according to website traffic numbers) in 2018 (through Dec. 26). Website traffic increased again in 2018 over 2017, meaning our content is increasingly meaningful to both our members and the public as we work to bring our audiences content that is relevant to them. We thank you all for your interest in our work and that of our members in 2018, and we look forward to again bringing everyone information that is of relevance to the local business community and much more in 2019. 

(Compare this year’s top stories to 2017’s top stories)

1. Discount Card Pilot to Welcome New Bloomsburg University Students Underway (June 14, featuring Bloomsburg University and Town of Bloomsburg)

2. Bloomsburg University Working to Reverse Enrollment Trend (March 23, featuring Bloomsburg University)

3. Chamber Announces 2018-19 Board of Directors (Feb. 9, featuring Rolling Pines, PPL Electric Utilities, Bloomsburg University, Key Partners Realty, Geisinger, First Columbia Bank & Trust, GordnerCoombs Insurance, Service Electric, Service 1st Federal Credit Union, M&T Bank, Press Enterprise, Central Susquehanna Community Foundation and Commonwealth Health-Berwick Hospital Center)

4. Bloomsburg Town Gown Relations Committee Announces Block Party Weekend Parking Lot and On-Campus Residence Hall Visitation Restriction (April 20, featuring Bloomsburg University and Town of Bloomsburg)

5. Welcome ALTERA Life, LLC (May 15, featuring ALTERA Life, LLC)

6. PPL’s Operation Help Program Assists Families in Need (Jan. 5, featuring PPL Electric Utilities)

7. Department of Homeland Security Offers Bombing Preparedness Resources (March 24)

8. 40th Annual Renaissance Jamboree Set For Saturday, April 28 (April 27, featuring Bloomsburg University, Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc., and Town of Bloomsburg

9. Leadership Central Penn Celebrates Largest Graduating Class in Program History (May 29, featuring Pine Barn Inn, AGAPE, Camp Victory, The Women’s Center, For The Cause, Bloomsburg University, Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber, PPL Electric Utilities, Geisinger, SEKISUI SPI, Service 1st Federal Credit Union, First Keystone Community Bank, Autoneum North America, Inc., Kawneer, Girton Manufacturing, Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital, First Columbia Bank & Trust, USG, Central Susquehanna Community Foundation and Welch Performance Consulting)

10. Holiday Season Kicks Off With Full Weekend of Events in Bloomsburg (Nov. 1, featuring Bloomsburg Fair, Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc., Caldwell Consistory, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, WHLM, Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital and Service 1st Federal Credit Union

11. Leadership Central Penn Seeks Applications for 2018-19 Class (June 10, featuring Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber)

12. Downtown Berwick Enhancement Efforts Moving Forward (Oct. 5, featuring Community Strategies Group and Central Susquehanna Community Foundation

13. REAL Id Mobile Verification Unit to Visit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport (Nov. 4, featuring Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport)

14. Bloomsburg Ordinance Change Seeks to Increase Parking Availability (Dec. 14, featuring Town of Bloomsburg and Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc.)

15. Bashar Hanna Inaugurated as 19th Bloomsburg University President (May 2, featuring Bloomsburg University)

16. Chamber Announces Additional Membership Category (May 31)

17. Bloomsburg Open to Mini Casinos (March 13, featuring Town of Bloomsburg)

18. Chamber Helps Welcome New Providers to Berwick Hospital Center With Ribbon Cutting (June 9, featuring Commonwealth Health-Berwick Hospital Center)

19. Member Spotlight: Boulder Landscape, LLC (Aug. 17, featuring Boulder Landscape, LLC)

20. Bonus Depreciation Bill Advances in State Senate (March 29)

21. Workforce Needs the Leading Issue for Members (April 19, featuring Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber, Kawneer and Williams)

22. Annual Awards Winners Announced at Chamber’s Annual Meeting (Feb. 9, featuring Rolling Pines, PPL Electric Utilities, First Columbia Bank & Trust, Steph’s Subs, Columbia Alliance for Economic Growth, SEKISUI SPI, Commonwealth Health-Berwick Hospital Center, LCBC Church, Berwick Industrial Development Association and Geisinger)

23. Welcome Green Thumb Industries (GTI) (Aug. 20, featuring GTI)

24. Attendees Learn About State’s New Medical Marijuana Law, How to Apply it to Workplace Drug Policy (Nov. 23, featuring Columbia Colonnade, PA CareerLink Columbia/Montour Counties, PPL Electric Utilities and Steph’s Subs)

25. Camp Victory a Haven for Personal Victories (June 19, featuring Camp Victory, PPL Electric Utilities and Dennis Wolff

What’s Driving Stock Volatility and What to Expect Next

From North Branch Group/Thrivent Financial

Mark Simenstad, CFA
Chief Investment Strategist, Thrivent Asset Management

David Francis, CFA
Vice President, Investment Equities, Thrivent Asset Management

Darren Bagwell, CFA
Chief Equity Strategist, Thrivent Asset Management

Steve Lowe, CFA
Head of Fixed-Income, Thrivent Asset Management

In the past year, the S&P 500 has gone through two corrections of 10% or more from peak to trough. This roller coaster market has left the S&P 500 with a modest loss of approximately 1.3% for 2018 through Dec. 10 (The S&P 500 Index is a market-cap-weighted index that represents the average performance of a group of 500 large-capitalization stocks). 

And, like a roller coaster, it has left many investors with a great sense of unease, if not outright nausea.

Although there are many reasons for broad stock market moves, the following factors are the most important issues that we believe have been driving this volatile market. We also lay out our current views on the prospects of the market:

1. The Federal Reserve (Fed) has been systematically raising short term interest rates and has discontinued its large bond buying program after a period of increasing money supply and low rates following the financial crisis.

The result has been reduced liquidity throughout the capital markets. It has also led to meaningfully higher short-term bond yields, which now provides a more competitive return alternative to stocks. Our view is that this policy has been prudent thus far, and that the Fed may now be close to a level that they believe should be appropriate for an economic and inflationary environment that is approaching more normal levels.

2. Closely tied to Fed policy has been the relentless narrowing of the spread between long and shorter maturity bonds. This “flattening” of the yield curve, as short-term rates and long-terms rates begin to converge, has led to widespread concerns of outright “inversion”—a historical precursor to recession. 

Our view is that although the yield curve has, in fact, flattened at the very short end of the curve, we don’t believe this is a classic inversion, where short-term rates are higher than long-term rates. In addition, although it is true that inversions often precede serious market and economic weakness, the length of time from the flattening/inversion of the yield curve and a bear market can vary greatly from one instance to another.

3. There are a multitude of disconcerting geopolitical events, particularly U.S.-China trade frictions and Brexit, which have injected a high degree of uncertainty and anxiety into the markets. Our view is that the outcome and ultimate impact of these developments are very hard to determine. Consequently, this uncertainty will continue to manifest itself in higher levels of volatility and more subdued market valuation (lower price-earnings ratios globally) (Price-earnings ratio refers to a stock valuation method in which the stock price of a company is divided by its annual earnings). 

4. Corporate earnings have been exceptionally strong due to solid economic fundamentals and the recent corporate tax cuts. However, the market has been concerned that we have seen the peak in earnings, with revenue growth poised to decline as the economy moderates, as well as profit margins that may decline as employment and logistics costs escalate, and as the positive impact from lower tax rates fades.

Our view is that although the positive impact from lower tax rates will fade, earnings will still be quite healthy by historical standards if operating margins prove resilient. Also, we see little evidence that the economy will downshift materially such that corporate revenues will stop growing.

5. The high and growing level of global debt and other liabilities, including pension and health benefit obligations, are beginning to weigh on longer term investor perceptions. Historically low interest rates have significantly mitigated the near-term cost of servicing these liabilities. 

Our view is that high debt levels are indeed an issue of concern, particularly if interest rates were to rise further. Partially offsetting this concern is the fact that consumer debt has not increased to excessive levels since the last recession, and thus should not be a contributing catalyst for potential problems. However, elevated corporate and government debt will weigh on global economies and markets as interest rates increase.

As discussed above, there are many risks that will continue to weigh on market returns, with high and rising debt levels being the most problematic risk from a longer-term standpoint. Given the diminished level of liquidity in the market, volatility will remain high, and further equity market declines are certainly possible. 

However, we believe a healthy domestic economy, sustained relatively strong corporate earnings, low interest rates, and relatively moderate valuations may counteract the rising tide of late cycle risks. We continue to believe that long term returns will be muted as compared to the very strong returns over the past number of years. 

Finally, in periods such as this, it is important for investors to again assess their real risk temperament relative to the time frame of their investment objectives and to ensure that their overall portfolios remain properly balanced and diversified across asset classes.


All information and representations herein are as of Dec. 10, 2018, unless otherwise noted.

Past performance is no indication of future results.

The views expressed are as of the date given, may change as market or other conditions change, and may differ from views expressed by other Thrivent Asset Management associates. Actual investment decisions made by Thrivent Asset Management will not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or product.

Thrivent Asset Management, a registered investment advisor, is the asset manager for Thrivent Mutual Funds. Thrivent Distributors, LLC is the principal underwriter for Thrivent Mutual Funds. Thrivent Distributors, LLC is a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC.

Thank You Holiday Open House Attendees, Pine Barn Staff and Volunteers

The Chamber offers a big thank you to all of the individuals that attended this year’s Holiday Open House on Dec. 13, as well as the staff at the Pine Barn Inn, the event host, and the volunteers and Chamber staff that helped the event run smoothly. It is the continued support of these businesses, organizations and individuals that helps the Chamber fulfill its mission of offering programs, benefits and events to its members, giving them a stronger voice and advocacy and being involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. 

The success of this annual event depends on the continued attendance of members and guests and because they enjoy the Holiday Open House year after year, they keep coming back. This year saw record registration, so much in fact that the event sold out about a week prior. This can’t happen without the support of our members, so we give one last thank you to them and we look forward to next year’s event. 

A special thank you also goes out to the staff at the Pine Barn. The sales, kitchen and hospitality staff routinely go above and beyond with their service and without their help (not to mention great-tasting food), this event wouldn’t be nearly as successful. Also, special thanks to them for once again donating a menu selection as an Angel Sponsor. 

Finally, thanks to a couple of volunteers – Mary Ann Rizzo from the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, who once again assisted at the registration table with the more than 400 name tags to give out, as well as our two guest bartenders: Mark Gardner of M&T Bank and Pamela Anderson of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodrick Realty. Their valuable time spent helping this event run smoothly as well as raise funds for the winning nonprofit organization (Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber) from the guest bartending competition, is greatly appreciated. Also, thanks to the Chamber and Chamber Foundation staff — Matt Beltz, Phyllis Jones, Deb Sokol and Jeff Emanuel — for their continued efforts in making sure this event is successful each year. 

Thank You to the Holiday Open House Door Prize Sponsors

The Chamber extends a big thank you to the member organizations that donated a gift for the door prize drawing at the Holiday Open House. It is the continued support of these businesses, organizations and individuals that helps the Chamber fulfill its mission of offering programs, benefits and events to its members, giving them a stronger voice and advocacy and being involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. 

These eight organizations included included five members that were also Angel Sponsors, as well as our floral arrangement provider for the second straight year, Pretty Petals & Gifts by Susan


Kinect Energy





The Nickle Plate Bar & Grill at Knoebels Three Ponds Golf Course







Ponduce Farms






Pretty Petals & Gifts by Susan



Steph’s Subs





Turkey Hill Brewing Co. & The Farmhouse at Turkey Hill











Wild For Salmon

Welcome Fulton Mortgage Company

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Fulton Mortgage Companyto help us fulfill our mission. 

The Fulton Mortgage Company has offices in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and provides a full range of products and services to the Fulton Financial Corporation’s family of banks, which in Pennsylvania are now all known as Fulton Bank (formerly FNB Bank and Swineford National Bank locally). Fulton has banks in 18 counties in Pennsylvania, including both Columbia and Montour, and provides consumer and business customers with banking services and products, investment management and trust services. Locally, there are four Fulton Bank locations in Columbia and Montour counties: 37 West Main St., Bloomsburg; 1113 Bloom Rd., Danville; 630 Mill St., Danville; and 200 South Poplar St., Berwick. For more information, visit the company’s website