Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare brings behavioral health coverage to members

The Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare (LVBCH) has selected Health Advocate as the Coalition’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Partner, ensuring behavioral health coverage. 

Carl Seitz, president of LVBCH PHOTO/PROVIDED –

In making this selection, the LVBCH Board of Directors has endorsed Health Advocate, which offers services such as in-person, telephonic, and virtual EAP behavioral health services, including telephonic and web-based support for work/life services. 

 “The selection of Health Advocate as the Coalition’s EAP Partner continues our commitment to providing programs that address the needs and interests of our employer members,” said Carl Seitz, president, LVBCH.  

“Health Advocate participated in an extensive review process of mental health capabilities and was ultimately selected as the Coalition’s Preferred Partner for EAP services,” he said. “This partnership brings behavioral health and work/life services along with negotiated performance guarantees to employer members.”  

To earn the Coalition’s Preferred Partner status, they had to demonstrate better plan performance, pricing, or enhanced service capabilities, giving employers benefits and benefit administration options that best meet their needs, LVBCH said. 

 Using a market-based approach, the Coalition negotiates rates that are exclusive to its members and better than individual employers could obtain on their own.  

Health Advocate’s preferred pricing for LVBCH members is available immediately.  

“As we continue to navigate the ongoing challenges of the past two years, providing mental and behavioral health support to employees is more important than ever,” said Dr. Abbie Leibowitz, chief medical officer and cofounder, Health Advocate.  

Health Advocate’s Norbert J. Alicea – PHOTO/PROVIDED

 “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a distinct impact on mental health across the country, intensifying the need for ready access to treatment, said Health Advocate’s Norbert J. Alicea. 

 “Equally important is attaining qualified support for the physical, emotional, social, and financial challenges individuals face on a day-to-day basis or in the midst of a crisis,” Alicea said. 

 Health Advocate can provide employee assistance program (EAP) behavioral health services and work/life services, including the following available to LVBCH employer members:  

  • In-person, telephonic, and virtual EAP behavioral health services
  • Telephonic and web-based support for work/life services 
  • 24-hour emergency hot line 
  • Unlimited critical incident stress debriefing support and manager consultations 
  • Case management for in-patient and out-patient treatment 
  • Digital cognitive behavior therapy (dCBT) 
  • Resources for childcare, eldercare, legal, and financial wellness 

Health Advocate’s additional features include personal concierge service, annual statistical management reports, and on-site services available for workshops, seminars, and critical incident stress debriefing. 

 Coalition purchasing programs are available directly to employer members, and through its members’ consultant and broker representatives, which is an integral part of LVBCH’s membership recruitment.  

 For more information, visit www.lvbch.com or www.healthadvocate.com.  

Members can meet representatives of Health Advocate at the LVBCH 42nd Annual Conference on May 11 at DeSales University.  


Groups partner to address staffing needs in child care industry

The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is getting involved in a statewide effort to address the worker shortage crisis in the child care industry. 

According to the agency, connecting individuals to employment has proven difficult throughout recent months, and the child care industry is no exception. A recent survey reports that nearly 100 classrooms are closed in the Greater Lehigh Valley and over 92% of programs have a staffing shortage. 

“With a staffing crisis greatly affecting our child care sector, access to high quality early learning and child care opportunities are decreasing for families. We are taking action to connect job seekers to open opportunities available,” stated Akshara Vivekananthan, director of school readiness for the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. 

Across the state of Pennsylvania, child care providers have faced serious challenges in staffing their facilities, which prevents them from providing the quality care they strive to maintain.  

In response to these shortages, hundreds of child care programs from across Pennsylvania are coordinating Child Care Hiring Days for PA from March 29 through March 31. 

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley has partnered with PennAEYC, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Greater Valley YMCA and The Children’s Center to ensure that Lehigh Valley child care organizations have a presence and to raise local awareness of the statewide staffing shortages. 

 “When child care programs can’t open classrooms or open at all due to staffing issues, it makes it challenging for parents to work and ultimately impacts business productivity and the overall economy,” said Jen DeBell, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, a statewide, non-profit membership organization that advocates for high-quality early care and education opportunities for children and families and appropriate compensation and support for the professionals that provide these programs. 

Over these three days, participating programs will host walk-in hiring events, featuring on-the-spot interviews at their locations. Many locations will be offering competitive salaries and benefits, signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement, continuing education and on-the-job training. 

“In a moment of truth, we know this hiring event is a temporary solution. We are counting on our legislators to save child care as we need continued investments so all children have equitable access to a healthy start,” Vivekananthan added. 

 This state-wide hiring event aims to simplify the job search and hiring process for job seekers, help participating programs reach potential applicants and promote the rewards of working in early childhood education.  

Interested programs can learn how to participate with the Child Care Hiring Days for PA by visiting ECEhire.com or emailing Akshara Vivekananthan at [email protected]. 

Job seekers can view the entire list of careers and locations performing interviews during the Child Care Hiring Event on ECEhire.com. 


Gas prices hold steady despite decreased demand

Gas prices remain mostly steady at their current high, despite a decrease in demand according to AAA East Central. 

In the Lehigh Valley the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was up slightly over the week from $4.260 on March 22 to $4.292 on March 29. That’s still up dramatically from the average price of $2.961 on March 29 or 2021. 

AAA said across the country demand is defying seasonal trends and has dipped for the second straight week, its analysts assume that is due to people adjusting their driving habits because of the higher fuel prices. 

However, elevated oil prices have slowed that decline, and if prices continue to rise, pump prices will likely follow suit. 

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session, West Texas Intermediate increased by $1.56 to settle at $113.90. Crude prices climbed after EIA’s weekly report revealed that total domestic crude stocks declined last week by 2.5 million barrels to 413.4 million barrels, approximately 18 percent lower than the level in mid-March 2021. The current inventory level highlights tightness in the market, contributing to rising oil prices. 


Concannon Miller makes top 20 list of Fastest Growing accounting firms in U.S.

Ted Witman, president and COO of Concannon Miller –

Bethlehem-based accounting firm Concannon Miller has been named to Accounting Today’s 2022 Fastest Growing Firms in the U.S. for 2022. 

Concannon Miller’s revenue grew 27.34% in 2021, landing the firm at no. 20 on the list. 

According to the firm, its growth was largely because of increased consulting services to clients, especially related to COVID-19 tax credits and other funding. Concannon Miller also completed the strategic acquisition of Abraham, Borda, Corvino, Butz, LaValva & Co. in fall 2020. 

The firm also recently won the Best of Accounting award for providing superior service, given through the third-party national consulting firm ClearlyRated.  

“We are blessed with an incredible team of talented and hardworking staff; an exceptional year like this is a result of the expertise and dedication they provide to our clients each and every day,” says Ted Witman, Concannon Miller president & COO. “We also want to thank our clients – both long-term and new – for the trust they place in us to advise and improve their results.” 

Concannon Miller’s team of 150 employees is led by a 17-shareholder team.  

The firm has two offices, one in Bethlehem and one in St. Petersburg, Fla.  

The company is the largest CPA firm headquartered in the Lehigh Valley, where it specializes in serving privately held businesses and their owners and is one of the leading providers of CPA services to McDonald’s Owners. 


Martin Guitar Foundation donates $400K

Nazareth-based C.F. Martin & Co. Charitable Foundation has announced that it has made 63 grants totaling $400,000 to Lehigh Valley and national organizations.  

The foundation was established by Christian Frederick Martin IV and Diane S. Martin in 1996. Since 1998,  C.F. Martin & Co. to support foundation programs. Over 25 years the foundation has granted $4.05 million to nonprofit organizations.   

 The foundation grant supported 13 Lehigh Valley organizations in arts and culture, human service, education, and environmental action:   

  • Allentown Symphony Association 
  • ArtsQuest 
  • Community Music School 
  • Godfrey Daniels 
  • Lehigh Valley Arts Council 
  • Moravian Historical Society 
  • Nazareth Center for the Arts 
  • Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society 
  • PBS39 
  • State Theatre Center for the Arts 
  • Touchstone Theatre 
  • WDIY 88.1 

 As human service needs expand during the pandemic, foundation funding supported 18 Lehigh Valley organizations addressing poverty, hunger, and homelessness:  

  • Allentown Rescue Mission  
  • Bloom – Lehigh Valley  
  • Center for Humanistic Change  
  • Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley  
  • Community Bike Works  
  • Family Connection of Easton Inc.  
  • Greater Valley YMCA – Nazareth Branch  
  • Lifepath  
  • Meals on Wheels  
  • Miller Keystone Blood Center  
  • Morningstar Senior Living Foundation  
  • Nazareth Area Food Bank  
  • New Bethany Ministries  
  • ProJeCt of Easton Inc.  
  • Second Harvest Food Bank  
  • United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley  
  • Valley Youth House  
  • Visiting Nurse Association of St. Lukes.    

The Foundation also funded 6 Lehigh Valley educational organizations: 

  • Da Vinci Science Center 
  • Moravian University  
  • Muhlenberg College 
  • Bethlehem Area Public Library 
  • Nazareth Area Public Library 
  • Northampton Community College Foundation.   

Martin said the NCC Foundation received the largest grant, $35,000, to support the college’s guitar-building program.   

Other area grants went to Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Easton Development Partnership, and Nazareth Economic Development Commission. 

Beyond the Lehigh Valley, the foundation made grants to organizations, mainly for programs in guitar performance, education and research.

Voting to begin for Lehigh Valley manufacturing video contest

The 9th annual What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? video contest will be held at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. PHOTO/FILE –

Voting begins soon for the “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” contest in the Lehigh Valley. 

The Manufacturers Resource Center said online public voting for the ninth year of the student video contest will begin March 23 at 12:01 a.m. and will continue through March 25 at 11:59 p.m. 

Twenty-eight student teams will work with regional manufacturers to compete for the most votes to win the “Viewers Choice Award.”  

The videos will also be reviewed by a panel of judges for awards in ten other categories, including Outstanding Career Pathway, Outstanding Editing and Outstanding Creativity. The Sweet Manufacturing Award will be presented to the winner of the CTE High School Cupcake Competition. 

“What’s So Cool About Manufacturing is a yearly ‘tradition’ and our community has come to expect the information about careers and technology the student teams so diligently spotlight in their educational and creative media messages,” said Karen Buck, manager of Workforce Initiatives at the Manufacturers Resource Center. “The online voting process really allows the entire program message to be shared within school districts and in the community.” 

Votes can be cast on the website https://www.whatssocool.org/ .  

The winner will be announced during this year’s awards event, broadcast live on WFMZ April 5 at 7:00 p.m. 


Air Products pulling operations out of Russia

Air Products of Trexlertown said it is pulling operations out of Russia out of concerns over the attacks on the Ukraine. 

In a statement from President and CEO Seifi Ghasemi, he said that the company would be seeking to divest its operations in Russia. 

“We continue to be deeply concerned by the tragic human suffering being experienced by the people of Ukraine and the impact it has on many others,” he said in a statement on the company’s website. “We condemn actions of war when the world should be making greater efforts for peace. Our hearts go out to all those affected. Like many other companies, we have employees in this region and are continuing to give them the support that we can.” 

Ghasemi noted that Air Products currently only operates a very small industrial gas business in Russia, which has less than $25 million in sales, or approximately one quarter of one percent of the company’s annual revenue. 

“We are developing plans and will implement the safe and responsible divestiture of our business in Russia, recognizing that our products are important for the safe operations of several industries, including food, amongst others. We also decided not to pursue any new business development activities in the country,” he said. “As always, we continue to review developing and applicable sanctions to ensure our ongoing compliance.” 

He also noted that the company is supporting humanitarian efforts, providing financial support to the International Committee of the Red Cross from the Air Products Foundation.  

“Our global employees have also responded with care and generosity, reaching out to their affected colleagues and making contributions to various organizations supporting relief efforts,” he said. “For our people in Russia, we fully understand and recognize these actions will cause concern. As we move to divest our business in the country, we will continue to give them the support we can during this difficult period and put assistance programs in place.” 


First Commonwealth names new chief lending officer

Terry Grier –

First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union of Trexlertown has announced the appointment of Terry Grier as chief lending officer. 

As a member of the credit union’s executive leadership team, Grier will provide the strategic direction and leadership of consumer lending, business solutions, loan operations and debt resolution. 

Grier joined the First Commonwealth family in October, working very closely with outgoing chief lending officer Kevin Brown.  

Grier has been instrumental in leading enterprise initiatives, process improvements, optimization and enhancing First Commonwealth’s portfolio of lending products and services. He has focused on building comprehensive business solutions and positioning First Commonwealth as a trusted financial partner for small businesses throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley.  

“Terry brings vast skills and expertise to this role, given his impressive background, leadership experience, financial expertise and proven success in commercial and business lending,” said Donna LoStocco, president and CEO of First Commonwealth. “He has demonstrated his ability to lead a growing financial services organization as chief lending officer as we finished 2021 with very strong results – including a milestone of achieving $1 billion in assets – and will be instrumental in driving our strategy of making our lending functions more dynamic and growing our specialty small and mid-size business solutions.” 

Grier brings more than 25 years of leadership and 18 years within the financial services industry to First Commonwealth. He holds a BA and MBA with a concentration in Executive Management from Baldwin-Wallace University in Ohio.  



Lehigh Valley sees more homes for sale

The housing inventory shortage is far from over, but the number of homes listed for sale in the Lehigh Valley is on the rise.

In February, new listings in Lehigh and Northampton counties increased 18.7% from the year before, jumping to 634, according to the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors trade association.

And pending sales totaled 579, up 23.2% from February 2021.

With inventory at historic lows, buyers are still having a difficult time finding a house, Justin Porembo, CEO of Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors, said in a release. A silver lining, however, “is we’re leaving the winter lull, and even though inventory will still be tight, the lead up to the spring market always brings new opportunities and new listings.”

Howard Scheaffer, 2022 president of the association, said people who had been on the fence about selling their homes are now moving ahead.

He recently listed two such properties in one day, he said.

Scheaffer said he’s seeing more foreclosures, too, and that adds housing inventory as well, as those properties come on the market.

There are still a plethora of buyers, he said, but affordability isn’t what it was last year as home prices and interest rates climb.

The median sales price in February rose 16% from 12 months ago, to $264,000.

Scheaffer said the landscape is going to continue to change, with even more interest rate hikes in the cards, so buyers should act quickly.

Here are some more highlights from the February report for Lehigh and Northampton counties:

· Closed sales fell 4.6%, to 418.

· The percentage of list price received was 101.5%, so houses continued to sell for above asking price.

· Homes sold, on average, in 24 days.

Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors also covers less populous, more rural Carbon County. In February, the median sales price there rose to $221,000. And it took an average of 37 days for a listing to sell, about the same as a year ago.