LEWISBURG — Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce (GSVCC) President and CEO Bob Garrett made a presentation of the organization’s recently refreshed strategic plan Monday night.
His goal was to get East Buffalo Township supervisors to renew the township’s $225-per-year municipal membership, which they did, but not before posing some pointed questions.
Supervisor Chair Tom Zorn asked Garrett whether the chamber always supported business interests, even if risky to the environment. He cited questions raised by a proposed 35-mile pipeline which would supply natural gas to the Hummel Station electric plant once its conversion to the new fuel is complete.
“We believe that when a company can show that it is a clean company...that is coming to this valley to add value to the valley, we are going to support them,” Garrett replied, noting the improvements in pipeline technology that make natural gas transmission less problematic.
“A lot of folks like to point to the problem that UGI (Utilities) had in Allentown,” Garrett said referring to an explosion in 2011 that killed five people. “That was (an) almost 100-year old gas line. These are new steel lines (with) cathodic protection. They know if there is a crack anywhere in them. Every weld is X-rayed before gas will flow in it.”
Garrett said the chamber would not support all businesses at all times, but would still tilt toward economic expansion over the status quo.
“We’re...focused on creating a future so our children and grandchildren don’t have to go somewhere else to have their careers,” he said.
Henry Baylor, supervisor, asked Garrett to what extent the GSVCC is linked to the Central PA Chamber of Commerce. Garrett gave an overview of the history of the two organizations and said they jointly support projects such as the Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation project, and some events.
Garrett was also asked by Zorn whether a merger of the two chambers is in the works, and noted that it is unlikely as people in many localities would still want their own chamber offices. Garrett suggested always supporting local business and professional organizations such as the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership and The Improved Milton Experience (TIME).
Jennifer Daddario, director of operations and membership development, suggested the township give membership a try for a year, but stressed that the municipality would have to play an active role in putting its membership to use. If membership wasn’t something of value, she suggested letting it lapse.
Garrett thought township personnel would have a role in transportation issues via the chamber.
Supervisors agreed to sign up with the GSVCC, with the provision that they would be active members. Zorn said the GSVCC would be more likely than other local organizations to be effective for the township, given their mutual location on the west shore of the river.
Garrett said the chamber had nearly 800 members, which account for 52,000 employees, and said the organization works to get behind public projects like the CSVT.
He also noted the conversion of the former Sunbury Generation electric plant to natural gas fuel would supply more electric power to the area and the larger utility grid that serves surrounding states. So-called brown field industrial area, tracts that were needed near the plant when it was coal fired, will also open up, he added.
Township Manager Stacey Kifolo said a Thursday meeting of public works officials and others from neighboring townships was productive.
“We didn’t talk about specific problems...but we do already share some pieces of equipment as we talked about some other areas where we might be able to help each other,” Kifolo said. “Things like bidding projects, if we can come together on those and how that is handled to maybe entice contractors to come in and give us a better price.”
Kifolo said it was hopeful that there would be another meeting once the weather really started to change, to figure out what needs to happen more specifically.
The meetings which Zorn described as “operational work meeting(s),” would not be open to the public, to which Solicitor Peter Matson and Supervisor Henry Baylor agreed.
“It would be similar to at the end of a work day, you get all your people together and talk about what your plan is for next week,” Baylor said. “In the particular case they go together with other municipalities and said...OK, what are we doing next year or this summer. It is really an operations discussion. It is like a work session for them.”
A finalized work schedule would be voted on by supervisors.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at email@example.com.