While death and taxes as the only sure bets in life have long been axioms since Christopher Bullock uttered a version of the phrase in 1716 – change is another of life’s certainties.
During the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce annual meeting held Nov. 20 at The Proper Brewing Company, members were formally introduced to incoming Executive Director Danielle Bodnar. They witnessed the “passing of the gavel” to new board leadership and heard a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia about the economic outlook for 2019.
Bodnar replaces long-time Chamber director Tara King, who retired in October after leading and working with the region’s business community for nearly two decades.
Building on what UBCC does well, offering new educational opportunities, continuing and expanding workforce development initiatives and surveying members for new program opportunities were among Bodnar’s objectives.
“I want to get to know the board, members the community and stakeholders,” Bodnar said.
She said under King’s leadership innovative networking opportunities brought Chamber members together.
“I can’t think of another place where you have access to something like Foodie - it’s unique in the region. You can enjoy great food, wine, spirits, and buy a car all at the same time,” Bodnar said. The 13th annual Foodie was held Oct. 13, at Sands Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Richland Township.
Bodnar said the innovative second annual Clay Shoot held Sept. 17 was “hitting a great demographic and offering networking in a new way.”
Other leadership changes for 2019 included introducing Joe Wingert, incoming Chamber Board of Directors president.
“I know of few organizations that care as much about its members as UBCC does,” Wingert said.
Jason Wehrung, a two year board president, praised the chamber’s growth and outreach efforts during his tenure. Wehrung, who is a grandson of the late Woodrow “Woody” Wehrung, is the second Wehrung family member to hold UBCC’s top board position.
“One of the greatest things about entrenching myself into the chamber and serving as president for two years were the relationships I’ve had the pleasure of building both personal and professional,” Wehrung said.
Keynote speaker Ryotaro “Ryo” Tashiro provided an overview of region’s economic strengths, as well as outlining trade challenges in the coming year.
Tashiro is economic advisor and public outreach associate for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s research department serving the Third District made up of Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties.
Tashiro said “robust growth” during the second and third quarters of 2018, and the economy was performing at a 15-year high.
He was cautiously optimistic about continue growth - though likely at a slower pace through 2019.
“Consumer confidence [expenditures] feels optimistic now and will continue into 2019,” Tashiro said.
He noted Upper Bucks County’s business and industrial growth mirrors that of Pennsylvania and the nation.
Tashiro said recent “trade war” tariffs with China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union threw up a red flag for 2019.
Some $4 billion in goods exported from Pennsylvania are at risk because of tariffs, Tashiro said.
“Ninety-six percent of all exports from Pennsylvania went to China, so if you do business with China there is cause for concern,” Tashiro said.
Pennsylvania exports coal to China as well as personal computers and oak wood slabs. Coffee is exported to Canada from Pennsylvania; the European Union imports Harley Davidson motorcycles manufactured in its York, Pennsylvania, plant and Mexico imports metal alloy sheets from Pennsylvania companies.
According to Tashiro workforce development was the second area of concern moving into 2019. With a low jobless rate, employers continue to struggle to find appropriate applicants to fill positions.
“The unemployment rate for the nation was 3.7 percent, for Pennsylvania 4.1 percent and for Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties 3.5 percent,” Tashiro said.
With vacant jobs outstripping those able to fill them Tashiro said a pattern could emerge where multiple employers compete for the same employees.
“There is a labor market skills mismatch right now, Tashiro said.
He noted health care and manufacturing as booming sectors, eager to find skilled candidates to fill available positions.
Photos © 2018 Anthony Serge
Hope and direction are central to the mission of a new Quakertown grassroots non-profit, which opened Oct. 15 to serve young people.
The Drop, located at the Quakertown Community Center, is a program geared toward middle and high school students who may find themselves aimless and faced with the temptation to cross into risky behaviors after school lets out.
Now they will have a safe place to go.
Located inside the former ice skating “log cabin” at Fourth Street, The Drop will be open two days a week in the afternoons for youngsters to gather, play games, and get to know others.
Quakertown Borough has provided the building and area businesses and individuals have stepped up offering funds and gear - like foosball and air hockey tables – as well as refreshments.
“Our plan is to coordinate services,” to best benefit these young people, said Vickie Landis, of Vickie Landis Team Keller Williams Realty Quakertown.
“As a company [Keller Williams Realty] we do a lot to shed some light and make people aware of non-profit [resources] in the community, “ Landis said.
Landis is on the board of directors of the Quakertown Community Center.
The center and its programs aim to provide a safe place with wholesome activities, resources and adult supervision but could also grow to offer academic tutoring, adult mentors and help with career or educational choices.
“The greatest need is to serve our young people,” said Bruce Eglinton-Woods, president of the Quakertown Community Center Board and pastor of Salem Mennonite Church in Richland Township.
Eglinton-Woods said training adult mentors and matching them with youngsters as well as such finding resources for academic tutoring could be part of the program’s future.
“For the first three months, we’ll be getting to know the kids and building relationships with them,” Eglinton-Woods said.
Ultimately, helping young people discover their “hopes, dreams and gifts,” and create plans to turn those dreams into reality is part of the program’s mission, Eglinton-Woods said.
Larry Serge is the Quakertown Community Center executive director. He said the program was the brainchild of area pastors. “We’ve been [exploring] this for the past three years,” Serge said.
He said making connections with students and offering them some structure and guidance to their day could make a huge difference in their lives. “Often kids without direction are hanging out at the parks,” Serge said.
Engagement was the key to success, Eglinton-Woods said. “If you look at youth programs in our churches, once kids go through them, they often don’t come back. Those that have an actual role in the worship, often do. Our goal is to give kids something that [appeals] to them” and creates investment, Eglinton-Woods said.
What: The Drop at Quakertown Community Center.
Who: Young people aged 14 to 18.
When: Open twice weekly from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday and Wednesday.
Cost: Services to youth are free of charge.
Where: Former ice skating cabin at Fourth Street.
For information, to donate or volunteer contact Larry Serge at email@example.com.
Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce
An economic development agency for Upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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