Erie Chamber Blog
Wednesday January 2, 2019 

Your feedback is important to us!

The 2018 year was a year of transition for the Erie Regional Chamber. As we look forward to 2019, we would appreciate our members completing the survey linked below. We value your membership and would like your input to help us plan out the future of the organization!

ERCGP MEMBER SURVEY

Thank you for considering participating, we truly appreciate it!

 

Thursday January 3, 2019 

What members were highlighted the final month of 2018?

 

In partnership with Lilly Broadcasting, the Erie Regional Chamber sponsors Giving You the Business segments which air weekly on WSEE35 and WICU12 during the 5:30 PM. Monday broadcast and Tuesday mornings in the 6-7 AM. hour.
Each segment takes viewers behind the scenes of a local business they may not have a chance to see.

December's highlighted members:

Giving You the Business segments highlight members of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, and is a free membership benefit! Contact our office if you would like viewers to see behind the scenes at your business! Email marketing director Nadeen Schmitz, or phone 814-454-7191 x139 to schedule your segment.

Friday January 4, 2019 

Vitality according to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Monday January 7, 2019 

Northwest Contest includes Erie and Crawford Counties- Introducing the Teams!

The Northwest Contest of What’s So Cool About Manufacturing (WSCM) for middle schools in Erie and Crawford Counties is off and running. WSCM is a student video contest with the goal to create awareness within the schools and the community about cool manufacturing careers through the eyes of 7th and 8th grade students. Each team, guided by their Teacher Coach, conducts research, films at the company, and edits their video for final submission to be eligible for several award categories, including Viewer’s Choice determined by online voting. The program started with Teacher Coach training back in October and culminates with a 3-day online voting period for school videos (March 11-13, 2019), judging for other award categories, and an Awards Gala on March 21, 2019. Twenty middle schools in Erie and Crawford County, paired with their manufacturer partner are slated to compete this year.

Participating Schools and their Feature Manufacturers include:

Blessed Sacrament School (GeorgeKo Industries)
Cochranton Jr/Sr High School (Channellock)
Conneaut Lake Middle School (Pennco Tool & Die)
Corry Area Middle School (Corry Manufacturing Company)
Erie First Christian Academy (Essentra)
Fairview Middle School (Beaumont Technologies)
Fort LeBoeuf Middle School (LORD Corporation)
Harbor Creek Junior High School (Contine Corporation)
Iroquois Jr/Sr High School (McInnes Rolled Rings)
JS Wilson Middle School (Finish Thompson)
Maplewood Jr/Sr High School (Mecal by Starn)
Meadville Area Middle School (Acutec Precision Aerospace)
North East Middle School (Electric Materials Company)
RB Wiley Charter School (Onex, Inc.)
Rice Avenue Middle School (American Turned Products)
Saegertown Jr/Sr High School (Greenleaf Corporation)
Union City Area Middle School (All-American Hose)
Wattsburg Area Middle School (Rehrig Pacific Company)
Wilson Middle School (Modern Industries)
Westlake Middle School (Micro Mold & Plastikos)

For some background, during the last school year across Pennsylvania, there were 12 contests with 174 middle school teams paired with 174 manufacturers and generated over 600,000 online votes to select Viewer’s Choice Award winners. You can see student videos from last year’s contests, including the Northwest contest at: www.whatssocool.org. The Northwest Contest (Erie County only) last year had 12 schools paired with 12 manufacturers, nearly 40,000 online votes, and 400 attended the awards event. 

Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC) is producing the program again this year, along with support of numerous community partners and program sponsors, including: Erie  Community Foundation, WQLN, Career Street, NWPA Job Connect, Crawford County K-12 Career Education Alliance, NWPA-NTMA, Erie County Technical School, Precision Manufacturing Institute, Crawford County Career & Technical Center, Haines Printing, Edinboro University, Northwest Bank, and McGill Power Bell & Associates.

The community is encouraged to follow the journey of these student teams on
Facebook and Twitter (@WSCMNW) and be ready to vote for the favorite video on
March 11-13, 2019 at www.WhatsSoCool.org.

Tuesday January 8, 2019 

Digital Skills Workshops and One-on-One Coaching 

The ERCGP is proud to partner with Google and welcome #GrowWithGoogle to #Pennsylvania! 

Join us at the Blasco Library to grow your skills, career, or business on February 1st. 

Register for one of the free workshops here: g.co/GrowPennsylvania.

Wednesday January 9, 2019 

A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Kicks Off Grand Opening

Jackson Hewitt Tax Service opened a new storefront to better serve their customer tax needs. The new location, located at 3858 Peach Street in Erie, is a great addition to the already established locations that serve the area.

The grand opening on January 4th was celebrated with a ribbon cutting marking the occasion. It was the Erie Regional Chamber's first ribbon cutting ceremony of the 2019 year! 

Congratulations to Sara and her team at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, we wish you much success!

Wednesday January 9, 2019 

Hosted by Asbury Woods

We had a capacity crowd at Asbury Woods for our first networking event of 2019. The Nature Center is in the historic cottage on the grounds and provided the perfect space for members to meet, mingle, and share what's happening in their organizations. 

A bit about our host:

Asbury Woods consists of 205 acres of preserved property which includes native species, old-growth forests, landscaped gardens, wetlands, boardwalk trails, and dirt trails. Dr. Otto Behrend, whose photo hangs above the fireplace at the Nature enter, left his 100-acre Asbury Farm, cottage, barn (now known as Asbury Barn), fields and orchards to the Millcreek Township School District for educational and recreational uses when he passed. The historic cottage is a resource for the entire community to hold events and celebrations.

What we learned about some of our members:

  • The American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days are coming (a sign of spring!).
  • Caregivers from Senior Helpers are available to care for people 18 years and older, not strictly elder care.
  • Cannon's Chophouse has 3 locations currently + one on the way, 15 different house wines (not just a red or a white) and offers off-site catering
  • B.F. Fields Moving and Storage has been in business since 1905 and began with two horses and a cart
  • Mark your calendars for EmergyCare's annual Garage Gala set for April 26th

View Event Photos

We'll be at the Erie Masonic Temple downtown for our February Connect 4 Coffee. See you there!

 

Thursday January 10, 2019 

Name Change from HealthSouth Official

 

It's official, HealthSouth is now Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Erie! A Ribbon Cutting ceremony was held this morning to celebrate the new name and brand which went into effect January 1st. The facility is located at 14 East 2nd Street in downtown Erie.

"Our new Encompass Health brand reflects more than the change of our name. It reinforces our commitment to working together to continuously improve the care we provide our patients,” said John Papalia, CEO of Encompass Health Erie. “With a focus on clinical collaboration and strengthening relationships, we will continue to play an important role in making a difference in the lives of our patients.”

As a national leader in post-acute care, Encompass Health (NYSE: EHC) has a national footprint that spans 130 hospitals and 273 home health & hospice locations in 36 states and Puerto Rico. Driven by a set of shared values, Encompass Health is the result of the union between HealthSouth Corporation and Encompass Home Health & Hospice, and is ranked as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

A blood drive is being held all day, and this evening we will reconvene as Encompass Health will host our first Business After Hours of the year!

Congratulations! We wish you years of success! 

View Event Photos

Friday January 11, 2019 

Keep Going

Friday January 11, 2019 

The celebration continues!

The team at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital was in celebration mode all day Thursday! Ribbon cutting in the morning, open house throughout the day, and to then hosting the first Business After Hours of the 2019 year.  It was a BIG day!

Guests were treated to healthy snack options catered by Calamari's, and a Rethink Your Drink station was set up by the American Heart and Stroke Association. There was plenty of chatter and connections being made during the evening event. 

Thank you for being such gracious hosts, and congratulations once again on your new brand. It's an exciting time!

View Event Photos

 

Monday January 14, 2019 

Submitted by John Sample, ERPA, QPA, QKA; The Vargo Company

If you are an employer who uses the services of a leasing, or “temp” agency, to complement your workforce, these employees cannot be ignored for retirement plan purposes.

For many companies who sponsor a retirement plan, it is time to complete the annual census for compliance testing.  As part of the census, the employer will compile a list of all employees who were employed during the year.  It is very important for the employer to include any employees who were working for the company through an agreement with an employment agency.

In general;

  • If your company subsequently hires an employee from a temporary agency, the original date that the employee first began working is the date used to determine eligibility for the retirement plan, not the date that they are actually hired by the company. In many cases, temporary employees have already met a plan’s eligibility based on their service worked through the agency, and they may be eligible for retirement plan benefits on the date they are formally hired by the employer.
  • If a leased employee performs services for the employer on a substantially full-time basis for at least one year, including 1,500 hours of service in that year, they may become eligible for retirement plan benefits, even though they are technically employed through an agency.

By contracting away payroll and other services, an employer simply cannot get out providing certain benefits for its workers.  Just because an employee is employed through a temporary agency, it doesn’t mean that the employee isn’t counted when it comes to participation in a company’s retirement plan. 

Employers who use leased employee arrangements, or who are considering using them, may want to specifically exclude leased employees in their plan document, to avoid dealing with the complexities.  Plans must pass a coverage test annually, so excluding groups of employees may not be viable for every employer.

The purpose of this blog article is to simply make an employer aware that using leased employees as part of their workforce may not get them out of excluding those employees from the retirement plan, or potentially other benefits.  The leased employee rules are extremely complex, an employer should consult with their retirement plan’s ERISA attorney or third party administrator to review their situation.  

Monday January 14, 2019 

New position to serve the business community in the region

The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership is pleased to announce the promotion of Amanda Kochirka to Program Director, a new position within the organization. 

Amanda, who is originally from Meadville, graduated from Gannon University in 2009 with a BA in Communication Arts and in 2017 with a Master’s in Public Administration. Most recently she held the positions of Business and Technology Commercialization Consultant for the Gannon University Small Business Development Center and Business Outreach Specialist for the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership. 

In her new role as Program Director, she looks forward to continuing to serve the businesses of the region by creating a full schedule of educational seminars, workshops, and discussion groups built around topics relevant to local business owners to help them grow and thrive. 

In her spare time, she serves as President of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) NWPA Chapter, on the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Erie's Public Schools, as a panel advisor for the ATHENA PowerLink® program, and a member and former co-chair of the ATHENA Circle of Trust. She is also a member of the Erie Women's Fund and Young Erie Professionals.

Amanda began her position as Program Director on January 2, 2019.

Tuesday January 15, 2019 

Submitted by Kristen Mild, Fundraising Manager, PHNCF

Twelve Scholarships to be awarded

Each year, Primary Health Network Charitable Foundation (PHNCF) provides $30,000 worth of scholarships to students pursuing a career in a healthcare field. PHNCF is based in Sharon, PA and is the supporting nonprofit organization of the Primary Health Network (the largest Federally Qualified Health Center in Pennsylvania). PHNCF offers various programs and services to the community and Primary Health Network Patients. With a Primary Health Network site in Erie, Erie County residents are eligible for this scholarship opportunity.

The scholarship program is offered to individuals (traditional and non-traditional students) pursuing a degree in healthcare. Applicants can be attending a technical school, a 4-year school, or even obtaining a certificate- as long as it is for a healthcare-related career. All of the guidelines/qualifications for the scholarships are listed at www.phnfoundation.net. Click on “How we Help” and go to “Healthcare Scholarships”.  There is a simple application and essay that must be completed and submitted online by February 15th, 2019. 

The $30,000 is broken down into twelve scholarships varying from $2,000-$5,000 per award. Applicants can apply each year. 

For more information, contact Kristen Mild at kmild@primary-health.net or call (724) 981-2875 extension 404.

Wednesday January 16, 2019 

Our Host is the Masonic Temple of Erie

Build your network at our Connect 4 Coffee event next month being hosted by the Masonic Temple of Erie, 32 West 8th Street, on Tuesday, February 12th from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Things to remember when you attend a Connect 4 Coffee event:

  • Be prepared with a 2 minute presentation about YOUR business or programs
  • Bring marketing materials to share with other attendees
  • Expect quality networking with other ERCGP members
  • Don't forget your business cards!
  • Coffee and light breakfast treats to be served

This event is FREE to ERCGP members, but space is limited to 30 guests and pre-registration is required. If you have attended a Connect 4 Coffee event in the past, preference will be given to those members who have not attended previously.

REGISTER NOW

 

Friday January 18, 2019 

Why

 

Monday January 21, 2019 

2019

Tuesday January 22, 2019 

MVP

Have a great idea for a business? Wondering how to test out your product - without risking everything?

If so, you might want to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) - a "version of a new product which allows a (development) team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort".

Simply put, this approach to business testing puts products in the hands of end-users at the earliest possible stage with the goal of using 'early adopters' as real-life market testers. Traditional product development involves creating numerous prototypes and only launching the product once it's been perfected, while an MVP is designed to help you understand whether or not you should progress your product beyond the prototype stage.

Three Elements of a Minimum Viable Product 

According to Techopedia, a minimum viable product needs to have three distinct characteristics:

  • It has to deliver enough value to the end user that they are willing to purchase it as-is
  • It provides the potential for future benefit to attract early adopters
  • There is an integrated 'feedback loop' which guides future development (or abandonment)

While the MVP concept is most commonly used in the tech industry, the same principles can be used for a wide variety of business ideas.

For example, many restaurants have been using a similar model to test out new menu items for years - they develop a recipe, sell it as a special, and gauge the feedback provided by their customers. If the recipe is a big hit, the restaurant may opt to offer it on a weekly basis, or perhaps even add it to their regular menu.

The Evolution of Online Product Launches

Crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter have helped to make MVP popular among entrepreneurs thanks to the fact that it provides the perfect blend of affordability and access to a community of early adopters looking to discover the next great product.

Some of the most notable (and successful) MVP campaigns run on Kickstarter include the Travel Jacket, Pebble Time, and the $20 adult-only card game called 'Exploding Kittens' which raised a whopping $8,782.571 in 2015.

Thursday January 24, 2019 

How to turn customers into promoters

Maybe you've heard the value of word-of-mouth advertising; according to Nielsen ratings, 92% of consumers trust their friends' and family's recommendation over traditional advertising. That doesn't mean you can simply sit back and assume that the quality of your product is so much better than your competition's that customers will be raving about it to their friends without any extra effort on your part.

We want you to get the answers you need to the questions that will grow your business. How can you turn satisfied customers into loyal repeat visitors? How can you get customers to become promoters, so impressed with their experience with your product or service that they can't wait to tell everyone they know? The answer is a little trick called customer engagement.

Increasing Customer Engagement

For hospitality businesses like hotels and sit-down restaurants, it's easier to craft a lasting user experience because your guests spend more time in your establishment. For people who own retail stores and quick-service restaurants, however, it's a little more complicated.

Your customers only spend a little time interacting with your business, no more or less than they do with your competitors, so customer engagement turns into a war for the attention of patrons whose time in your location is fleeting at best. It's one thing to make a purchase that you're satisfied with — it's a whole other ballpark when trying to create a lasting impression.

That's why customer experience matters so much. And for businesses that don't have the advantage of having their customers' full attention, creativity is key to creating a lasting experience without actually getting to spend significant time with the customer in question.

How Much Does User Experience Matter?

This theory is far from unfounded. According to a study from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 80% of consumers said they would pay more for a better experience. This means engaging with customers in and outside of your brick & mortar establishment, creating a friendly interaction between your brand and your customers.

Take Chik-fil-A, for example. When the chicken chain first opened, the founder had a firm idea of what he wanted the experience of the restaurant's guests to be. Every cashier says something like "my pleasure" or "have a nice day". People crave this type of friendly encounter with customer service pros and will go out of their way to get it.

But what about when customers aren't in the physical confines of your store? Then it pays to use digital marketing tactics that give your brand a personality. Make sure your company twitter account is interacting with people in a positive way, whether you're responding to requests or complaints or simply about promotions your business is running. Personalize your emails with a survey that shows that your brand truly wants to get to know the customer and their tastes.

The Bottom Line

When you become more than just a faceless brand, and something like a helpful companion, dare we say even a friend, to your customers, that's when they'll be inclined to recommend you to their peers, friends, and family. That's the process of turning a customer into a loyal promoter.

Friday January 25, 2019 

Do the hard jobs first

Monday January 28, 2019 

SOLD OUT!

We are blown away at the response to our February after-hours event being hosted by The Cork 1794. Folks are pretty excited to visit their new venue in the West Erie Plaza. So much so that in less than 24 hours after the invites went out last week, we were at capacity! Wow!

If you were among the crowd to get your registration in before the cutoff, stick around afterward for dinner. Reservations can be made in advance through The Cork's website.

Due to building capacity and fire regulations, this Business After Hours is limited to 200 ERCGP members. And no walk-in registrations will be accepted. Should we have cancellations for the February 21st event, we will alert the membership!

We thank you for understanding!

Tuesday January 29, 2019 

Ribbon Cutting Held January 29th

The Erie Homes for Children and Adults today welcomed PDC Pharmacy to the Erie area. EHCA has been a long-standing recipient of services from PDC Pharmacy. It is located in the Professional Building at 1611 Peach Street.

PDC Pharmacy is a licensed, closed-door pharmacy, specializing in serving individuals with intellectual disabilities and behavioral health needs and has been serving the Erie region from its Pittsburgh location for nearly 20 years. PDC Pharmacy - Erie will be PDC Pharmacy’s fourth location, complementing its existing sites in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Boulder, Colorado.  

“We recognized that a local licensed, closed-door pharmacy would enhance the experience of residents in the Erie region that utilize closed-door pharmacy services and would lead to efficiencies through shorter pharmaceutical delivery routes, foster community involvement, and provide for local job creation,” said Bev Keep, Chief Operational Officer at EHCA.

Welcome to the community, we wish you years of success!

Wednesday January 30, 2019 

Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week 

There is an award-winning summer economics education program that for forty years has benefitted our local students. Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW) immerses rising high school juniors and seniors in the world of business, allowing them to experience firsthand what you face each day. Offered by the Foundation for Free Enterprise Education, PFEW was founded specifically to teach students about the American private enterprise system and provide tools to help students become the great employees and employers of the future. PFEW annually holds five week-long sessions in July and August on the campuses of Lycoming College and the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA, serving nearly 2,200 students and 250 volunteers each year.

At PFEW, participants are grouped into management teams of junior executives who have been hired to turn around underperforming manufacturing companies. These teams, mentored by adult volunteers called Company Advisors, operate their firms for a computer simulated three-years, competing against other student companies. They formulate production and financial strategies, develop income statements and balance sheets, prepare marketing and advertising campaigns, all the while reacting to a variety of external factors. Sound familiar?

The Erie Regional Chamber proudly supports PFEW and encourages our local companies and civic organizations to provide sponsorship for our students and, if possible, volunteers for the sessions. Every student attends PFEW on a fully tax-deductible $625 scholarship (the actual value of the scholarship exceeds $1,500) which is provided by a local firm, foundation, civic organization, or individual. PFEW is also an approved Educational Improvement Organization through the PA Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. Scholarship donors are prominently recognized in several publications circulated throughout the state, and each student wears the name of their sponsor on their photo ID badge throughout the week. Students write their sponsors after graduation to report on what they have learned.

The Foundation for Free Enterprise Education proudly announces that they have recently expanded their programming to include the Stock Market GameTM, an interactive in-school game for students in grades 4-12 that teaches them about the Stock Market and Securities Industry. For more information on how to support or get involved with SMG, please contact Jeremy Kropf, Technology and Projects Manager at 814-833-9576 x4, or email him at jeremy@pfew.org.

If you would like to learn more about the award-winning PFEW program and how you can help, please call the Erie Regional Chamber directly or contact Scott Lee, vice president of marketing & development for the Foundation for Free Enterprise Education at (814) 833-9576 ext. 8, or e-mail him at scott@pfew.org. PFEW is open to all current sophomores and juniors in Pennsylvania and information on attendance, as well as program applications, can be found on the PFEW website. Questions can be directed to Amber Goss, Schools Manager for PFEW, by calling her office at (814) 833-9576 ext. 6, or email her at amber@pfew.org.

Thursday January 31, 2019 

Meet the newest Erie Regional Chamber members!

Please help us welcome the newest members to the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership!

Thank you for your investment. We look forward to working with you!

Our members represent over 800 companies and more than 70,000 employees in the Erie region. If you know of a business that could benefit by becoming a member of the Erie Regional Chamber, refer them to Nancy Irwin, Development Director, or Steve Walters, Sales Manager.

Membership Information

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Knox Law is proud to welcome Kenzie P. Ryback as our newest associate.