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.
Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce
An economic development agency for Upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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