SKILLS 2020: Resources

Skills in Scranton, our workforce development affiliate, recently hosted a virtual summit on overcoming common employment and hiring obstacles. Topics included dislocated workers, working with a physical or mental disability, transitioning veterans to the civilian workforce, and re-entering the workforce following a prison sentence.

Bill Burke, Dorothy Grill, Ph.D., and Chris von Ahnen shared their experiences as dislocated workers and the services that helped them find new opportunities.

Bob Fox and Keith Williams of My Center for Independent Living (MyCIL) talked about the tools and services available that make independent living a possibility for people with disabilities.

Eric Darling and Jennifer Spitler explained what it means to be a veteran and why their skills and experience are exactly what employers are looking for.

Jennifer Shoemaker of Outreach ­– Center for Community Resources introduced us to the L.E.A.D. Center and their efforts to assist men and women with re-entry into the workforce after incarceration. She is joined by James Kyle Hanjaras who shares his experience with the program.

Leadership Lackawanna Core Team Celebrates YMCA Project

The Leadership Lackawanna Core Class team celebrates the new play area at the Greater Scranton YMCA’s Early Learning Center. Pictured (l to r): Leadership Lackawanna Core Program team members Suzanne Kennedy, Community Bank NA; Patrick Lindmeier, Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials; Megan Kofira, Weiler Abrasives Group; Alonzo Baker, Penn Foster; Nicolette Stine, Tobyhanna Army Depot; Dawn Talley, Saint Joseph’s Center.

One of this year’s Leadership Lackawanna Core Program teams recently celebrated the completion of their community service project for the Greater Scranton YMCA’s Early Learning Center in Dunmore.

The team assisted the YMCA’s Early Learning Center by providing enhancements to the existing play area which was designated for riding tricycles. The improvements included creating a track for the preschool-aged children to ride tricycles, as well as multi-themed decorations for the playground that is located at the front of the facility.

“The Greater Scranton YMCA project team planned and created an interactive play area that features a tricycle track. The play area incorporates multiple educational activities and enhancements,” said Dawn Talley, Core team member. “The team hopes that the children of the Early Learning Center will enjoy many hours of fun while using the enhanced play area.”

Each year, the Leadership Lackawanna Core Program class completes various service projects helping to fulfill a need in our community. By working with fellow non-profit organizations, class participants expand their leadership abilities and further develop their skills. “The Greater Scranton YMCA appreciates the partnership it has with Leadership Lackawanna. This leadership class stepped up during these unprecedented times, followed through with their project well beyond the set deadlines, and helped the YMCA take a required space for our Early Learning Center children to work on gross motor skills – making it a space for the children to spend time working on those skills while having fun,” said Wayne Stump, executive director, Greater Scranton YMCA.

Our IGNITE Program Partners with DiscoverNEPA

If you are thinking of starting a business in Lackawanna County, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce’s IGNITE program is where to begin. Recently, the program teamed up with DiscoverNEPA on a series of videos to help promote entrepreneurship in Lackawanna County.

Business entrepreneurship programs, like IGNITE, are designed to accelerate growth and success of start-up companies through resources like physical space, capital, coaching, common services, and networking connections.

Thanks to the partnership and videos from DiscoverNEPA, the Chamber has a new avenue to promote the IGNITE program and to provide workspaces that foster collaboration, training, and mentorship in an affordable and innovative environment.

“The talented team from DiscoverNEPA did an outstanding job illustrating the genuine, high-quality services available through the IGNITE program and our partners,” said Bob Durkin, president of The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. “They highlight the IGNITE goal to mentor entrepreneurs, foster job creation and stimulate business growth in Lackawanna County.”

In addition to the programs and support offered by the IGNITE program, Lackawanna County hosts three high-quality incubator facilities – The Scranton Enterprise Center in the heart of downtown Scranton; TekRidge in the Jessup Small Business Center; and the Carbondale Technology Transfer Center in Carbondale Yards.

“We were inspired by the passion, the creativity and the enthusiasm generated by the Scranton Chamber and all of the incredible small businesses involved with the IGNITE program. We only hope that our collaborative effort to promote this amazing project, in some way, brings attention to this community’s unwavering support for hardworking, local entrepreneurs,” said Mary Kolessar, executive director of DiscoverNEPA.

Wolf Administration Announces $2 Million for COVID PEDA Restart Grants

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced that the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) opened a $2 million grant opportunity to support clean energy projects in Pennsylvania, which were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applications for the COVID-19 PEDA Restart Grants opened Monday, August 17, 2020, and will close Friday, October 2, 2020, at 4 PM. Individual awards will not exceed $250,000. Applications must be submitted online through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Electronic Single Application (ESA) system.

Applicants should demonstrate how they expect an award to mitigate the impact of a project disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This may include: re-hire of workers or hiring of additional workers to complete the project quickly, ability to make immediate equipment payments to restart the supply chain, and the opportunity to overcome lost revenue due to market stagnation.

Projects may include the following funding areas: the development and deployment of innovative, clean, advanced and efficient technologies; the generation of alternative energy or the production of alternative fuels; or the implementation of energy-efficiency/demand-side projects. Businesses conducting manufacturing or production operations related to alternative and clean energy projects in Pennsylvania are also eligible to apply for an award.

Applicants can request funds for retroactive costs, working capital or both; however, applicants must propose a minimum 1:1 match consisting of all eligible costs as described in the solicitation that will be expended after the application submission date.

More information about this funding opportunity including the solicitation, application instructions and a frequently asked questions document is available on DEP’s webpage (search “PEDA”) or by emailing the PEDA staff at

New Bus Route to Service Mid Valley Industrial Parks

Officials from the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) and The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce announced a new bus route that will service the Mid Valley Industrial Parks beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. The new route will service Mid Valley Industrial Park, Valley View Business Park, Jessup Small Business Center, and Rock Creek Corporate Center. The loop will consist of an outbound trip from the Giant Market in Dickson City and an inbound trip from the Jessup Youth Sports Complex.

“This route is an example of transportation serving as an economic engine in our county. The growth of NEPA’s industrial parks has been exponential, and we are thrilled to be a part of the economic development in our region by getting employees to work,” said COLTS’ Executive Director Bob Fiume. “COLTS looks forward to partnering with Lackawanna County, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and NEPA Moves on other projects moving forward.”

“As we look to attract new investment, sustain existing businesses, and grow new enterprises here in Lackawanna County, the access to workforce transportation is critical. This partnership has the potential to benefit hundreds of workers, scores of businesses, as well as municipal and government entities that have supported the investment in these parks,” said Bob Durkin, president of The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

The route was announced Thursday in a joint press conference. Lackawanna County Commissioners Debi Domenick and Chris Chermak, along with COLTS’ Board of Directors Chairman Larry Wynne, and Scranton Area Foundation’s Vice President of Administration and Operations Maggie Nasser representing NEPA Moves joined in the announcement.

The route, which will run Monday through Friday, will connect passengers from the #12 Jessup, #52 Carbondale, and #54 Green Ridge/Dickson City bus routes. It also connects with the new #80 Commerce Loop, which also begins Sept. 8.

The first inbound trip is 6:30 a.m. from the Dickson City Giant Market, and the first inbound trip is 7:05 a.m. from the Jessup Youth Sports Complex.

The Importance of Masks

Our president, Bob Durkin, recently collaborated with Dr. Steven Scheinman, president and dean of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, on a column for the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Bob Durkin and Dr. Steven Scheinman

In March, our community’s largest concern about new coronavirus was whether it would cancel the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Now, these five months later, that fear seems quaint. Businesses, schools and churches have been hit with much bigger challenges and are still looking to regain their footing after first receiving the gubernatorial green light to reopen and then being urged to scale back.

Hundreds of businesses, large and small have suffered the economic hardship of closures, restrictions on services, the costs of safety equipment and supplies – and layoffs of good hardworking employees. These business owners and their employees are our families, friends and neighbors. Many are struggling to hang onto their livelihoods, their legacies, their dreams.

A recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that nearly 70% of small business owners fear that another wave will lead to a second shutdown.  For a great many that would signal the end of those dreams of business success and personal financial wellbeing. 

Our community has sacrificed enough and been patient long enough – we deserve a return to some sense of normalcy. Face coverings are vital to regaining that normalcy.

Further, as thousands of students prepare to return to our area and help us to achieve that sense of normalcy, recent scenes of mask-less people gathered close to one another in public settings across the region are distressing and may set us back months after we’ve enjoyed some hard-fought progress.

To state it bluntly: Our only hope of keeping our students here, our businesses open and our neighborhoods on the mend is to follow the safety protocols we know prevent the spread of COVID-19: keep your distance, avoid gatherings of more than 25 people, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and wear a mask. The reason is simple: the virus spreads in droplets exhaled by a person who is infected. If that person is wearing a mask, others are wearing masks and all are appropriately distanced, those droplets simply can’t infect another person.

The common objections to masking just don’t make sense if our goal is to preserve our freedom of movement. For example:

  • Masks are hot and uncomfortable. It’s true. Isn’t it better, however, to be out in public, shopping, dining or doing something else you enjoy rather than sheltering at home, even if being out means being a bit uncomfortable?
  • Masks should be a personal choice. Think of the things we’ve done together to promote better health. Widely adopting the use of seatbelts has mitigated trauma-related injuries and deaths. Smoke-free public places are a result of a cooperative public health effort. People demand a vaccine for this present coronavirus precisely because mandated childhood vaccines have been so successful at preventing once-dreaded diseases like polio and measles. Masks are a sign of public commitment to stopping this coronavirus in its tracks so we can all regain a semblance of pre-COVID life.
  • CDC’s stance on masks has changed. I don’t know what to believe. In this case, science may be falling victim to its own success. Our doctors and researchers have gotten so good at preventing and curing disease that the public has come to expect overnight solutions. The most startling feature of this coronavirus that it is a novel virus. Scientists have never seen it before. We can make predictions based on other viruses, but those are what all scientific hypotheses are – educated guesses. We know much more now than we did in March . . .  and one thing of which we are now definitely certain is that coronavirus is spread via exhaled droplets. Cover the mouth and nose and those droplets have difficulty spreading. If others are similarly masked, the droplets have nowhere to go.
  • I don’t have any symptoms. If you are young and healthy, you could have COVID-19 and not even know it. Wear the mask to protect those who don’t enjoy such a robust immune system. Our colleges and universities will expect their young and healthy students to don masks.

If you’ve heard these arguments before and remain unpersuaded, consider a philosophical argument, grounded by probability science known as Pascal’s Wager. Even if you don’t believe the mask is stopping COVID-19, isn’t it better to wear it and be proven right than to refuse, infect others and be proven dead wrong? Right now, masks and social distancing are our only weapons against spread of this virus.  The best way – the only way – to avoid a second shutdown is to use them.  To shun masks, gather in large groups, and reopen prematurely is the surest way to bring on a second wave and second shutdown.  It’s your choice.

Chamber Hires New Finance Assistant

The Chamber has announced the addition of Lisa Bandru as the finance assistant II.

Bandru is responsible for the accounting and finances for the Chamber and its affiliates, The Scranton Plan, Leadership Lackawanna, and Skills in Scranton. She processes accounts payable and receivable, prepares invoices, as well as special reports, and maintains the general ledger. 

Bandru comes with years of experience in the finance industry with her previous career at Kriger Construction, Inc. as an accounts payable specialist. She has also worked for Leeward Construction/E.R. Linde and James W. Stuchko/Ameriprise Financial Services, as well as in medical billing.

Bandru attended Lackawanna College and Lakeland Jr. Sr. High School. She is also a fundraising committee member of the Andrew Mazza Foundation.

Main Street Lending Program from the Federal Reserve

The program is designed to help credit flow to small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations that were in sound financial condition before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, but now need loans to help maintain their operations until they have recovered from, or adapted to, the impacts of the pandemic.

These loans have several features that will help businesses and nonprofits facing challenges. The program offers 5-year loans, with floating rates, and principal and interest payments deferred as indicated in the charts below to assist those experiencing temporary cash flow interruptions.

Loan size starts at $250,000 and ranges up to $300 million for some loan types. To assist a broad range of borrowers, the program will offer three different business loan types, and two types of loans for nonprofits, each with somewhat different characteristics

Interested businesses and nonprofits will work with an eligible lender to determine if they meet the program requirements, which are available online, as well as the lender’s own underwriting standards. The lender will determine approval for a loan.

Learn more

Details for businesses

Details for nonprofits

Masks vs. Face Shields

Effectiveness of Masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain. CDC’s recommendations for masks will be updated as new scientific evidence becomes available.

Face Shields

According to the CDC it is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for masks. Some people may choose to use a face shield when sustained close contact with other people is expected. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Plastic face shields for newborns and infants are NOT recommended.

Learn more from the CDC here.