In Mission to Build a Stronger Economy, Local Chambers Lead the Way

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

When the Pennsylvania Chamber was founded over a century ago, it recruited one of the rising stars in the chamber world from Massachusetts – Daniel Casey – to visit locales across the Commonwealth and impress upon business owners the value of having their own local chamber of commerce. Newspaper columns from the era raved about the inspirational messaging in Casey’s speeches. To a crowd in Tyrone, Pa. in November 1919, Casey asked them to “Look at any municipality that is thriving and you will find that it is thriving because there is some dynamic power behind it. The Chamber of Commerce is that dynamic power.” The power behind Casey’s words, as described in this article that highlighted Casey’s influence in the PA Chamber’s earlier years, was that he recognized the extent to which employers were interested in public policy, and the impact their interest had on economic growth.

Nearly 100 years later, the PA Chamber still understands the power behind engaging local chambers in the ongoing effort to promote this economic growth. Also of importance is the real-world experience they bring as we work with them to craft the public policies we advocate for every day in the halls of the state Capitol. The majority of the almost 10,0000 members the PA Chamber represents are small business owners who belong to local chambers, and those chambers are acutely aware of the challenges they face operating in Pennsylvania.

“What are you hearing from your members?” is a question that comes up at nearly all of the meetings we have with our local chamber partners throughout the year, and at events where we present updates on the PA Chamber’s legislative priorities. We’re also proud of our ongoing partnership with the PA Association of Chamber Professionals in hosting Chamber Day at the State Capitol. Of course, our local chamber partners don’t have just this one day a year to weigh in on the issues that matter to them the most – we keep the line of communication open 365 days a year so you can always reach out, stay informed and rally alongside us when we need you to.

The most recent example in which we’ve enlisted the backing of local chambers was in garnering support for an important prescription drug bill. Senate Bill 936 – which was a leading PA Chamber priority this session – aimed to implement a prescription drug formulary within Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system and would have been a critical piece of the puzzle in addressing the state’s ongoing opioid and prescription drug abuse crisis as it relates to injured workers. In dozens of communications to state lawmakers, the PA Chamber listed more than 70 local chambers across Pennsylvania as being in favor of the bill because it would help to mitigate an epidemic that has hit every corner of the state. The term “all politics is local” is truly driven home when discussing the power of local chambers’ support for an initiative such as S.B. 936, because of the impact it has on lawmakers when they realize how the collective business community in their district has weighed in on the issue. It was the extensive support of these local chambers, as well as medical, business and local government groups across the state that helped to get the bill through the state legislature. Unfortunately, despite the aggressive push we made to get S.B. 936 to the finish line, Gov. Wolf ultimately vetoed the bill on April 27 in favor of a series of executive actions that we believe are woefully inadequate to address a crisis of this magnitude. You can read more about our reaction to the veto in this press release.

Despite the disappointing outcome on S.B. 936, the PA Chamber’s shared mission with our local chamber partners – to guide Pennsylvania toward a stronger economy – will continue unabated. We remain focused on working together toward other important workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation reforms. There are other pro-business topics of importance to focus on that Daniel Casey so eloquently referenced in his speeches so long ago – like establishing a competitive tax climate; reducing regulatory red tape; advancing a fair and efficient legal system; among many other issues on which we’ll be enlisting your expertise, opinions and support. Thank you for all you have done to create a pro-business Pennsylvania thus far and we look forward to the number of ways we can work together in the future.

Two Chamber Members Receive Grants in Latest Round of Williams Community Grant Program

The latest recipients of Williams‘ Atlantic Sunrise Community Grant program were recently announced, and in this round, the seventh overall, 41 organizations across 10 Pennsylvania counties will receive a total of $264,300 in funding.

Two cycles of Atlantic Sunrise grant awards are announced each year – spring and fall. This cycle’s grant dollars were dispersed in the following categories: emergency response ($107,000), education ($64,500) and recreation or community enhancement projects ($92,800). All grant awards are given to organizations in counties in which the pipeline project crosses. 

Since the program’s inception in 2015, Williams has granted more than $2.2 million to 309 organizations in Pennsylvania.

This round of grant recipients included Chamber members the Columbia-Montour Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which received $10K for updates to its Trading Post store, and $4K to WVIA Public Media to support educational programs. 

Other Chamber members that have previously received grants through the Atlantic Sunrise Community Grant programs include: Benton Rodeo AssociationBloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Buckhorn Volunteer Fire Co.Camp VictoryColumbia County Traveling LibraryColumbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School., Foundation of the Columbia Montour ChamberHemlock Township and the Pennsylvania College of Technology Foundation. 

For complete lists of previous grant recipients, visit one of the links below.

1st round grants (spring 2015)
2nd round grants (fall 2015)
3rd round grants (spring 2016)
4th round grants (fall 2016)
5th round grants (spring 2017)
6th round grants (fall 2018)

The deadline for the fall applications is Sept. 1. Please visit the Atlantic Sunrise Community Grant program page to learn more about the application process, eligibility guidelines, and how organizations are utilizing grant funds to improve their local communities.

Chamber Helps Atlantic Broadband Complete Rebranding and Usher in New Era of Broadband Services

On Wednesday, May 2, the Chamber was on hand to help the team at Atlantic Broadbrand complete its rebranding from MetroCast with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and rebranding ceremony. Atlantic Broadband acquired MetroCast at the beginning of 2018 and Wednesday marked the final transition to the Atlantic Broadband era. Local elected officials and dignitaries were on hand to commemorate the occasion. 

At the ceremony, Tom Carey, general manager of Atlantic Broadband’s Berwick office, announced that effective immediately, Atlantic Broadband is now delivering automatic internet speed upgrades to all of its business and residential customers. This is just the first of several new enhanced services that Atlantic Broadband will be rolling out to its customers throughout the remainder of the year. 

The Chamber is excited to continue it long and mutually-beneficial relationship with Atlantic Broadband, as well as work with it and other broadband and utility providers as well as local, state and federal elected officials to help provide broadband internet service to many of the rural areas in our region. 

PA Chamber Expresses Dismay at Governor’s Veto of Workers’ Comp Bill

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

On Friday, April 27 – nine days after the General Assembly had sent him a bill to help address opioid addiction among Pennsylvania’s injured worker population – Gov. Tom Wolf issued his veto of S.B. 936. The PA Chamber was at the forefront in support for this legislation, which aimed to implement a prescription drug formulary within the state’s workers compensation system. Formularies are standard in healthcare and states that have established them within workers’ comp have seen a notable decrease in the number of opioid-dependent injured workers. Joining the PA Chamber in support for this bill was a broad array of stakeholders, including the Hospital & HealthSystem Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Occupational and Environmental Medical Society, Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, Concentra (the largest provider of occupational medicine in the country), addiction treatment professionals, other groups representing employers, school districts and municipalities, as well as more than 70 local chambers of commerce, including the Columbia Montour Chamber.

“The Governor’s veto message is puzzling,” PA Chamber President Gene Barr said in a press release on Friday. “He does not appear to recognize that under S.B. 936 his own Department of Labor & Industry would have selected the formulary.  I’m also disturbed that the message insinuates that a prescription drug formulary could encourage opioid use.  This flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that drug formularies have helped reduce opioid use and addiction in state workers’ compensation systems across the country.”

The Governor’s decision to veto this important legislation is particularly disturbing in light of the revelations in a series of investigative articles by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The series described allegations involving a workers’ compensation law firm that partnered with a small network of doctors to prescribe their clients exorbitantly priced and unproven compound creams; and then sent these unsuspecting patients to pharmacies that were co-owned by the lawyers and doctors themselves. The articles exposed these individuals as the opponents aggressively fighting to defeat S.B. 936.

The day before he vetoed S.B. 936, Gov. Wolf announced his intent to issue Executive Orders related to the opioid crisis that appear to be woefully inadequate. In its press release, the PA Chamber listed the reasons why his action is not an adequate alternative to the bill. For example, the announcement mentions plans to regulate the cost of “topical opioid compounds,” but appears to ignore whether they actually help patients and could allow pharmacy arrangements like the one described by the Inquirer to continue uncheckedThe announcement further mentions possible implementation of opioid prescribing “guidelines,” while failing to explain if these “guidelines” can even be enforced.  Executive Orders do not carry the full force of the law; they are inherently temporary solutions and their implementation can be fraught with delays and loopholes.  This is simply not an adequate alternative to S.B. 936.

“Governor Tom Wolf has spoken eloquently about addressing the opioid crisis and twice declared it an official state emergency,” PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr said.  “But policymakers must also pursue all reasonable and responsible action to fight this tragic situation…We look forward to working with the legislature and the governor to implement an approach that will truly protect workers by getting them medications that are safe and effective, and will allow them to return to full health and work in a timely manner.”

Bashar Hanna Inaugurated as 19th Bloomsburg University President

On Friday, April 27, Bashar Hanna, PhD., was inaugurated as the 19th President of Bloomsburg University. A Syrian immigrant who was unable to speak English in the 5th grade, Dr. Hanna called his selection “a tremendous honor, and a huge responsibility.” Announced to succeed David Soltz, PhD., in July of last year, Hanna was joined by family, community members, faculty, staff, and colleagues from institutions across the northeast for the ceremony.

Hanna spoke about the 180 year evolution of the institution, which began as the Bloomsburg Academy on 3rd and Jefferson Streets, to a University that now serves students from 27 U.S. states and territories and 33 countries. Examples of current academic excellence include a pass rate on the PA State Board of Accountants CPA exam that ranks 3rd in the state for students in the Zeigler College of Business, and a near perfect record for nursing students on the nursing licensure exam, with only one student failing to pass the exam in the past decade. Dr. Hanna noted that the $62 million fundraising campaign completed last year will “continue to transform this institution and our students and their families for decades to come.”

Despite the successes of Bloomsburg University, Hanna recognized challenges facing higher education, which include student expectations, state funding, and accountability, among other factors. He acknowledged lasting success will require change, and expressed confidence that Bloomsburg will remain a “beacon on the hill.” “With my pack of Huskies by my side…” said Hanna, “we will be prepared for every challenge to transform the lives of the students who are the future of our country, and of our world.”

Dr. Hanna’s professional background 
Full video of the Inauguration (his remarks begin at the 1:19:25 mark of the video)