Pa. chambers eye impact of special election

Lindsay Powell’s victory in Tuesday’s special election allowed Pennsylvania Democrats to retain their razor-thin 102-101 majority in the state’s House of Representatives. 

While the election was decided by voters in Pittsburgh, its impact will be felt far beyond the boundaries of Allegheny County. 

Ryan Unger, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC, said there are pieces of legislation the chamber is hoping to see move forward here at the end of the year. 

“One is the Clean Slate Expansion (House Bill 689) which is with the senate now so that’s a good sign,” he said. “That’s one I think we feel could move before the end of the year. It probably won’t be impacted by that (Pittsburgh) election but it’s one we’re keeping our eye on. 

“The other big ones are corporate net income tax (Senate Bill 345) and net operating loss carryforward (Senate Bill 346), got somewhat wrapped up potentially in the budget. We’re hopeful with this election we’ll see movement potentially on some of those code bills and an opportunity to make some changes there. Most likely it will be in the fall for either one of those but there is hope that with strong revenues and with kind of a unique opportunity here we can get some movement before the end of the year.” 

Unger noted that there’s also a bill on transparency in permitting (Senate Bill 350), which he said makes sense in many ways. 

“You can see where your DoorDash is, but you don’t know where your permitting is,” said Unger. “So why don’t we bring that same philosophy to people’s work? It passed with bipartisan support in the senate and it’s now in the House State Government Committee. I’m not sure this election changes that but at least there’s more likelihood bills will move, now that (the special election) has been resolved. 

“Those are the kind of big-ticket things we’re looking at right now. Certainly, the budget is the biggest. The budget could potentially have a resolution around some of those bigger issues because we’re going to start talking about the next budget in 2024.” 

Unger said that while the Harrisburg Chamber hasn’t seen anything directly impact its work, any attention that is still being consumed by conversation about the budget impacts issues the chamber is focusing on. 

“There’s only so much oxygen in the room, right? I think we’re hopeful there could be some bipartisan agreement,” he said. “In reality, when you look at the grand scope of the amount of money the state spends and where the disagreements are, it’s relatively small, and we hope we can resolve those and move forward with these issues that are critically important to the business community.” 

Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, noted that in many communities in the Lehigh Valley, there’s a narrow edge for either Republicans or Democrats, and that the chamber takes those differences in stride. 

“We try to work with both sides to the best of our ability and we’ve been able to do that,” he said.  “We’ve been at this game for some time, and we realize we have to work with people on both sides of the aisle and come to some kind of compromise. That’s been our approach. 

“As a regional chamber that’s a combination of many geographic as well as our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, I think we take all the changes in stride. Although it’s hard today, the goal is to find some kind of happy medium with legislation that we know has to have some flexibility to get to the finish line.” 

Alex Halper, vice president, Government Affairs Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said state residents are fortunate that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to see a strong Pennsylvania economy. 

“Many are passionate about supporting their local businesses,” he said. “We’re confident that lawmakers will think about the economy and jobs and their local employers when they’re considering public policy.” 

Halper remarked that many of the Pennsylvania Chamber’s top priorities – improvements to Pennsylvania’s tax code, for instance – have broad bipartisan support. 

“We’ve seen our top priorities get passed with unanimous support out of the Senate Finance Committee, for example,” he said. “We have a Democrat in the House who’s introduced important business tax reform legislation, permitting reform passed with bipartisan support in the senate. 

“When we think about top priority issues for Pennsylvania employers, I think lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have embraced those as important steps to make Pennsylvania more competitive.”

Small business owners see U.S. economy improving

U.S. small business owners see an improving economy and point to the Small Business Index released Wednesday as proof.

The Q3 MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index reached its highest score since the start of the pandemic. Used to measure the confidence of small business owners, the Index score rose from 63.1 to 69.2, due to the number of small businesses believing the economy is in good shape.

According to the Index, 66% of small businesses report that their business is in good health and 72% state that they are comfortable with their cash flow. Both measures increased several points from last month.

“The businesses I have talked to from this region, I would say they are cautiously, with a capital C, optimistic,” said Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. “For years now, there have been so many reasons why this economy shouldn’t be robust, but it continues to be.

“I think most recently there’s a little more caution, not for any specific reason, but I just sense that businesses are a little more cautious. The crazy growth that we’ve seen from their perspective locally seems to be tempered a bit. A lot of the sky that was falling hasn’t fallen. The predictions continue and I don’t want to ignore signs and some mild concerns that are on the horizon.

“But so far, despite all the predictions, this economy, you can’t argue that it hasn’t been strong, and it has continued in that direction. Hopefully that will continue.”

Tom Sullivan, vice president of Small Business Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cited the resiliency of main street employers.

“With fears of a recession likely in the rear-view mirror and inflation starting to ease, small business owners are feeling a lot better than they were a year ago,” Sullivan said in a statement.

Inflation and employee retention remain among the leading concerns for small business owners, according to a survey this quarter. Small business owners added that keeping pace with employees’ salary expectations is also a challenge. 

At the same time, small business owners point to what they feel are the unique benefits and advantages they can offer to employees. Nearly nine in 10 employers said in this quarter’s survey that their company feels like a family and that this environment has aided them in retaining employees. Roughly 82% of employers surveyed said small businesses are uniquely qualified to provide employees with connections to and support from upper management.

Contractor unveils new showroom

G Contracting LLC has a grand opening planned for this Wednesday for its new showroom at 1032 North Irving Street in Allentown. 

G Contracting was created by Jonathan Gerancher in March of 2012. 

His involvement in the remodeling industry began while working alongside his father, Julius Geranacher, in his company J.G. Plastering.  

“On behalf of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, we wish big congratulations to G Contracting LLC on this important milestone,” said Kylie Adams-Weiss, assistant vice president of Affiliated Chambers for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. “As longtime members of the Chamber, we’ve seen your business grow as a result of your hard work and great customer service, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the unveiling of your brand-new showroom.” 

The grand opening will take place from 5-7 p.m. on July 25. The event is free and open to the public and all are welcome to attend. 

GLVCC names Equinox CEO as chamber board president

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce has announced Tom Groves, CEO of Equinox Benefits Consulting in Emmaus, as the new chair of its board of governors. 

According to his website, Groves has more than 20 years of industry experience, including working for a large insurance carrier.  He started Equinox in 2005. 

The chamber commented on his appointment in its newsletter. 

“With his extensive experience and leadership, we are confident that Tom will bring fresh perspectives and drive continued growth and success for the Chamber. We eagerly anticipate the positive impact he will make in advancing the interests of businesses and fostering a thriving community,” the post read. 

Groves succeeds Mary Lisicky of Morgan Stanley, who held the post during the last fiscal year. 

Lehigh Valley has a job for everyone who wants one

Nancy Dischinat –

If employers in the Lehigh Valley want skilled workers, they may need to take on a bigger role in getting workers those skills. 

Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley gave that advice at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber Economic Outlook luncheon. 

“Recruitment should be aimed at school students,” Dischinat said. “Develop their skills and you earn their loyalty. Skill up your workforce and keep them on the job.” 

With Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate at about 4% right now, she said there are plenty of jobs to go around. 

Her organization is working to get those looking for jobs paired up with employers looking to hire. 

She noted that at 4% the number of people out of work in the Lehigh Valley is around 14,000 – roughly the same number of jobs available in the region. 

“There’s a job for every person in the Lehigh Valley. I’m not kidding,” she said. 

She pointed to the new Interactive Workforce Data Dashboard on the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley’s website that is available to the public and can serve as a one-stop-shop for employers looking for workforce data to plan their recruitment and training needs. 

Data presented by David Jan, a data scientist with the board, showed that training has become a larger issue, not just because of emerging skill requirements, but because less people are seeking a higher education on their own. 

Over the last 10 years college enrollment has dropped significantly. In 2011 78% of all high school students were enrolling in college. In 2021 that was down to 67%. 

He noted that decreasing enrollment in college may be a trend. He pointed to the recent executive order by Gov. Josh Shapiro that eliminated the requirement for a four-year degree for many state jobs. 

And Dischinat reminded employers that there is help for businesses that need help finding workers. 

“CareerLink is working as fast as they can to help meet companies’ workforce needs.”