Erie Chamber Blog
Friday November 6, 2020 

Submitted by Jennifer DaCosta, Marketing Analyst at Direct Energy

Energy is one of the key resources many businesses in the Erie region depend on. From manufacturing to research to healthcare and more, Erie is home to diverse organizations that all need power to keep facilities open and equipment running. Particularly during uncertain times, it’s important for businesses like yours to meet your power needs and find savings wherever you can. If you’re looking for ways to start saving – or just want to know what the experts recommend – consider these three steps to optimize your energy use.

1: Plan (way) ahead

It’s no easy feat to run a business during such tumultuous times -- let alone predict how much energy your business will need and when. If some variables can be accounted for, the right energy plan could save you a considerable sum. 

For instance: if your business operates on a consistent schedule year-round, a layered energy strategy could allow you to lock in a portion of your power at a low, fixed rate; the remainder of your energy use may then be purchased at the market rate. Think of this as parallel to how you invest in your 401K.  You are dollar-cost averaging rather than “picking” the perfect day to invest all your retirement money. You benefit from lower rates when energy is affordable and protect your business when price spikes occur. This type of two-pronged strategy is known as a “hedged” or “layered” plan, and businesses often use them to optimize their energy spend in the Midwest and Northeast, where temperature fluctuations make prices less predictable.

A supplier like Direct Energy Business can help you find a layered plan with just the right blend of “fixed” and “floating” elements to make sure you get the most for your money while reliably powering your business year-round.

2: Go custom if you can

What’s arguably even more important than picking the right product, is making sure it fits. Once you’ve determined whether a layered, fixed or index plan is right for your business, fine-tuning it to your needs is equally critical. Small variations in price or fine print can result in thousands of dollars of savings (or waste) over time, and it’s often challenging for business owners to anticipate risk without expert guidance. 

Choosing a “fixed rate” solution from a supplier is like buying a car. You want to avoid a vehicle that needs constant repairs and adds unforeseen costs to your initial purchase. Likewise, every supplier’s contract is different. Working with a reputable, experienced supplier who understands your business and can fine-tune your plan is the best way to guarantee transparency and limit risk to your bottom line.

3: Partner up wisely

Direct Energy Business services hundreds of customers in the Erie region, and our team is dedicated to helping your businesses succeed. Direct Energy Business employs market experts and dedicated Energy Strategists to develop custom energy plans for businesses. Partnering with the right supplier and developing a smart approach together can make a real difference to your bottom line. With Direct Energy Business, your energy use will be one less thing to worry about, so you can spend more time making a difference where it counts. 

Are you interested in speaking with an energy professional from our team? Senior Account Executive, Elizabeth Friel, has over 32 years of energy experience and specializes in the Erie regional market. Reach out to Elizabeth today at or 412-328-8310.

Monday October 12, 2020 

Submitted by Kelly Dundule, Accudyn Products, Inc.

Accudyn Products, Inc. is proud to introduce the #ErieVotes initiative, a nonpartisan coalition of local businesses committed to encouraging and facilitating participation in this November’s election. For too many in our community, the everyday challenges of transportation, financial need, and family commitments leave little flexibility in daily life.

Uncertainty regarding how long it may take at one’s polling location coupled with the other demands of life may leave some in our community forced to make a decision between meeting their financial and familial obligations or exercising their right to vote.  In Pennsylvania, as opposed to other states, there are no laws that require employers to give employees time off to vote. For an employee this could mean that they are forced to use vacation time (if available) or even go unpaid to exercise their right to vote. The owners of Accudyn decided that this choice was not one they wanted their employees to be faced with and declared November 3rd a paid holiday for all employees.

ErieVotes was formed to encourage other local businesses to commit to pledging substantive efforts and providing voter resources. Examples of commitments already made by businesses include:

  • Declaring Election Day a paid holiday for all staff
  • Offering flexible work schedules or extended lunch breaks on Election Day
  • Providing voter registration education and support

We encourage local employers to assess the needs of their workforce and to commit to an action or set of actions that could help to remove some of the barriers to voting experienced by their employees by signing the #ErieVotes pledge.

Thank you to Mercyhurst University, The Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership, United Way of Erie County, and American Tinning & Galvanizing for already taking the pledge. #ErieVotes believes in the importance of civic engagement to our democracy and asks all local employers to consider taking action by making the pledge today!

Sign the pledge at

  • erie votes
  • election day
  • accudyn
  • erie votes pledge
Tuesday October 6, 2020 

Is your organization ready to tip-toe back into hosting events in a socially-distanced world? Though many questions remain about the transmission of COVID-19, it is possible to execute a well-thought out event that reduces potential transmission. While large-scale events likely remain indefinitely on the shelf for many organizaitons, smaller gatherings are possible when enough planning is given to adjust to our "new normal". How? With an abundance of caution. By adhering to health department and federal guidelines, organizations can be cautiously optimistic and plan a path forward to continue connecting, networking, and reestablishing relationships with employees, clients, and supporters. 

Over the last several weeks, the Erie Regional Chamber began hosting small-scale networking and signature events so that businesses may continue connecting, collaborating, and learning from each other during these difficult times. When your organization is ready, here are ten tips to consider for your first post-pandemic event. 

  1. Set Up Sanitizing Stations: Place disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer bottles throughout the event so that attendees can wipe down their space as desired. Make sure stations are set up near high traffic areas (think food, bar, and check-in desk) and place a trashcan nearby for easy clean up.

  2. Self-Declaration Form: While checking into the event, each attendee is asked to complete a self-declaration form. It consists of four common questions around travel and general wellness. If an attendee refuses to sign the form or does not pass the questions (for example, they recently traveled to a designated hot spot), then they will be asked to leave the event and will not be permitted to enter. The self-declaration form would be crucial to contract tracing efforts in the event that an attendee was asymptomatic at the time of the event.  

  3. Encourage Social Distancing with Signage and Set Up: For most events, social distancing can be achieved in the overall set up of table, chairs, and event flow. If tables or chairs cannot be moved, place signs to indicate which ones are available for attendees to use. Standing room only? Use the floor! Placing markers six feet apart is an easy frame of reference for attendees to follow.

  4. Work In Tandem With Catering Company: Choose reputable, licensed caterers who are well versed on COVID-19 rules and regulations. Most caterers are finding creative, safe ways to display, package, portion, and distribute food and beverages during an event. When in doubt, allow the catering staff to fully serve attendees. 

  5. Clean Common Areas: Designate one or two team members to regularly sanitize high-touch areas throughout the evening. and things sanitized.  These include such things as pens, clipboards, iPads or payment swipers, restrooms, and table tops. 

  6. Set Expectations Ahead of Event: Create a safety protocol and plan for all events and communicate these expectations during the registration process. Include the information in event descriptions, social media, emails, and invitations. 

  7. Send Reminders: There is no such thing as overcommunicating during unprecedented times. Send reminders the week before and day prior reiterating your safety protocol for the event.

  8. Mask Up: Empower your team to remind attendees to please wear their mask throughout the course of the evening unless they are eating or drinking. Place signs throughout the event and have extra masks on hand in case an attendee forgets to bring one. 

  9. Limit Registration: While each venue and event will be different, limit the amount of registrations overall. Currently, indoor events are limited to 25 people while outdoor events are limited to 250. You can restrict attendance even further, or offer a hybrid -- virtual or in-person. And don't forget to count your team, event staff, catering, etc. in your final headcount! 

  10. Communicate with the Erie County Health Department: The Erie County Health Department is resource to help navigate through these unprecedented times. Share your safety plan and protocol and be willing to implement suggestions to ensure the health and safety of attendees. 
  • event planning
  • networking events
  • safety tips
  • coronavirus
Monday October 5, 2020 


Submitted by Monica Surrena, Marketing Manager Wm. T. Spaeder Co.

One of the many services we offer at Wm. T. Spaeder Company is process piping for water treatment plants. We recently completed a new construction project for a water treatment plant in Polk, PA.

In the above video, Foreman Jesse Dikun gives us a plant tour and talks a little about how the plant functions. This water treatment facility uses a membrane filtration system with both spring water and creek water as its source. Spaeder designed, fabricated, and installed all of the process piping as well as installed the membrane filtration units. 

For more information about our services, visit

  • construction
  • water treatment plant
  • filtration system
Wednesday September 30, 2020 

Submitted by Cathy Szymanski, Szymanski Consulting

Microsoft Word is the go-to word processor for many businesses across all sectors. This popular tool is constantly updated with new features that make it even more useful and valuable for business use. Here are a few features that you should take advantage of to boost your productivity and efficiency at work.

Work on Word Online

Don’t have the Word app on your computer, tablet, or smartphone? Go to, sign in with your Microsoft account, and open Word Online, the web version of Word.

Collaborate on files

You and your colleagues can now edit the same Word document simultaneously in real-time. Simply save the document to your Microsoft OneDrive account, click Share, and send the link to the file to your coworkers. People with the link can access and edit the document using the Word desktop app or Word Online.

Keep editorial control

Use the Track Changes function of Word to monitor all edits made to your document. To turn on Track Changes, click on the Review tab then select Track Changes. When reviewing a colleague’s edits, click Accept or Reject as you see fit.

Do quick research using Smart Lookup

The Smart Lookup feature helps you do online research while you’re working on a document — no need to open another tab and type in a query. Simply highlight and right-click the word or phrase you want to look up, and select Smart Lookup from the menu that appears. Word uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine to conduct a search on the selected word or phrase and displays the results in a pane that appears on the right side of your screen.

Format your document

The Styles gallery contains predefined formatting options for text. You can also add your own styles or those you use frequently, to the gallery. By saving your own style preferences, you can apply them anytime without having to manually format everything. Just follow these steps:

  1. Select the text you want to format as a new style (e.g., a heading or a certain phrase).
  2. Specify the formatting you want on the mini toolbar that appears. For instance, click Bold and Red if you want the text to appear as such.
  3. Click the More arrow in the lower-right corner of the Styles gallery. Select Create a Style. This will open the Create New Style from the Formatting dialog box.
  4. Give the style a name and click OK. Your new style will appear in the Styles gallery, ready for you to use anytime.

Look for and insert images faster

With Word, there’s no need to open your browser to look for images for your document. Just place the cursor in the area where you want to insert the photo, click the Insert tab and select Online pictures (type “clip art” in the search box if that’s what you need), select an image, then click Insert.

Edit a PDF file

Word’s PDF editing function allows you to make quick changes to PDF files without having to download and use a PDF editing app or software. But before you can edit a PDF file in Word, you have to convert it to a file format that Word can display. Follow these steps:

  1. Click FileOpen > Browse.
  2. Choose the PDF file you want to edit, then click Open. Click OK to make a copy of the PDF file and convert its contents into a format that can be opened in Word. (Note: The original PDF will be preserved.)
  3. Make edits to the copy of the PDF file.
  4. When you’re done, click FileSave as > PDF.

Microsoft is constantly rolling out nifty new features for its popular word processor. To stay updated on the latest Word features and functionalities, reach out to our Microsoft experts now.


  • microsoft
  • productivity
  • microsoft word
  • word tips
  • word

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