PA Chamber Urges Lawmakers to Address Protz Fix

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The PA Chamber is urging lawmakers to prioritize the consideration of legislation that would provide a fix to a financially devastating state Supreme Court decision related to workers’ compensation.

Last year, the Court’s decision in the Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board case threw out the Impairment Rating Evaluation process, which for more than 20 years had been a fair and effective way for state-designated physicians to determine whether patients were healthy enough to someday return to work or should continue receiving wage-loss benefits indefinitely. The Court’s ruling – which was essentially based on a technicality – prompted the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau to file a mid-year loss cost increase, which is raising insurance premiums for Pennsylvania employers and will ultimately impose hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs every year.

The PA Chamber has since spent time educating the business community about reasons behind these anticipated cost hikes while also advocating for a legislative fix. Senate Bill 963, which passed Committee and awaits further consideration in the Senate, and H.B. 1840, which awaits action by the House Labor and Industry committee, would update Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law to address the concern raised by the Supreme County. The concern centered on a provision of the Act that directed physicians conducting an IRE to use the most recent edition of American Medical Association guidelines. Since the guidelines are updated by AMA doctors periodically without oversight from the Pennsylvania legislature, the Court ruled the legislature has unconstitutionally delegated authority. The two bills, which were introduced by the respective chairs of the Senate and House Labor and Industry Committees, would address this concern by adopting the most recent edition of the AMA guidelines.

The PA Chamber is coordinating a broad-based coalition of supporters for this legislation. In memos sent to lawmakers earlier this year, the coalition – which is comprised of various business, local government, medical and school board groups – urged support for these bills to help save Pennsylvania employers from this heavy financial burden. “The IRE using AMA guides is a nationally accepted means of adjusting to changes that inevitably occur during the course of an employee’s recovery from injury,” the coalition wrote. “S.B. 963 will help ensure the constitutionality of the IRE process by updating the law with the most recent edition of the AMA guides and applying it to future claims. We urge you to support this bill and help save Pennsylvania employers hundreds of millions of dollars in increased insurance costs.”

Apprenticeship Summit at Penn College Highlights Skilled Trades

Earlier this month, business and education leaders from across the region, including representatives from the Columbia Montour Chamber and the Chamber Foundation, gathered at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport to discuss apprenticeships as one piece of the puzzle in addressing workforce needs. As employers of all sizes and sectors are challenged to find quality employees, statewide surveys show that those who invest in their employee development have the highest levels of satisfaction with their workforce. Programs and funding are being developed to support apprenticeships in a number of fields. 

Jim Nemeth, human resources director for North American operations at Autoneum (pictured), provided an overview of the mechatronics apprenticeship program that they developed with Penn College in collaboration with Kawneer and SEKISUI SPI. A traditional apprenticeship consists of 8,000 hours of on-the-job training combined with academic instruction of approximately 144 hours. Penn College recently partnered with the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation to offer the program to other employers in the region with tuition assistance. Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, Penn College president, also announced a $576K state grant to increase the College’s capacity in apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.

Dr. Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute noted at the Summit that apprentices make up just .28% percent of the U.S. workforce, which is significantly lower than a number of European countries. While funding was recently increased to $150 million by the federal government, the U.S. has a long way to go to catch up to those countries in fostering apprenticeships, according to Lerman. He and Nemeth agreed that the state and/or federal government needs be more proactive in certifying apprenticeships. Currently, labor unions are coordinating a number of certifications. Eric Ramsay, director of the apprenticeship and training office with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, said that his office is getting additional resources to be able to certify apprenticeships.

Surveys conducted by the PA Chamber of Business & Industry in recent years echoed what our members are telling us, that finding skilled employees is their number one issue. Those surveys also show that employers who are proactive in investing in their employee development are more satisfied with their workforce. According to Dr. Gilmour, companies realize a $1.50 return on investment for every dollar invested in employee education.

The Columbia Montour Chamber and its Foundation are working to address member workforce needs on a number of fronts. The Foundation supports programs in our local school districts to develop employability skills in students, and expose them to career opportunities in our area. The Chamber and Foundation are working to connect members with educational and other resources to strengthen the skills of existing employees, in an effort to meet immediate needs. The Chamber is also advocating for long-term policy changes to better align our educational resources and encourage people to want to work. If you are interested in learning more about these workforce initiatives, contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber at 570-784-2522 or email, or Jeff Emanuel at the Chamber’s Foundation at the same number or email.

Member News – May 16, 2018

Member News

  • The Wilkes Small Business Development Center will hold its next First Step workshop for aspiring entrepreneurs tonight, May 16 at 6 p.m. at its location at 85 South Main St., Wilkes-Barre. This event is intended to help aspiring business owners begin the process of successful business ownership, including evaluating business ideas, developing a business plan and exploring financing options. Cost is $20. To register, visit the link above or call 570-577-1249.


  • Service 1st Federal Credit Union last week announced a merger with NU Community Credit Union, which was approved by a vote of the NU membership on May 10. The merger also received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities. The corporate title of the resulting credit union will be Service 1st Federal Credit Union. The effective date of the merger is June 1, with full account conversion scheduled for Aug. 2. NU Community Credit Union employees will be joining the Service 1st team. On Aug. 2, their branch, located at 2613 State Route 45, Milton, will become Service 1st’s eleventh office and available to all members.


  • The Bucknell Small Business Development Center presents the last of a three-part series on marketing to customers tomorrow, May 17, from 10-11:30 a.m. at 416 Market St., Lewisburg. Titled “Marketing Online: Getting Under the Hood With the Tools of the Trade,” this workshop will take a deep dive into social media analytics. It will show attendees how to access key customer demographic information and help manage social media strategy and maximize time efficiency on these platforms. For more information, visit the the Bucknell SBDC’s events page. Cost is $35 and registration can be done online or by calling 570-577-1249.


  • Red Rock Job Corps Center invites interested parties to bid on a repair project at its building in Lopez. The job requires the removal of flooring, constructing of a trench drain system in the crawlspace below the floor, connection of the drainage system to the main drain/sump pump, and installation of the new floor and repair of the remainder of the existing floor. See the scope of work for more information, and for additional information or questions, call 570-477-0203. A mandatory pre-bid walk through will take place tomorrow, May 17 at 10 a.m., during which a complete bid packet will be distributed. the bid due date is June 1


  • Penn College and WVIA Public Media invite K-12 students, teachers and parents to create their own original board games or video games in the Game On! Art Challenge. Inspired by the documentary “Working Class: Game On! Why Math Matters,” which aired on WVIA and can be viewed on WVIA On Demand, YouTube and the series website, this challenge invites entries of original games created by students in grades K-12, as well as teachers and parents in either classic board game style or in a video game format. The entry deadline is May 18. There are three categories: Grades K-6, 7-12 and teacher/parent. Email entries to Elaine Lambert, executive producer of the the documentary. For more information, visit here.


  • CSS Industries, Inc. (Berwick Offray) will conduct a job fair at the Columbia Montour Chamber building, located at 238 Market St., Bloomsburg, this Friday, May 18 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Learn more about the company and the positions available. Whether you’re looking for full-time, part-time or even summer work for students, CSS has a spot for you. 


  • Montour Area Recreation Commission staff and volunteers are planning a major cleanup of the 6.2-mile long North Branch Canal Trail in Columbia and Montour Counties on Sunday, May 20, from 1-5 p.m. This is MARC’s most ambitious cleanup effort yet along the trail, therefore it is seeking additional volunteers, who are asked to wear boots or other sturdy footwear, long pants and gloves. Children may attend but must be supervised by a parent or adult at all times. Light refreshments will be provided and the event will be held rain or shine, unless thunderstorms or other severe weather in anticipated. Volunteers are asked to meet at the Danville Soccer Park across from the Danville State Hospital at 1 p.m., and from there, the group will be broken into teams and head out to the trail. Volunteers aren’t required to stay until 5 p.m. and may leave whenever needed. For more information, please contact Bob Stoudt at 570-336-2060 or email


  • The Weis Center for the Performing Arts, in collaboration with the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau and the Susquehanna River Arts initiative, is hosting a free art exhibit and installation featuring the work of 10 local artists from now through Friday, May 25 in the Weis Center’s upper Atrium Lobby. The exhibit is free and takes place on the upper level of the Atrium Lobby, which is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Participating artists will include: Annie Barnhart, Robert Brown, Pete Grimord, Joan Grimord, Gail Fox, Glen Klein, Abigail Kurecian, Sara Mika, Pam Thomas and William Whitmoyer. Each artist will have several samples of artwork on display. 


  • Wild For Salmon will host its annual spring picnic, this year titled “Salute to Salmon” on Saturday, May 26, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at its store on 521 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11) in Bloomsburg. Chef Josh will be grilling up portions of Asian-glazed salmon with apple slaw for sale and offering free poke bar samples. Sockeye salmon purchases will also be discounted. Join the Wild For Salmon team for some more outstanding seafood tasting and wish the team of fishermen well as they prepare for their annual excursion up to Alaska to do their fishing in Bristol Bay in June and July. For more information, visit Wild For Salmon’s Facebook event


  • Geisinger Health Plan and the Columbia-Montour Aging Office, Inc. are teaming up to bring “A Matter of Balance,” an award-winning program, to the area for a series of presentations in April and May. This program for older adults and is designed to manage falls and increase activity levels. It is available to the public at no cost and will be held each Monday, through May 21, from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Maria Joseph Continuing Care Community, located at 1707 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11), Danville. The program will also be held on Tuesday, May 29 due to Memorial Day, and this will be the last class. Attendees will learn to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risks at home and exercise to increase strength and balance. Registration is required, and to do so, call the GHP wellness team at 866-415-7138. 


  • Art of Floating will hold a open house and day of celebration for its 5th anniversary on Saturday, June 9. Additional information, including sponsors and vendors will be announced soon, but as part of the event, Art of Floating will also be collecting donations for the Ronald McDonald House of Danville, and anyone that makes a donation will receive a 15% off coupon at Art of Floating. Items needed by RMHD include: sugar, mayo, powdered creamer, ketchup, chicken broth, cooking oil, 40-watt LED light bulbs, battery operated alarm clocks, all-purpose copier paper, non-stick frying pans, electric griddles, heating pads, HE laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, anti-bacterial hand soap and postage stamps. 

Welcome ALTERA Life, LLC

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, the ALTERA Life, LLC, to help us fulfill our mission.

ALTERA Life is a nutrition and wellness consulting company. Founded by Berwick natives Christian Force and Shannon Koch, ALTERA Life helps its clients transition to and maintain a healthy lifestyles through proper nutrition and physical activity. They focus on factors such as blood pressure, body fat percentage and resting heart rate, and have helped clients with body dysmorphia and anorexia get off the scale and focus on the true factors of health. Utilizing a non-medical approach that does not claim to cure anything, Christian and Shannon help their clients achieve a basic foundation of health and inspire them to go on and use it however they please. Altera is Latin for “the other way of approaching nutrition, fitness and life; the healthy way; the right way.” Located at 332 East 2nd St. in Bloomsburg, ALTERA Life can be reached through email, its website, or by calling 570-441-8415. 

Leadership Central Penn Goes For a Check-Up

Leadership Central Penn is sponsored by USG, Bloomsburg University, Kawneer and SEKISUI SPI.

Leadership Central Penn reached its last class of the year, and it found itself visiting Geisinger and the Ronald McDonald House of Danville.  The topics for the day included current healthcare issues facing Geisinger and patients in the region, the history of Geisinger and what the healthcare market looks like with the changes in government regulation. 

The day kicked off with an introduction and welcome by Deb Templeton and Bob Davies at the Foss Home.  The class learned a little about the history of Geisinger, and how this renowned healthcare organization ended up in Danville. There is a lot of folklore about this story, but the facts are as advertised: Abigail Geisinger wanted the best for the area in healthcare. Being one of the only people in the area with a car at the time, she got to see the needs and suffering of people around the region, as the car was used as an ambulance. This ignited the passion that propelled her to “make it the best” hospital possible. 

Of course, many know that Geisinger is an integrated system with 13 hospitals, a drug and alcohol treatment center, 200 clinics and 33,000 employees. All of these facilities increase demand for electricity, which is being met by coal, natural gas and nuclear power. However, Mike Gerrity told the group about another way to meet this demand — innovation.  Geisinger has substantially lowered its energy demand over the years through green and LEED certified buildings, solar power, lighting retrofits, a cogeneration plant, and the steam turbine chiller project. Geisinger’s energy costs through these efforts have resulted in a drop from $4-$6 per square foot, for the average hospital, to $1.19 per square foot. It has saved 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually due to cogeneration, two million kilowatts of energy are saved with the chiller project and more energy is saved everyday with the previous stated efforts. All of this makes the air we breathe healthier, our water cleaner and our health better. 

The next presenters, Rachel Manotti and Sam Balukoff, provided data and the opportunity to discuss the healthcare market and the current issues in our area. The data helped frame the needs in our area related to healthcare, so that we had a local understanding of why decisions on the provider and insurer side are made. The class also got to question some of the care decisions as community members. The hot topic was the opiod epidemic and how Geisinger is dealing with this. What was shared is that the patient’s needs and the standard of care are always the focus for the system. However, there is also government regulation that can cause slowdowns in the ever-changing healthcare landscape. One error or change can easily require pages and pages of process implementation, which even the electronic health record can’t correct from an efficiency point of view.

After a lunch break, the class boarded the tour bus with Bob Davies for some more history and a Danville driving tour of Geisinger’s facilities. The tour showcased the growth over time of the fields that are now pediatric clinics and outpatient facilities at Woodbine Lane, the vast fleet of helicopters that transfer critical patients in and out of Geisinger, and even the old limestone pillars, long thought lost, from the original hospital entrance. Many take for granted the opportunities offered by Geisinger as an employer, health care innovator and leader, and local provider of care. After experiencing the intimate experience, this class won’t soon forget the value that Geisinger offers to our region.

Once the class wrapped up at Geisinger, it was off to the Ronald McDonald House for a discussion on pediatric advocacy with Dr. Amanda Beach, pediatric resident. Dr. Beach made an impassioned presentation on the needs of children. The most impactful on the group was the need for better mental health screening and access. The class learned of the changes from the American Academy of Pediatrics to assist pediatricians in doing mental health assessments and short term interventions to assist the children in their care. However, even in our area, sometime kids that need mental health services are delayed due to a lack of access from limited providers locally and nationally. 

The final opportunity for the day was a discussion about the families served by the Ronald McDonald House and the new Ronald McDonald Family room located within the Janet Weis Children’s hospital. These facilities allow families to be close to their children when they travel here for their care. The house has a slogan, “we keep families with sick children together.” The tour allowed the class to see the facilities of the house that allow families to have some “home” comforts while helping their children deal with their health concerns. The home has served 380,000 guests from 65 of 67 counties in PA, 34 states and 27 countries since 1981.