The March edition of ChamberPack is overflowing with offers from members and information on the Chamber’s schedule of events. The bi-monthly mailing should arrive in your mailbox this week. Look for Chamber information about an opportunity for members to have exclusive savings on Hershey Park admission tickets, the upcoming Business After Hours at Service 1st Federal Credit Union, sponsorship and business registration forms for the 4th Annual Celebrate Berwick festival, and relevant forms for the Chamber Golf Outing in June. This month’s mailing also features the spring season schedule for Bloomsburg University’s Celebrity Artist Series, information about free corporate luncheons hosted by Rodman Natural Health Solutions, and services offered by Erie Insurance and Mutual of Omaha. ChamberPack is a cost-effective way to direct mail your information to hundreds of business decision makers in the area. The next mailing will be sent in May. Download the reservation form or call Eleanor at 570-784-2522 for more information or to reserve your space today!
SEDA-Council of Governments has reduced the cost of borrowing for an SBA 504 loan to further assist small businesses with the financing of their expansion needs.
SEDA-COG will cover half of the 0.5% fee on the bank loan involved in the financing package for SBA 504 loans approved by the SBA this year. For example, for a $1 million expansion project, borrowers would save $1,250. For much larger projects, the savings could be thousands of dollars.
For more information about this SBA 504 fee reduction or to learn more about the SBA 504 program for small businesses in Pennsylvania, visit www.sedacogldc.org or contact the Business Finance Department at 570-524-4491 or [email protected].
A reminder that the Chamber’s low interest loan fund now offers loans of up to $20,000. Call Fred Gaffney at the Chamber at 570-784-2522 for details.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees engaged in a somewhat tense exchange with Wolf administration officials last week as the first week of budget hearings kicked off.
In the most widely reported budget hearing, Budget Secretary Randy Albright faced off with Senate Republicans in the first Senate Appropriations budget hearing. Over five and a half hours, Albright defended the governor’s proposed $33.29 billion spending plan and warned of a $2 billion structural deficit going into the 2016-17 fiscal year. Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, stated plainly that he and many other Senate Republicans had voted on the long-defunct “framework” agreement because there was an understanding that pension reform and liquor reform would be included in a final deal. With those two issues no longer on the table, he told Albright “You’re asking a lot… and you’re going to have to work a lot harder to get that (tax increase) vote out of me.”
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale appeared last week before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, where he was asked whether he would be willing to audit Gov. Wolf’s expenditures during the first six months of the fiscal year when no spending had been authorized – a fact reported in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. His office is now said to be reviewing the audit request. DePasquale also discussed school district borrowing during the budget impasse, saying that districts incurred up to $45 million in interest charges. He also warned that the six months of education funding the Governor approved in December will soon run dry; and that schools will need to borrow within a matter of weeks if the 2015-16 budget remains unresolved. Another important topic addressed during the Auditor General’s budget hearings was the Wolf administration’s intention to eliminate the Public Employee Retirement Commission, which analyzes municipal pension budgets. Calling PERC’s work “critical,” DePasquale said that independent analysis of the pension systems is necessary to address the real level of debt and work toward solutions on making the pension systems sustainable.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees also hosted the Independent Fiscal Office last week. The IFO confirmed that the state faces a nearly $2 billion structural deficit for 2016-17 and there will be a residual shortfall of roughly $300 million this fiscal year; but that revenue estimates for 2015-16 are expected to be about $200 million more than originally anticipated. When asked how not replacing federal stimulus dollars would impact the structural deficit, IFO Director Matthew Knittel told House Appropriations members that the federal stimulus money was meant to be temporary and not meant for long term purposes. “Long term computations would not enter into the deficit projections,” he stated. “If the federal funds were there and then removed then I would think it would appear as though there were a deficit.” PLS also reported that when asked what portion of the increased expenditures in the proposed budget is caused by mandatory increases, Knittel noted that they are made up by pensions, debt and increases in certain programs in the Department of Human Services and the Department of Corrections.
Budget hearings continue this week.
The Columbia-Montour Partnership for Community Development has engaged National Travel Center (NTC) to investigate the possibility of moving the Chamber and Visitors Bureau from fair share membership dues to a hybrid structure where the amount assessed to each constituent depends on the services provided. Under such a structure, members have the opportunity to determine the specific package of services that benefit them most from a menu. Other chambers and visitors bureaus that have made this change believe the structure enables them to be more responsive to member needs.
Before deciding whether or not a change in membership structure is appropriate, we are holding a focus group meeting with members to brainstorm the types of services that would be of greatest benefit if offered by the Partnership. NTC will begin the session with information about the types of programs that are being offered by chambers and visitor bureaus. Participants will be encouraged to suggest services that would be particularly valuable, beyond any list offered by others. The focus group will be held on Wednesday, March 2nd at the Bloomsburg Fire Hall from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Please consider taking the time to attend this focus group and provide your input. To register, please click here.
Congratulations are in order for the recipients of awards presented at the first combined Annual Dinner for the Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau. The event, sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, was held at Rolling Pines Golf Course this past Thursday, February 11th.
Mary Clapp received the Outstanding Citizen Award, sponsored by BIDA. Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital was named the Large Business of the Year. This award was sponsored by the Columbia Alliance for Economic Growth. Key Partners Realty, LLC received the Small Business of the Year award, sponsored by First Columbia Bank & Trust Company. Pump House Weddings and Bed & Breakfast was awarded the Community Progress Award, which was sponsored by the Berwick Hospital Center. Bill’s Bike Barn won the Visitors Bureau’s Travel & Tourism Buddy Award, presented by Knoebels Amusement Resort. Be sure to congratulate all winners when you next see them!
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