2019 Holiday Open House Shuttle Information

The 2019 Holiday Open House, sponsored by Geisinger, will once again be the Chamber’s largest event of the year. As usual, it is expected that parking will fill up quickly at the Pine Barn Inn. So, for the second straight year, there will be two official overflow lots with a shuttle to bring attendees from these lots to the Pine Barn.

The two overflow lots are: Geisinger’s overflow valet lot at the corner of Bloom St. and Poplar St. (lower left corner of map below) and Geisinger’s Knapper Clinic lot (upper right). The shuttle, courtesy of Susquehanna Valley Limousine, will run in a continuous loop from these lots to the Pine Barn from 4:30-8:30 p.m. There will be a sign (left) in both lots at the pick-up and drop-off points.

Special thanks to the Pine Barn, Geisinger and Susquehanna Valley Limousine for their cooperation in arranging the extra parking and shuttle service. We look forward to seeing all of our members and guests on Dec. 12.

Strategy is the Key to Managing Rising Health Care Costs

From ChamberChoice & Smart Business Pittsburgh

Health care costs, and employee health benefits costs, have been increasing at an alarming rate for nearly a decade.

“Avoiding rising health care costs is nearly impossible, but employers need to be educated on why they continue to rise and the unique strategies available to manage costs for their organization and their employees,” says Jessica A. Galardini, senior vice president at JRG Advisors.

Smart Business spoke with Galardini about health care costs and what do about them.

What has led to increased health care costs?

Several market conditions have led to a decade of unrelenting increases. The two main factors have been an aging population and poor general health. Because older workers are more prone to health problems, companies see a rise in chronic conditions, costly medical problems, the use of prescription drugs, and an increase in the number and frequency of catastrophic claims. Poorer health among Americans also has contributed to health care cost increases. Preventable risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure have led to increases in chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease — illnesses that are long in duration and costly.

For employers, understanding why annual health plan renewal rates are significantly higher than the prior year is the key to forming strategies and solutions to their particular challenges. It is also important to educate employees about the reasons behind plan or contribution changes.

What can employers do?

While some employers struggle to absorb most of the cost, others have already raised deductibles and cost sharing, implemented high-deductible plans and increased employee cost sharing. These tactics, however, are a short-term fix. Employers need to identify and attack the root causes of rising costs with sustained, systemic changes. With poor health growing and the uncertain impact of health care reform, employers need short- and long-term strategies to manage costs.

What are some effective strategies to manage health care costs?

Employers can control rising costs, depending on the unique demographics and objectives of the group, by:

■ Using available health care data to make strategic plan decisions. This can be a top cost-cutting strategy. However, it’s important to go beyond accessing data. Employers should be educated on how to interpret and apply that data when making health plan decisions and implementing strategic changes.

■ Putting a greater emphasis on consumer-driven health plans like health savings accounts or health reimbursement accounts. These plans offer cost-savings for the employer and employee. With proper education, employees and their dependents can become smarter health care consumers, which saves both money.

■ Exploring alternative funding solutions, which enables employers to manage costs, while providing more customized benefits to their employees. These options consist of self-insured and level funding plan designs and can pave the way for employers of almost any size to potentially reduce their benefits cost.

■ Health and wellness initiatives can be an effective cost management strategy, especially when implemented with health care data. Designed to improve employee health and wellness, these programs not only lower costs but also increase productivity and reduce absenteeism. Initiatives can be customized (target specific diseases) and comprehensive (include dependents). Participation incentives are popular, but it is important to use effective incentives. It is better to reward employees for participating in a program or meeting a health goal than incentivizing a health risk assessment.

Which solution is right for your organization?

While short-term strategies such as employee cost sharing, remain prevalent, it is critical to explore multiyear plans and long-term initiatives that improve overall employee health and strategically manage costs in the future. Ultimately, a sustainable strategy that’s right for your business can best be achieved through a thoughtful and detailed analysis of your benefits program with the guidance of a trusted benefits consultant.

PA Chamber Highlights Support for Reentry Legislation

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Building a strong workforce development system relies in large part on ensuring that more individuals can access the necessary resources to obtain a good paying job in in-demand fields – whether it be through education, skills training or information about the types of careers they can pursue.  This strategy includes helping to facilitate employment among those who have criminal records and/or were formerly incarcerated. 

The PA Chamber has championed these goals all session long through our support for reentry legislation.  In June, PA Chamber President Gene Barr joined Gov. Tom Wolf and a bipartisan mix of lawmakers and stakeholders at a press conference to celebrate the “Clean Slate” law going live – a first-of-its-kind law in the nation that offers a second chance to low-level offenders wanting to get back into the workforce.  On Tuesday, Dec. 3, PA Chamber President Gene Barr discussed workforce development issues as they relate to reentry programs, and the benefits of employers hiring reentrants, at an employer roundtable which was hosted by the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce and also included commentary from PA Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, Kelly Evans, the department’s Deputy Secretary for Reentry and Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, among others.

In recent weeks, the state Senate unanimously approved PA Chamber-backed legislation that aims to reform Pennsylvania’s occupational licensing process to help applicants with a criminal record avoid rejection when applying for a state-issued occupational license.  And just this morning, the PA Chamber sent a memo to members of the House Judiciary Committee urging support for several bills that aim to facilitate employment among reentrants.  They include H.B. 1477, which mirrors the occupational licensing reform bill that just cleared the Senate; H.B. 1555, which encourages people on probation to pursue job training programs by reducing sentences once a program is successfully completed, and also limits situations whereby a violation can lead to parole revocation; and H.B. 2040, which would establish the “PA Second Chance Jobs” website where employers willing to hire ex-offenders can post job openings.  These bills are all scheduled to be considered today by the committee before heading to the House floor for further action.

“Pennsylvania is in the midst of a workforce crisis as many employers struggle to find qualified workers to fill open positions,” the memo stated.  “Helping facilitate employment among individuals with a criminal record or who were formerly incarcerated is an important part of a multi-pronged strategy to address these workforce challenges.”

The PA Chamber is among the most active stakeholders in the state toward building a 21st century workforce that is equipped to compete on a global scale.  In addition to our support for public policies that promote a future-focused workforce development strategy, our organization also has developed a robust internal initiative, “Start the Conversation Here,” that is focused on educating employers, students and their families, and schools on available Pennsylvania jobs that do not necessarily require a four-year college education.  For details on that program, visit www.StartTheConversationHere.com.

Member News – December 11, 2019

  • The Bloomsburg Children’s Museum was recently awarded an $80,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The successful application was written by Children’s Museum director Dr. Ginny Weibel in collaboration with the Columbia County Commissioners. The grant will provide funding for a renovation of the lobby of the Children’s Museum, adding a wheelchair ramp to replace the current lift, and refurbish the popular Greenway exhibit. The renovated Greenway will provide additional hands-on and interactive exhibits on topics such as local outdoor recreation, camping, geo-catching, native and invasive turtle and plant species, waste recycling and water conservation and protection, to name a few. 


  • The Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) will hold a free four-hour seminar on leadership development tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 12, from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, 725 Front St., Berwick. This program helps individuals become stronger, more impactful leaders. While joining other managers and supervisors to discuss workplace challenges, attendees will explore topics that include Self-Awareness, Power & Authority, Risk & Failure, and Leadership Style. Using self-assessment tools and experiential learning, attendees will examine their strengths and weaknesses while exploring best practices of exceptional leaders. To register, and for a list of other locations of similar seminars, visit NEPIRC’s registration page


  • The office of Congressman Dan Meuser will hold its first annual Holiday Open House this Friday, Dec. 13, from 2-5 p.m. at the Congressman’s Pottsville district office, located at 121 Progress Ave., Losch Plaza Lobby, Pottsville. Food, drink and holiday spirit will be provided, and attendees are asked to bring a toy for the Toys for Tots drive. RSVP by email or call 570-871-6370. 


  • Bloomsburg University’s fall graduate commencement is scheduled for this Friday, Dec. 13, and undergraduate fall commencement is on Saturday, Dec. 14. To help provide a safer environment for students, family members and guests and to expedite entry into facilities during large events, BU will be implementing guidelines that limit the size and type of bag that may be brought into its facilities. Please see the entire document that outlines the guidelines for its clear bag policy. 


  • Wild For Salmon will host a holiday tasting this Saturday, Dec. 14, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at its retail store located at 521 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11), Bloomsburg. There will be samples of various holiday-inspired dishes and other festive samples available, as well as a couple of other vendors there as well. Visit the Facebook event for more information. 


  • The dealerships that make up the Ken Pollock Auto Group, including Ken Pollock Ford Lincoln in Berwick, are holding their annual coat drive through Dec. 17. They will be collecting gently used and new coats in all dizes at their dealerships and tire and auto center to help families in the local communities. All donations collected at Ken Pollock Ford Lincoln will go to Columbia County Head Start.

How to Have the Best Year Ever!

From Caz Russell, LLC

I recently turned 66 years old, according to what my calendar is showing me. I don’t feel 66. We often see ourselves, let’s say, as we remember in our finest moments. A high school prom, a new job position or even our wedding day.

Most of all at this time of year, I find reflection is highly needed. What will I do differently next year? What will I do to grow my leadership influence? How will I grow? Mark Twain tells us that the two greatest days in a persons life are the day we are born and the day we know why.

To help us answer our what, how and why questions, here are three important areas in our lives that will help us find these answers.

  1. The relationships we form, form us! What new relationships will I form that will help me grow? What current relationships do I need to repair? Am I connecting others to build new relationships?
  2. The decisions we make, make us! Each of us make over 1,000 decisions every day. I might not always make the best decision, but I can learn to manage all of my decisions. Once I have decided there is a decision to make, have I sought the input from others?
  3. The experiences we have, shape us!We might not all have the same experiences, but everyone has them. It’s my choice to either stumble or climb. Have I chosen to mourn or learn from the experience?

Searching for your best year ever? Searching to become the best version of you that you can be? Taking the time to reflect, reduces stress and increases personal growth. Reflection, like a GPS, helps us to move from who we are to who we want to be.

This Christmas season, let us reflect on this year of 2019 and use these observations to make 2020 our best year ever.

Visit the Chamber’s business consultants category for more on Caz Russell and all of our member consultants. 

Welcome First Commonwealth Bank

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, First Commonwealth Bank, to help us fulfill our mission.

Based in Indiana, Pa., First Commonwealth Bank operates 147 community banking offices in 28 counties through western and central Pennsylvania and throughout Ohio. It provides a full range of commercial and consumer banking, mortgage, wealth management and insurance products and services. In early September of this year, First Commonwealth Bank completed the purchase of 14 branches in central Pennsylvania from Santander Bank, including the branch in Danville, located at 315 Mill St. The Danville branch can be reached at 570-849-3061 or visit its website