Chamber Accepted Ice Bucket Challenge

Fred Gaffney, Chamber President, accepted ISS Solutions’ Ice Bucket Challenge. Adrienne Mael, Downtown Bloomsburg Inc.’s Manager, and Becc Ostron, Manager of Fog & Flame, also participated and passed the challenge on to InnoTek Computer Consultants, Steph’s Subs and the rest of the Fog & Flame staff. To date, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $94.3 million towards fighting ALS. Click here to view the video.

Members Approve Partnership with Visitors Bureau

Following overwhelmingly positive response from the memberships from both organizations, the Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau will be consolidating operations in order to increase the value of membership and improve service to the communities in the two counties. Scheduled to take effect October 1, the two organizations will operate under the umbrella of a new non-profit organization, called the Columbia-Montour Partnership for Community Development.

The new structure is not a merger of the two organizations. The Chamber and Visitors Bureau will continue to exist, with separate boards to maintain focus on strategic priorities. While the Visitors Bureau’s focus will remain on promoting the two county region and tourism-related economic development, the Chamber will continue to serve as an advocate for all employers and provide programs and services to encourage job growth. Members of either organization will automatically become members of both with access to all benefits. Combined, the Chamber and Visitors Bureau represent almost 600 area employers.

Staffs and operational resources will be combined under the Partnership to eliminate duplication of effort and improve efficiency in delivering programs and services. Office locations will remain in Berwick, Bloomsburg and Danville, though the main offices of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau will be consolidated. No defined timeline has been established, as possible facilities are currently being evaluated.

The boards of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau will provide strategic input to the Board of the Partnership. The chief paid executives of the two organizations will serve in parallel roles within the Partnership. Chamber President Fred Gaffney will serve as Chief Executive Officer, overseeing Chamber initiatives and representing the Partnership in regional initiatives. David “Otto” Kurecian, Executive Director of the Visitors Bureau, will serve as Chief Operating Officer, responsible for day to day operations as well as management of tourism enhancement efforts.

With the same general goal of strengthening the regional economy, the Chamber and Visitors Bureau hope the Partnership will be attractive to other organizations with similar goals. The Partnership is offering operational support, including office space, to other non-profit groups. The Chamber’s subsidiaries, Downtown Bloomsburg Inc., and the Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber, also become part of the Partnership structure upon its creation.

“The Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1941 when smart businesspeople realized that they could be more effective at strengthening the community if they worked together,” according to Richard Kwei, Chamber Board Chair. “This partnership is a continuation of that realization and we hope that we can be even more effective in strengthening Columbia and Montour counties by working with other groups.”

A task force has been working with staff and sub-committees since January to formalize the operational details of the Partnership. Final ballots were sent to all members in late July with a deadline of August 11th. Members of the Chamber were also invited to vote in person at a special meeting held yesterday morning. The results of both votes were overwhelmingly in support of the partnership.

The process was facilitated by Heather Feldhaus, Ph.D., with Bloomsburg University’s Center for Community Research and Consulting, and Chuck Laudermilch, a retired Bloomsburg University professor. “The CMVB Board of Directors is grateful to the staff of both the CMVB and the Chamber for their diligence and focus on the needs of our members as both organizations strive to deliver the best possible services to Montour and Columbia Counties,” said Bob Stoudt, Visitors Bureau Board President. “I am very optimistic that the Partnership will be a great asset for our community.”

Study Ranks PA School Systems Among Best in Nation

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

On Monday, August 4, a national study by WalletHub ranked Pennsylvania’s public education system as the 10th best in the nation, thanks largely to the total amount of education spending per student.

The ranking was established after analyzing 12 metrics that included student/teacher ratios, test scores, drop-out rates, and the percentage of the population with at least a Bachelor’s Degree. The study was conducted to show the correlation between education quality, income potential and the impact of both on the state’s economy. While the author of the report told Capitolwire that education funding itself is not a sole determinant of quality, the Economic Policy Institute connects higher income to well-educated workforces.

Pennsylvania is spending more money on education today than at any other time in state history, with this year’s budget reflecting a $10.6 billion allocation to the Department of Education – a 3.1 percent boost over last year’s budget. There has also been an infusion of $100 million into a “Ready to Learn” block grant program; along with increases in special education, Pre-K Counts and community colleges. In all, Pennsylvania’s public education funding accounts for about one third of the $29.1 billion spending plan.

Berwick Businesses Invited to Roundtable Discussion

Business leaders in the Berwick area are invited to an informal conversation discussing how to strengthen the community by strengthening large and small businesses. A Business Roundtable is being hosted in partnership by the Chamber and our Berwick Task Force, the Berwick Area United Way and the newly formed Berwick Area Marketing Committee. The Roundtable will be held Thursday, September 18th at 7:30 a.m. at the Eagles Building.

All are welcome to attend to help answer the following questions:
* What makes a strong business?
* How do strong businesses strengthen the community?
* How can we move Berwick into a strong business community?
Light refreshments will be provided.

Please invite your colleagues and neighbors. If you are not able to attend but would like to provide input, Fred Gaffney, Chamber President can be reached at 570-752-3601. Ginny Crake, Berwick Area United Way CEO, can be reached at 570-759-8203.

Hone Your Computer Skills with Free Online Training

Free online computer training will be available for another five months through SEDA-COG’ s Online Broadband & Technology Training (OBTT) program. To date nearly 300 individuals have registered for classes, and SEDA-COG can register another 300.

In addition to the online training, for which there are 13 categories, registered users will also have access to Books 24×7, which includes thousands of short videos on various aspects of computer use. Those interested may register at After the registration is processed, a temporary password will be e-mailed to them, a process which may take 24-48 hours. Once an individual is registered, they will have access to all the courses and videos.

Registered individuals may take as many courses as they would like. Several courses are divided into units, which may each take 20 or 30 minutes to complete. Although the program is due to conclude at year’s end, those who begin an OBTT class will be able to complete it, even if that extends beyond December 31.

Additional information is available from Jim Baker, who may be reached at 570-524-4491, e-mail [email protected].