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UBCC Year in Review

Abundance. Mild weather. A growing economy and positive outlook.

As we wrap up 2015 there’s a lot to remember, and a lot for which to be thankful.

Making connections, providing resources and offering business leaders an opportunity to find one another, were 2015 hallmarks of the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce mission.

From the annual Small Business Conference & Expo at Bucks County Community College, Perkasie Campus in March to developing relationships and better business outcomes, UBCC is an active community member.

Regular business card networking opportunities provide a relaxed way for members to come together. Look for additional, new happy hours in 2016.

The annual June golf classic was another chance to meet and enjoy some relaxed time on the greens. This year’s Upper Bucks Foodie event in October, drew record numbers to the Sands Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership for an outstanding sold-out evening of great food and drink samplings, raffle baskets, and community bon ami.

Take advantage of online webinars and educational opportunities, free online training and staff development – it’s all available through the chamber.

We’re strengthening business relationships.

Throughout the year we’ve blogged and profiled area business leaders and entrepreneurs from food and home services industries, tech companies, manufacturers, a public school district and the area’s technical career school, among others.

Consistently, we hear and see demonstrated the small town charm associated with Quakertown, Perkasie, Sellersville and beyond. And recently, acceptance in the Classic Towns of Greater Philadelphia program validated what generations living in Quakertown have known all along: The heart of Upper Bucks is a great place to call home.

Upper Bucks leaders, business owners and operators are savvy forward thinkers braced to face the challenges of living in a 21st Century world and economy.

For the first time the newest chamber business directory, Focused, was built from the ground up by chamber members.

Focused will premiere in January. In addition to the print copy of the directory, an online edition promises to be more engaging and interactive than ever before. Online, Focused will be easy to use and provides a launching pad for finding member businesses, and much more. It’s jam packed with information about the wealth of resources that make up our region, and offers our tips and picks for how to spend a day, a vacation, or to settle and live a lifetime.

As we look to better serve existing members and welcome new members, a photo contest for the next chamber directory could showcase your work. We’ll share more on how to submit photos in the New Year.

Among our New Year’s resolutions are continued growth of our membership and networking communities. In 2016, our goal is to grow membership to 1,000 from our current 600 – that’s an ambitious membership increase of roughly 40 percent.

You can help us reach the new member goal. Invite a business colleague, new business start-up or entrepreneurial friend to the next networking event.  Tell your non-chamber business contacts about the resources available to them, once they join the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce.

Don’t be shy. Take advantage of the benefits chamber membership, and a valued place in this diverse community, affords you.

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Member Spotlight – Upper Bucks County Technical School

Strong alliances with business and industry to benefit employers and a skilled talent pool to join the workforce are the main objectives of the Upper Bucks County Technical School.

From animal to automotive technologies, baking and pastry arts, cabinet making, carpentry and cosmetology, the Upper Bucks County Technical School trains high school students to succeed after graduation in skilled trades and industry at the Bedminster Township facility.

More than 23 different industry trades are represented at the rural school, which is currently wrapping up a two year, roughly $23 million renovation project, according to Bern Wagenseller, Upper Bucks County Technical School executive director.

Among the campus upgrades is a covered connecting hallway so students may travel indoors to either of the site’s main education buildings.

Serving Palisades, Pennridge and Quakertown high school students, Upper Bucks County Technical School taps local manufacturing industry and trades leaders to ensure best practices and cutting edge curriculum are in place at the school.

“Our business partners meet twice a year to discuss equipment, curriculum safety and to cement our partnerships,” Wagenseller said.

A recent conference of industry leaders gathered about 165 participants at the site, Wagenseller said.

Throughout the year, 20 advisory committees meet to review and help guide curriculum and align equipment, safety and labs, to best industry practices, said Cathleen Plesnarski, Upper Bucks County Technical School assistant director.

Plesnarski said the school makes a point of keeping pace with technology keeps a close watch on industry and trade trends. “A couple of years ago home health aides became a bigger program as the industry need in Upper Bucks also grew,” Plesnarski said.

The school is a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation emission certification site, according to Wagenseller. “We’ve re-certified about 90 technicians to conduct state inspection emissions testing,” Wagenseller said.

After a two year hiatus, a trades based adult night school program is slated to launch after construction is completed, sometime in 2016. “We are looking at workforce development, and offering classes in machining, welding, and HVAC,” Wagenseller said.

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Member Spotlight – Pulse Technologies

A global company in the advanced technology medical device and contract manufacturing and engineering services industry makes its home in Upper Bucks. Based in Milford Township, Pulse Technologies is a major player in the area’s economy and a global player in the medical device, component and assembly industry.

“What sets us apart is quality, service, technology and commitment,” said Pulse Technologies Director of Global Sales and Marketing Robert Madigan.

Specialized customer service is required by the Pulse Technologies’ team because of the niche industry the firm serves – and lives depend upon it. “We offer high levels of quality and our owners and our company have invested in, and embraced, advanced technology,” Madigan said.

Such technology advances includes ultra smooth medical surfaces and pump components used during surgical procedures, along with the development of new metals to be used in devices, components and implants for patient treatment and care, according to Madigan. “We are developing new materials specifically (for) medical markets,” Madigan said.

Pulse Technologies employs about 188 full time staff, working across three shifts; up to six days a week in its 70,000 square foot facility.

Madigan said 97 percent of the company’s business is medical device implants and examples would be heart pacemaker lead components and stent-line implants.

Pulse Technologies serves cardiac, vascular, orthopedic, spinal and extremity; neurostimulation, cochlear and ophthalmic, device, component and implant markets, the company’s website said. While 80 percent of the firm’s business is to clients in North America, on the global market Pulse Technologies serves customers in Europe, Israel, Southeast Asia and Australia, Madigan said. “We work closely with our customers to make life saving devices that are economically feasible,” Madigan explained.

Pulse Technologies was founded in 1993 by Bob Walsh and Frank Henofer, who are involved in the strategic focus and direction of the company, Madigan said.

For more information visit www.pulsetechnologies.com.

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UBCC Member Spotlight – The Penny Power

This month, we shine the member spotlight on area innovator, Cecile Brogan, founder and publisher of weekly newspaper Penny Power.

When Cecile Brogan couldn’t find the best deal in town, she decided to create it. From lost pets to goods and services, community functions and homes for sale, since the first issue of Penny Power rolled off the presses on March 11, 1981, Brogan, who is Penny Power founder and publisher, has held customer service and affordable advertising as her primary business goals. Brogan, an Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce member, began Penny Power with 36 advertisers assembled on 12-pages. That first issue reached 19,780 addresses. Today, roughly 132 advertisers have their message delivered weekly to 72,609 mailing addresses from Penny Power’s headquarters located at 202 South 3rd St., Coopersburg, Lehigh County.

“I considered everyone in that first edition to be a close personal and professional friend,” Brogan said. The same philosophy and affection toward regular advertisers continues today, Brogan said. What began more than three decades ago as a 7-member team has swelled to 30 employees.

Brogan said her biggest challenge – then as now- remains being a woman professional in publishing, an industry traditionally dominated by men. According to an annual survey published online in September 2014, by Publishers Weekly, the yearly pay gap between men and women in publishing for 2013 was roughly $25,000. The report went on to note that far fewer women than men make it to the top tier of publishing jobs. See the full report http://publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/64083-publishing-s-holding-pattern-2013-salary-survey.html.

“Saturation, service and sincerity” are hallmarks of Brogan’s guiding business philosophy; along with maintaining Penny Power’s reputation for upholding those values. Advertiser diversity is evident while paging through a recent edition of Penny Power. From church directories and Easter services listings, to a full page of food and produce advertisements for vendors located at the Quakertown Farmers and Flea Market, to Penny Power’s Easter Ham giveaway winners, the weekly publication is a convenient way for readers to shop local. The popular “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” notes, scattered throughout the publication, catch people both being good to one another, and sometimes not so good. Brogan said she has always had a soft spot for those less fortunate and “worries” about the underdog, part of her reason for founding Penny Power. “I did this because I worry about people who aren’t getting a fair shake in advertising and I believe there is a better way for people to advertise,” Brogan explained.

Penny Power is free to recipients and delivered through the U.S. postal service. “Years ago in town (Quakertown) we would hang the paper in plastic bags on front door knobs, and rural delivery was through the mail. Today everyone gets a (weekly) copy delivered through the mail,” Brogan explained.

Enthusiastic about chamber membership, Brogan said local chambers are important resources for business owners and should not be overlooked, even when budgets are tight. “I think chambers of commerce are vital to the local business community, and that business members should join their local chamber,” Brogan said.

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Quakertown Community School District

This month, we shine the member spotlight on one of Upper Bucks three public school leaders: Dr. William (Bill) Harner of Quakertown Community School District.

As one of the largest employers in Quakertown Borough, Quakertown Community School District (QCSD) leadership is taking an active role in building partnerships with the business community.

Quakertown Superintendent Dr. William (Bill) Harner said clear communication, value added partnerships and community support are among the most telling qualities of successful communities. “There are three-legs to the stool: business, the school district and families,” Harner said.

Covering roughly 72-square miles and with roughly 5,600 students, QCSD educates youngsters in Grades Kindergarten through 12, preparing them post graduation for college or the workforce.

For Harner, communication takes many forms. Harner represents the district by participating in UBCC events like networking mixers and monthly breakfast meetings, as well as actively engaging with business owners. He is active on social media and Twitter and believes in supporting extracurricular activities by attending them.

“You have the ability to support the local economy,” Harner said.  Evolving business partnerships with St. Luke’s Hospital – Quakertown Campus and new alliances with business leaders, are forged with the aim of providing hands-on experience and mentoring to students.

New at the high school is a medical careers program hosted through St. Luke’s Hospital – Quakertown Campus. This program provides access to day-to-day operations in a health care setting, where students learn about careers first hand during the academic day.

Engineering and land planning firms can connect with “Project Lead the Way” students, too, to engage with the next generation of career leaders in science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM. “Project Lead the Way is a national non-profit organization, which develops curriculum for STEM careers, the organization’s website said.

Harner said these and other business connections are made easier by being active in chamber membership.

“We are all counting on each other to do our part and be the best we can be,” Harner said.

When Harner arrived in January, 2014, one of his top priorities was to scope out the lay of the land. He drove the district’s country roads and borough’s downtowns across all six municipalities, to discover the geography and complexities of the region he’d be serving. QCSD serves families in Quakertown, Richlandtown and Trumbauersville boroughs; and Haycock, Milford and Richland townships.

Harner said business owner Warren Levy, of Levy Bus Co., invited him to his first UBCC event.

He’s returning the favor, by offering business leaders tours of the roughly $70 million Quakertown High School renovation – set to complete in 2017, as well as the chance to advertise at the newly refurbished Alumni Field.

“We host a lot of ball games at the (school) fields, but it needs to be symbiotic to really work. Downtown restaurants are convenient and they’re close-by,” Harner said of eateries, residents and visitors could walk to and patronize before or after games.

“There’s a lot, right in our own backyard,” Harner said

Harner is married to his wife of 31 years, and the couple has two grown children. The Harners’ son and daughter are officers in the U.S. Military. Bill Harner is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel. Harner’s primary residence is in Middlesex Township, Cumberland County, but he said most of his time is spent in Quakertown.

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Tis the season for counting blessings.

While Thanksgiving, the epitome of American festal holidays draws near, it’s a great time to count blessings – both personal and professional.

There are many ways to conduct business, but taking the time to join a professional organization, such as the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce, reaps expected as well as unanticipated rewards.

Tom Merrick owner of Tom’s Help Desk based in Milford Township, said he first joined the chamber in 2005, as a way to meet other local business owners and get the word out about his brand new business venture.

“I joined the chamber because I knew that would be the best way for me to meet other business owners, to spread the word that I had a new computer repair business,” Merrick said in an email.

Merrick’s unknown start up now boasts more than 3,000 customers, and he recently opened a second location in Skippack, Montgomery County.

He credits much of his current success to the benefits of chamber membership.

Merrick’s involvement is set to ramp up, as he pays it forward by becoming chamber Board President in 2015.

“As I became more involved in committees, I realized that I could take a leadership role to help the chamber grow and be recognized by the community,” Merrick said.

“Since the chamber has helped my business to grow so much, I have always tried to give back,” Merrick said.

Happy Thanksgiving!