Our new Congressman John Joyce visits MCIDC
With redistricting, Mifflin County is now represented in the US House of Representatives by Congressman John Joyce. We recently hosted him at the MCIDC Plaza, where he met with community leaders to hear our concerns. Representatives from MCIDC, MCIDA, Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lewistown Inc., Visitor’s Bureau and the United Way participated in an hour long discussion of topics including workforce, housing, government regulation and the curse of fentanyl. Congressman Joyce, a physician, shared some of his background and pragmatic governing philosophy. He is very focused on identifying pertinent data and coming up with solutions. As meeting participants spoke of their concerns, the Representative mentioned where the federal government has programs that may match the needs of the stated problem/concern. In instances where government resources were not identifiable, he and his assistant Jennifer Mearkle took notes and pledged to examine the matter further. Even with his main office based in Altoona, he is establishing a presence in Lewistown. Through a partnership with State Senator Judy Ward, he is taking a small office, which will be staffed a couple of days a week. Our local group of leaders appreciated the Congressman taking the time to meet with us and look forward to building a strong and meaningful relationship with Dr. Joyce. We wish him “safe passage” as he travels throughout the 13th District and back and forth to Washington, DC.
Challenges in Workforce, by Nick Felice (recently published in the Lewistown Sentinel)
As has been commonplace over the last three years, almost all companies and small businesses are struggling with adequate staffing. Looking at our local labor market, there are many job opportunities for individuals with the matching skill sets and who are willing to work. In particular, our manufacturing community has been hard hit. Most have had a difficult time maximizing the output capacity of the facilities they operate. One industrial park occupant shared with me their operation is at sixty-five percent production capacity. While this might be appealing to production workers, figuring you might not have to work as hard, long-term ramifications could pose a threat to a company’s longevity. To maintain this level of output, the current employee complement often faces mandatory overtime. While the increased income is generally welcomed, it takes a toll on workers who have families. Also, burnout is a real possibility.
Like it or not, all of our large industries are controlled by out of county, state or country concerns. This is not new. As rural communities, we covet new money flowing into our local economy. These dollars work their way into the system providing our restaurants and coffee shops with the revenue needed to exist, and hopefully make a profit. For these corporations, our lower cost of doing business and workforce is a major attraction. Our major manufacturers have benefited for decades from our strong and willing workforce.
However, in a post-Covid world, we have witnessed some changes that don’t bode well for business as usual. Government attempts to see to the needs of the people appears to have compromised a once willing and engaged workforce. Many months of Pandemic relief funds, through enhanced unemployment, tax credits or outright grants has created a dependency from which some workers are finding it hard to re-emerge. Beyond the monetary benefits, fear of illness contributes to the negative perceptions of interacting with others. Both have retarded a once extremely willing workforce.
I don’t mean to be the harbinger of bad news, but if our workforce does not re-emerge, I fear decisions made miles away will be detrimental to our County’s economic long-term outlook. Managers have fiduciary responsibilities to whatever business they administer. If the efficiency and profitability of an operation begins to wane, decisions to close down or move become a stark reality. The recent closure of General Electric’s Materials Inspection division is a reminder. While the decision was not based entirely on lack of workforce availability, a board from hundreds of miles away made the call to shutter the building. This took place even after the construction of $ 13 million state of the art lab and training center three years earlier.
Workforce availability has and will continue to be the number one concern in economic development. Labor experts speak of barriers to employment. The two most prevalent are child care and transportation Many companies have adjusted work hours, shift rotations and offer part and full-time positions. Increases in base pay have also been implemented by many businesses. Companies have also put attendance and referral incentives in place, as well as less restrictive hiring practices. Even with all of the flexibility and accommodation being offered by employers, trained and willing workers are fewer and far between. Perhaps the answer consists of weaning unemployed individuals from the financial goodies put in place over the last three years and compelling them to re-enter the workforce. I certainly hope universal work ethic and responsibility comes back in style.
Our new office sign:
New Team Member
MCIDC recently hired a new team member for our maintenance department. Mr. Patrick Wilson has come on-board as a Maintenance Technician. He will work along side Maintenance Technician Scott Beers and under the supervision of Vice President of Facilities Dennis Whitsel. Pat has years of equipment operation/maintenance experience, having worked in the medium/heavy equipment industry over his 30+ year work career. We wish him luck, safety and longevity as he begins his tenure here at MCIDC.
April 28th, 2021
PLANS FOR REDEVELOPMENT AND WORKFORCE DISCUSSION
Lewistown, PA – During the quarterly Board of Directors meeting (April 27th) of the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation (MCIDC), members heard of the continuing investment into the MCIDC Plaza and Business Center. MCIDC President/CEO Nick Felice reviewed a progress report detailing 2021 capital investment expected to exceed $ 430,000 in items like roof replacement, paving, HVAC upgrades and floor rehabilitation. Of particular note was the approval of a $ 67,750 contract for asbestos abatement with Conservative Environmental Services, Inc. “Abandoned Building 5C has this hazardous material present inside the structure. This material will be removed, positioning the structure to be razed at some point in the future,” said Felice. Also relating to the 5C project, the EADS Group has been engaged to complete a preliminary engineering study relating to razing the existing building and possible new development. He continued “The reuse of existing brownfield sites like the Plaza is very inviting for prospective companies looking to relocate or expand. Quite often when developing green field sites, accommodating storm water requirements can be very costly. A site with an existing building footprint can often avoid many issues because of already having an impervious service, where runoff has already been channeled into existing collection structures”. Abatement work and engineering studies are expected to carry into the summer, with an eye toward completion by early August.
Later on during the meeting, workforce development was discussed. Felice shared information pertaining to a report developed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that identifies barriers to employment, as well as workforce availability and quality. The report detailed six categories of focus: Transportation, Child Care, Licensure, Re-Entry, Training and Government Infrastructure. Under each category, there are a series of recommendations that attempt to address a particular element. This report is available at the following link:
Knowing the difficulties our employers are experiencing with hiring and retaining, a small local ad hoc committee was formed to evaluate these recommendations and how they apply or don’t apply here in Mifflin County. Representatives from MCIDC, the Chamber and the Careerlink serve on this group. Following several meetings, we focused on childcare availability and capacity. With the Pandemic, centers have become under-utilized due to parents being home and job loss, reducing financial capacity to pay for childcare. To further validate this, MCIDC has started surveying the top ten employers in Mifflin County. Felice said “We crafted a short survey asking our largest employers to share what they are encountering in hiring and retaining workers pre-Covid and since the Pandemic has taken hold. To date, three companies have responded. The three biggest concerns cited were rate of compensation, attitude and government subsidies of unemployment benefits”. He added “We were a bit surprised childcare didn’t score quite as high as we would have thought. There is real concern relating to the inflated rates of unemployment compensation being paid. It has truly created a disincentive for some individuals to go back to work. This has hurt many businesses who are already suffering”. The committee hopes to secure more responses, in order to get a truer picture of what we encountering here on the local level.
New Team Member
MCIDC recently hired a new team member for our maintenance department. Mr. Scott Beers has come on-board as a Maintenance Technician. He will work along side our Senior Maintenance Technician Barry Powers and under the supervision of Vice President of Facilities Dennis Whitsel. Scott has years of industrial maintenance experience, having worked with several manufacturers, here in the Plaza, over his 30+ year career. We wish him luck, safety and longevity as he begins his tenure here at MCIDC.
SUBJECT: Juniata River Valley Entrepreneurial Meetup
DATE: May 28, 2020
“It was very reassuring witnessing the resiliency of our entrepreneurs”, said Nick Felice, President/CEO of the Mifflin County Industrial Development Council (MCIDC), about yesterday’s (May 27th) virtual meeting held with Mifflin and Juniata county business owners and entrepreneurs. Over twenty individuals took the time to jump on-line and share how they are dealing with the current realities brought about by the Corona Virus. Back in January of 2018, MCIDC partnered with the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) to foster entrepreneurial development in Mifflin and Juniata counties. Since that time, nearly sixty individuals have become involved.
Chamber Executive Director Rhonda Moore said “It was very refreshing hearing how many of our entrepreneurs have identified ways to pivot their operating models to remain in business, and in some cases thrive”. Also participating was Juniata River Valley Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Jenny Landis. She stated “Entrepreneurs are risk takers. They know the world is not static. However their market is affected, these folks stand ready to address how they do business and figure out a way to make money”.
Several participants spoke about how they had to rework their “place/experience” based facility into all take-out operations. “The intense societal desire to meet and interact with each other makes this situation particularly painful. Think of the millions of dollars of investment scores of individuals throughout our region have made to create unique places to enjoy food and drink.” Felice said, adding “Even so, these amazing men and women rethink, retool and recommit to pursuing their respective dreams”.
Moore mentioned “Another strong theme that permeated the dialog was the need to engage or enhance Internet commerce. Almost all of these businesses had an Internet presence with their own website and/or Face Book page. Some were already doing direct web commerce (marketing, ordering, sales, etc.). Now with social distancing requirements, those not already into Internet commerce are now compelled to engage”.
“I have great respect for all of these individuals and their strength to persevere through the current crisis. Moving forward, the Visitor’s Bureau will continue to coordinate with hospitality businesses looking to retool our approach to create marketing efforts that adhere to federal and state Covid-19 protocols.” said Landis.
For anyone wanting to learn more about and get involved with Entrepreneurial Meetups, please go to our Face Book page at: https://www.facebook.com/entrepreneurialmeetup
SBA Paycheck Protection Program – Detail Sheet
Sheet provided by Penn State Small Business Development Center.
STATE DISASTER LOAN INFO
PA DCED COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA) – NO LONGER TAKING APPLICATIONS
Eligible Businesses – For-profit corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, proprietorship or other legal business entity located in PA.
Purpose – Working capital, excluding fixed assets and production machinery and equipment.
Maximum Loan Amount – $ 100,000
Match Requirements – None, except for retail/service enterprises in which case 50% of eligible cost up to $ 100,000.
Job Creation/Retention Requirements – None
Interest Rate – 0%, except for agricultural producers who will pay 2%.
Terms – 3-years, with a 12-year amortization; No payments during the first year; Monthly payments of principal and interest (if applicable) will be due during Years 2 and 3; Balloon payment due at the end of the third year
Collateral – Blanket lien on all business assets currently owned or acquired in the future, at the highest lien position available. And individuals or entities with a 20% or greater ownership interest must guarantee the loan.
How to Apply: Email us at email@example.com or call 717-242-0393.
US Small Business Administration
Disaster Loan Program – FACT SHEET
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The pool of available funds is expected to total $50 billion.
The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.
SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.
Loans are available statewide to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This will apply to current and future disaster assistance declarations related to Coronavirus.
SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans provide vital economic support to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
Small Business Size Standards can be found at this link:
Due to anticipated demand, PA applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Complete and accurate applications will be funded on a first come, first served basis.
How to Apply:
Apply online for SBA disaster assistance loans. The online application is the fastest method to receive a decision about loan eligibility.
Applicants can prepare by reviewing the “Three Step Process” of SBA Disaster Loans to understand what to expect in the application process. Disaster loan applicants can call the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (7am-9 pm every day) or email firstname.lastname@example.org for help in completing their online application. SBA staff and its Resource Partner network, consisting of Small Business Development Centers, SCORE Chapters, Women’s Business Centers, and Veterans Business Outreach Centers will continue to support small businesses with accessing federal resources and navigating their preparedness plans. Local assistance can be found at www.sba.gov/local-assistance
Pennsylvania’s own network of Local Business Assistance partners can also help companies seeking financial or other forms of advice in dealing with the effects of COVID-19.
Visit the PA Department of Community and Economic Development web site for a comprehensive list of COVID-19 Business Resources.
CORONA VIRUS HELP
Dear Business Owners/Managers:
In this troubled time, we want to make Mifflin County businesses aware that many regional, state and federal resources are being marshaled to help especially smaller businesses make their way through the turmoil caused by the Corona Virus. Most of this help will likely come through the modification of existing or creation of new loan programs through the US Small Business Administration/SBA and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development/DCED. Other programs or assistance may also be brought to bear to help businesses endure.
As details are shared from SBA and DCED, we will work to share this information with our business community through the Lewistown Sentinel and various websites, including ours at www.mcidc.org. As a business owner/manager, should you have any questions feel free to reach out to our office via email email@example.com or call our office at (717) 242 – 0393. It may appear bleak right now, but I know our county, state and country will endure and come out of this stronger. May God bless and keep us through these trying times.
Keystone Edge features region in story, “Local entrepreneurs gather in a Lewistown brewpub”
Click here to read the story.
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