Annual Meeting Postponed to Wednesday, Feb. 13

Due to a very poor weather forecast that calls for snow ranging from 1-5 inches followed by freezing rain and/or sleet on Tuesday, the Chamber’s Annual Meeting, sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, has been postponed until the following evening on Wednesday, Feb. 13. It will still be held at the Barn at Frosty Valley and will follow the same schedule:

Reception/cocktail hour (and-a-half) – 4:30 p.m.
Seating for dinner – 6 p.m.
Welcome and introductions – 6:10 p.m.
Annual Meeting/awards presentation – 7 p.m.

Registrations are welcome to be substituted if the originally registered individual(s) are unable to attend on Wednesday. 

Registration is also still open for those that may not have been able to attend on Tuesday but are now able/interested in attending due to the date change. 

We look forward to seeing many of our members on Wednesday. 

Nuclear Energy Industry Remains a Vital and Powerful Economic Engine for Job Creation Across Pennsylvania

From Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania

Note: The Columbia Montour Chamber is part of Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania, a statewide coalition that works to educate all Pennsylvanians about the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy and the industry’s position impact on local communities throughout the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants support more than 500 companies and 16,000 jobs across the Commonwealth. Last week, on Wednesday, Feb. 6, representatives from several of those companies traveled to Pennsylvania’s State Capitol to showcase their innovation, highlight their impact on industry employment, and call for policy reforms that would properly value nuclear in the state. Earlier this week, lawmakers from the state House and Senate announced their intent to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would maintain the state’s nuclear fleet by recognizing the environmental attributes of nuclear power.

Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania (NPP), a statewide coalition that works to educate all Pennsylvanians about the many benefits of nuclear energy, hosted the event. In attendance were representatives from: AECOM; Curtiss-Wright; Day & Zimmerman; Framatome; GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy; Holtec; Jensen Hughes; Master-Lee Energy Services Corp; NAC International; Precision Custom Components; and Westinghouse. Altogether, these companies employ more than 6,000 Pennsylvanians, many of them in highly skilled family sustaining jobs such as engineers, welders, machinists and many more.

“Nuclear power is clean, safe and affordable electricity that generates economic and environmental benefits for everyone,” said event emcee Fred Gaffney, president of the Colombia Montour Chamber of Commerce and NPP member. “And as demonstrated during last week’s extreme cold temperatures, it’s incredibly reliable, too! The industry sustains some 500 companies that help to support our five nuclear plants. We are delighted to have many of them here at the Capitol today to underscore the innovation and outstanding workmanship provided by their thousands of employees, and to call on state lawmakers to do all they can to preserve this industry in Pennsylvania. We must maintain these nuclear plants for the future of our Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania today ranks second in the nation for nuclear power generating capacity, owed to a long tradition of nuclear energy leadership and technological innovation. Nuclear energy is the single greatest contributor to Pennsylvania’s energy generation portfolio, producing 42 percent of the state’s electricity, while accounting for 93 percent of the Commonwealth’s clean power. However, that production is threatened with news that at least two of Pennsylvania’s five nuclear plants are preparing for premature closure without a legislative remedy. According to Pennsylvania’s bipartisan Nuclear Energy Caucus report, Pennsylvania consumers are estimated to pay $788 million more each year if nuclear energy is not maintained in the Commonwealth. 

“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has an extensive history as a leader in nuclear energy and technological innovation,” said David Howell, Westinghouse president, Americas Operating Plant Services. “More than six decades ago, the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States began operations in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. Today, Westinghouse is proud to continue the legacy of nuclear power innovation in Pennsylvania, and the role that nuclear energy plays in the supply of safe, clean and reliable electricity.”

Members Get a Look at Expansion Proposal and Current Programs at CMVT at January Business After Hours

Attendees were able to view a short presentation that featured a pair of proposals for expansion at Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School and also had an opportunity to take a tour of the school and its 17 current programs at the first Business After Hours of the year hosted by CMVT on Jan. 30.

A recent feasibility study gave three possible options for the school, two of which involved expanding the current programs to allow for more participants and possibly even adding new programs. Attendees were able to hear a little bit about these options, as well as some of the adult education programs offered at the school. A group also got a tour of the building and the 17 vocational programs currently offered. Many are out of space and cannot accept all of the students that wish to enroll in their first-choice program. One of the expansion options would allow for more space in certain programs and would allow not only more students that are accepted into the school to get their preferred program, but also potentially more slots for each participating school district, which would allow the school to accept more students overall. The “Taj Mahal” option would also expand the number of programs available to beyond 17. The school’s joint governing board, made up of two school board members from each participating district, will consider these plans in the coming months.

Attendees also enjoyed some delicious food prepared and served by students in CMVT’s food service & preparation program.

Business After Hours provide regular opportunities to build business relationships while learning about the services offered by other Chamber members. The next Business After Hours will be held at Bloomsburg University’s Gallery at Greenly Center, located at 50 East Main St., Bloomsburg, on Thursday, Feb. 28, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. 

PA Chamber Warns of Negative Minimum Wage Impacts

With information provided by the PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Governor Tom Wolf and some lawmakers are calling for a significant increase in Pennsylvania’s minimum wage.  The plan calls for an increase in the wage to $12 an hour as early as July – with incremental increases until the wage reaches $15 an hour – as well as the elimination of the tipped wage.

PA Chamber President Gene Barr issued a statement in response to the plan, stressing that it would result in a 60 percent increase in entry level wages for businesses, with restaurants having to increase their minimum wage by more than 235 percent and ultimately by more than 500 percent.

In addition to reading stories of the negative impact that minimum wage increases have had in cities like Seattle (where the minimum wage is $15 an hour); and hearing real-world examples about the disparaging impact of minimum wage hikes; multiple independent studies have confirmed that these mandates lead to negative impacts on employment, including job loss. For instance, a Congressional Budget Office report found that an increase to $10.10 an hour would result in the loss of 500,000 to 1 million jobs nationwide, and a study by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office reached largely the same conclusions.  Given that the newly unveiled proposal would be even more far reaching, these negative impacts would only be exacerbated.

Rather than institute this “feel good” but out-of-touch mandate, the PA Chamber is promoting strengthened workforce development programs to help low-income workers advance through their careers and earn a better wage; along with other solutions like an Earned Income Tax Credit that aim to provide assistance to individuals in poverty without requiring employers to exclusively shoulder the financial burden. 

The PA Chamber continues to advocate against this mandate, and the Columbia Montour Chamber would like to send information to lawmakers about the job opportunities that are currently available in our area at higher than minimum wages. Businesses are asked to contact Chamber President Fred Gaffney with the number of available openings, and starting wage rates/ranges. Business names will be kept confidential.

Leadership Central Penn Goes Green

In January, Leadership Central Penn (LCP) focused on green.  The color and word green are often associated with growth, environmental responsibility, money, ambition, renewal and rebirth.  That was the focus of this month when LCP learned about green energy, economic development and tourism, and boardsmanship.  The program was sponsored and hosted this month by Talen Energy at the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant.  This location allowed the class to learn about the most efficient green energy on the planet from a few feet away from the awesome power contained inside the plant. 

To educated everyone on the reality of nuclear energy the class was introduced to Derrick Jones, plant manager, Andrew Rogers, training team, and Taryne Williams, media relations manager.  Worldwide nuclear energy accounts for 30% of the electricity produced.  In the U.S. 20% of electricity is generated with nuclear power, resulting in 63% of the carbon free (green) energy in the U.S.  Additionally, thanks to industry safety and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), nuclear is safe.  The media and many others focus on the disasters that have occurred at Three Mile Island and Fukushima, but these are rare and plants are built and upgraded to avoid issues of the past and future. 

The facts are that nuclear power in the 21st century is safe and good for the environment. As with all things, there are risks, but with Talen’s safety-first approach, and the oversight of the NRC, nuclear energy in our community and the U.S. is not a public risk, but a benefit. The facility is secure and meets the highest standards with rigorous training metrics.  The class got to see the preparedness of the facility and staff first hand via a perimeter tour and walk through of the simulator for nuclear training.  The class observed a simulation with engineers that challenged them as a team and individuals to ensure safety and professional growth.  Simulations can include load needs, meltdown preventions, system failures and more to ensure safety of the plant, employees and community.  Their philosophy is simple, if one safety step is good, two is better, and three is necessary. 

During the perimeter tour the class challenged James Gorman, security and emergency preparedness manager.  The class asked about security and preparedness upgrades since September 11th and after Fukishima.  Members also asked about drone attacks and cyberattacks.  Talen has a plan for every scenario the class could question.  The plant has had a quiet existence historically and the most extreme incident was solved with a Snickers Bar.  To learn more join us next year in LCP. 

The class was treated to a delicious lunch from Mayberry Hospitality before being joined by Fred Gaffney, president of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce to discuss economic development in the region.  The group learned about the successes and challenges of economic development efforts in our area related to government support, workforce development, and impact on public works.  One example that was shared is the ongoing Columbia County Business Park.  Additionally, the class learned about the economic development organizations that include Downtown Enhancement Groups, Industrial Development Corporations (IDCs), Industrial Development Authorities (IDAs) and various regional organizations. 

Fred shared with everyone that economic development is many times thought of only as job creation.  The reality is that it can be about job preservation just as often.  This can come during economic downturns, advancements in technology, or societal shifts.  Focusing on a vibrant and diverse business community, ensuring a well skilled and flexible workforce, and educating the next generation of workers are the cornerstones for success.

The final presenter of the day was David “Otto” Kurecian, executive director of the Columbia-Montour Visitor’s Bureau.  First, Otto elaborated on the Visitor’s Bureau’s role in economic development and why a thriving tourism industry is crucial for economic success.  Everyone is aware that tourism is a large business for our area, especially during the spring, summer and fall seasons with fairs, wine and craft beer trails, outdoor activities and more.  In Pennsylvania, tourism is the #1 segment for economic impact with a local return on investment of $37 for every $1 spent.  Visitor spending on entertainment, transportation, recreation, retail, food and beverage, and accommodations had a direct, indirect and induced effect on production, jobs, wages and taxes. In 2016 visitors spent $627 million in the region that includes Columbia and Montour counties. This region is #1 in food and beverage, and #2 in recreation spending of all 11 tourism regions in the Commonwealth.

After discussion about tourism, Otto discussed boardmanship, what it means to serve on a local Board of Directors or Board of Trustees.  The presentation focused on how to decide if when and how to serve on these boards.  First, you never, ever say yes when initially asked to join a board.  Even if it is by your employer, and strongly encouraged, or your best friend, neighbor, etc.  There are questions you need to ask yourself and the organization. The first thing is why you want to join this organization in this capacity and what you offer them with your skills and interest.  You’ll be asked to express these very things when you formally apply to join and are being vetted.  You also need to ask to see the organization’s by-laws, financials, and strategic plan.  What is your expected time commitment, how long are you expected to serve, what is the financial situation of the organization, and where are they headed.  If you can’t be at the first Tuesday of each month meeting, then don’t join.  If you don’t agree with strategic plan, or finances worry you from the organization, don’t join.  This is much like looking for a job, and should be scrutinized as such. 

When you find the right fit, you will get extreme amounts of personal satisfaction from your service. The organization will benefit from your skills and passion.  The community will be impacted positively.  This is the goal of boardsmanship, and the LCP class in general. 

LCP is sponsored by Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital, Kawneer, PPL Electric Utilities, SEKISUI SPI, USG and Williams.