Committee Updates


Committee Updates:

June 2, 2017

Chamber Harrisburg Trip & Budget Priorities:

The Government Affairs Committee of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce will be in Harrisburg on June 6 as part of the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals 2017 Chamber Day at the Capitol. In addition to meeting with our local legislative delegation (Senators Elder Vogel and Camera Bartolotta, Representatives Aaron Bernstine, Jim Marshall, Jim Christiana, and Rob Matzie), the group will participate in a day long agenda with Chamber members from across the Commonwealth. The agenda includes discussions on the current budget process; pension reform; property tax; lunch with Governor Wolf; workforce development panel and transportation issues.

Our committee advocates for accountable, responsive and efficient government at all levels, including responsible stewardship of public funds, so that the businesses and communities of Beaver County will prosper.  Beaver County has undergone significant economic and political change over the past year or so, presenting a unique opportunity to re-evaluate and restate the Chamber’s legislative priorities to address an evolving economic and political landscape.

There are five specific priorities concerning this year’s budget that the Beaver County Chamber and the Government Affairs Committee believe are vital to making our local Beaver Valley and Pennsylvania business, industry and non-profit organizations more competitive in this very challenging economy. We support efforts to accomplish the following:

  • Pension Reform: Meaningful reform of the public pension system is needed. It must be sustainable for taxpayers without compromising the ability of government to attract and retain qualified employees to operate the government effectively or renege on our commitments to retired employees. When nearly $0.60 of every tax dollar goes toward pensions, something needs to change. We have been on an unsustainable path for far too long. Finding solutions to this issue should be the top priority in Harrisburg during the budget process.
  • Increasing Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) Funding: NAP was created in 1971 with a cap of $18 million. The tax credit program is unique in that it provides sustainable support for locally-based revitalization organizations in low income neighborhoods. It directly engages corporate leadership giving to leverage additional resources that build a community’s technical capacity and physical infrastructure. According to the PA Department of Economic and Community Development, they typically receive over $50 million in requests (with matching corporate commitments of funding) but have to reject more than half of those applicants. We support raising the cap from $18 million to $36 million.
  • Restoration of Community College Funding to 2010 Levels: We support the PA Commission for Community Colleges effort to restore their funding to 2010 levels and increase capital funding to $2 million. Flat funding has been part of the budget process for years. At a time when workforce development and career-path opportunities are increasingly more difficult and challenging for students, employees and employers, community colleges are uniquely positioned to address these challenges. Students attending community colleges stay in the region 62% of the time as opposed to 43% retention for PA four year institutions. The Community College of Beaver County provides affordable and fully transferrable options for families. Their workforce development and community engagement efforts are vital to the local economy and our efforts to diversify and revitalize our aging workforce.
  • Workforce Development Funding: There may never have been a time in recent history when workforce development was more important to the success of this region. Over the next ten years, 230,000 baby boomers will be leaving the workforce. Factor in new job opportunities with those impending vacancies, and the rapidly changing technology and automation taking place in the workplace, and we are likely approaching a transformational shift in the skillsets needed to be gainfully employed. Current employees will require upskilling; the unemployed will need retraining; and future employees at a minimum will all require some level of two-year degree or certificate / apprentice program.  Now is not the time to eliminate proposed cuts in programs like the PA-First funded WEDnet training. Since its inception in 1999, WEDnet PA has trained over one million employees in essential skills for workplace success.  We need more workforce training funding, not cuts.
  • Consolidation is Not the Answer to All Budget Issues: The Chamber is always in favor of any consolidation effort that increases the effectiveness and efficiency of an operation. Consolidation of some departments for consolidation’s sake is never a good idea. We are also skeptical that a budget lumps all tax credit programs into one bucket would be a better way to solve the issues that these programs are meant to address. Of particular concern is the Department of Aging which uses no tax dollars and operates solely on revenue from the state lottery system. By law, the Lottery is supposed to be used only for the benefit of Older Pennsylvanians. Since cost savings cannot be gained to address the budget deficit from the lottery, consolidation of this agency at a time when our older population is becoming an even greater percentage of the older population makes no sense.

Given the opioid and heroin epidemic taking place across the Commonwealth, we are also skeptical of the proposed unification of Health and Human Services. Specifically of concern would be the elimination of the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol. Its elimination is likely to result in a greater cost to business and society if we lose the focus that this agency currently provides. Not everything can be determined in a quantifiable cost-benefit analysis, and this issue is too important to lump into other HHS agencies.

March 3, 2017

RUN, DON’T RUN

As in any municipal election year, everyday citizens are stepping forward to assume a key role in improving their community: they are running for elected office.  In Pennsylvania, the 2017 election will include tax collectors and auditors, school directors and municipal boards. Neighbors will be elected to levy your taxes, provide for your child’s education, plan for the next development in your neighborhood, fix your potholes and oversee your law enforcement.

Unfortunately, many seats on local ballots will be unopposed or empty, deepening the apathy and mistrust already affecting other levels of government. Historically, Americans – and Pennsylvanians in particular – have held local government in high esteem because it is closer to “we, the people”, more accessible and more directly accountable to us than any other.  We feel the impact of local decisions more strongly on our families, businesses and lifestyle than of those made at the state and federal level. But effective local governance needs the unselfish, dedicated involvement of diverse individuals to thrive.  And those individuals deserve to know what they will encounter, if elected, and what resources are available to help them do their job well.

  1. You don’t know enough…BUT, there is a wealth of training and education built just for you, to help you understand and navigate the increasing complexity of your elected office, often delivered free to your inbox.
  2. You’ll never get rich at it…BUT, because most local offices don’t come with a paycheck, they tend to be trusted the most! Becoming a true “public servant” is a worthy investment in your community.
  3. Somebody won’t like you. Exercising common sense, kindness and fairness in the best interest of your community means disappointing individuals now and then…BUT, you will contribute priceless benefit to the well-being of your neighbors, institutions and environment.
  4. It’s hard, sometimes really hard…BUT, there are partners waiting to help: at the local level, intergovernmental cooperation is essential and available and experienced officials are eager to share the knowledge, ideas and skills they have gained.

It is not too late run – and much too important not to run away!  Prospective candidates are collecting signatures now to appear on the ballot for our May 16 Municipal Primary (nominating petitions are due March 7).  Others will wait for the Municipal Election ballot to make their bid; still others will wage a last minute write-in campaign.  All are encouraged to begin their training NOW.

To help prepare candidates for running and taking up a local office, the Beaver County Regional Council of Governments – made up of municipalities across the county – has partnered with Local Government Academy to help you build your skills.

“Contemplating Governing” is a 2-part short course to help candidates get engaged and equipped for holding elected office.  Session I: “Tackling Candidate Red Tape”, discusses filing requirements and important deadlines faced by candidates.  Available immediately online for only $5, this session is required to take Session 2: “Introduction to Local Government”.  This session covers Powers & Duties, Ethics & Conflict Management, How to Run a Public Meeting and a meet-the-officials Q&A of local government leaders.  Session 2 will be offered twice in Beaver County and once in Allegheny County.  Choose from two dates at CCBC: Thursday, April 20th, 6:00 – 9:00 PM or Saturday, April 22nd, 8:30 AM – Noon.  Contact bcrcog@gmail.com or check it out at localgovernmentacademy.org. After elections, the multi-week “Newly Elected Officials Course” from LGA will take a deeper dive on some of the most important aspects of local governance.  And don’t overlook the “Pledge of Excellence” for local candidates!

Community leaders looking toward the future can play an active role in recruiting and educating great candidates for local office.  Once your neighbors are engaged and running for office, don’t run away or leave them behind, but direct them toward the training they will need to succeed.  In addition to “Contemplating Governing”, periodic seminars, and hands-on training for municipal staff, BCRCOG will again sponsor the LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE, August 10th at CCBC.  Excellent educators and exciting visionaries combine with the support of the business community for a robust day-long gathering designed to accelerate better government in Beaver County!  Visit “2017 Beaver County Local Government Conference” at Eventbrite.com for registration and sponsorship information.

February 3, 2017

The Chamber is fortunate to have a very active and diverse Government Affairs Committee comprised of elected officials, small and large business owners and non-profits, who work hard to make the business climate in Beaver County a better place.

We would like to take an opportunity to remind our elected officials that it is time to replace politics with public service now that the election season has passed.  Without abandoning their principles or betraying their supporters, it is time to stand up and work together for the good of our county. Whether it is making the right decisions for the impending growth of Beaver County or constructing a solid state budget to benefit all Pennsylvanians.  We want to encourage our elected officials to lead change and growth.

Compromise can and does work.  Thirty plus years ago, President Ronald Reagan forged a working friendship with House Speaker Tip O’Neill.  Reagan was a true conservative and O’Neill was an unabashed liberal. Both men recognized that ideologically driven obstructionism and the paralysis it can cause in government posed a greater threat to the nation than the agenda of their opponent. They recognized that all elected officials have a duty to find common ground and work together.  Although both were fiercely loyal to their parties’ agendas, they understood their first duty was to the country itself. Their conflicts never overshadowed each man’s larger commitment to the nation, their sense of duty, or their shared desire to get things done.

Both men actively looked for common ground, politically and personally. When they failed to agree on legislation, they compromised.  They would occasionally even retire to the residence at the White House for drinks.

Although it would be a stretch to say the two men were close friends, they did have a collegial relationship.  Reagan once hosted a birthday party for O’Neill at the White House, and O’Neill was among the first hospital visitors Reagan saw after being shot by a would-be assassin. Their respect for each other was a natural extension of their respect for the voters. Each was mindful of the fact that the other had earned the trust and support of a good segment of the American population, and that is something our politicians at all levels need to consider moving forward.

Beaver County is on the verge of once in a generation growth.  We want all businesses big and small to enjoy in the success.  But in order to grow, we all need to be on the same page and do what is best for Beaver County.  Therefore, we humbly ask our elected representatives — from county commissioners to federal officials— to work with each other and to do so in a respectful manner that promotes compromise for the common good of this wonderful part of Western Pennsylvania!

January 6, 2017

Our Government Affairs Outlook for 2017:

The Government Affairs Committee of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce advocates accountable, responsive and efficient government at all levels, including responsible stewardship of public funds, so that the businesses and communities of Beaver County will prosper.  Beaver County has undergone significant economic and political change during 2016, presenting a unique opportunity to re-evaluate and restate the Chamber’s legislative priorities to address an evolving economic and political landscape.

And while much attention and focus was on the federal level last year, it is the local, county and state legislative agendas that will most impact how well, and how quickly, we realize the great potential and opportunities we have before us in 2017.

Although we have not finalized our list of Strategic Legislative Priorities, there are many issues we know are impacting our members and the region from greater prosperity and growth.  We will definitely being looking to advocate and work on issues of importance. In no particular order, some of these issues are:

  • public support for education and training for a qualified work force meeting the needs of the new economy;
  • a comprehensive planning process that identifies current and future needs and opportunities, with defined objectives and the pathways for achieving them;
  • coordinated land use planning between the County and local municipalities, including the implementation and availability of advanced GIS mapping of all real estate County-wide;
  • sound investments in County economic infrastructure, including increasing the capacity of the County airport, roads and bridges;
  • the elimination of blight through mechanisms such as land banks, Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA), and other incentives;
  • enhancement of civic and cultural amenities, including the arts, recreation and leisure activities for County residents.
  • meaningful reform of a public pension system that will be sustainable for taxpayers without compromising the ability of government to attract and retain qualified employees to operate the government effectively;
  • the development of natural gas pipelines to enable all Pennsylvania citizens and business to take advantage of an abundant commodity with due consideration for the environment and the rights of private property owners;
  • combatting the heroin, opioid and other substance addictions through public health education and prevention and through policies supporting rehabilitation.

The Government Affairs Committee understands that some of these issues may seem incongruous for a Chamber to advocate, but there is a cost to our business and non-profit organizations, and society as a whole, if we don’t work on them. They especially can’t be ignored if we are to get Beaver County and the greater Pittsburgh region growing again.

We will publish our final list of 2017 priorities and present them during our annual “State of the County” event at The Fez on February 7th from 8:00-10:00am, with all three of our County Commissioners in attendance.

December 2, 2016

A Time for Sharing and Caring!

December brings to us the spectrum of emotions. The stress of our jobs combined with the stress of preparing for the holidays and all that surrounds them.  Hopefully for most of us there will be time to spend with our loved ones and dear friends. It is a time of year when we realize so many things about the conditions of our lives and our family members; the kids are growing fast, our parents are slipping in health, our priorities seem a little eschew.

However, through it all we really experience a true feeling of well wishes for all those that we know and love. We pray a little more, hoping that those that we care about can be a little healthier and wealthier of mind, body and spirit.

Those of us who live in Beaver County are very special. We have a history of caring for others. So many of us do what we can to help our neighbors whenever a need arises. Unfortunately, our neighborhoods are not the same as they were when we grew up. People have changed and the conversations over the picket fence are few and far between, if even at all. However, we still have that strong desire connect and to help those less fortunate. Christmas is a great time to do it!

As the Executive Director of the United Way, I have the honor to witness the love and compassion shown to those who are challenged. These challenges can be physical, mental, or financial. The tireless and caring workers in the human services are under paid and over worked, but give of their entire selves to a mission of helping our Beaver County neighbors.

The United Way of Beaver County has provided funds and services to countless non-profit agencies for over 50 years.  These agencies; like the Salvation Army, Association for the Blind, Mental Health Association, Catholic Charities, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the YMCA and Women’s Center work directly with families and individuals in need. The professionalism and kindness shown to those they serve has immediate and lasting effects on so many lives. Last year 94 charities received funds through our campaign.

That is why the United Way Campaign is so vital! Working efficiently as an umbrella agency allows your donations to reach people of all ages with various needs. Your participation has the power to change and save lives!   Your involvement will help support food banks, energy assistance, emergency shelter, counseling, skills training, home health, cancer and heart patients and the physically and mentally disabled.

The Christmas season always challenges their resources because the need is more severe.      There are so many worthy charities in Beaver County that are excellent stewards of every dollar they receive.   I humbly encourage you to take a few moments to reflect on the treasures that you have and think that about sharing a small portion of them with one of the caring non-profit groups in Beaver County.  Your treasures may be monetary, consumer goods or time; all of which are needed and will make a true difference.

Please visit www.UnitedWayBeaver.org to learn more about our 17 partner agencies and if so moved; to make an on-line donation.

Beaver County is a special place to live. Let’s make it a little more special this Holiday Season with a “little something extra for somebody else”

Thank you!

Michael Rubino

Executive Director

United Way of Beaver County

Government Affairs Committee member

 

P.S. – Did you know that there is a special hotline to connect people in need with area charities that could help them? 

      The United Way of Beaver County help underwrite the 2-1-1 helpline to do just that! So if you or someone you know needs some help but does not know who to call, just dial 2-1-1 to be directed to those that can help.

November 4, 2016 –

Tuesday November 8th is Election Day.

We have witnessed one of the most unpredictable and unusual election campaigns in recent history this year.   There is no doubt about it.  Hopefully you are planning to go to the polls to exercise your right to vote.  But if you are still unsure and questioning whether your vote really matters the answer is a resounding yes.

Where ever you stand on the candidates and the issues it is important for you to cast your ballot this year.

A cornerstone of being an American is freedom and our right to vote.  Throughout the entire history of our country many American patriots, soldiers, men and women have fought and died for freedom.   Voting and participating in the electoral process is the foundation of Democracy.  We elect our leaders.  They are not chosen for us.

In Pennsylvania we have a United States Senate up for grabs in a very competitive race.  The ballot will include your Congressional and Pennsylvania General Assembly candidates.    A question regarding a mandatory retirement age amendment for judges will be on the ballot November 8th.

The amendment to the mandatory retirement age would be applicable to all judges in Beaver County and across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The effect of the ballot question would be to allow all justices, judges, and magisterial district judges to remain in office until the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years.  This would permit all justices, judges, and magisterial district judges to serve an additional five years beyond the current required retirement age of 70 years.

If you have recently moved or unsure about your voting precinct call the Beaver County Election Department during business hours at 724-770-4440 or via email at elections@beavercountypa.gov.

These are challenging times for Americans.    Study the issues and evaluate all the candidates.  Contact them if you have questions.  Most importantly, go to the polls and cast your ballot.

Voting is our right as citizens.  Your voice must be heard.  The Chamber  encourages you to please exercise your right and vote this Tuesday November 8th.

October 10, 2016 –

Chamber thanks those who participated in debate

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce staff would like to publicly thank the candidates, panelists, sponsors and attendees for allowing us to conduct a civil, passionate and substantive General Election debate on the Penn State-Beaver Campus on Oct. 6.

The Chamber is a nonpartisan organization whose membership reflects the broad interests and values of our region. We believe that an informed electorate that engages in respectful civil discourse is a good way for us to move forward, and collectively prosper, as a region. Our debate format allowed for that to happen, but it wouldn’t have been successful without the candidate’s participation.

Thank you Jaret Gibbons and Aaron Bernstine, candidates for state representative in the 10th District; Jim Christiana and Mike Rossi, candidates for state representative in the 15th District; and Keith Rothfus and Erin McClelland, candidates for U.S House in the 12th District.

We greatly respect all who choose to run for office and put their name the ballot. Most of us can’t truly appreciate the organizational effort, energy and perseverance it takes to run a campaign. Win or lose, come November, you are all doing a great service to voters by providing contrasting leadership and alternative viewpoints for how to make our region reach its full potential.

Jack Manning

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce

October 7, 2016 –

Transformation of the economic landscape in Beaver County and Southwestern Pennsylvania

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce recently attended a visit from Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held at the Community College of Beaver County.  Mr. DePasquale stressed job training, school audits, municipal pensions and County offices.  Mr. DePasquale’s office has conducted over 300 audits in the county, including those on county row offices, school distrcits and municipal pension funds.  Overall, his priorities match very well with the Government Affairs Committees 2016 Legislative Priorities.

Speaking on the topic of Shell Chemical’s multibillion dollar project in Potter Township, Mr. DePasquale stated “the project is critical for the county’s future and the state’s future.”  He went on to say that thousands of jobs will be created during construction, start up and operation of the main plant, including spin off industries, and the region as well as the state needs to ensure that our workers have the skills necessary to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.  Mr. DePasquale stated that the jobs created by the Cracker Plant should go to Pennsylvanians, since taxpayers have already invested $1.65 billion in tax credits to entice Shell to build here.  Additionally, County leaders need to ensure the local work force is trained for the coming ethane cracker plant.  He talked about tax revenues increasing with the plant’s opening as people will be earning paychecks, spending money in the local economy, buying homes and raising families.  The Government Affairs legislative priority is to help identify the type of skilled workers needed in Beaver County, coordinate with the education community and help grow programs that address the workforce needs.

Schools were another topic discussed, Mr. DePasquale said that 13 of the 17 audits completed since 2013 have no findings, but two of the schools were struggling financially.  Discussions also focused on Cyber Charter Schools and the need for legislative reform to implement tighter controls over payments for students, especially ones designated eligible for special education funding.  He criticized the state’s charter school law as “the worst in the United States.”  Additionally, Mr. DePasquale touched on the large number of school districts in the state (561) and the need for cooperation between districts to share in cost savings in both labor and materials.  Some of the discussions included administrative staff including superintendents managing several districts, state wide bulk purchases of athletic equipment, fleet vehicles and school supplies and having all employees on a similar health plan.  This effort directly aligns with our legislative priority to encourage coordination among school districts to promote efficiency and a more enhance curriculum.

Turning his attention to municipal pensions plan audits, Mr. DePasquale said his office releases $2.5 million in pension aid in 2015 to Beaver County Communities.  He further stated that currently 25 of the 31 audits in the County reported had minimal or no distress, six plans were listed as having “moderate distress” which means their funded ratio of less than 70%.  Mr. DePasquale said “We also must ensure that these plans can be funded without crippling taxpayers and draining resources away from other municipal services.”  As with the school districts, the idea of Municipal cooperation should be at the forefront of a strategy to maximize efficiency in administration, delivery of services, purchasing of products and equipment.  This effort directly aligns with our legislative priority to encourage coordination among municipalities to promote efficiency and a more effective delivery of government services.

Lastly, concerning County Offices, Mr. DePasquale and his team conducted 10 audits of county offices since 2013, including six district courts.  The audits of the four row offices, district courts and liquid fuel funds have shown no significant findings.  Currently a routine audit of the sheriff’s office is underway and audits of the clerk of courts and prothonotary are scheduled for next year.  He said “county officials are doing a really good job here” and that local governments seem to be operating efficiently also.  The audits conducted by the Auditor General’s office in one of the pillars of the Government Affairs Committee’s Legislative Priorities – Accountable, responsive and efficient government at all levels including responsible stewardship of public funds

All the audit reports in Beaver County are available online at:

http://www.paauditor.gov/audit-reports

September 2, 2016 –

Advocating for Business for Business & Community Development:

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee is your voice in Beaver County, Harrisburg or Washington D.C, for issues and concerns affecting economic and community development with our elected officials. We are a nonpartisan affiliation of members with a strong interest in promoting good, bipartisan government.  The Committee advocates for accountable, responsive and efficient government at all levels – local, state and national – including responsible stewardship of public funds, so that all the businesses and communities of Beaver County will prosper.

The Chamber Government Affairs Committee also sponsors several forums for members, and the community, to participate in speaking directly with Public officials. We are proud to offer annual events such as the State of the County breakfast with our Beaver County Commissioners; the Congressional Breakfast with US Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-PA12); our recent State Legislators Forum with our representatives in Harrisburg; and our General Election Debate at Penn State Beaver to be held this October 6th.

From time to time we also provide other opportunities for incumbents and new candidates seeking elected office an opportunity to get their messages across to Chamber membership. The Committee recently spoke with PA12 Congressional District Candidate Erin McClelland, and late last year had a visit from US Senator Pat Toomey.

We highly encourage anyone who has an interest or issue that needs to be heard by elected officeholders, to attend our forums and events and voice your opinion.  If you can’t attend these in person, please pass along your ideas to the Government Affairs Committee for us to discuss and bring forward.

August 5, 2016 –

Presidents Message: Facing the Challenges of Growing Beaver County

The Chamber was pleased to have a seat at the table for Governor Tom Wolf’s recent visit to Beaver County. The Governor and other officials from Harrisburg came to the Penn State Beaver Campus to acknowledge previous behind the scenes efforts on behalf of multiple organizations to help land the Shell Cracker Plant. He also wanted to discuss future plans and resources needed to ensure we can handle the expected growth in related manufacturing business.

Prominent in the discussion was workforce development and the need to continue our aggressive efforts to educate and train qualified workers to fill current job openings and anticipated vacancies from retirements.  With or without Shell building a cracker plant, Beaver County needs more skilled workers in the fields of healthcare; information technology; construction & trades; engineering & production; retail & hospitality; and business & finance due to our aging population and anticipated new job growth. Adding the Shell project emphasizes the need exponentially.

The Chamber supports the recommendations of the Inflection Point report published by the Allegheny Conference. Their solution to bringing the supply and demand workforce needs back into balance has three components. First is to elevate the skills of the unemployed, underemployed and all existing workers who need “upskilling.”

Secondly we need to retain many more graduates from regional colleges and other secondary institutions. This requires aligning educators, parents, students and business with the proper career paths and curriculum choices. Employers need to examine their entry level requirements and begin hiring new graduates without insisting on several years of experience in addition to the prerequisite degree or certificates. We can’t continue to let our talent migrate out of state.

Lastly the solution must involve attracting new residents with the skills and talents needed to augment the most in-demand occupations. To do so our region must continue to address a strategy that will look at revitalizing our neighborhoods and creating new housing stock; improving the quality of our primary and secondary education systems; and increasing the quality of life amenities necessary to attract a new generation of residents.

Governor Wolf, the Department of Community & Economic Development and our bipartisan representatives in Harrisburg have all pledged their support to take full advantage of the opportunity that is before us.

To his credit, Governor Wolf praised the work of his predecessor Governor Corbett and the Beaver County delegation of elected officials, businesses and unions that worked together to make the Shell project a reality.

We are planning on that nonpartisan spirit of cooperation continuing as we get Beaver County growing again with new jobs and new residents.

July 1, 2016 –

SUMMARY OF BEAVER COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TRIP TO HARRISBURG

On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Government Affairs Committee members, Jack Manning, Lindsay Corteau, Dr. Christopher Reber and Harry Kunselman traveled to Harrisburg on behalf of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce.  It was a successful and promising trip in numerous respects.

First, the trip coincided with the Royal Dutch Shell’s blockbuster announcement that it will proceed to build the cracker plant in Potter Township.  Second, it was Chamber Day in Harrisburg, and Harrisburg was populated by chambers of commerce from across Pennsylvania.  The buzz of the Shell announcement was in the air everywhere, and Beaver County enjoyed some of the spotlight.

One consistent message that we heard throughout the day was that the political climate in Harrisburg is different this year, and predictions are that budget negotiations will go more smoothly this year.  Most people stated that nobody in the legislature or the executive branch wants to repeat last year’s budget experience, and they have received their constituents’ messages loudly and clearly.

We began with a productive visit with our Beaver County legislative delegation.  We met with Senator Elder Vogel, Senator Camera Bartolotta, Representative Rob Matzie, Representative Jim Christiana, Representative Jim Marshall and Representative Jaret Gibbons.  We updated them with information about the Chamber, its initiatives, and its legislative priorities and emphasized that the Chamber would like to work cooperatively with all of them to address Beaver County’s most pressing needs.  Discussions included this year’s current budget negotiations; education issues; the Chamber’s desire to examine consolidation of municipal and school district services; trying to work cooperatively with the Beaver County Times for a debate in the fall; and developing a format for the August 25, 2016 Legislative Breakfast.  The Chamber is fortunate to have legislators who are sensitive to our priorities and who are always accommodating when it comes to Chamber sponsored events and visits to Harrisburg.

Our next stop was at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, where Senator Majority Leader, Jake Corman, spoke to a lunch-time crowd of chamber representatives from across the state.  Senator Corman echoed the sentiment that budget negotiations should go more smoothly this year, but it remains a priority in the legislature to fix the pension system.  Healthcare and pension costs continue to grow, even while the size of government has been reduced.  Demographics (aging population) indicate that medical costs will continue to increase.  The state needs to find a sustainable way to address these needs.  Senate Bill 1 deals with public pension reform.  It is based on a 7.5% return-on-investment and would shift to a 401(k) type of plan.  House Bill 76 and Senate Bill 76 would eliminate school property taxes, except for debt service, and would adjust the personal income tax to 5% and move state sales tax to 7%  What happens with these proposals remains to be seen, but there seems to be more common ground this year than last year on getting the budget passed.

Our next and final stop was at the Department of Community and Economic Development, where we met with Denise Brindley, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Strategic Industry Initiatives, and Neil Weaver, Executive Deputy Secretary.  Among other things, DCED is focused on the responsible development of natural gas in Pennsylvania.  It is a priority of the Governor to ensure that Pennsylvania’s energy policy benefits Pennsylvania residents.  Part of this means expanding the natural gas pipelines to make sure that all areas of Pennsylvania can receive gas service.  $12 million was requested this year for “last mile” pipeline finding, with more next year.  DCED is also interested in supporting the conversion of older power plants and brownfield sites to enable the use of natural gas for their energy.  There may be opportunities in Beaver County for this funding, and if so, we should let DCED know about them.

We shared with DCED the Chamber’s legislative priorities and emphasized the significant role that Beaver County will play in the future of Pennsylvania’s economy.  We learned that DCED has a number of resources available to support the Chamber’s legislative priorities, including municipal consolidation and workforce development.  DCED may also be able to help market Beaver County nationally.  We concluded the meeting with a commitment from DCED to come and meet with Chamber representatives to educate our membership on available resources and programs.  That meeting occurred on June 23, and it is hoped that we can have Secretary Dennis Davin visit Beaver County in the near future.

All in all, it was an informative and productive trip, and we continue to be optimistic about the Chamber’s relationship with Beaver County’s representatives in Harrisburg.

June 3, 2016 –

Government Affairs: Your Voice in Harrisburg

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce recently gave testimony at a public hearing held by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on Confronting the Heroin/Opioid Epidemic in Pennsylvania. The hearing Board Chair, State Senator Gene Yaw, and his co-hosts, Senator Elder Vogel and Senator Camera Bartolotta held the event at The Fez in Hopewell.

The three plus hours of testimony included various county district attorneys, school districts, government agencies, and healthcare/recovery providers.  The Chamber was the only voice representing the business community. Given the very successful Town Hall Discussion on Addiction that the Chamber held in April, we were privileged to provide some perspective from our regional and Beaver County based membership.

We know that no segment of our society or business community is immune to problems of addiction. The growth in opiate use in the last ten years has been in households earning up to $50,000/year. A vast majority (67%) current drug users over the age of 18 are employed. The consequences of addiction on U.S. economy and our national workforce are significant. The cost is in the hundreds of billions of dollars due to lost productivity, drug treatment, incarceration, criminal justice, premature death, and other related medical issues.

Some studies indicate that one in twelve workers reported illicit drug use within a current one month period. For the unemployed, the number is one in six. High turnover rates, absenteeism, and workers compensation claims are highly contributed to substance abuse and addiction.

There is hope. Treatment programs are available and can work. But we first must confront the reality that it exists in our workplace and with our employees’ families. We must educate ourselves on the causes and where to seek that help. The Chamber will continue to do its part in solving this issue.  If you need assistance or have any questions, the following Chamber partners are a good place to start.

Gateway Rehab Center 800-472-1177

Beaver County Behavioral Heath Drug & Alcohol Program 724-847-6225

Mental Health Association of Beaver County 724-775-4165

May 6, 2016 –

It is a universal truth that no one likes having their taxes raised. This is especially true if residents and business owners feel they are not getting an effective return on their tax dollar.

When taxes are spent to improve essential services or rebuild infrastructure, the common sense support of taxpayers is usually strong.  This was the case when the Chamber backed our local state elected officials in passing the Act 89 Transportation Bill.  Everyone realized that crumbling roads and bridges negatively affected all segments of our society and cost us millions of dollars per year in traffic accidents, business disruption, transportation costs, auto repairs and business development opportunities.

At some point in time, a community realizes you can’t ignore or wish your problems away, you have to solve the problem. And while none of us likes the current delays on Route 65, Interstate 376, the Vanport Bridge, Route 18 interchange and others, they are a direct result of Act 89 moving forward and allowing progress to be made for a region that desperately needed to improve its infrastructure in a way that brings a better quality of living and working in Beaver County.

As our Chamber partner Lou Villotti from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission told us when people complain about traffic congestion, “it’s a sign that something is happening (there).” Act 89 investment in our future was a no brainer.

Likewise about a year ago, the Chamber supported bipartisan HB794, recently signed into law by Governor Wolf on April 20, as Act 18. This Act allows third through eighth class counties to raise their hotel room taxes from 3% to 5% with the proceeds being reinvested back into promoting tourism for their regions.

This “hotel tax” – that is paid by visitors and business travelers staying in our county – funds Beaver County’s travel and tourism efforts. Anyone who has ever stayed in any hotel or motel anywhere in the state or the country, whether for work or pleasure, has paid a similar tax. And while there have been several new hotels built in Beaver County, we believe increasing this tax by 2% is another no brainer.

Investing more money to effectively promote bringing more visitors and people into our region is necessary. Beaver County needs to expand our marketing reach and promotion of our great quality of life and business opportunities. It should not competitively disadvantage Beaver County with our surrounding region, as many already have the 5% levy in place. We believe this is another appropriate tax increase that brings positive benefit and return to Beaver County residents and business.

April 1, 2016 –

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce advocates accountable, responsive and efficient government at all levels – local, state and national – including responsible stewardship of public funds, so that the businesses and communities of Beaver County will prosper.  The paralysis inflicted on the Commonwealth by our elected officials at the state level– both legislative and executive— is evidence of their failure to fulfill these standards.  The inability to find common ground in the interest of the Commonwealth as a whole is inexcusable.  Our citizens, businesses, social service agencies, community college, school districts, and municipalities are suffering, but nobody appears to be listening.

If there has ever been a time for real change, it is now.  Several bills have been introduced in Harrisburg to reduce the size of the legislature.  If their intent is to save money and enhance accountability, then they are laudable.  But such legislation alone will not address a deeper and pervasive issue:  a leadership vacuum. Reducing the size of the legislature is less important than holding officials accountable to do the jobs for which they were elected.

The members of the Chamber Government Affairs Committee comprise a representative cross-section of Chamber members and constituencies.  The dysfunction of our state government has generated vigorous discussions at our meetings, where a number of additional legislative or constitutional initiatives have been advocated.  Among them are that absent the passage of a state budget on time, neither the legislators and their staffs, nor the Governor and his staff should be paid (that means no per diems, either); a recall process should be created to give citizens the power to remove officials who are not discharging their duties; and the closed primary system should be eliminated to increase public engagement in the election of responsible candidates.  Undoubtedly other ideas would enhance accountability, but these rise to the top.

The Beaver County Board of Directors urges all Chamber members and Beaver County citizens to lift your voices and let them be heard loudly, clearly, and often.  Let us end the paralysis and demand public officials who understand, and who will be accountable for, the harm they are causing.

March 4, 2016 –

The State of the County is Progressing:

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce, and especially the Government Affairs Committee, would like to thank the Beaver County Commissioners for participating in our State of the County breakfast meeting held in Hopewell Township on February 9th. There was another very good turnout for this annual event. The Fez proved excellent accommodations and food, prompting our moderator, Political Editor Jon Delano from KDKA TV to comment, “I eat a lot of breakfast out and about, and I must say that the scrambled eggs at the Fez were fabulous!”

But this event was about a lot more than over 160 business and community members gathering for scrambled eggs at a breakfast meeting. It was about two newly elected first time commissioners, and the former board of commissioner’s chairman, coming together for two hours of very meaningful dialogue. We greatly appreciated the bipartisan and transparent approach displayed by Commissioners Sandie Egley, Tony Amadio, and Dan Camp. While the major theme of the morning was clearly the difficult decisions being made to bring spending in line with revenue projections for the county’s 2016 budget, we were encouraged by the thoughtfulness and openness being displayed. Jon Delano remarked afterwards, “From my perspective, it was a terrific event, as the three commissioners covered a lot of public policy territory. That was aided by (audience member) questions.”

We believe that our County is progressing and is moving forward in a long term sustainable manner. There are always challenges, some now known and others still unknown, that will face every county official elected to office. But we believe, and have great faith, in the resourcefulness of the Beaver County community to solve the current problems that exist and seize the new opportunities that lay before us.  Our Chamber is 540 members strong and growing. It is comprised of a wide array of talent, expertise and experiences. We continue to pledge our support to all elected officials at every level of government in whatever manner we can, to assist Beaver County in moving forward and raising the prosperity of all the region’s stakeholders. Sometimes it may be listening and asking questions of officials. At other times, we hope, it is them asking us for input and solutions.

February 5, 2016 –

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee congratulates the new slate of Beaver County row officers sworn into office in last month. We look forward to working with them as we pursue our 2016 Legislative Priorities. Our legislative priorities for coming year reflect the Chamber’s mission to “Prepare, Develop and Promote the Community for Economic Growth”.
  1. Enhancing Educational Opportunities: The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce supports the continued development and enhancement of quality educational opportunities for students and employees within Beaver County.
  2. Business and Governmental Cooperation: The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce advocates maximizing the effectiveness of government and the acceleration of business growth.
  3. Transportation and Economic Development Infrastructure: The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce supports public investment, legislation and policies that will create and improve the infrastructure necessary to grow the economy.

Here are your Beaver County row officers:

Commissioner Chairperson – Sandie Egley

Commissioner – Tony Amadio

Commissioner – Dan Camp

Controller – David Rossi

Coroner – David Gabauer

Court of Clerks – Judy Enslen

District Attorney – David Lozier

Prothonotary – Nancy Werme

Recorder of Deeds – Janice Beall

Register of Wills – Tracy Patton

Sheriff – Tony Guy

Treasurer – Connie Javens

We hope you will be able to join us on February 9, 2016 at The Fez from 8:00AM to 10:00AM for our annual “State of Beaver County” breakfast meeting. You will be able to network with officials and hear more about our initiatives. Jon Delano from KDKA will moderate the question and answer session with the Commissioners and others. We hope to see you there.

January 1, 2016 –

The Government Affairs Committee of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce advocates accountable, responsive and efficient government at all levels – local, state and national – including responsible stewardship of public funds, so that the businesses and communities of Beaver County will prosper.  If you have an issue that needs advocacy, the Committee may be able to help you.

Please meet the current Government Affairs Committee Members:

Chair – Dr. Chris Reber, President of Community College of Beaver County

Vice Chair – Harry Kunselman, Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky

Megan Carpenter – Republican Party of Beaver County

Karl Chapple – Minuteman Press

Melissa DeNardo – Community College of Beaver County

John Goberish – Community College of Beaver County

Jeff Jones – Geneva College

Jeff Liberati – Express Med Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Bill Lucas – Junior Achievement

John Michael Martino – Martino, Inc.

Rebecca Matsco – Beaver County Council of Governments

Michael Mooney – WesBanco, Inc.

Larry Nelson – IBEW LOCAL 712

Dr. Michael Sisk – Democratic Party of Beaver County

Scott Waitlevertch –  Beaver Valley Power Station

Micah Yarger – PGT Trucking.

December 4, 2015 –

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce held their 2015 Legislative Reception on Thursday, November 19 at the Wooden Angel.  A special thank you to our Main Sponsor, Community College of Beaver County as well as our Supporting Sponsors: NOVA Chemicals and Beaver County Association of Realtors.  We welcomed a record number of attendees to congratulate many of your elected officials for the upcoming year!

November 6, 2015 –

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce Calls for Budget Passage Again

For immediate release – October 16, 2015: The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce is again requesting resolution of the Pennsylvania state budget impasse on behalf of its 530 plus members and the tens of thousands of employees and family members they represent. We request that the Governor and Republican leadership seek common ground and break the gridlock that is preventing Pennsylvanians from getting on with their work and negatively impacting the quality of life for many.

The Beaver County Chamber is a non-partisan organization that represents a very diverse constituency of small and large businesses as well as non-profit organizations. Our non-profit and social services members who depend on state funding subsidies have either used limited cash reserves or are borrowing against credit lines in order to keep providing their services to our most vulnerable and needy citizens. The additional cost of interest payments on these loans will eventually be paid by tax payers. In many cases some services are being curtailed and workers are in jeopardy of being furloughed.

Our education based members have attempted to begin new school years under tremendous uncertainty. Ultimately it is the student that suffers from this inability of adults to solve the problems preventing a resolution to the budget. Students seeking to pursue or continue their college education have not had access to student aid funding. Companies depending on improving their workforce are having programs delayed or in jeopardy. Some of the business and economic development of Beaver County and the Commonwealth is on hold as this impasse continues.

We understand that ideology and special interests are an endemic part of the political process. But we truly believe that our elected officials sought political office to serve ALL the people of Pennsylvania whether they be Republicans, Democrats or Independents. Once again we implore our elected leaders in Harrisburg to set aside their labels and immediately solve the issues preventing a budget from being passed and signed by the Governor.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce and its members, we thank all of our elected officials for their public service and for addressing our request for bipartisan resolution of the state budget impasse.

October 2, 2015 –

At the September 11th meeting, the Government Affairs Committee welcomed Ruth Ann Omer, President of Gateway Engineering, Inc.  In addition, Ruth Ann serves as a Board of Director for the Local Government Academy.  The Local Government Academy (see http://localgovernmentacademy.org/ ) is a non-partisan organization that promotes excellence in local government by providing educational opportunities for local government officials.  The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce hopes to further develop a relationship with this organization for the purpose of supporting efforts to advocate for excellence in local government.

Government Affairs Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Reber attended several very helpful meetings in Washington D.C. in early September.  He attended the fifth annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge White House Convening; meetings with Congressman Keith Rothfus and staff members for Senator Robert Casey and Senator Pat Toomey; meetings with editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed; and the 12th Annual Elected Officials Reception on Capitol Hill, sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

While in Washington D.C., Dr. Reber discussed the Chamber’s priorities.  In particular, Dr. Reber discussed the partnerships and collaboration between Beaver County colleges, school districts, government, business and industry that are focused on economic and workforce development and quality of life.

September 4, 2015 –

The Chamber Government Affairs Committee met on August 14 and welcomed Jennifer Beer, Director of Government Affairs for the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference.  Jennifer has worked for the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber for eight years.  Her focus is state government, but she also advocates on the federal and local levels when appropriate.  The footprint of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber / Allegheny Conference is the 10 counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania and works with all chambers in that region.  During our August 14th meeting we discussed the current budget impasse and its effect on the region; it was determined that the Chamber should draft a statement (See August 18, 2015 Update below) urging the Governor and legislators in both parties to seek common ground and complete the budget in view of the challenges that the impasse is causing for human services and educational organizations, students, and others.

The Committee also discussed the Fall Debate featuring candidates for County Commissioner at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at Penn State Beaver. John Delano from KDKA TV will moderate and the debate.  Proposed questions for the candidates are invited and can be e-mailed to the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee Chair, Dr. Chris Reber, at chris.reber@ccbc.edu.

August 18, 2015 –

For Immediate Release – The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce is requesting resolution of the Pennsylvania state budget impasse on behalf of its 530 plus members and the tens of thousands of employees and family members they represent. We request that the Governor and Republican leadership seek common ground and break the gridlock that is preventing Pennsylvanians from getting on with their work.

The Beaver County Chamber is a non-partisan organization that represents a very diverse constituency of small and large businesses as well as non-profit organizations. Our non-profit and social services members who depend on state funding subsidies are rapidly using limited cash reserves or borrowing against credit lines in order to keep providing their services to our most vulnerable and needy citizens.  In many cases, some services are being curtailed.

Our education based members are attempting to begin new school years under tremendous uncertainty. Ultimately it is the student that suffers from this inability of adults to solve the problems preventing a resolution to the budget. Students seeking to pursue or continue their college education do not have access to student aid funding. Companies depending on improving their workforce are having programs delayed or in jeopardy. Overall, much of the business and economic development of Beaver County and the Commonwealth is on hold as this impasse continues.

We understand that ideology and special interests are an endemic part of the political process. But we truly believe that our elected officials sought political office to serve ALL the people of Pennsylvania whether they be Republicans, Democrats or Independents. We ask that our elected leaders in Harrisburg set aside their labels and immediately solve the issues preventing a budget from being passed and signed by the Governor.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce and its members, we thank all of our elected officials for their public service and for addressing our request for bipartisan resolution of the state budget impasse.

We urge you to contact the following Beaver County elected officials and ask them to “seek common ground and break the gridlock that is preventing Pennsylvanians from getting on with their work.”

August 7, 2015 –

The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee continues to grow in diversity with new members from various industries and business sizes serving on our committee. It is important that this committee, and all committees within the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce, is diverse because of the wide variety of member businesses and services our members provide.

Yes, the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce represents small business, from the self-employed to the businesses with fewer than ten employees. But we also represent the large employers in Beaver County. Both bring value to our community. Both have needs on the local, state and federal level. Both need support from their local chamber.

Our diverse membership includes utility companies, transportation, food service, health services, insurance, finance, advertising and design, construction, energy, media, manufacturing, legal, real estate, telecommunications, education, non-profits, and local government, among many others.

It is our responsibility to consider all of the issues facing businesses, organizations and industries within the Chamber in order to advocate for the best interest of our members.

The Chamber urges our elected officials to work together.  We do not endorse sides or parties, just bi-partisan efforts to promote the Chamber priorities and the needs of our members.

July 3, 2015 –

Members of our Government Affairs Committee had a very busy and productive day in Harrisburg on June 17. Members of our visiting team included Dr. Melissa Denardo (CCBC), Harry Kunselman (Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky), Erica Loftus (Beaver County Chamber), Rebecca Matsco (Potter Township), Ed Palombo (People’s Gas), Dr. Chris Reber (CCBC), Scott Waitlevertch (Columbia Gas), and Micah Yarger (PGT Trucking). The GA team met with all members of our legislative delegation (Sens. Vogel and Bartolotta and Reps. Christiana, Gibbons, Marshall and Matzie); Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director of the American Petroleum Institute; Sarah Galbally, Mike Brunelle and Howard Wial, members of Governor Wolf’s staff; Scott Dunkelberger, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development; and Pedro Rivera, Secretary of Education. Discussion included such topics as funding for K-12 and postsecondary education, pension reform, tax reform, infrastructure funding and development, funding for the Mancini Bridge in Aliquippa, career and technical education, the proposed Shell ethane cracker plant, and many others. Team members discussed with the Governor’s staff a possible trip by the Governor to Beaver County after the budget has been finished.

Harrisburg2015

June 5, 2015 –

The Chamber Government Affairs Committee has been very active! We were pleased to meet with Senator Camera Bartolotta on Friday, May
8th. The purpose of this meeting was to better acquaint ourselves and to discuss our Legislative Priorities, economic development and other
needs in Beaver County. We had a very substantive and helpful conversation that we look forward to continuing during her time in office.
Our committee is planning a trip to Harrisburg on June 17th to advocate Beaver County needs. A team of Chamber members and community
leaders is scheduled to meet with our entire local delegation; the Executive Director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania;
Secretary of Planning and Policy John Hangar; Governor Wolf’s Chief of Staff Katie McGinty; Governor Wolf; Department of Community and
Economic Development Deputy Secretary Scott Dunkelberger; and Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera. We look forward to sharing
what we learn and discuss in future updates. Have a great summer!

May 5, 2015 –

On Tuesday, April 21, 2015 the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce hosted U.S. Congressman Keith Rothfus for the annual Congressional Breakfast sponsored by Comcast.  Heritage Valley Health System Beaver, once again hosted the event, and Pacer Studios was on site to capture all of the interaction. View the recap and post event interview below.

May 1, 2015 –

Your Beaver County Chamber of Commerce has been active. Not only are our days filled with planning a plethora of diverse events and marketing Beaver County and its business community; we also facilitate meetings to further develop partnerships which will result in Beaver County growth.

One of our main agenda items over the past two years has been to focus on Workforce Development. The Chamber and its partners are doing this through a multilayered initiative called “Beaver County Energy & Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.” You can learn more about this partnership at www.energyampartnership.com and check back in the June “Business” section for an op-ed from one of our partners.

The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee has also been busy this past month.

  • Friday, March 27 we attended an event hosted by Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai. It was a conference on growing Pennsylvania industries and business activity around and beyond the drilling of Marcellus Shale.  The conference was an opportunity to engage with elected officials and learn how Pennsylvania can safely advance the use of our Natural Gas resources to build a thriving, diverse economy that will provide us with a competitive advantage helping us weather the ups and downs of commodity prices and secure our economic future for generations to come.
  • April 6th was the date that the Beaver County Chamber signed their name to a letter that went to the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation. This letter expressed the concern for the expiration of funding for the Highway Trust Fund and urging them to work with their colleagues in Congress to develop a long-term plan to fund our nation’s transportation system. Transportation infrastructure is a critical factor in attracting and retaining business investment. In 2013, our state’s leaders passed a historic transportation funding package that invests an additional $2.4 billion annually into the state’s transportation network and will result in 50,000 new jobs and 12,000 jobs retained. Yet, without matching resources from the Highway Trust Fund, the benefits of this achievement will be greatly diminished. Passage of a long-term funding bill for the Highway Trust Fund will ensure that southwestern Pennsylvania remains a competitive and attractive place to do business. Our nation needs a bipartisan solution to this issue.
  • April 10th we attended an event at the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. Their guest speaker was Pennsylvania Secretary of the Budget, Randy Albright. The Secretary discussed Governor Wolf’s budget proposal and goals of the administration in this first budget.  Several tax proposals were included in the Governor’s proposal that were discussed, including: Personal Income Tax, Sales, CNI, Severance, and Combined Reporting.
  •  April 21st Congressman Keith Rothfus spoke at the Chamber’s 2015 Annual Congressional Breakfast about energy policies, small business growth, and what has been done so far in the first 100 days of a new Congress.

BCCC Congressional Breakfast April 21 2015

“The Chamber thanks those in attendance who took the time
to be educated and to be an advocate for the Beaver County Community.”

(L-R: Dr. Chris Reber, CCBC President & Chamber Government Affairs Committee Chairperson; John Thayer, NOVA Chemical’s, Inc. &
Chamber Board Chairperson; Erica Loftus, Chamber President; Congressman Keith Rothfus;
Frank Polito, Comcast – Main Sponsor; Norm Mitry, Heritage Valley Health System – Host Sponsor)

  •  The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee is also finalizing details for its June 17th trip to Harrisburg. The purpose of this day trip is to meet with our elected and appointed state officials and discuss the Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Priorities, which include:

o   Enhanced Educational Opportunities

o   Business and Governmental Cooperation

o   Transportation and Economic Infrastructure

The day looks like it will be packed full with meetings. In addition to meeting with our State Senators and Representatives, we are slated to meet with the following: John Hanger, Secretary of Planning & Policy for Pennsylvania; Katie McGinty, Chief of Staff for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf; Governor Tom Wolf; Scott Dunkelberger, Deputy Secretary for Business Financing; and Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

And to finish off this month’s update, strides continue to be made in building partnerships with local, regional and national organizations so that we can continue to “Prepare, Develop, and Promote the Community for Economic Growth.”

April 3, 2015 –

The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee was delighted to host the February 10th State of the County breakfast, featuring our County Commissioners. Over 180 people attended and John Delano of KDKA-TV did a wonderful job of facilitating the discussion. Thank you to all who were in attendance for making this an informative and exciting annual event! We would also like to thank the sponsors – Main Sponsor: Habitat for Humanity of Beaver County; and our Supporting Sponsors: Beaver County Association of Realtors, Range Resources, and Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky Attorneys At Law.We were pleased to distribute our 2015 Legislative Priorities at this annual event and are currently disseminating the priorities to all of our elected officials and community leaders.

You are encouraged to view our 2015 Legislative Priorities, along with updates and other valuable information on the Chamber’s Government Affairs Page of the website, beavercountychamber.com/legislative.

We look forward to our upcoming Congressional Breakfast with Congressman Keith Rothfus on Tuesday, April 21 beginning at 8 a.m. at Heritage Valley Health System – Beaver Campus Cafeteria. The RSVP deadline is April 14th to info@bcchamber.com. Space is limited so we encourage an early RSVP.

In addition to the Fall 2015 County Commissioner’s Debate that will be scheduled after the Spring Primary Election, the Committee members are also planning a trip to Harrisburg in June to meet with elected and key officials. Then in September a trip to Washington, D.C. is being facilitated that will coincide with the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Legislative Reception.

We welcome additional Chamber members to join our Committee and help us advocate Beaver County priorities in our region, the Commonwealth and the nation.

March 6, 2015 –

The Government Affairs Committee of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce advocates accountable, responsive and efficient government at all levels – local, state and national – including responsible stewardship of public funds, so that the businesses and communities of Beaver County will prosper. Toward that end, the Government Affairs Committee adopted, on February 6, 2015 , the following legislative priorities for 2015:

Enhanced Educational Opportunities: The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce supports the continued development and enhancement of quality educational opportunities for students and employees within Beaver County. We value:

  • A focus on current and emerging high-priority workforce needs, including STEM education;
  • The development of pathways from K-12 through post-secondary education made possible by partnerships of school districts, colleges and universities, and businesses and industries;
  • Funding strategies to design, implement and grow programs that address new and emerging workforce needs; and,
  • Increased coordination among school districts to promote efficiency and a more enhanced curriculum, including College in High School programs that allow high school students to explore career options, earn college credit early, and matriculate into post-secondary programs leading to credential attainment.

Business and Governmental Cooperation:  The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce advocates maximizing the effectiveness of government and the acceleration of business growth, with emphasis on:

  • Regular meetings and open communication with federal, state and local officials who represent Beaver County and Western Pennsylvania, including the Beaver County Regional Council of Governments;
  • Exploring and supporting efficient consolidation and effective delivery of government services; and,
  • Streamlining the regulatory and permitting processes to accelerate the creation of new businesses and the growth of existing businesses.

Transportation and Economic Infrastructure: The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce supports public investment, legislation and policies that will create and improve the infrastructure necessary to grow the economy, with emphasis on:

  • Improved roads, bridges, waterways and transit systems;
  • Modern commercial office space for professional, executive and management functions;
  • Modern industrial and brownfield plants and facilities; and,
  • Light industrial facilities for businesses ancillary to the industrial sector.

Would you like to serve on the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee? Contact Erica Loftus or Dr. Chris Reber to learn more info@bcchamber.com.

February 10, 2015 –

 

State of the County021015

On Tuesday, February 10, 2015 the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce hosted the Annual State of the County Breakfast at the Fez in Hopewell, featuring Beaver County Commissioners Tony Amadio and Joe Spanik and facilitated by Jon Delano of KDKA – TV. Thank you to all who were in attendance for making this an informative and exciting, sell-out event! Thank you to our Main Sponsor: Habitat for Humanity of Beaver County; and our Supporting Sponsors: Beaver County Association of Realtors, Range Resources, and Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky Attorneys At Law.

Media Coverage from the Beaver County Times.

February 6, 2015 –

The Government Affairs Committee has been expanding membership in order to gain additional perspectives and advocates for our work. We are pleased to welcome Mike Sisk, Chair of the Beaver County Democratic Committee, and Lisa Reese, Vice-President of Publishing of the Beaver County Times, to our Committee. We invite other Chamber members to join us if interested. We meet monthly and are finishing updates to our 2015 Legislative Priorities, which will be distributed to Chamber members soon.
We are excited about our upcoming Annual State of the County breakfast, which will be held on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. at The Fez in Aliquippa. The program will feature County Commissioners Tony Amadio, Joe Spanik and Dennis Nichols and will be facilitated by Jon Delano of KDKA TV. Programs such as this provide valuable opportunities for all of us to learn about our government, perspectives on key issues, and to offer ideas and advocacy around important decisions.
The Government Affairs Committee plans to travel to Harrisburg and Washington, DC, this year to meet with legislators and discuss our priorities. We will also be organizing additional fora with local, state and federal representatives and candidates, and we will hold a Congressional Breakfast on April 21 at 8 a.m. at Heritage Valley Beaver Campus (see calendar for details).

January 2015 –

On November 20, 2014 the Chamber hosted it’s Annual Legislative Reception at the Wooden Angel. Thank you to Comcast (R) who was the Main Sponsor and those that attended.

 

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Legislative Reception

(L-R: Dan Murphy, Commissioner Tony Amadio, Frank Polito, Commissioner Dennis Nichols, State Rep. Jim Marshall, James Kerin from the Office of State Senator Elder Vogel Jr., Jeremy Honhold from the Office of Congressman Keith Rothfus, Kathy Bingle) Photography by Graule Studios.

November 7, 2014 –

The Government Affairs committee of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce would like to introduce its new Chairperson, Dr. Chris Reber. Dr. Reber serves as President of the Community College of Beaver County.

Dr.Reber

On Friday, September 26th, we had the opportunity to host Congressman Keith Rothfus, republican incumbent candidate for the 12th Congressional District. Congressman Rothfus spent an hour with the committee answering questions and updating us on his time in Washington, D.C.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Keith Rothfus Government Affairs Committee visit

On Wednesday, October 15th, the Chamber facilitated its General Election Debate, hosted by Penn State Beaver. Jon Delano, KDKA, moderated the Congressional Debate between Congressman Keith Rothfus (R) and Candidate Erin McClelland (D). The State Senate Debate was to include Senator Timothy J. Solobay (D) and Candidate Camera Bartolotta (R) but was canceled because the Senate’s session was extended in Harrisburg. In an effort to be fair to both campaigns, Candidate Camera Bartolotta was allowed to share her two minute closing statement. Senator Solobay was offered to send a representative to speak on his behalf but respectfully declined this opportunity since he was unable to be there in person. Thank you to our Debate Main

Sponsor: TJM Drilling, Inc.; Thank you to our Supporting Sponsors: Heritage Valley Health System, NOVA Chemicals, and PGT Trucking.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Debate

 

September 5, 2014 –

The Government Affairs committee of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce has had a busy summer. We had the opportunity to meet with Erin McClelland, democratic challenger for the 12th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Keith Rothfus. Ms. McClelland spent an hour with the committee outlining her background and reasons for running for Congress. The committee is poised to meet with Rep. Rothfus at the end of September to discuss his campaign as well.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Erin McClelland with Legislative Committee

On July 25, several members of the committee joined Gov. Tom Corbett at Guy’s Service Station in New Brighton, as he did a ceremonial signing of the new law to end the summer blend of gasoline bill, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel. The law repeals requirements for a different blend of gasoline to be used in the summer in Western Pennsylvania. That blend typically costs about 10 to 15 cents per gallon more for drivers. The law won’t be implemented until next year to allow for the state Department of Environmental Protection to alter the program. The new law covers Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Finally, the government affairs committee, along with the board of directors, hosted U.S. Senator Pat Toomey for a roundtable discussion on August 4 at Heritage Valley Beaver. Senator Toomey gave us an overview of what is happening in Washington (not much with all of the gridlock) and took questions from the group. Discussion points included the Affordable Care Act, properly funding our highways and bridges, fixing our locks and dams and the need to bi-partisan leadership at our nation’s capital.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Senator Toomy meeting

We also encourage all members to join us on October 15 for the Chamber’s General Election Debate. The debate will be held on October 15, 2014 on the Penn State Beaver campus in the Student Union Building Auditorium. Jon Delano from KDKA TV will be the debate moderator. The doors will open to the public at 6:30pm and the debate will begin at 7:00pm. Candidates invited to attend are U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, who represents the 12th Congressional district (all of Beaver County) and his opponent, Erin McClelland; PA Senator Tim Solobay, who represents the 46th district in Pennsylvania (which includes Greene Twp., Hanover Twp., Independence Twp., Raccoon Twp., Frankfort Springs and Hookstown); and his opponent, Camera C. Bartolotta. And PA Rep. Jim Christiana, who represents the 15th district (Brighton Twp., Center Twp., Greene Twp., Hopewell Twp., Independence Twp., Patterson Twp., Potter Twp., Raccoon Twp., Vanport Twp. Beaver, Georgetown, Hookstown, Monaca, Patterson Heights, Shippingport, and South Heights) and his opponent, Paul Cain.

August 1, 2014 –

Gov. Tom Corbett, as of the writing of this article, had not signed the $29.1 billion budget sent to him by the General Assembly on June 30. Governor Corbett had 10 days to veto the budget or plan lapses into law without his signature. The 108-95 House vote and the 26-24 Senate tally followed nearly straight party lines and culminated hours of debate. Our local delegation voted as follows: Rep. Jim Christiana (R) – yes; Rep. Jim Marshall (R) – yes; Rep. Rob Matzie (D) – no; Rep.  Jaret Gibbons (D) – no; Sen. Elder Vogel (R)– yes; and Sen. Tim Solobay (D) – no.  The biggest sticking point with Governor Corbett was pension reform. Leaders of the House and Senate majorities couldn’t drum up enough support for the pension overhaul Governor Corbett wanted in conjunction with the budget, so it was referred to committee to be reconsidered in the fall. The plan would reduce future state and school employees’ pensions to save more than $10 billion over 30 years.

Additionally, the government affairs committee has planned a General Election Debate on Wednesday, October 15, 2014. Gubernatorial candidates Governor Tom Corbett and challenger Tom Wolf have been invited to attend as well as the candidates for the 12th Congressional district of Pennsylvania, U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus and challenger Erin McClelland. Jon Delano, from KDKA TV and radio, will serve as the moderator. The debate will be held at the Penn State-Beaver Auditorium in the Student Union Building. Doors will open to the public at 6:30pm and the debate will begin at 7:00pm. Please stay tuned for confirmation from all candidates for this exciting debate.

July 4, 2014 –

Chamber President Erica Loftus traveled to Harrisburg on June 10th to attend the annual Pennsylvania Chamber Day. Erica made the trek to our State’s Capitol to represent the Chamber, along with dozens of her counterparts from across the state. It was a productive day filled with updates beginning with Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai presenting an overview on the state budget, public pension reform, reducing the size of legislation and many other topics. Secretary of Labor & Industry Julia Hearthway shared some new resources available through Labor & Industry as well as some resources which will be available soon. There was also a session at the PA Chamber office and then a Q&A with Governor Corbett, all before lunch!  The Chamber leadership and the Government Affairs Committee is planning another trip to Harrisburg later this year as well as a day trip to Washington D.C.  Finally, the Chamber will host a 2014 General Election Gubernatorial and Congressional Debate on October 15th from 7:00-9:00PM at Penn State Beaver. All candidates have been invited to participate and we look forward to receiving their responses.

June 6, 2014 –

The Government Affairs Committee has had a very busy spring. In addition to holding our quarterly Legislative Roundtable with all of our elected officials, we also held the Congressional Breakfast with US Rep. Keith Rothfus on April 15. In addition, we began to work with PA Rep. Jaret Gibbons, 10th district, about reforming the Universal Construction Code (UCC) as it relates to renovating commercial properties in our downtown river town districts. This is one of the Chamber’s Legislative Priorities for 2014. The Government Affairs Committee is also planning two trips this year. The first trip will be on June 10 to Harrisburg to participate in Chamber Day at the Capitol. We will join other chambers from across the state to meet with the Governor, members of his cabinet, the PA Chamber and our local elected officials. Similarly, we will be participating in the Allegheny Conference’s Legislative Reception on September 16th in Washington, D.C. We will have the opportunity to meet with the US Chamber of Commerce as well as spend some time with our federal officials.

May 2014 –

On Tuesday, April 15th, the Chamber held its Annual Congressional Breakfast with Congressman Keith Rothfus.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Congressional Breakfast

 

(L-R: Scott Monit, PGT Trucking/BCCC Gov’t Affairs Chairperson; State Rep. Jim Marshall; Norm Mitry, CEO Heritage Valley Health System; Congressman Keith Rothfus; Frank Polito, Comcast (R); County Commissioner Dennis Nichols; Erica Loftus, BCCC President)

April 16, 2014 –

Understanding “How to Reform Water Infrastructure” from Rep. Bill Shuster

April 4, 2014 –

 

The Government Affairs Committee of the Chamber held its quarterly Legislative Roundtable discussion with our elected officials on Friday, March 14 at the Community College of Beaver County. Beaver County Commissioners Joe Spanik and Tony Amadio attended as well as PA Representatives Jaret Gibbons, Jim Marshall and Jim Christiana. Also attending were representatives from PA Senators Elder Vogel and Tim Solobay, U.S. Representative Keith Rothfus, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and Governor Corbett. This meeting is held quarterly with the Chamber in order to ensure that the business community and our elected officials are on the same page about public issues and goals for Beaver County.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Qrtly Leg Meeting

Representative Christiana provided an overview on Governor Corbett’s proposed budget for Pennsylvania and also discussed his comments to the PA Secretary of Education about School District Central Service Consolidation. He believes that our school districts throughout the state should begin to consolidate central services such as business managers, superintendents, etc. The Chamber has been advocating for school district consolidation for a few years now and feels this would be a good first step to help school districts begin to save money using economies of scale. This will also help aid in business development.

We also discussed the dire need to repair the locks and dams in our region. They are vital to our local and regional economy. Our federal representatives assured the group that this is on their radar and they have been investigating how to allocate resources to address this dire situation. The Port of Pittsburgh is also working closely with our federal legislators to address this issue.

Finally, the group also discussed the need to repair the way the Universal Construction Code is used in our local municipalities. This is not a one-size-fits-all issue. New construction can easily address the code because they are starting from scratch. But businesses trying to remodel existing spaces in old buildings face so many hurdles and obstacles that it inhibits their ability to open a business in a cost-effective manner. The Chamber, along with Rep. Gibbons, is forming a task force to work with our local communities, to make it easier for small business owners in our downtown communities. They are the lifeblood of our economy.

Good things are happening in Beaver County and the Chamber is here to ensure that the business community is at the table when decisions are being made legislatively.

March 7, 2014 –

The Beaver County Chamber held their annual “State of the County” on Tuesday, February 11 at the Fez in Hopewell to a sold-out crowd.  Beaver County Commissioners Tony Amadio, Joe Spanik and Dennis Nichols spent about an hour and a half answering questions posed by the Chamber and the crowd.  Subjects ranged from the proposed realignment of Route 18 in Potter Township to an update on the proposed cracker plant to Beaver County Comprehensive Plan.

Beaver County Chamber Board Member and Government Affairs Chair Scott Monit from PGT Trucking said, “the overall tone of the meeting was positive and full of good news for Beaver County.  Beaver County is on the cusp of tremendous growth, not only with the Marcellus Shale industry, but with the construction of new hotels, restaurants, retail and commercial business investments moving into the area.”

Law firm of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky of Beaver sponsored the event and attorney Harry Kunselman kicked off the event by speaking to the crowd about his firm and their law specialties.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-State of the County

The Government Affairs Committee of the Chamber will focus on the following legislative priorities for 2014:

  • Enhanced Educational Opportunities: We support the enhancement of quality educational opportunities for students and workers within Beaver County.  First, we believe a focus on STEM education and building segways for K – 12 and higher education to partner with business and industry will build the workforce that our region will need for the future.  Second, we support consolidation of the 15 districts which will permit larger districts to offer a more enhanced curriculum.

 

  • Local Government Advocacy:  Beaver County Chamber of Commerce encourages effective and efficient government by promoting intergovernmental cooperation,  acting as a liaison between business and local, county and state governments, and maintaining an active relationship with the Beaver County     Regional Council of Governments.  The Chamber supports local municipalities who want to serve their constituents better by consolidating local boundaries or sharing municipal services.

 

  • Business-friendly Regulatory Reform:  The Chamber supports a business friendly regulatory environment in Beaver County that allows for a stream-lined permitting process for new and growing businesses.  We encourage local  municipalities and state and federal agencies to re-evaluate ordinances, codes, and laws that adversely impact
    economic development in Beaver County.

 

  • Transportation Infrastructure: Actively support a state and federal transportation investment strategy that provides adequate funding for roads, bridges, waterways and transit systems as well as timely implementation of repairs related to rebuilding these modes of transport.

December 6, 2013 –

Pennsylvania Legislature Passes a Transportation Bill

Both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Senate approved a comprehensive transportation bill fund roads, bridges and mass transit in late November for $2.3 billion.  Both political houses have been working on this effort since the beginning of the year along with Governor Corbett.   The bill passed the Senate, 43-7, in a bipartisan vote and the House in a 113-85 vote.  Thank you to Senator Elder Vogel, Senator Timothy J. Solobay and Representative Jim Marshall, who both voted yes for a comprehensive Transportation Bill for Pennsylvania this year.

The legislation mainly raises revenue through removing a cap on the oil company franchise tax paid by fuel distributors, a move expected to be passed along to consumers, at least in part. The oil franchise tax, which now is assessed on just part of the wholesale price of gasoline, would be extended to the full wholesale price.

The cap would be lifted gradually over five years.

Other parts of the bill:

  • Permit PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission to establish 70 mph speed limits on highways that meet sufficient engineering and traffic criteria.
  • Increase passenger car vehicle registration fees from $36 to $37 in 2015-16 and from $37 to $38 in 2017-18, with inflationary increases every two years thereafter.
  • Increase driver’s license fees from $21 to $22 in 2015-16 and from $22 to $23 in 2017-18 with inflationary increases every two years thereafter.
  • Increase seven existing surcharges on certain moving traffic violations by 50 percent.

November 25, 2013 –

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce was invited to Governor Corbett’s press conference on the transportation bill  yesterday in Pittsburgh, underneath the Liberty Bridge.

(Photo: Scott Monit, PGT Trucking and BCCC Legislative Chair; State Senator Timothy Solobay; PA Governor Corbett; Erica Loftus, BCCC President)

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November 21, 2013 –

Annual Legislative Reception Photo, Sponsored by Comcast ®

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November 18, 2013 –

Chamber President and Legislative Chairperson stood on the steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg, along with business and labor, for Governor Tom Corbett’s Press Conference urging the House to pass an adequate transportation bill this session.

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November 1, 2013 –

It has been an interesting month legislatively in Beaver County. In late September, the Potter Township board of supervisors unanimously approved the Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone (KOEZ) for a portion of the proposed Shell cracker plant site, which will provide Shell with a 22-year property tax abatement providing that Shell creates 400 permanent full-time jobs and invests at least $1 billion in the area.

Statewide, we are still awaiting the Legislature to pass either the Transportation or Liquor Privatization bills. As of this writing, neither has been brought to a vote. Penn DOT has weight restricted 1,000 bridges across the state, including several in Beaver County. Although very few are over major traffic arteries, if the restrictions increase, it will undoubtedly cause traffic congestion putting trucks and buses on more rural roads and ultimately driving costs up for everyone.

Nationwide, we are recovering from the Government shutdown. The Chamber sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, who represents Beaver County, encouraging him to work to find a solution to crisis. Rep. Rothfus has been a solid ally for the Chamber and we value our relationship with him and his staff.

The Legislative Committee of the Chamber interfaces with all of our elected officials (local, state, federal) on a regular basis and works with them on issues that affect business in Beaver County. We ncourage all of our members to voice their opinions on any issues you would like to be raised and attend a committee meeting if you are able. We want to make sure we represent our membership to the best of our ability. The mission of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Committee is to identify and understand legislative issues as they affect the business community, to educate our membership and the community on these issues and to advocate for our membership.

October 4, 2013 -The Chamber Represents You In Washington, D.C.

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Caption for above photo:

A few weeks ago, Erica Loftus, President of the Chamber and Scott Monit from PGT Trucking traveled to Washington, D.C. for the day to meet with Congressman Keith Rothfus and his staff who represents Beaver County as well as to attend the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Reception at the Capitol. They also met with Senator Bob Casey; Congressman Bill Shuster, who represents the 9th district of PA (Mon Valley, Indiana and Altoona) as well as serves as the Chair of the House Transportation Committee; Congressman Mike Doyle, who represents the 14th district of PA (downtown Pittsburgh out to Coraopolis) and spent time with the leadership of the Pittsburgh Chamber and the Allegheny Conference. Everyone seemed to be very interested in what is happening in Beaver County and the potential cracker plant. Beaver County is poised to raise our profile if this indeed happens and the Beaver County Chamber is working hard to ensure that all of the key connections are in place to help our 500 plus members prosper well into the future.

September 6, 2013 –

This fall, our politicians go back to work after their summer recess. For the state officials, they have still have some large tasks ahead of them. They failed to pass some pretty large bills at the beginning of summer and now businesses are going to start to feel the effects. Recently, Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch weight restricted 1,000 bridges. This will cause companies who ship materials to reroute trucks, delaying deliveries, clogging up roads, and using more fuel. Prices for goods will rise and be paid for by the end user. PA House Leadership, by not passing a Transportation Bill in June, ultimately will cause us to pay more for goods and services if they do not create a solution. Plus the construction industry missed an entire construction season and lost a lot of jobs in the process.

Additionally, public transportation is going to be affected. Many people who work in Pittsburgh take public transportation. If these services are interrupted because the funding is no longer there, people will start to look for other jobs elsewhere closer to home. And the companies, who can no longer recruit employees because they are located in cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, will ultimately move where better public transportation services are available.  We encourage all of our members (and the general public) to contact your state representative and tell them you want a Transportation Bill passed this fall that is large enough to fix our failing bridges, roads and public transportation programs.

August 2, 2013 –

This summer has been a roller coaster legislatively. Governor Corbett outlined a heavy agenda for the Pennsylvania State Budget this year with everything from no tax increases to funding transportation to privatizing the state liquor system. The Beaver County Commissioners accepted bids to sell Friendship Ridge. And Washington D.C. continues to be Washington D.C.  Seven members of the Chamber’s Legislative Committee traveled to Harrisburg in mid-June to meet our local legislators on their home turf. We spent time with Senators Solobay and Vogel as well as Representatives Christiana, Gibbons, Marshall, and Matzie. A special thank you to Senator Vogel and his staff for setting up our meeting as well as arranging for a photo/meeting with Lt. Governor Jim Cawley.

We also met with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, senior staff members from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch to discuss the Transportation Bill.

Your Chamber has worked hard this year to support our legislators, both on a local and state level. We publically supported the Beaver County Commissioners in their effort to seek viable options to keep Friendship Ridge open (including a possible sale). We also publically supported the passage of Senate Bill 1 (the Transportation Bill) along with many of the state’s other chambers of commerce. We continue to urge our legislators to work together and do what is right not only for Beaver County, but for Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the

state of politics in Pennsylvania and the United States is not good. Gridlock is everywhere. If one side says the wall is black, the other immediately responds that it is white. Meanwhile, the constituents are caught in the middle and just want a nice shade of gray. Compromise

is desperately needed. So what can you do? Call your local elected officials and tell them what you want. All of them have local offices, including U.S. Representative Keith Rothfus. All are nice, reasonable people who will listen to you. Voice your opinion. Get involved.

Join the Legislative Committee (you only have to be a Chamber member). You will be surprised how well it works. Remember, politicians do not get elected by themselves. We have a say in the matter.

 

 

June 12, 2013 – Chamber Legislative Committee Travels to Harrisburg

harrisburgtrip2013

June 7, 2013

This summer will be a busy time for the legislative committee of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. The committee will be travelling to Harrisburg on June 12 (right in the middle of the state budget final push) to meet with our local legislators. We will also be meeting with Governor Corbett, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, staff from the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Education to relay our legislative priorities and discuss business in Beaver County. We also spend time locally with the politicians and staff to keep them updated on the chamber’s legislative priorities and work to assist the legislators where we can. On a local level, we are plugged in with the Beaver County Regional Council of Governments and work very closely with the Beaver County Commissioners. Our goal is to make doing business in Beaver County easy and seamless.

We are working on streamlining permitting and inspection processes with our local communities so that most of the red tape disappears for new and existing businesses when they are ready to build, renovate or move locations.

We encourage all chamber members to voice their opinions and let us know how we can help you with a legislative issue. We are here to act on your behalf and are happy to address any issues or concerns for you with the proper legislators. Finally, we encourage all chamber members to get involved and attend our legislative events. It is a great way to meet our elected officials in a laid-back group setting. All are accessible, nice people who truly want to help out.

The next major legislative event will be on August 1st at the Chamber office in Beaver with Senator Elder Vogel. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

May 15, 2013 –

As a part of the Chamber’s Power Lunch Series, the Chamber welcomed the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway. She spoke to our Chamber members on May 15, 2013 about the 2013 – 2014 Budget along with answering questions from the attendees.

 

Beaver County Chamer of Commerce Power Lunch-PA Budget

May 3, 2013 –

The legislative committee continues to work on our member’s behalf politically. We have been working behind the scenes to construct a one-stop shop for businesses who need help with permits and code-enforcement issues. Although this is not ready to launch, we have made significant strides so far this year. We are working in conjunction with the Beaver County Regional Council of Governments (COG), to help streamline the sometimes difficult process of renovating a commercial office space or building. This COG consists of 35 of the 53 municipalities in Beaver County. Stay tuned for more information in future columns.

On April 2, we hosted our annual Congressional Breakfast with newly elected U.S. Representative Keith Rothfus. Over the course of an hour and a half, Rep. Rothfus spoke to the crowd of almost 100 attendees about his work in Washington and answered questions from the audience about his voting record so far and his views on several current issues. Thank you to Comcast for sponsoring this event and to Heritage Valley Health System for hosting.

Another issue we are working on is integrating the business community with the education community in Beaver County. We have heard from our members and legislators that this formula will help our students be better prepared for their careers. By working together, schools will be able to craft appropriate curriculum to help students properly prepare for their future based on their interest and the market reality. We are working on meeting with the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit in the near future to see how to navigate this path. Again, stay tuned.

Finally, we are preparing for our annual “Legislative Committee Call on Harrisburg” where we travel to our state capitol to meet with our state officials on their turf. We will also meet with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce to discuss mutual interests and will hopefully have an opportunity to spend a few moments with Governor Corbett to put in a good word for Beaver County.

April 5, 2013 –

The Legislative Committee met with all of the elected officials who represent Beaver County on March 8th.  At this meeting we discussed the Chamber’s Legislative Priorities for 2013.  This is an opportunity for everyone sitting around the table to have the same version of the truth and discuss policy matters together as a collective group representing Beaver County.  We discussed the merits of consolidating municipal services where it makes sense (police/fire/etc.) or combining municipalities as is the case of Patterson Township and Fallston.  We talked about how we can work with the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) to ease the burden on new businesses locating into old buildings that need immense and costly repairs.  This measure could include new legislation in Harrisburg.  We also discussed school consolidation and creating new and better educational opportunities for all residents of Beaver County and training our workforce for the jobs available.  We also reviewed the idea of how to  integrate business leaders and school officials to create curriculum that addresses the current needs of the business world instead of preparing our students for jobs that may not exist in a few years.

On a separate note, the Legislative Committee has put together a breakfast on April 2nd with our sitting Congressman Keith Rothfus.  (Picture to follow)

March 8, 2013 –

March 1, 2013 –

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee continues to work with our local, county, state and federal legislators on business-related issues.  As we announced last month, we have created our legislative priorities for 2013 based on what we hear from our membership.  Two items in particular we are going to focus on are making the Uniform Construction Code friendlier to small businesses who are renovating existing spaces.  We hear all too often about the nightmares associated with renovating old spaces in our downtown areas in the county and how difficult it is to make these spaces compliant based on the current codes.  We are going to work with our local, county and state representatives to see if we can amend some of the existing laws to make this process easier and more fluid for our member businesses.  The other issue we are going to really focus on is municipal and school consolidation.  With federal and state budgets and grants shrinking every year, we really need to focus on smart consolidation where possible.  Some of our towns have already consolidated police and fire.  We are sure there are others out there considering doing the same.  The Center-Monaca school merger has gone well and actually thrived academically and athletically.  Our goal as a chamber is to maximize the success of our member businesses.  But we also have lives with friends and children as well and the two cannot help but intersect.  Therefore, we also want to make this county the best place to live and work with business and personal opportunities for everyone.

Going forward, we will be holding our first quarterly Legislative Roundtable of the year in March.  This meeting includes our county commissioners, state representatives and senator as well as our U.S. representative.  From time to time, staff from our U.S. Senator’s offices also attend.  Event wise, don’t forget to sign up for U. S. Representative Keith Rothfus’ breakfast meeting on April 2nd at Heritage Valley Beaver.  This meeting will start promptly at 8:00am.  Rep. Rothfus will give an update on what is happening in Washington, D.C. and take questions from our audience.  The cost for this event is $27 Members/ $40 Non Members.

February 1, 2013 –

With a new year brings new goals.  The Legislative Committee has reconvened in January and has begun to outline the Chamber’s Legislative Goals for 2013.  One goal that will remain will be school and municipal consolidation.  Our area is seeing firsthand the ever increasing difficulty facing our smaller municipalities and school districts.  Consolidating services and schools for areas with declining population just makes sense.  Center and Monaca made it work for schools.  The Beaver Police are now patrolling several municipalities who can no longer afford their own police departments.  Now is the time to begin this conversation.  The Chamber is happy to facilitate any school or municipality that is interested in beginning to look at this process.  Please contact Erica Loftus, president of the Chamber, if you would like more information about this process.

We have several upcoming legislative events that are not only important, but also very interesting and we encourage our members to attend.  First is our Annual State of the County Breakfast, being held on Feb. 12th at the Fez in Hopewell.  Come to hear all three of our county commissioners talk about what is going on in Beaver County.  There is also a Q and A session if you have questions for them as well.  Next is our Annual Chamber Gala, being held on March 22nd at the Club at Shadow Lakes.  This is a great informal way to meet our local legislators and get to know them.  Finally, we will be holding our Annual Congressional Breakfast with Rep. Keith Rothfus in April.  We do not have a confirmed date as of yet, but it will be announced soon.  The event will be held at Heritage Valley Beaver in their cafeteria.  Come and hear our newly elected congressman speak about what is happing in Washington, his views on how he is going to represent our area, and some other key insights on politics in general.  There is also a Q and A session for this event.

Please contact the Chamber office at 724-775-3944 to register for any of these events or for more information.

Finally, congratulations to all of the elected officials who represent our area.  Reprentatives Christiana, Gibbons, Marshall and Matzie and Senators Vogel and Solobay all won re-election in November and were sworn in on Jan. 1st in Harrisburg.  And our newly elected United States Congressman Keith Rothfus, who was elected in November, was sworn in on January 3rd.  We look forward to working with you all.

 

December 7, 2012

The Legislative Committee would like to congratulate all of our elected officials who were elected a few weeks ago.  Congratulations to Pennsylvania Representatives Rob Matzie, Jaret Gibbons, Jim Marshall, and Jim Christiana.  Congratulations to PA Senator Elder Vogel and U.S. Rep Keith Rothfus.  We look forward to continuing working with all of you going forward.  The chamber held its annual Legislative Reception on November 15th at the Wooden Angel in Bridgewater.  The Legislative Reception is a great opportunity to spend some time with all of our elected officials in an informal setting.

The Legislative Committee has worked hard this year to build relationships with our elected officials.  We have attended meetings in Harrisburg and locally with Governor Corbett, held a roundtable discussion with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley at CCBC, attended numerous community events surrounding the potential ethane cracker, outlined a legislative agenda of items we would like to see accomplished (most of them were thanks to the help of our state representatives) and hosted a sold-out political debate in October at Penn State Beaver.

As we move into 2013, we would invite any chamber member to join our committee.  We meet monthly amongst ourselves and meet with our elected officials quarterly.  Please contact the Chamber office for more information.

 

November 2, 2012

The legislative committee has been very busy working for our members.  We continue to meet monthly as a committee and quarterly with all of our elected officials (local, state, and federal).  On October 4, Chamber Board Leadership had the opportunity to meet with Lt. Governor Jim Cawleyat the Community College of Beaver County for an hour and a half roundtable discussion on the chamber, our membership, our legislative priorities and the economic opportunities we are facing as a community.  Joining the meeting were Sen. Elder Vogel, Rep. Jim Marshall and Rep. Jim Christiana, fresh from their session in Harrisburg.

On October 10, we held a debate at Penn State Beaver for the candidates for PA State Senator, PA State Representative and U.S. House of Representatives.  Each debate lasted about 20 minutes and focused on specific issues for each race.  Debaters included U.S. Rep. Mark Critz(D) and his challenger Keith Rothfus (R).  PA State Senator Elder Vogel (R) and his opponent Kim Villella (D); PA Rep. Jim Christiana (R) and his opponent Bob Williams (D); PA Rep. Rob Matzie (D) and his opponent Kathy Coder (R); and PA Rep. Jaret Gibbons (D) and his opponent Michael See (R).  PA Rep. Jim Marshall (R) was also in attendance, but did not debate as there is no opposing candidate in his district.

Finally, all members are invited to attend the Chamber’s Annual Legislative Reception on Nov. 15 at the Wooden Angel Restaurant in Beaver.  Please contact the Chamber for more information on this event.

October 5, 2012

The BCCC Legislative Committee held its quarterly roundtable with elected officials on September 5. These meetings provide the opportunity for the local, state and federal legislators to meet with the chamber to find out what is happening with our members and to discuss any issues our members have. It also provides the opportunity for the legislators to let the chamber know about any issues/concerns they have. Finally, it provides for all parties to be on the same page and have one version of the truth.
The September 5 meeting primarily covered Act 13. Act 13 provides for:
1) New well fees to be assessed and collected on unconventional wells
2) A formula for distribution of these fees
3) Substantial revisions to environmental protections for both surface and subsurface activities and
4) Restrictions on the authority of local governments to impose burdens on oil and gas activities beyond those required by the state or those imposed upon other commercial and industrial activities. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court threw out restrictions on local governments’ ability to zone and regulate natural gas drilling in July.
The court said that the limits on local zoning – part Act 13, which rewrote Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling laws – violate municipalities’ substantive due process, according to the ruling. Commonwealth Court has determined Act 13’s restrictions unconstitutionally bar local governments from their right to separate industrial activity from residential neighborhoods. The case is now being appealed to the PA Supreme Court.
Finally, the Chamber is encouraging the public to attend the general election debate on October 10 at Penn State – Beaver in the Student Union Building. The doors open at 6:30PM and the debate begins at 7:00PM. There is no charge to attend.
Scheduled to debate are U.S. Congressional candidates Mark Critz and Keith Rothfus; State SEnate candidates Elder Vogel, Jr. and Kim Villella; State House candidates Rep. Robert Matzie and Kathy Coder for the 16th District; Rep. Jim Christiana and Bob Williams for the 15th District; and Rep. Jaret Gibbons and Michael See for the 10th District.

September 7 , 2012-

The Chamber Legislative Committee continuously tries to get in front of our legislators to better represent our members.

GovernorCorbettHorseheadPressConf073112

(From left to right) Scott Monit, PGT Trucking and Legislative Committee Chairperson; Erica Wachtel, BCCC President; Representative Jim Marshall; Governor Tom Corbett

August 3, 2012- 

The Legislative Committee continues to be very active with our legislators. Over the past month, we have traveled to Harrisburg twice. The first trip was in support of the Ethane Cracker bill recently passed into legislation. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel in the PA Senate and Rep. Jim Christiana in the PA House. Both sides worked together to get this passed. The Chamber hand delivered a letter of support to the governor’s office for this bill.

Our second trip was to attend a breakfast with Gov. Corbett where he gave an outline of the recently passed state budget. He explained why this budget passage on time was important for the state and why he must sometimes make unpopular decisions regarding the finances of our state in order to be fiscally responsible.

The Legislative Committee is currently working with the governor’s office to set-up a meet and greet with the governor in the fall. We will detail more information as it becomes available. Finally, we will conduct our second quarterly roundtable with our local politicians sometime near the end of August. This forum allows all levels of our local government to interact with the chamber to work on issues important to you, our members.

July, 2012- 

The Chamber’s Legislative Chairperson, Scott Monit, went to Harrisburgh on Thursday, July 12. Scott was the Chamber’s representation at a breakfast with PA Governor Corbett about the recently passed PA Budget. Please check out our Business Section of the “Beaver County Times” on Friday, August 3rd for our most recent Legislative Update from Scott.

july 12 scott monit with gov at budget breakfast

June 2012

The legislative committee has had a busy few months. We have been to Harrisburg to visit our elected officials, we have set our legislative priorities for 2012 and we have begun to hold quarterly meetings with all of our elected officials. In early May, the legislative committee traveled to Harrisburg for the day to meet with Representatives Christiana, Gibbons, Marshall and Matzie as well as Senator Vogel. We discussed amending Unemployment Compensation and Permits/Code Enforcement for
New Businesses. We also met with the PA Chamber of Commerce to learn more about their top legislative priorities for 2012.

We have outline three legislative priorities for 2012. First, we support reforming Unemployment Compensation including length and amending requirements for small business to pay their share up front every year. Second, making building code enforcement easier to navigate. The current system does not favor businesses and harms them from opening/improving their facilities at times. Third, we support school consolidation and improved educational opportunities. Beaver County has 15 school districts. By consolidating these into larger districts and partnering with business, the schools will be able to offer more focused training for our children to succeed when they leave high school. Lastly, we met with the county commissioners, state representatives, state senator and U.S. congressman on May 29th to begin a quarterly dialogue to review our legislative priorities and make sure we are
all on the same page.

May 2 2012 Harrisburg Trip with leg comm

Additionally, the committee met with the county commissioners, state representatives, state senator and U.S. Congressman on May 29th and September 5th to begin quarterly dialogues to discuss the legislative priorities and how we can work together to make our local, state, and federal government more business friendly.

May 2012 –

The Chamber’s monthly Power Lunch was held on Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Dan Meuser, Revenue Secretary for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, spoke to the various Chamber members and community leaders in attendance.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Power Lunch Revenue Secretary

From left to right: BCCC President Erica Wachtel, Dan Meuser from Governor Corbett’s Office and Dr. Joe D. Forrester from the Community College of Beaver County (host).

April 2012 –

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-Altmire breakfast 2012

From Left to right: BCCC President Erica Wachtel; PGT Trucking & BCCC Legislative Chair Scott Monit; Congressman Jason Altmire; Norm Mitry of Heritage Valley Health System; Frank Polito of Comcast.

February 12, 2012 –

The Chamber’s State of the County Breakfast Forum was on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at The Fez. From left to right:Erica Wachtel, BCCC President; Scott Monit, BCCC Legislative Committee Chair, BCCC Board Member and PGT Trucking; Commissioner Joe Spanik; Tony Amadio, Board of
Commissioners Chairman; Commissioner Dennis Nichols and John Thayer, Event Sponsor Representative from NOVA Chemicals Inc. and BCCC Board Member.

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce-State of the County

Beaver County Chamber of Commerce
798 Turnpike Street
Beaver, PA 15009
724/775-3944