Future path of PA energy debated in state Supreme Court

Proponents of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)see it as a path to a modern economy that will see Pennsylvanians benefit from both a health and economic standpoint. 

Opponents to RGGI see it as something else – a plan that will raise taxes on residents and devastate the state’s economy. 

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides Wednesday on an issue that will determine entry into the multi-state initiative. 

“We are pleased to see the court seriously addressing Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment and pushing the Department of Environmental Protection on its obligations as a trustee of our public natural resources,” said attorney Jessica O’Neill, who argued the case for PennFuture, a Harrisburg-based environmental advocacy nonprofit. 

“Several justices questioned the Commonwealth Court’s injunction, which stopped the RGGI regulation from going into effect, and we are confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the nonprofits and the DEP that the injunction was wrongly issued.” 

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court enjoined the state’s entry into RGGI while legal merits were being argued in court. Wednesday’s arguments were part of an appeal of that ruling that could result in Pennsylvania’s entry while the case proceeds. 

PennFuture President and CEO Patrick McDonnell called RGGI an initiative where every Pennsylvania citizen wins on health and economic outcomes. 

“RGGI is a cap-and-invest system that will add $4 billion in economic value across our region and create 30,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania,” said McDonnell. “The market has spoken, and fossil fuel plants continue to close, giving no employment alternative for the communities that host them. 

“Not only will RGGI reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania by up to 227 million tons by 2030, but the energy industry can easily make that transition with proven and affordable renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage technologies.” 

McDonnell said the 11 current RGGI states have proven that the benefits of moving forward equal lower costs, more jobs, better health, and a sustainable future. 

“It’s time to start delivering on the promise of a clean energy future for Pennsylvanians,” he stated. 

Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster called on the state Supreme Court to follow the law and continue the delay placed on entry into the initiative by the Commonwealth Court while legal merits are presented. 

Cutler said in a statement Wednesday that as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears arguments that will decide whether the state’s entrance into RGGI can continue concurrent while legal questions are still being determined, he encouraged the court to follow the law and continue to pause entry. 

Cutler added that legal questions include whether a governor can “unilaterally place a tax on Pennsylvanians.” He said Pennsylvania’s entry into the 11-state compact “will do nothing but raise energy prices on Pennsylvania’s families and crush family-sustaining energy sector jobs.” 

O’Neill remarked in an interview on the eve of the hearing that a decision by the Supreme Court wasn’t expected soon. 

“The Supreme Court will write an opinion and it could take them some time, so we don’t really have a timeline,” she said, adding that there is a timeliness about entry into RGGI. 

“But for this injunction, we would have begun participating in RGGI last September,” she said. “Every quarter that we’re not in it, the state is losing out on potential proceeds. 

“There is a real sense of urgency to being able to not just start capping this pollution, but to actually receive these benefits and start this program of working toward energy transition.”

Reading, Allentown rank among state’s top cities

Reading, Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York rank among the top seven Pennsylvania cities to live in, according to a recent report from U.S. News & World Report. 

Some 150 metro areas in the country were analyzed by U.S. News and ranked on the quality of life, job market, value of residing there, and desire to live there. 

Reading ranks No. 6 in Pennsylvania in Best Places to Live. It’s No. 10 in Best Places to Retire and No. 88 nationally in Best Places to Live. U.S. News rated Reading 6.2 overall. 

Allentown is ranked as the No. 7 Best Place to Live in Pennsylvania and No. 9 in Best Places to Retire in the state. Allentown is rated No. 109 nationally in Best Places to Live and received an overall rating of 6.1 from U.S. News.

Harrisburg heads the list of Pennsylvania cities to live in, the state capital earning a ranking of 6.4 out of 10. U.S. News ranked Harrisburg No. 2 in Best Places to Retire in Pennsylvania and No. 38 nationally in Best Places to Live. 

U.S. News cited the capital city’s accessibility to Amish country and to major metro areas in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Hershey and Gettysburg are also cited by U.S. News as popular tourist attractions, and the urban landscape and close proximity of the Appalachian Trail, state parks, and forests are also seen as benefits to living in Harrisburg. 

Lancaster is ranked by U.S. News as the No. 3 Best Place to Live in Pennsylvania, and No. 1 in Best Places to Retire. The Red Rose City is No. 55 in the country in Best Places to Live. Like Harrisburg, Lancaster earned a score of 6.4 out of 10. 

York ranks No. 4 in Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania and No. 5 in Best Places to retire. The White Rose City is No. 78 in places to live. U.S. News gives York an overall ranking of 6.3.

Among other Pennsylvania cities, U.S. News ranks Pittsburgh as the state’s No. 2 city to live in. Scranton is ranked No. 5 and Philadelphia No. 8.

Bed Bath & Beyond stores closing in Lehigh Valley, central Pa.

Bed Bath & Beyond store locations in the Lehigh Valley and central Pennsylvania have commenced closing. 

The liquidation event for 11 Pennsylvania locations and 360 stores nationally is being handled by Hilco Merchant Resources, Gordon Brothers, Tiger Capital Group, and B. Riley Retail Solutions in connection with the commencement of chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions and wind down of Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. 

Store locations closing in Pennsylvania include Easton, Exton, Harrisburg, and Lancaster. 

Hilco Merchant Resources is a division of Hilco Global, and the company announced in a press release that buybuy Baby store locations in Lansdale and Whitehall are among 120 locations across the U.S. that are closing. 

A spokesperson for the liquidation event said in a statement that it is “an opportunity to save on household items or to stock up on baby essentials at discounted prices.” 

Shoppers can take advantage of discounts ranging from 10% to 30% off the lowest ticketed prices on a variety of home, baby, beauty, and wellness products at Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy Baby stores. 

The Bed Bath & Beyond sales event offers a selection of home goods with discounts across all household items, including bedding, bath, décor, window curtains, furniture, kitchenware, cookware, small appliances, cleaning tools, storage, and organization solutions in addition to personal care items, luggage, and additional items. 

The buybuy BABY sale provides infant and toddler essentials from leading brands, including nursery furniture, cribs, bassinets, play yards, activity sets, strollers, car seats, travel gear, bouncers, swings, nursing and feeding supplies, clothing and accessories, bath products, diaper solutions, health and safety products, toys, and more. 

Select fixtures, furnishings and equipment will also be available for sale in closing locations. Gift cards, merchandise credits, and loyalty rewards will be honored through May 8. 

Hilco Global noted on it site that all sales are final during the store closing event. Returns and exchanges for items purchased prior to April 26, will be accepted in accordance with usual policies through close of business on Wednesday, May 24.

PA Chamber examines Shapiro’s strategy to rebuild workforce

Gov. Josh Shapiro has been touring Pennsylvania speaking of his proposals to restore the state’s flagging workforce. An effort that may not be looking enough at the big picture, according to the PA Chamber of Business and Industry. 

Jon Anzur, vice president of public affairs for the PA Chamber, noted that Pennsylvania businesses of every size and industry are dealing with a workforce shortage that predates the pandemic but was intensified by COVID-19. 

“Even before COVID, businesses were struggling with the worker shortage, but the pandemic really exacerbated this challenge,” said Anzur. “So many workers left Pennsylvania to go to another state to find opportunities or just left the workforce entirely. Employers as a result are struggling to find qualified workers. 

“You’re seeing Pennsylvania largely starting to recover the jobs that were lost during the pandemic. The challenge, though, is that Pennsylvania lagged the rest of the nation by six months to fully recover those jobs and our workforce today is smaller than it was pre-pandemic.” 

In the two-plus weeks following Shapiro’s first budget address, the governor has crisscrossed the state discussing his budget’s “commonsense” proposals to rebuild Pennsylvania’s workforce.  

Shapiro’s tour has taken him to Lancaster City to speak to local firefighters, to the Pennsylvania Police Academy in Hershey, the George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science in Philadelphia, Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Gwynedd Mercy University, Colfax K-8 Elementary School in Pittsburgh, and Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy in Erie. 

A common thread to all the above is Shapiro’s desire to hear firsthand the challenges facing nurses, police, and teachers, three professions that have been hit particularly hard by a decreased workforce. 

Anzur said that while the PA Chamber appreciates the governor focusing on the workforce issue, he thinks the chamber would encourage lawmakers to focus on policies that would improve workforce development across all sectors. 

“From our perspective, job training and investing in proven job training and career and technical job training programs would help individuals develop the skills they need for the jobs that are available,” Anzur stated. “We talk to employers in manufacturing, in technology and innovation, in health care and they have jobs that are available. They just can’t find the workers who have the skills necessary for those careers.” 

“Investing in different educational programs and job training, and re-training of workers for these available jobs would go a long way,” he added. 

Lack of affordable health care is another challenge the chamber sees as exacerbating the worker shortage. 

“This is really a multi-pronged issue,” said Anzur. “We see younger families struggling to afford childcare and it’s leading to one of the adults in the family to leave the workforce to stay home with the kids. This is something we really think the private sector is responsible for driving solutions.” 

To that point, Anzur said the chamber is seeing Pennsylvania’s employers taking up the task of addressing the crucial childcare issue in various ways. Employers are assessing their employee’s needs to determine what working parents need from their employers, what their flexibility is in the business, and if they can provide hybrid work schedules and work from home. 

“Implementing these sorts of strategies and tracking the impact is something we’re seeing from our members and businesses across Pennsylvania, and I think it’s starting to have a positive impact,” said Anzur. “Figuring out that childcare piece will go a long way to getting adults back into the workforce.” 

Viewing the workforce shortage from a macro-economic perspective, Anzur said that as Pennsylvania’s tax and regulatory environment improves, so will investment into the state. That means more economic growth, which would have a positive impact on wages and bring Pennsylvanians back into the workforce and keep them in state. 

“With the pandemic, we saw tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians leaving the state to go other places for opportunities,” said Anzur. “As businesses are able to save on costs as the result of tax and regulatory reform, they will be able to invest more of that money back into the workforce. That’s going to lift wages and lead to more Pennsylvanians seeking employment here.” 

An additional key factor in rebuilding the state’s workforce focuses on continuing the phase down of the corporate net income tax from its current 8.99% to 8.49% later this year and eventually down to 4.99% by 2031. 

Permitting reform is another issue Shapiro has been speaking to, and Anzur noted that Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate have introduced legislation to streamline and speed up the permitting process. 

“That’s a process that costs businesses millions of dollars annually here in Pennsylvania,” said Anzur. “As businesses save on those costs and are able to reinvest that money back into their workforce, I think you’ll see a positive impact of people coming back into the labor force here in Pennsylvania.” 

Workforce shortages rank among the biggest challenges facing Pennsylvania residents, and Shapiro has proposed incentivizing the nursing, police, and teaching professions with a three-year tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for new recruits. 

Anzur said the PA Chamber agrees with the governor’s prioritizing the labor shortage, and at the same time is taking a big picture view of the crisis. 

“From our perspective,” said Anzur, “while we share the governor’s concern and focus on strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce, we’re looking at a more macro approach to addressing this issue that will impact positively Pennsylvania’s workforce across all sectors – job training, childcare, and improving our tax and reg environment.”

Elizabethtown College’s High Center looks to strengthen local nonprofits

Elizabethtown College’s High Center has launched a new Nonprofit Center as it seeks to expand its mission of strengthening family-owned and privately held businesses in South Central Pennsylvania. 

The Center’s mission is to serve the needs of the regional’s nonprofit leaders and organizations via services that include executive peer groups, best practice surveys, leadership speaker series, and member benefits. 

“Nonprofit organizations, their boards, and executive teams tackle unique challenges and have needs that are often underserved in our business community,” High Center Executive Director Michael Mitchell said in a statement. 

“The leadership and organizational development model that the High Center provides has become essential for hundreds of businesses and leaders in the region, and we are excited to offer this invaluable resource to the nonprofit sector.” 

Julie Larison, who joined the High Center recently as managing director, is leading the Nonprofit Center. She most recently served as senior director of membership services for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and is a graduate of Elizabethtown College with a master’s degree in strategic leadership and organizational development. 

“Nonprofit organizations are truly essential businesses in our communities, and I am thrilled to be partnering with them and their leadership teams to further enhance and support their work,” said Larison. 

Along with the core offerings that encourage business and leadership development, nonprofit members can take advantage of a High Center Speaker Series that is scheduled to bring nationally recognized experts to Berks, Lehigh, Lancaster, and York counties. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is the scheduled speaker for the High Center’s Business Forum at Lancaster’s Marriott on Penn Square, Wednesday, March 29.

Area counties receive funding to strengthen economy, improve infrastructure

Multimodal Transportation Funds projects in Lehigh, Berks, Montgomery, and Northampton counties are among the 157 new project approvals receiving more than $58 million in grants and loans. 

The $58,662,492 in funding was announced Friday by Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Acting Secretary Rick Siger. Projects are funded through the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) and are aimed at strengthening the agriculture industry, enhancing infrastructure, and developing real estate across Pennsylvania. 

Siger said in a statement the projects will help make Pennsylvania a better place to live and work. 

“From making critical infrastructure improvements, to strengthening small communities, these projects work to enhance our economy and improve the quality of life for Pennsylvanians,” Siger said. 

The CFA approved 155 MTF projects totaling $56,143,529. MTF encourages economic development and looks to ensure a safe and reliable transportation system is available to Pennsylvania residents. MTF projects were approved in 45 counties, including Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and York. 

Building PA (BPA) provides mezzanine capital for developers for real estate assets in small to mid-sized communities. Funds can be used for projects that are commercial, industrial, and multi-use. Through the EDC Finance Corporation, Rock Lititz received $2,308,963 to construct Pod #4, a 133,600-square-foot multi-tenant building in Warwick Township.

Senior, vulnerable homeowners and renters are focal point of new legislation

Legislation has been introduced by Pennsylvania State Representatives this week that will equalize income levels, increase rebate amounts, and raise the highest income bracket for senior and vulnerable homeowners and renters. 

Seeking to expand Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate (PTRR) Program, State Reps. Izzy Smith-Wade-El (D-Lancaster) and Carol Hill-Evans (D-York) introduced the legislation on Monday. 

“It has become too hard to afford a home in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Smith-Wade-El said in a statement. “For many of our senior homeowners and renters, the place in which they live is a legacy of work, life, and love, and we have an obligation to protect them and that legacy by helping them stay in their homes.” 

Smith-Wade-El added that older Pennsylvanians are struggling to pay for necessities such as food and rent. 

“Despite rising inflation and cost-of-living increases,” Smith-Wade-El said, “PTRR’s income limits, rebate amounts, and other provisions have not been modified to correspond to these economic changes, resulting in fewer people qualifying for the program and the program rebates failing to provide the necessary financial assistance.” 

Smith-Wade-El stated that the PTRR has long discriminated against renters, stating that they deserve less support than homeowners. Expanding the PTRR will provide the needed support to allow seniors and individuals with disabilities to remain living in their homes. 

“If we act now to expand PTRR,” Smith-Wade-El said, “we can preserve this crucial support for thousands of seniors who would otherwise lose eligibility next year because their Social Security cost-of-living adjustments will push them above the eligibility threshold.” 

The highest available current rebate is $650 for homeowners and renters with up to $8,000 in household income, with lower rebates available for those with higher incomes; while homeowners with income up to $35,000 qualify for a property tax rebate, renters can only receive a rent rebate if their income does not exceed $15,000. 

The reforms sought by Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans in their legislation would have the same income brackets and increase the rebate amounts for homeowners and renters: those with income below $15,000 would be eligible for a $1,300 rebate; those with an income of $15,001-$25,000 would be eligible for a $975 rebate, and those with an income of $25,001-$45,000 would be eligible for a $650 rebate.

“Significantly, the legislation would extend the highest income bracket from $35,000 to $45,000 to match today’s cost of living and so provide thousands more Pennsylvanians the support they deserve from the PTRR,” Smith-Wade-El said. 

Hill-Evans urged legislators to act quickly to expand the housing protections to protect Pennsylvania residents who are in danger of losing their homes. 

“None of our vulnerable neighbors deserve to lose the roof over their head,” Hill-Evans said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do, especially when you consider the current economic climate and how long it’s been since we’ve adjusted the program’s income parameters.” 

Smith-Wade-El wondered how many Pennsylvania grandmothers and grandfathers are being pushed out of their homes by rising living costs. The legislation introduced by him and Hill-Evans, Smith-Wade-El said, will “help expand the safety net so that senior and disabled members of our community can keep their roofs over their heads.” 

A sense of urgency to reform the PTRR program is shared by Gov. Josh Shapiro, Smith-Wade El said. In his inaugural budget address Shapiro proposed expanding the PTRR Program by raising income eligibility caps to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters, indexing eligibility caps to inflation, and increasing maximum rebates to $1,000.  

The first major update since 2006, these changes would expand program eligibility to 173,000 individuals and increase assistance to an additional 398,000 people. 

Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans said they look forward to partnering with Shapiro to expand PTRR so that vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities in Pennsylvania can stay in their homes. 

Pa. Senators seek to spur economic growth, attract new employers

A package of bills designed to promote economic growth and attract new employees has been introduced by Pennsylvania senators. 

Sens. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), Tracy Pennycuick (R-Berks/Montgomery), Greg Rothman (Cumberland/Dauphin/Perry), and Judy Ward (Blair/Fulton/Huntingdon) have unveiled a trio of pro-growth tax reform bills. 

The bills look to accomplishing the following: 

  • Accelerate the Corporate Net Income (CNI) tax reduction so it is in line with a 2022 bill sponsored by Aument. 
  • Increase the Net Operating Loss (NOL) carryover limitation. 
  • Allow small businesses to use the NOL deduction. 

Senate Bill 345, sponsored by Aument and Rothman, speeds up the reduction of the state’s CNI tax by immediately dropping it to 7.99% and reducing it an additional point every January until it lands at 4.99%. As part of the state’s 2022-23 budget, Pennsylvania’s CNI tax rate began the transition to 4.99% from 9.99% over nine years. 

The senators said in a joint statement that a more competitive business tax code offers greater benefits than just improving the business climate. 

“Studies have shown that decreasing the CNI leads to better job opportunities, higher workers’ wages, and improved communities,” the senators said, “all of which create family-sustaining jobs and attract and retain new talent.” 

The second bill, Senate Bill 346, is aimed at bringing to Pennsylvania family-sustaining jobs and growing existing businesses, increasing the NOL carryover limit gradually from 40% to 80% over four years. Sponsored by Rothman, Aument, and Pennycuick, the bill seeks to bring the NOL carryover limit in line with the limitations of 48 states and the federal limitation. 

“The current restriction hurts Pennsylvania job creators and turns away businesses that might otherwise choose to locate in our state,” the senators said. “For Pennsylvania to compete nationally and attract new businesses, we must address this anti-growth policy.” 

Sponsored by Ward, Senate Bill 347 will aid the state’s small businesses by allowing them to use the NOL deduction. Giving small businesses more control over their financial positions, this accounting tool is already available to large corporations, thus leading to a disparity between small and large businesses. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need to give them the same tools and advantages that we give larger corporations,” said the senators. “Allowing these mom-and-pop shops to use a net operating loss provision will help them to grow and succeed.” 

The bills will be referred for consideration to the Senate Finance Committee.

Coldwell Banker Realty president extends leadership position

Extending his leadership position as president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Del., Richard Fleischer is overseeing the daily operations of the company’s 11 offices which support approximately 850 affiliated agents in nine counties. 

Fleischer’s responsibilities also include overseeing 27 offices and 2,500 affiliated agents as president for Coldwell Banker Realty in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania serves Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Franklin, and Perry counties. The company’s corporate offices are based in Conshohocken. 

“Rich is an outstanding leader with a strong history of supporting top-producing agents while also growing operations and sales volume,” said Marie Gayo, executive vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Coldwell Banker Realty’s company-owned operations. 

“Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware is well positioned for continued growth under Rich’s leadership.” 

Fleischer previously served as the regional vice president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida, the state’s largest residential brokerage. He managed operations for the East Central region, overseeing 25 branch and satellite offices in the Orlando metro and on the Atlantic coast. Fleischer doubled the productivity of the sales offices, grew the region organically and increased profitability. 

Fleischer’s career with Coldwell Banker began in 2004 and he has held various leadership roles with the company. He has managed numerous teams and divisions in various real estate sectors throughout the U.S.

Central Pa. social services agency brings lawsuit against Mid Penn Bank

The Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP) announced Monday that it filed a complaint against Mid Penn Bank for allegedly breaching their contract and acting in bad faith. 

Filed in Harrisburg last Friday, the lawsuit seeks to hold Mid Penn Bank accountable for its actions, or lack of actions, and to obtain compensation for the damages CILCP endured. 

Based in Harrisburg, CILCP is a non-profit social services agency that aids people with disabilities, CILCP charges that for more than 10 years Mid Penn Bank allowed ACH withdrawals to occur in excess of $249,000 from an account that had no prior record of ACH transactions.

In a statement to the Central Penn Business Journal, the bank said it values its relationship with the nonprofit.

“We have always valued our relationship with The Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP). While Mid Penn Bank cannot comment on pending litigation, we take the security of our customers seriously and will respond appropriately in court.”

CILCP states that Mid Penn Bank did not attempt to resolve, investigate, or assist CILCP in recovering the funds, and that Mid Penn Bank’s security procedures did not protect CILCP. 

“It is unprofessional and disappointing that a bank, who holds all the company’s funds, says they are sorry for your almost $250,000 loss, but there is nothing they can do to help get the money back,” CILCP CEO Janetta W. Green said in a statement. 

“As a small non-profit, we depend on our banks to protect our money and when the bank’s security measures fail, the bank should be held accountable.” 

The lawsuit looks to obtain compensation for the damages suffered by CILCP because of Mid Penn Bank’s actions. It also seeks to hold Mid Penn Bank responsible for its alleged lack of effective security procedures. 

Mid Penn Bank has headquarters in Millersburg and mid-state locations in Lehigh, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, and Lancaster counties. At time of writing, Mid Penn Bank had not yet responded to an email seeking comment.

Barley Snyder names new COO

Long-time Barley Snyder employee Dorothy Rund has been promoted to chief operating officer of the firm. 

Rund has been with the firm for close to 30 years, serving previously as chief administrative officer. She will continue to work with the firm’s management committee and execute additional initiatives to help shape the firm’s overall operations. 

“Dorothy has been performing the traditional duties of a COO for years and has been a critical force in our strategic growth over the last decade,” Barley Snyder Managing Partner Jeff Lobach said in a statement. “Her promotion is well deserved. The firm’s leadership looks forward to continued partnership with Dorothy in extending our organization’s positive trajectory to which she has already contributed so much.” 

Barley Snyder serves businesses, individuals, and organizations in civil law and has more than 120 attorneys practicing from offices located in Reading, Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Hanover, Gettysburg, Wyomissing, Schuylkill Haven, and Malvern. The firm also has offices In Maryland. 

“It has been my honor to serve at Barley Snyder and watch our firm evolve throughout our footprint for the past three decades,” Rund said. “Furthermore, it has been a pleasure working alongside brilliant, talented professionals who continue to make a positive impact on our clients and the community while setting the bar high and exceeding expectations for our team.” 

A member of the Association of Legal Administration for more than 30 years, Rund previously served as a mentor for the Lancaster Chamber’s Mentorship program.

International business experts from Berks and across Pa. mobilize to assist business

International business experts from Berks County and additional Pennsylvania counties including York and Lancaster have committed to be part of the mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors. 

The collective comprises a total of 25 international business experts serving all of Pennsylvania. They’ve conducted business in more than 60 countries and speak more than 20 languages. 

The mobilization of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors (GBA), a private sector, B2B advisory board for regional and international companies seeking to expand exports, imports, foreign direct investment, and international partnerships was announced by the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC). 

GBA is led by program director Wilfred Muskens. The newly appointed Muskens is Honorary Consul in Philadelphia for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and former Deputy Secretary for the Office of International Business Development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).  

“Global priorities have changed dramatically since COVID, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and related supply chain disruptions, and no one knows this better than our collective that has done business in more than 60 countries and speaks more than 20 languages,” Muskens said in a statement. 

“What makes Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors truly unique – with nothing else like it in Pennsylvania – is that its members are almost entirely from the private sector, we receive zero government funding and focus exclusively on international trade and investment. We’ve also expanded our reach to include not only the greater Philadelphia area but the entire state of Pennsylvania.” 

Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors will offer international business support and global advisory services harnessing expertise from Pennsylvania businesses and universities that include Fulton Bank and Elizabethtown College among others. Other active partners include the Irish-American Business Chamber and Network, the German-American Chamber, and the Mid-Atlantic Eurasia Business Council. 

GBA will also work in close collaboration with other international organizations in PA, including the Commonwealth’s Office of International Business Development (Department of Community and Economic Development), the PA Department of Agriculture, World Trade Centers in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, World Affairs Councils, bilateral Chambers, Small Business Development Centers and more. Agriculture, finance, health care, life sciences, energy, tourism, logistics and higher education are among the industries to be served. 

Muskens said GBA’s goal is to be a complementary, B2B source of international information and expertise, leveraging but not replacing free and low-cost assistance from state, regional, and federal trade organizations. As well as offering GBA member services where appropriate and useful, GBA will refer companies to those organizations. 

“This exceptional partnership ensures that local businesses can draw on the region’s greatest international minds to build their presence in global markets, and international businesses get easy access to a full range of foreign investment support services,” said CCEDC Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Grigalonis. 

“We’re excited to advance several projects that are already underway including an upcoming trade mission to Ireland, a partnership opportunity with India, a Dutch urban farming endeavor, support of a Canadian manufacturer and services for underrepresented communities including Hispanic-owned businesses.” 

In addition to individual country, cultural and language expertise, other areas of expertise range from strategic planning and market research to more tactical and transactional based services in areas such as international logistics, law, real estate, education and banking. Depending on a client’s individual needs as well as the nature and scope of work, free and fee-based services will also be offered.