Montgomery County Rep. sponsors bill to aid family-owned bars, taverns, restaurants

Proponents of a House Bill leaving committee hope it might serve as the solution to rising costs for Pennsylvania’s restaurants and bars, according to the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. 

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association (PLBTA) issued a statement supporting the Pennsylvania House Liquor Control Committee’s voted Tuesday to move House Bill 1160 out of committee. 

The vote was unanimously in favor of the measure, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Napoleon Nelson, D-Montgomery. The bill is seen by proponents as aiding the state’s family-owned bars, taverns, and licensed restaurants as they seek to recover from restrictions placed upon them during the pandemic. 

Under Rep. Nelson’s bill, liquor licensees would be able to hold an unlimited number of off-premises catering events beyond 2024. Act 87 of 2021 sunsets at the end of 2024, and if allowed to sunset, the state would revert back to liquor codes limiting the number of off-premises catering events. 

HB 1160 would remove the sunset date. 

Nelson said that while the pandemic emergency is lessening, many Pennsylvania restaurants and bars continue to struggle. 

“New hurdles have appeared with raising costs due to inflation and supply chain issues along with labor shortages,” Nelson said in a statement. “We need to do all we can to help these businesses adapt and remain flexible.” 

Chuck Moran, executive director of the PLBTA, said the organization fully supports Nelson’s bill. 

“The past decade has been a financially difficult one for family-owned taverns, bars, and licensed restaurants,” said Moran. “First, the industry lost the exclusive right to sell six-packs to go, resulting in significant loss of revenue. This was followed by pandemic restrictions that closed indoor dining. Then recovery efforts were hampered by supply chain issues, inflation, and a lack of workers. 

“Each of these have acted as a gut punch to drinking establishments statewide. The time has come to give these small businesses hope that they can prosper and make it on their own in the future.”

Applications for affordable housing available for key funding program

A $100 million program meant to construct and rehabilitate affordable housing units is now accepting applications. 

Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia) announced Tuesday that the Housing Options Grant Program-Multi-family (HOP-MF) Program is now accepting applications. 

Established as part of the 2022-23 Pennsylvania State Budget, the $100 million program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and will be used to construct and rehabilitate affordable housing units. The HOP-MF Program is operated by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). 

The applications follow the historic 22-23 state budget investment in affordable and workforce housing. 

“My Democratic colleagues and I were able to work across party lines to deliver major investments in housing in the last budget,” Hughes said in a statement. “We are thankful for the leadership from our former governor, Tom Wolf, President Biden, and our leaders in Congress who helped make this possible.” 

Hughes added that investing in affordable housing is a crucial way to restore and rebuild Pennsylvania’s neighborhoods and brighten the future of the state’s communities. 

“All families deserve a safe and healthy place to call home,” said Hughes. “Eligible parties should apply now!” 

The HOP-MF program is made up of three subprograms – the Emergency Grant Initiative, Preservation Initiative, and New Construction Initiative. 

The Emergency Grant Initiative is designed to provide funding for emergency repairs to existing deed-restricted affordable housing throughout the state so existing tenants are not displaced. 

The aim of the Preservation Initiative is to provide funding to rehabilitate properties on a non-emergency basis with the goal of creating/extending the affordability period and making certain sufficient repairs to the property to ensure the stability of the building through the affordability period. 

The New Construction Initiative/Construction Conversion Initiative is designed to provide financing for the construction of affordable rental properties. 

HOP-MF applications are open through 4 p.m. EST on May 23. The application is available online at Housing Options Grant Program-Multi-family Application – HOPMF (hopmfphfa.org). 

Grants will be awarded no later than Dec. 31, 2024, and the entire funding must be spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Preparing Your Business for an Uncertain 2023 Economic Outlook

As our economy continues to slowly emerge from a once-in-a-century pandemic, it’s no wonder business owners feel uneasy about financial decisions that were once considered routine.   

Demand for goods and services continues to outpace supply. Businesses face labor shortages that have led to the strain of increased wages. Supply chain challenges are delaying projects and business cycles. The Fed is trying to squash inflationary pressures by raising interest rates.   

All of these factors have contributed to today’s uncertain economic climate, and 2023 may present similar challenges. As a business owner, it may be hard to come to grips with the fact that you can’t be in control of all the external economic forces working against you. That’s why your focus needs to be on what you can control. Of course, none of us has a crystal ball to predict the future, but there are tangible, strategic measures businesses can take to blunt any negative impacts.   

The first step is to get a clear view of your business’s solvency by closely monitoring profit and loss, operating expenses, and revenue streams. Pay attention to how each of these fluctuates based on seasonal activity, the impact of inflation, the change to your cost of capital and discretionary spending trends.   

Develop multiple business plans for different scenarios. It’s good to have a primary operating plan, but also have a backup in case the economy takes a sudden downturn or makes a faster-than-expected rebound on which you can capitalize. In either event, a working capital line of credit can help normalize cash flow irregularities and provide funding when revenues decline or are delayed.  

If you’re in the services sector, be sure to listen to your clients and understand their challenges. They’re excellent predictors of the year ahead, and opening up lines of communication allows you to explore better ways to partner with them.   

Smooth cash flow problems by reducing payment/receivable cycle time. Establish new ways to get paid, such as an e-commerce storefront, automated clearing house (ACH) and business-to-business card payments. The goal is to ensure you have a payments partner that settles quickly and gets your funds to you fast.   

With employee recruitment a continuing challenge, revamp your hiring process to handle ongoing churn issues. A new process should include faster training and integration to continue your company’s ability to protect operations and, of course, revenue streams.   

Keep an open line of communication with your current employees. Listen to their ideas and show them you value their counsel and dedication. One or two good ideas could change the course of a company’s future forever. Added communication and appreciation also can go a long way to keep your team together at a time when the job market continues to be volatile.  

Lastly, be open and flexible to new ways of doing business – and revisit previous ideas. Opportunities previously discarded might be the perfect fit now.   

Just remember, as a business owner, you cannot always predict the future, but with a few simple steps and an open mind, you can prepare for any potential outcome to help protect your company and valuable employees.   

Heather Hall has more than 20 years of success in the financial and banking industries in the capital region and is executive vice president at Mid Penn Bank, which has offices in Lehigh, Bucks, Berks, Montgomery and Schuylkill Counties, among many others. 

Ag businesses may be eligible for disaster relief

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding encouraged farmers, small agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture businesses and other small businesses and non-profits to apply for low-interest federal loans to help them recover from losses due to excessive heat and draught between June 18 and Sept. 14 of this year. 

 Following U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s four disaster declarations for New Jersey counties, USDA Farm Service Agency disaster recovery loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are now available in adjacent Pennsylvania counties Bucks, Delaware, Monroe, Northampton, Philadelphia and Pike. 

Farmers and other agriculture producers are eligible to apply for USDA disaster recovery loans. Nurseries are eligible to apply for SBA loans to recover from drought-related damage. Businesses not eligible for USDA emergency loans may be eligible for SBA loans. 

“These vital federal resources can mean the difference between surviving and going under after bouts of increasingly severe weather,” said Redding. “Just as we hope agriculture businesses don’t leave money on the table that helps them assess their risks, diversify revenue and plan for growth, we would encourage Pennsylvania businesses to take advantage of federal loans to help them recover from severe weather.” 

Loan amounts can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.935 percent for small businesses and 1.875 percent for private nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years.  

Applicants in Pennsylvania should search for current disaster declarations in New Jersey – four declarations cover different PA counties and date ranges — and follow directions to apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s/  



Food processor expanding with $228M facility in Montgomery County

A nationally known food processing and farming company is expanding in Montgomery County and creating nearly 90 new jobs for the region.

Clemens Food Group, a family-owned business, will be building a new $228 million facility at its Hatfield location to support increased production of smoked meats and cooked sausage.

Clemens received funding from the state Department of Community and Economic Development including a $2.5 million Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program grant and a $215,400 workforce development grant to help the company train workers.

“I am thrilled for this Clemens expansion and the jobs this project brings to the region,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “This is a great example of how agricultural processors impact not only the food on our tables and in our stores, but our workforce in Pennsylvania and how important it is that we grow together to strengthen our resiliency as we continue to cultivate a better and stronger tomorrow in the commonwealth.”

Clemens, which has been in operation for more than 100 years, has been active in charitable efforts in the state.

The Governor’s office noted that the food producer has helped by donating meat to several Feeding America food banks. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clemens partnered with Feeding Pennsylvania, the PA Pork Producers and the PA Pork Strategic Investment Program to provide more than $100,000 of pork products to food banks around the state.

Grand View Health to accept Humana Inc. insurance

Grand View Health signed an agreement with health insurer, Humana Inc., that will provide in-network coverage for Humana Medicare Advantage members at Grand View Hospital and its outpatient locations.

The agreement means Grand View Health care will be in-network for members of Humana Medicare Advantage Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), and Private Fee-for Service (PFFS) health plans.

The agreement also will offer in-network access to Grand View Health primary care providers and specialists.

Terms of the agreement, which goes into effect Nov. 1, were not disclosed.

Grand View Hospital is a private, nonprofit facility in Sellersville with 167 beds. Grand View Health has specialized urgent care and outpatient health centers in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

KCBA Architects opens Center Valley office

Inside the new KCBA Architects office in Center Valley. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


A Montgomery County architectural KCBA Architects has expanded with a new Lehigh Valley office.

The firm, headquartered in Hatfileld, has opened a second office at 4647 Saucon Creek Road in Center Valley.

The firm had intended to open the office in the spring, but was delayed by the COVID-19 shutdown.

Nine employees joined the office. KCBA has a total of 40 staffers ranging from architects, interior designers and other technical professionals.

Michael Kelly, principal of project development for the firm, said the company hopes to expand into a greater Lehigh Valley presence.

“In addition to strengthening our connection to local clients and partners, many of our staff members are area residents so we were able to open immediately with a very strong and talented group,” he said. “On a personal level, I grew up in Allentown so I know the region well and see tremendous potential for continued growth.”

He said the Lehigh Valley team will be working closely with the staff in KCBA’s Montgomery County office, with a goal of strengthening the firm’s technical and logistical capabilities.

Montgomeryville manufacturer launches Red Cape Essentials for PPE business

Workers at Timberlane manufacture protective personal equipment at its Montgomeryville facility. The business has been spun off into Red Cape Essentials. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


The COVID-19 pandemic has birthed a new manufacturing business with a Montgomeryville company spinning off a new company to continue the work making Personal Protective Equipment that it started during the shutdown.

Timberlane Inc. is normally a manufacturer of custom window shutters, a business that wasn’t considered life sustaining. That meant shutting down, devastating its sales pipeline like so many other companies.

“My number one goal was to not lay off one single employee,” said Rick Skidmore, founder and CEO of Timberlane.

He said he spoke to another manufacturer who said his staff was converting operations to make plastic face shields and he thought if they could do it, so could Timberlane.

“We quickly mobilized the manufacturing and sales operation. We started adding products based on demand and it became its own business,” Skidmore said. “We’ve been in business for 25 years and we know how to make stuff. The category is new, but the process isn’t.”

The company has been manufacturing plastic face shields, sneeze and cough guards and other custom-made Plexiglas barriers. It not only kept his regular staff of 70 employed, demand was so great he was able to hire more than 260 full- and part-time workers who had been displaced from other industries to meet the demand for the products.

The demand isn’t something he expects to go away anytime soon, and so he created Red Cape Essentials to concentrate on the PPE business.

He’s leased a new 30,000-square-foot facility to move the Red Cape Essentials operations into as Timberlane begins to return to its normal shutter manufacturing. He said he plans to hire between 50 and 75 people to accommodate the new business, but at least in the near term the workers will likely flex between Timberlane and Red Cape Essentials based on demand.

He said “reading the tea leaves” it looks like many of the businesses that installed COVID-19 preventions in haste over the past couple of months, such as grocery stores, will be looking for more permanent solutions as people adapt to a post-pandemic mindset and demand such protections.

“You go into a grocery store you see an ugly piece of plastic screwed in or attached with duct tape,” he said. “Once these companies get a month or two down the line they’re going to look for a more elegant solution.”

Just about every kind of business from offices to retailers will be looking for some sort of protection gear and Skidmore believes that demand will be long lasting and likely permanent. By creating a new company for the PPE line, he hopes to create a legitimacy for the products.

“It was an acceptable story two months ago that a shutter manufacturer was making face shields. This shows it isn’t just an opportunistic business venture,” he said.

He admitted starting a new business during a pandemic – even if it serves the needs of the pandemic – is a risky business, but the ongoing demand he is seeing is staggering. “It’s tough because we’re heading into murky waters, but it’s at time like these when there is such uncertainty, there’s also opportunity.”

Pa. Turnpike Commission to get tough on toll scofflaws in Bucks, Montgomery

Matt Weintraub, district attorney of Bucks County, talks about the $21 million in unpaid tolls the PA Turnpike Commission is trying to recoup. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is owed more than $21 million in unpaid tolls from more than 700,000 toll evasions – and more than half of those come from Bucks and Montgomery counties.

To stop the loss, the Turnpike Commission is working with Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, to crack down on toll violators in the region who owe more than $2,000 in unpaid tolls.

“Those who decline to pay tolls are not just stealing from the commission,” said Turnpike Commissioner Pat Deon. “They are stealing from the vast majority of those who dutifully pay their tolls, whether at the toll booth or when money is deducted from their E-ZPass accounts.

Deon the commission is going after serious offenders.

“These violators are not those who understandably may be confused by the toll lanes or forgetful about paying a bill,” he said. “These are people who regularly and intentionally get on the turnpike with no intention of paying their tolls ever. That is – until now.”

With the grant, Weintraub will be able to hire a detective and an additional attorney to investigate and prosecute motorists whose unpaid tolls exceed $2,000.

The Turnpike has allocated $327,705 per year as part of this three-year pilot partnership.