A United Front: County and Chamber Work Together to Expand Business and Workforce Development in the Region

Scranton, PA–June 7, 2024— Lackawanna County and The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce announced a strategic partnership focused on business and workforce development at a press conference on Wednesday, June 12.

Held at The Chamber, County Commissioners Bill Gaughan, Matt McGloin, and Chris Chermak, along with Chamber President Bob Durkin, presented The Chamber will primarily be managing business development, marketing, and lead management for Lackawanna County. These efforts will be in collaboration with the County’s Planning and Economic Development Office. The strong united front will allow a streamlined process, reduce duplication of efforts, and ensure a coordinated approach to economic development.

The Chamber’s Board Chair, Attorney Jerry Musheno, commented, “This partnership represents a significant step forward in our mission to attract, sustain, and grow business and jobs in northeastern Pennsylvania. By leveraging our combined resources and expertise, we will create a thriving economic environment for our community.”

In the multi-year plan presented at the press conference, Lackawanna County Commissioner Bill Gaughan emphasized the pledge of $495,000 to enhance economic development and entrepreneurship in the county. Over three years, the County will provide a total of $75,000 to support the program and administrative management at the Carbondale Technology Transfer Center (CTTC). The CTTC is an entrepreneur and light-industrial incubation program. The Chamber entered a management agreement with the CTTC board of directors over a year ago.

“The County and The Chamber have been partners on many projects throughout the years. What we are doing today is solidifying and formalizing the economic and workforce partnership for the future. Building on years of success at The Chamber and committing County resources to support small businesses—which are the economic engine of Lackawanna County,” shared Commissioner Bill Gaughan.

In addition, the County has allotted $420,000 to fund three additional cohorts of TechCelerator @LackawannaCounty—the 10-week entrepreneur training program for tech-based, for-profit ideation businesses. The County has funded two cohorts that graduated 15 entrepreneurs in conjunction with The Chamber, INGITE, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of NEPA, and tecBRIDGE.

“This collaboration aims to attract new businesses, support the expansion of existing ones, create job opportunities, and further bolster entrepreneurial support. We will focus on key industry sectors such as advanced manufacturing, food and beverage production, energy, technology, and bio/life sciences, aligning with Pennsylvania’s economic development strategic plan. Additionally, we are committed to providing entrepreneurs with the resources and support networks they need to succeed in Lackawanna County, enhancing opportunities for companies in light industrial and kitchen incubation,” shared Bob Durkin, president of The Chamber.

Lackawanna County and Chamber Hold Press Conference to Unveil Strategic Partnership Aimed at Expanding Business and Workforce Development

Scranton, PA–June 11, 2024 — Lackawanna County and The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce announce a joint press conference to be held at The Chamber on Wednesday, June 12, at 9 a.m.

Lackawanna County Commissioners Bill Gaughan, Matt McGloin, and Chris Chermak, in conjunction with the Chamber President Bob Durkin, will unveil a partnership on Wednesday, June 12, in which the partnership aims to expand the county’s business and workforce development through two strategic initiatives.

“I am encouraged and proud to unveil this partnership between Lackawanna County and The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. For far too long we have duplicated efforts, and with this partnership we can be stronger together and make greater impacts in our County in training our workforce, supporting our existing businesses, and creating new opportunities for entrepreneurial growth here at home. It is our job to create opportunity for our residents and what better way than in collaboration with the Chamber due to their successful history. We look forward to working hard together and celebrating success moving forward”, said Commissioner Bill Gaughan

At the press conference, the Commissioners and Chamber leadership will present a multi-year plan, and under the partnership, the Chamber will take on the primary role of managing business development, marketing and lead management for Lackawanna County. Lackawanna County will continue to work in tandem with the Chamber on all opportunities to support workforce training, small businesses and the growth of entrepreneurship within the county through both collaborative ideas and financial investments. In addition, working in collaboration with the Lackawanna County Planning and Economic Development department will allow both organizations to streamline processes, reduce duplication of efforts, and ensure a coordinated approach to economic development.

“I am really excited about the initiatives unveiled here today, and the positive and collaborative relationship we have forged with the County Commissioners. This underscores our collective commitment to maximize the resources available to strengthen our regional economy, for the good of all the citizens of Lackawanna County”, said Chamber President Bob Durkin.

PNC Field to Benefit from Substantial Renovation Project

Lackawanna County Commissioners Bill Gaughan and Matt McGloin, and the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority, together with the New York Yankees and Diamond Baseball Holdings (DBH), the owner of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, today announced a significant renovation project to take place at PNC Field, aimed at elevating the player and fan experience at the Triple-A Yankees facility and preserving the ongoing presence of affiliated professional baseball at its highest level in Northeast Pennsylvania.

PNC Field, home of the RailRiders, is owned by the stadium authority and leased by the RailRiders. “The renovation of PNC Field and its facilities deepens the roots we have in Lackawanna County and reflects the standard of excellence that we strive for,” said Brian Cashman, New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. “The community has offered outstanding support to us over the years and knowing that we can further the development of our players in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is a tremendous outcome for everyone involved. On behalf of the entire Yankees organization, we thank the Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority for its commitment in creating an environment that will facilitate long-term success for both the team and its fans.”

“The renovation of PNC Field and its facilities deepens the roots we have in Lackawanna County and reflects the standard of excellence that we strive for,” said Brian Cashman, New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. “The community has offered outstanding support to us over the years and knowing that we can further the development of our players in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is a tremendous outcome for everyone involved. On behalf of the entire Yankees organization, we thank the Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority for its commitment in creating an environment that will facilitate long-term success for both the team and its fans.”

The $13.5 million project announced today will ensure that the stadium complies with standards mandated by Major League Baseball (MLB) for all Minor League clubs, as part of its Professional Development League (PDL) model. PDL compliance requires clubs to offer modernized facilities suited to professional athletes, and improved amenities and working conditions for players and staff, among others. These standards are designed to better serve fans, players and clubs, and position the sport for future growth.

As it stands, PNC Field currently falls short of PDL compliance, and funding will go towards both essential improvements, such as security, female staff facilities, clubhouse commissaries, training and locker rooms, laundry facilities, batting tunnels, bullpens, high-speed internet, field drainage and lighting, as well as improvements to the fan experience, such as video boards, hospitality areas, seating and more.

The baseball industry has changed dramatically since the stadium was constructed more than 30 years ago, and even since it was largely reconstructed more than a decade ago. One of the most positive changes has been the rise of women in important roles,including as umpires, trainers, executives, and staff. An important part of the renovation project is the addition of separate, modern facilities for female umpires, trainers, and staff, as required by the new PDL standards.

To fund the project, the authority has secured an $8.5 million loan, in the form of a bond issue, through PNC Bank. The authority will hold $1.5 million of that money in a reserve fund. It has applied to the state Department of Community and Economic Development for a $6.5 million grant under the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program.

To help cover the annual $1.2 million debt payment, the commissioners will authorize the authority’s continued use of 60% of the proceeds from the county’s hotel occupancy tax. That will cover about $600,000. The remaining $600,000 will come from the RailRiders’ annual lease payment to the authority.

The county’s commitment of hotel occupancy tax funds is not a loan guarantee, and no other county funds will be used for the project.

“We commend the stadium authority board, its architects and financial consultants for devising a plan that is comprehensive in exceeding the new Major League Baseball requirements, yet affordable. Because of that good work, we look forward to many more years of exciting RailRiders baseball at soon-to-be state-of-the-art PNC Field,” the commissioners said.

“We are unequivocally committed to safeguarding the RailRiders’ future as a cornerstone of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre community and are grateful to Lackawanna County for its partnership in ensuring PNC Field achieves PDL compliance,” said Pat Battle and Peter Freund, Executive Chairman and CEO of DBH, respectively. “As the highest level of Minor League baseball, we look to the RailRiders and PNC Field as the standard for which all other MiLB clubs should be measured against. We are confident that with the proposed renovations and upgrades, the Yankees Triple-A affiliate can look forward to continuing to play in one of the best ballparks in the country.”

Attorney Frank Tunis, stadium authority solicitor, said the project is scheduled to begin Sept. 15, after the end of the International League season, and to be completed by Opening Day of the 2025 season.

Lackawanna County to Launch Another Round of Small Business Grants

Lackawanna County will launch another round of a popular program providing $5,000 grants to qualifying small businesses.

Commissioners approved Wednesday a second phase of the program originally offered last year to combat pandemic-prompted inflation. Funding for the program’s extension, $500,000 in total, comes from the county’s federal American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

It’s designed to help businesses still recovering from the financial impacts of the pandemic and subsequent economic challenges, including inflation that drove up costs and limited consumer purchasing power. While inflation has abated significantly since a pandemic-era peak in 2022, some businesses continue to face challenges stemming from the economic disruption.

The flexible grant funding can be used to purchase equipment, pay or add personnel and cover other business expenses, such as rent, mortgages and utilities.

“Our local businesses are what makes our home here in Lackawanna County so special, and we all understand that they’re still facing economic pressure because of inflation due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner Matt McGloin said. “That’s why it’s important for us to continue to try to find ways to help our local businesses, because we understand that financial assistance at this critical time can be the difference between businesses staying in business or closing permanently.”

Eligible businesses must be for-profit, employ between one and 100 people and spend all of the grant money in Lackawanna County. They also must have faced pandemic-related hardships and been operating in or before 2019, among other terms.

More than 200 businesses applied during the first round of the program, with the county awarding 100 grants, economic development Director Kristin Magnotta said. Those that received grants during the first phase are not eligible during the second.

“We want to be able to spread it far and wide to all those that need help,” Magnotta said of the funding.

The grant window will open May 31 and runs through July.

Application materials and instructions will be available on the planning and economic development page of the county’s website, lackawannacounty.org. Hard copies of the application will also be available in the vestibule of the county government center, 123 Wyoming Ave., Scranton.

Fourth Annual Workforce Summit and Carrer Fair Landed Success

The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and its workforce development affiliate, Skills in Scranton, hosted the SKILLS 2024: Workforce Summit & Career Fair. The event was held at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel and served as a platform for connecting high school students, job seekers, and regional employers, facilitating invaluable networking opportunities and fostering career development and pathways education. Lackawanna County was the main event sponsor.

The SKILLS 2024 event hosted more than 100 high school seniors looking for employment upon graduation, career pathways exploration, and the opportunity to engage with industry professionals. Additionally, the Summit drew numerous job seekers from across the region, all seeking employment opportunities, with the 50 regional employers in attendance.

Scranton School Board President Ty Holmes shared, “The Workforce Summit and Career Fair is a great resource for high school students. I heard one student say, “I didn’t know this…” and it was in reference to a student talking with an employer about their career options.”

“We were pleased to have been able to add unique elements to this year’s Workforce Summit. Public employment resources, access to regional workforce data, and connections to students from area high schools added to the core components of the job fair, with over 50 local employers on hand,” shared Robert Durkin, president of The Chamber.

Throughout the day, attendees had the chance to interact with representatives from a diverse array of industries, including technology, healthcare, manufacturing, finance, and more. Employers showcased their organizations, shared information about available job opportunities, and engaged in meaningful conversations with prospective candidates.

The SKILLS 2024: Workforce Summit & Career Fair not only provided attendees with a platform to connect and network but also featured informative sessions on topics such as resume writing, interview skills, and professional development. Keynote speaker Teri Ooms, president and CEO of The Institute, paved the way for attendees and employers to learn about the status of the workforce. Identify pros and cons; Ooms shared the research The Institute has done to evaluate top-priority careers and the shortage of workers vs. employers.

As the event concluded, both employers and attendees expressed enthusiasm about the connections made and the opportunities presented. The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and Skills in Scranton look forward to building on this success and continuing to support workforce development initiatives in the region.

Chamber Hosts Lackawanna County Commissioners

On Thursday, February 29, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce hosted Lackawanna County Commissioners Chris Chermak, Bill Gaughan, and Matt McGloin at a breakfast meet and greet. The County Commissioners interacted with Chamber and affiliate organizations’ board members. Bob Durkin, president of The Chamber, Jerry Musheno, chair of the board for The Chamber, and Vince Galko, chair of the Government Affairs and Advocacy Committee for The Chamber, provided remarks to guests and welcomed County Commissioners. The county commissioners gave short salutations and spoke on the County’s and The Chamber’s strong connection in attracting, sustaining, and growing businesses to Lackawanna County.

TechCelerator Participants Showcase Businesses at Closing Presentations

After completing their ten-week cohort in the TechCelerator at Lackawanna County program, participants from seven technology start-ups recently shared valuable insights into their business plans. The pitches were presented to an audience of local funders, coordinators, dignitaries, and supporters at Penn State Scranton’s state-of-the-art Engineering Building on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. In recognition of their efforts, each participating business was awarded up to $10,000 from Lackawanna County to fuel their future business growth.

The seven showcased start-ups: I Need A Speaker, The Brain Trust, Washboard, NEPA Lifestyle, RentChexx, STAIPUT, and KX Arms unveiled upcoming products and services spanning a speaker connection hub, local destination discovery platform, property management solutions, and on-demand laundry services.

Bob Durkin, president of The Greater Scranton Chamber, expressed his satisfaction, sharing, “Collaborating with other sponsors for the TechCelerator program has expanded our initiatives to support and nurture local entrepreneurs through our Ignite program, seamlessly transitioning these emerging firms into our robust business development incubator sites.” Ken Okrepkie, regional manager of Ben Franklin Technology Partners, added, “The Lackawanna County TechCelerator program, designed to assist early adapting entrepreneurs in shaping their ideas into viable businesses, has undeniably been a success.”

The TechCelerator Program is a partnership between Lackawanna County, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, IGNITE, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and tecBRIDGE.