Member Spotlight: SEDA-COG

“The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce has been a valuable partner with SEDA-COG, helping to make key connections between businesses and SEDA-COG’s services to advance the economic health of the region. From networking opportunities, training partnerships, workshop marketing, to referrals, the Chamber has been a wonderful resource for the business community and SEDA-COG.”

– Liz Herman, Communications Manager, SEDA-COG

 

For 60 years, SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) has partnered with central Pennsylvania’s governments, businesses, and communities to boost the region’s economy and address issues with a regional approach.

SEDA-COG’s origins date back to 1957, when community leaders from Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties began meeting to help address common concerns of central Pennsylvania. These concerns evolved around inadequate transportation; deficiency in the availability of health care services; under-employment and unemployment conditions; and out-migration of residents to other areas with better employment potential. Although it was just a forum for discussion purposes, the original five counties formally organized and established the Susquehanna Economic Development Association (SEDA), a 501(c)(3). Ten years later, as a result of federal Appalachian Regional Commission designating SEDA a Local Development District (LDD), a small professional staff was hired and, in 1968, Centre, Clinton, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, and Perry counties joined the other five, which is SEDA-COG’s current configuration.
 
SEDA-COG was established in 1972 as a county council of governments, which became the policy, planning, and implementation arm for the agency. SEDA-COG was organized under Pennsylvania’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Act. Its county-collaborative dominated regional approach remains its hallmark – a distinction that largely sets the organization apart from those whose concerns and obligations requires a much narrower program focus.

Today, SEDA-COG’s services fall into three broad categories: economic development, community development, and direct municipal and county support. It helps the region’s counties and local communities meet needs in areas such as business and manufacturing services, housing, community revitalization, water systems and other infrastructure, and energy conservation/savings. It provides supplemental financing to assist new and expanding businesses. The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority (JRA) owns nearly 200 miles of rail line, preserving transportation service vital to key employers in the region. SEA-COG has established programs that help families rehabilitate or weatherize their homes, and its Natural Gas Cooperative formed in June 2016 helps businesses and neighborhoods gain better access Pennsylvania’s natural gas.

SEDA-COG has received Innovation Awards from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation. In 2016, the awarded areas include transforming a blighted site into new elderly housing; helping to increase access to natural gas utility service; and promoting the region’s visibility to increase foreign direct investment and job creation. In 2017, awarded areas were for economic development in a coal-impacted region and flood mitigation and resiliency planning.

 
Member spotlights are chosen via a random drawing from members that submit their business cards at a Business After Hours event. The next Business After Hours is scheduled for Sept. 20 at Kawneer, 500 East 12th St., Bloomsburg.

Essential Oils 101

From Just a Drop Essential Oil

Why Use Essential Oils?

Essential oils are naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Essential oils are highly concentrated, 50-70 times per powerful than herbs! Did you know: 81% of body care products marked “gentle” or “hypoallergenic” contain ingredients proven to irritate skin, eyes, or allergies? Essential oils are safe support for the skin without preservatives, chemicals, or harsh ingredients.

If properly extracted, essential oils have the unique ability to benefit people in all areas of life, whether in food preparation, beauty treatment, or healthcare practice. You will be amazed with the diverse ways essential oils can help fulfill you and your family’s needs. dōTERRA essential oils are powerfully concentrated, so a little goes a long way. They are multi-purpose making them smart to have on hand.

How You Can Use Essential Oils

Essential oils are easy to use. Each oil can be used in one or more of the following three methods to promote ultimate health and happiness in your home:

  1. Aromatic – inhale or use an essential oil diffuser. When diffused, certain essential oils can be very stimulating, while others can be calming and soothing. Using essential oils aromatically can also purify the air of unwanted odors and enrich your home with the lively benefits of oil fragrances.
  2. Topical – Powerful! One drop of essential oil can service every cell of your body. From the bottoms of the feet it nourishes the bloodstream in 30 seconds. Apply to feet, ears, chest, back of neck, head and troubled areas. For sensitivity dilute with fractionated coconut oil (FCO).
  3. Internal – Many of dōTERRA’s essential oils can be used internally to support a variety of health needs. The internal use of oils provides a natural way to receive the health benefits your body needs. Just add to water, drop under the tongue or put in a capsule.

Essential oils are both exciting and promising when it comes to taking care of your own and your family’s health. Whether you’re applying essential oils topically, enjoying the aromatic benefits through diffusing, or taking essential oils internally, the positive, healthful effects of essential oils are boundless.

That’s why you’ll want to ensure that the essential oils you are using are capable of delivering on their promise. You’ll want to make sure that you are choosing essential oils for their purity and their potency.

For more information, contact Diana Leighow, dōTERRA Wellness Advocate at 570-849-0019 or email, or also visit Just a Drop’s Facebook page or website.

Contribution strategies: Reduce employer expense, increase take-home pay with FSA, HRA or HSA

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh Magazine

A crucial health benefits decision an employer must make when it comes to an employee benefits program is the employee contribution strategy. 

“The contribution strategy should be carefully considered because employees rate their contribution (payroll deduction) more importantly than the benefit level and often more than the network providers,” says Ron Carmassi, sales executive at JRG Advisors. “A skilled, experienced benefits professional working in tandem with the company’s HR can save an employer time and money.”

Smart Business spoke with Carmassi about employee contribution strategies — the second of two articles on health insurance cost reduction (see previous article).

What types of employee contribution strategies should employers consider?
The consumer-driven health care approach and plan coupled with the correct contribution strategy can lower monthly premiums while engaging your employee population to manage more of their health care and make smarter decisions. The main accounts utilized in consumer-driven health plans are Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA). All three are designed to get employees more engaged with health care decisions.

How can an HSA drive down costs?
An HSA is only available to individuals enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health plan that is approved by and meets the standards set by the IRS. This type of account can reduce employer costs because, typically, high-deductible health plan premiums are lower than traditional plans.

Individuals, employees and employers can contribute to the account. The insured’s funds, deposited pre-tax, can be used to cover qualified medical expenses. Withdrawals for qualified expenses or postretirement care, contributions, and gains or investment are also tax-free.

The IRS will allow a single insured person to deposit up to $3,400 in 2017, and anyone enrolled with a spouse or dependent up to $6,750 in 2017.

How does an FSA differ?
These accounts are similar to HSAs in that an employee can use pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified medical expenses. There are even options to use the account for certain dependent care and transportation expenses.

But this account is employer-established and only funded by the employee or the employer. An employee may choose how much to deposit in the account pre-tax from their paycheck and what qualified items to use the money for.

For 2017, the maximum that may be deposited in an FSA account is $2,600 and only up to $500 may be carried over. So, consider what the FSA will be used for to avoid overfunding and losing money. These  accounts don’t offer investment options and don’t earn interest, but they do allow a person to use pre-tax dollars for medical and non-medical items and services. It is important to verify items approved by the
IRS for purchase with an FSA. 

What is an HRA? How does it work?
With HRAs, an employer selects a plan with a higher deductible and a lower monthly premium. This account is employer-funded and the savings generated by the lower premium can be used to reimburse the employee for some portion of the deductible and out-of-pocket costs. These reimbursements are tax deductible for the employer and tax-free to the employee. This type is owned by the employer and typically administered by an insurance company or a third party administrator.

There are more restrictions on HRAs due to the Affordable Care Act. There may be limits on how much the employer may contribute. When considering an HRA, employers should work closely with an experienced benefits advisor to be sure to remain in compliance.

How should employers choose between the three options?
These reimbursement options should be studied and reviewed carefully to determine which type is best to help reduce your employee benefit program costs without lessening benefits. By better managing benefit costs, your employee benefits package can have even greater depth and flexibility, while also promoting employee wellness and healthy lifestyle alternatives.

JRG Advisors is available to Chamber members on a consultative basis for health insurance as a benefit of Chamber membership and can be reached at 1-800-377-3539. 

Members Learn About the Chamber’s Various Offerings and Benefits

Members enjoyed a hearty lunch from Berrigan’s Subs and learned about all of the various benefits available to them as Chamber members at the Member Orientation on Thursday, Aug. 24, held at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Bloomsburg (pictured) and sponsored by U.S. Gypsum, Kawneer and Bloomsburg University

 

A presentation detailed all of the various opportunities for members and/or their organizations to:

– Increase their business’ exposure
– Build business relationships through networking events
– Learn about various issues of consequence to the business community through the various educational programs offered by the Chamber
– Utilize the Chamber’s many informational resources to assist them in various aspects of their business
– Potentially decrease costs and save money through the Chamber’s affinity programs through ChamberChoice, including the Penn National business insurance program and the OnDemand Energy program
– Use the Chamber to advocate for or against a specific policy, ordinance or piece of legislation that could potentially impact their business, either positively or negatively

If you weren’t able to make it to the event, but would be interested in hearing a customized version of the presentation and learning about additional ways the Chamber can benefit your business that you may not already be aware of, please contact Matt Beltz at 570-784-2522 or by email to schedule a meeting. 

Bloomsburg University Students Move Into Soltz Hall

Throughout the week of Aug. 21st, incoming students at Bloomsburg University moved into a new residence hall named in honor of recently-retired President David Soltz. The seven-story, $61 million Soltz Hall features 138 suite-style apartments. The building’s first floor houses the University Store, Mail Services and two nationally known restaurants.

The 163,000-square-foot-structure will house nearly 400 students in 11 single, 37 double, 39 triple and 48 quad configurations. Three are four points of security between the front door and students’ rooms. Built on the site of the former University Store, the new construction includes an external gathering space with a fire pit, a second-story outdoor plaza, two lounges on every floor, and a “green” roof with sustainable, low-maintenance plants.

Classes began at BU on Monday, Aug. 28.