Chamber Coalition Letter Urges Support for Federal Workforce Development Legislation

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the presidents of the PA Chamber, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia sent a letter to U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, asking that he urge the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to act on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. “Perkins CTE” would accompany the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which was passed in the U.S. House earlier this year and earned the support of the letter’s signatories.

“As you know, Pennsylvania employers are currently reporting a shortage of skilled workers to fill in-demand positions,” they wrote. “Modernized and relevant CTE programs, designed with the input of employers and responsible for the needs identified by labor market data, are central to overcoming this skilled labor shortage.”

The letter also outlined the ways in which existing law can be improved to help close the jobs skills gap, including aligning CTE programs to the needs of state, regional and local labor markets; supporting collaboration between educators and employers; increasing student participation in work-based learning opportunities; and promoting the use of credentials upon completion of these programs.

Locally, Columbia Montour Chamber member Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School is a recipient of Perkins CTE Act funds. 

Here is the full letter

Construction of Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Underway

Mike Atchie of Williams (standing) speaks with local officials about construction getting underway on the pipeline project earlier this month.

Construction of a natural gas transmission pipeline through Columbia County is starting in October. The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project is divided into seven sections, and is expected to be completed in approximately one year. On Thursday, Oct. 5, representatives of Williams met with local officials to discuss construction logistics including soil conservation, road crossings, inspections, security, and land restoration. There will be approximately 45-50 inspectors and private security for each section of the project.

The project is expected to support over 1,000 jobs in Columbia County and have a value-added impact here of $85.5 million as a result of contractors utilizing local goods and services. The Chamber has already been receiving calls regarding campgrounds and lodging. To help workers find what they need in the area, Williams has developed the WillShop Local app, which is now available on the Google Play and Apple stores. There is no cost for businesses to be included in the app, and for those businesses that haven’t yet registered to be listed on the app, the Chamber is sending its membership list to be incorporated.

WILLShop Local app screenshot

Additional information about the project is available at the project’s website.

PA Chamber’s 27th Annual Economic Survey Shows Employer Optimism on the Rebound, Ongoing Concerns About Healthcare

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

As the nation’s economy steadily improves, employers are increasingly optimistic about the state of business in the Commonwealth, as well as projections for future growth in sales and hiring. However, their ability to offer healthcare to their workforce due to persistent uncertainty and rising costs in the market continue to be a chief concern. These indicators are among the responses from the PA Chamber’s 27th Annual Economic Survey, which was conducted in August 2017 by Susquehanna Polling and Research.

According to the survey, the rising costs of healthcare rank among employers’ top concerns; with 65 percent of respondents saying that “controlling the costs of healthcare” should be the Pennsylvania Chamber’s top policy priority in its dealings with lawmakers. In fact, while 61 percent of the survey participants said that they provide health coverage for their employees – a slight increase over last year but still far less than the 74 percent who offered health care in 2013 – a vast majority of them (73 percent) reported that premiums have increased. Also listed as problematic was the lack of clarity that exists within the state’s unemployment compensation system, as 64 percent said they’ve encountered situations whereby employees fired for good cause were awarded benefits; as well as workers’ compensation premiums that have increased for more than a third of respondents in recent years. Other leading barriers to growth that were noted in the survey included: over taxation; mandates and regulations; and workforce development.

The good news is that of the 654 employers surveyed statewide, a strong majority – 76 percent – believe that the state’s economy is “better” or “the same” as it was one year ago. Also, the percentage of employers who say the economy is the “most important issue” affecting their businesses is down to 10 percent – the lowest figure in nearly 10 years since before the Great Recession took hold in 2008-09. Additionally, 42 percent say they expect sales growth to increase in coming months; 22 percent expect to hire more workers; and 27 percent noted that they made “major” investments in machinery or technology over the last year, with 15 percent more pledging to make those investments in the coming months.

Member News – October 11, 2017

Member News

  • As part of its 30th anniversary season, the Weis Center for the Performing Arts will celebrate the legacy, tradition and craftsmanship of Martin Guitars with a full day of events this Saturday, Oct. 14.

    A Martin Guitar

    All of the day’s programming is free except for the 7:30 p.m. performance of the Del McCoury Band. The day includes facilitated workshops including blues slide guitar basics, guitar repair consultations, guitar theory, and a roots music recording session, as well as Martin Guitar displays and merchandise, a community guitar jam, a film screening and panel discussion, and evening performances. Visit here for a complete schedule and description of all events on this day. 

 

  • The Greenwood Friends School will host a fall festival at its school located at 1509 State Route 254, Millville, this Saturday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. There is no admission charge, all are welcome and the event will be held rain or shine. It will feature fun games and face painting for children and teens, a food and bake sale, live music, unlimited inflatable rides for children (with a wristband purchase), and a large flea market with crafts and vendors. Vendors interested in participating should call 570-458-5532 to reserve a spot. 

 

  • The United Way of Columbia and Montour County, AGAPE Love from Above to our Community and the Coalition for Social Equity will hold the final two events of a three-part series that explores the barriers our fellow community residents who live in poverty face every day. Join them to learn more and be part of the solution. The other two events will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 17 and Tuesday, Oct 24. Registration is not required for either event. Oct. 17 will be a poverty panel that will feature participants sharing their stories of living in poverty, and Oct. 24 will be a community conversation. Both of those events will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 345 Market St., Bloomsburg. 

 

 

  • The Bloomsburg Area YMCA will host a blood drive benefiting the American Red Cross on Wednesday, Oct. 25 from 12-5 p.m. in its gymnasium, located at 30 East 7th St., Bloomsburg. All donors will receive a Halloween-themed t-shirt while supplies last. Sign up at the front desk, call 800-733-2767 or online at redcrossblood.org to donate. 

 

  • Co., a social and professional networking group that is run by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County, will hold a fun evening at Can You XCape followed by a mixer at the Wagon Shed on Thursday, Oct. 26, beginning at 6 p.m. Co. was founded to give area residents the opportunity to take advantage of all the great things this area has to offer. This group is for everyone, which means any age, ability, or area of residence. It holds multiple events each month. For more information about Co., including future events, visit its Facebook page

 

  • PPL Electric Utilities and its supply chain division is hosting a Diversity Meet and Greet event on Friday, Nov. 17, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the PPL Conference Center at Walbert, 1639 Church Rd., Allentown. This event is designed for business owners who are veterans, women, minorities, LGBT and disabled, to have an opportunity to find out more about PPL and its opportunities for suppliers. Attendees will have a chance to meet and speak to PPL leaders and the staff that works with suppliers. There is no cost to attend, but those interested in attending should register online by Friday, Oct. 27. For more information, see this flyer

 

  • The Bloomsburg Area YMCA will host its annual Trunk or Treat Halloween event on Friday, Oct. 27, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at its location at 30 East 7th St., Bloomsburg. Join it, The Exchange, AGAPE Love From Above to our Community, First Keystone Community Bank and others for a night of spooky family fun. There will be fun activities, a haunted walk-through and plenty of Halloween candy. The Bloomsburg YMCA Y-Care program, a before and after-school program for children, will also be waiving its registration fee on Oct. 27. For more information on this event, visit the Bloomsburg Y’s website

 

  • PA CareerLink of Columbia/Montour Counties, along with the Innovative Manufacturers Center (IMC), will host a collaborative robot workshop on Monday, Oct. 30, from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Pine Barn Inn, Danville. There is no cost to attend and a light breakfast will be served. Around the world, thousands of robots work collaboratively alongside humans with no safety guards and no problems. Come and learn about universal robots, robot programming, end effector solutions, stands and protective covering, and participate in hands-on activities. Visit online to register or learn more about this event. 

 

  • Innotek Computer Consulting will host its annual Technology and Security Expo on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Sand Springs Country Club, 10 Clubhouse Dr., Drums. This annual event, billed as “Northeast Pennsylvania’s biggest technology and security expo,” brings together IT managers, executives and business owners to discuss the impact of technology and security on business. There is no cost to attend. For more information or to register, visit the event page on Innotek’s website, or the Facebook event page.

 

  • Along with the Bloomsburg University Regional STEM Education Center, the Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber will co-sponsor the Future Careers Expo on Thursday, Nov. 9, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Kehr Union Ballroom on the BU campus. The annual event allows attendees to explore career in science, technology, engineering and math and it open to all students in grades 7-12, as well as their parents. Participants can receive a BU application fee waiver just for attends, and there will also be door prizes for those that sign up. For more information and to register, visit here. For businesses that are interested in participating as vendors, please fill out this form and return it to the email address on the form by Oct. 20. For questions from businesses, please call the Chamber Foundation at 570-784-2522 or email

 

  • State Rep. Dave Millard will host his third annual Veterans Expo on Saturday, Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. – noon at Central Columbia High School, located at 4777 Old Berwick Rd., Bloomsburg. Exhibitors with veteran-related information will be available. 

Medicare Part D Notices Due by October 15

From ChamberChoice

Employers whose health care plans include prescription drug benefits for active employees, retirees, COBRA participants, or spouses and dependents who are Medicare-eligible must notify those covered individuals by Oct. 15 of each year whether their drug benefit is creditable or non-creditable coverage. This means the health plan is expected to cover, on average, as much as the standard Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

Under regulations issued by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), disclosure notices must be provided to Part D eligible individuals at the following times:
• prior to commencement of the annual coordinated election period (ACEP) for Part D;
• prior to an individual’s initial enrollment period (IEP) for Part D;
• prior to the effective date of coverage for any Part D eligible individual that enrolls in the employer’s prescription drug coverage;
• whenever the employer no longer offers prescription drug coverage or changes it so that it is no longer creditable or becomes creditable;
• upon request by the Part D eligible individual.

However, if disclosure notices are provided to all plan participants annually, prior to October 15 each year, CMS will presumably consider the listed disclosure times met (with the exception of the notice being requested). Thus, JRG Advisors suggests that employers distribute this notice to all plan participants at open enrollment with enrollment materials.

CMS posts the Model Disclosure Notices on its website.

This notice is especially important to those who are Medicare eligible, since if they are not covered with creditable coverage and decline to enroll in Part D, a penalty will likely be imposed when enrolling at a later date.

Employers Need to Know:
• The Notice of Creditable or Non-Creditable Coverage is an employer responsibility.
• Check with the health plan insurer to verify if coverage is creditable or non-creditable, especially if offering a qualified High Deductible Health Plan.
• Notice must be provided no later than Oct. 15 of each year.
• Distribution to all participants during open enrollment meets the October 15 deadline and other time requirements to provide the notices.