Welcome eXp Realty

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, eXp Realty, to help us fulfill our mission.

eXp Realty was founded in 2009 as the first cloud-based real estate brokerage and currently has locations and agents in all 50 states as well as Canada. Locally, the first eXp Realty location was established earlier this year in Berwick by local veteran realtor Marc Nespoli, and has grown to a few handfuls of agents. eXp Realty – Central Susquehanna Valley is located at 106 East Front St., Berwick, and can be reached at 888-397-7352 or visit their Facebook page

Meetings Encourage Community Development

Representatives of Bloomsburg Town Hall, Public Works, the Fire Department, Police Department, Airport, and Town Council introduced themselves to residents and business people and talked about their goals at a recent public meeting held at the Bloomsburg Fire Hall.

Two meetings held recently in Bloomsburg were organized to bring people together to strengthen communities in the region. Representatives of the Town of Bloomsburg introduced themselves and explained their job responsibilities at a meeting held at the Fire Hall in an effort to improve the dialogue with residents and businesspeople. At a public meeting held at The Greenly Center downtown, an individual with two decades of experience as a professional engineer and land-use planner talked about the value of reinvesting in the heart of a community, rather than promote urban sprawl. Both meetings were held the evening of Nov. 7.

With a number of new people in positions with the Town, representatives felt it a good time to host a public meeting to meet with residents and businesspeople. Mayor Bill Kreisher introduced staff members from Town Hall, Public Works, the Fire Department, Police Department, and the Airport, as well as Town Council members. Following brief remarks by each individual, attendees had the opportunity to ask specific questions. A number of the Town’s representatives expressed a desire to make Bloomsburg more business friendly.

Charles Marohn, author of the book Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, spoke about the value of reinvesting in communities recently at The Greenly Center in downtown Bloomsburg.

Later that evening, Charles Marohn spoke to a full room at The Greenly Center about the economic benefits of concentrating business and residential development within established towns and boroughs. Marohn, who recently wrote the book Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, provided numerous examples from around the country where the centers of communities provide the highest economic benefit compared to surrounding areas with the lowest costs for public services. Following World War II, development expanded rapidly into suburban and rural areas, resulting in significantly higher costs for infrastructure including roads, water, and sewer service. He encourages communities to make it easier for entrepreneurs to establish and grow small businesses and for people to build affordable housing. Business and community leaders, including the Chamber, will be having follow up discussions on Marohn’s presentation to discuss applications in our area.

The meeting at The Greenly Center was organized by The Exchange and sponsored by DRIVE, Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc., the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, the United Way of Columbia and Montour County, and Community Strategies Group.

How to Reduce Cost Without Reducing Benefits

From ChamberChoice & Smart Business 

For business owners today, the continual rise in group health insurance premiums has put a strain on their employee benefits budget, forcing them to explore less traditional means of cost containment.

“Most have already raised deductibles and cost-sharing, implemented high deductible plans and tax advantaged savings accounts and increased employee cost sharing. As a result, many insurance companies and third-party administrators (TPAs) have answered by creating new ways for groups of almost all sizes to take advantage of funding alternatives as a way to potentially reduce their benefits cost,” says Domenic Pascucci, consultant at JRG Advisors.

Smart Business spoke with Pascucci about the funding options that may be beneficial for you to consider, whether you own a business with 25, 250 or 2,500 employees.

What has caused the growth of funding alternatives?

Not too long ago, only the largest groups would stray from a fully funded insurance program to one that they self-funded.

If a company had fewer than 1,000 employees back in the 1970s, they probably wouldn’t even think about self-funding their medical insurance plan. But since then, and especially in the past several years with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many funding options have emerged. This allows nearly any business owner with more than 10 to 25 employees to transition to an alternative funding arrangement, based on their financial capabilities, benefit objectives, employee demographics and utilization history.

What are these options and how do they work?

Group medical plan funding, in general, can either be fully insured or self-insured. A fully insured program provides insurance with the least amount of risk to the employer. With a fully insured program, the insurance company evaluates the risk and sets a premium level. The customer is not expected to pay the difference to make the carrier whole if its claims utilization is more than the carrier expected or get any refund of premiums paid if the claims utilization is less than expected.

At the other side of the risk spectrum are self-insured programs. A self-funded health care program is one where an employer assumes the financial risk for providing health care benefits to its employees. Conceptually, the employer utilizes a TPA and establishes a ‘bank account’ to pay each claim from its own funds as they are incurred. Other than paying the TPA a fee for its role in administering the claims adjudication, providing utilization reviews and for ‘renting’ the TPA’s negotiated discounts with a particular carrier, the employer’s risk is directly tied to the claims experience of the employees and their dependents. Large, unexpected ‘shock’ claims adversely affect such consistency, and for this, a group usually obtains stop-loss protection, limiting the impact of these large claims. The advantage of self-funding is more control over plan design, improved cash flow and the avoidance of certain taxes imposed on the employer.

In between fully insured and self-insured plans are level funding arrangements. Level funding is a variation of self-funding that addresses a chief concern for employers — the variability of cash flow from month to month that they might experience on a traditional self-funded arrangement. In level funding, the TPA’s underwriting department sets a fixed rate that the customer pays each month (along with any necessary administrative fees), greatly assisting the company in its budgeting effort since any monthly claim spikes are eliminated. Additionally, different insurance carriers and TPAs in different regions of the country have developed other variations of self-insured arrangements that may be appealing to individual businesses.

The decision to change funding to one of these arrangements should be evaluated carefully with assistance from an experienced benefits professional, as there are nuances among each variation that might work out to be an advantage or disadvantage for any particular customer. Although traditionally limited to larger groups, recent changes and safeguards have allowed groups with as few as 25 employees to consider self-insurance or one of its modified versions.

PPL Electric Utilities Wins Industry Honor for Downed Wire Safety Technology

From PPL Electric Utilities

PPL Electric Utilities
has received the 2019 Achievement Award from the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies (AEIC) for its groundbreaking, innovative technology that safely and automatically cuts power to downed power lines.

The award was presented Friday, Oct. 11, at AEIC’s annual meeting.

“Downed power lines may ultimately be unavoidable for an electric utility, but PPL has developed and is implementing this innovative technology to substantially cut the odds that such an event will have tragic results for its employees and the public,” said PPL Electric Utilities President Greg Dudkin. “Nothing is more important than safety.”

During a windstorm in late February 2019, PPL recorded the first successful operation of the new system, powering off a line that came down in a remote, wooded area. By the end of this year, PPL expects to have the new technology in place in about 1,500 locations across its service territory, wherever protective relays are involved.

Police officers, firefighters and other first responders can often be the first to encounter downed lines after motor vehicle accidents or during storms. PPL’s new tool will greatly enhance the safety operations of the power grid, keeping those people and PPL line workers safer.

“This really is a game changer,” Dudkin said. “Without being able to detect a downed wire and quickly de-energize it, danger still exists. We’re extremely proud to have successfully implemented this system and of all those involved in its development.”

PPL was able to build upon Schweitzer Electric Laboratories ArcSense™ downed wire detection technology already on its system. PPL engineers developed an algorithm that worked with ArcSense to safely and automatically cut power to that downed wire. PPL is currently patenting the automatic power-cutting technology.

The AEIC Achievement Awards are presented annually to an individual or groups of individuals from AEIC member companies who have clearly provided significant contributions to advancing the operations of the electric energy industry.

Senate Labor and Industry Committee Advances Two PA Chamber Supported Bills

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Two PA Chamber supported bills were advanced by the Senate Labor and Industry Committee last week.

House Bill 68 would extend the period of time Pennsylvania employers have to apply for relief from charges in the Unemployment Compensation system.  Under the current system, when a worker is eligible for UC benefits, their base-year employer is “charged” for those benefits.  These charges are then factored into an employer’s experience-based tax rate.  The law recognizes there are situations in which it may not be fair to charge an employer for benefits paid to a specific worker.  In these cases, employers are given a 15 day window to request relief from charges.  This legislation extends the window for an employer to request relief from charges from 15 to 21 days, giving the employer extra time to navigate the sometimes complex request process.  The bill was unanimously approved by the committee.

Another bill to be considered by the committee last week was S.B. 922, legislation that would clarify language in the Workers’ Compensation Act as it relates to subrogation rights.  A long-standing principle of workers’ compensation has been the right of employers to be reimbursed for certain expenses if a third party is found liable for the injury.  Courts have upheld so-called subrogation rights in order to hold negligent third-parties accountable, mitigate the impact on non-negligent employers and prevent double recovery by claimants.  Subrogation has included allowing employers to offset future wage-loss and medical costs if the third party recovery exceeds the compensation paid by employer. However, in the 2018 Whitmoyer decision, the PA Supreme Court found that the ability to offset future costs only applied to wage-loss benefits, not medical expenses.  This legislation makes a technical change to address the Court’s concern.  The bill was approved on a 6 to 4 party line vote. 

The PA Chamber sent a memo in support of both bills prior to the committee votes.