WHERE WE STAND
The Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce works on behalf of its member companies to advocate for a healthier, more competitive business climate. As the largest business association in Westmoreland County – and as one of the largest Chambers in all of SWPA – our voice resonates when speaking about the interests of small and large companies across a myriad of industries. Policy makers and elected officials from Westmoreland County, Harrisburg, and Washington D.C. look to Westmoreland County Chamber for an unvarnished, non-partisan assessment of what is important to our business community.
In short, The Westmoreland County Chamber support’s pro-business regulations and legislation that we believe will make for a better business climate without compromising the health, safety, and well-being of the communities we serve. We take a commonsense approach to identifying reforms and legislation that underscore our continued commitment to advance economic growth across Westmoreland County. We are a non-partisan organization that acts on the credo ‘Issues Not People.’ We believe that no matter what one’s political affiliation, responsible citizens from all walks of life want better paying jobs, stronger schools, sound infrastructure, safe neighborhoods, preservation of natural resources, accountable leadership, and efficient government. The Chamber takes on the mission of convening the right people to tackle issues head on as a way to make our community a better place to live, learn, work, shop, and play.
Our advocacy platform is the cornerstone of the Chamber’s mission to advance the visibility of Westmoreland County as an attractive place for businesses to locate, grow, and prosper. The Westmoreland County Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee in conjunction with our Board of Directors and other key stakeholders around our region researches issues that are important to supporting a positive business environment. Below is a brief outline of the issues we have identified as critical to our short and long term economic success. The Chamber is committed to meeting regularly with key stakeholders, policy makers, and elected officials to advocate for these issues on behalf of our members and the business community at-large.
For a listing of Westmoreland County Elected Officials, click here
IMPROVING HIGH-QUALITY-AFFORDABLE CHILD CARE PROGRAMS
High-quality child care programs offer safe, nurturing, and responsive environments that allow families to work knowing their children are with qualified and caring professionals. Prior to the pandemic, 70% of Pennsylvania children younger than age five had all adults in their household in the labor force; nearly one in three Pennsylvania families were likely to have non-traditional child care needs . As the number of jobs with non-traditional work hours increases, the need for quality child care during non-traditional hours (NTH) continues to grow. While needs, routines, and standards may look different during nontraditional hours, children still deserve the same safe, nurturing, and responsive environments of child care programs that operate during traditional work hours. This allows assurance for parents/caregivers as they work during evenings, overnight, and weekends. The Chamber Supports the following:
1. Employer & Business Support - Resources and Supports Pennsylvania should explore how other financial incentives like grants and contracts have the potential to expand the supply and quality of NTH care. This may begin with an analysis of demand to support target efforts to build supply in regions with the most need. A 2018 National Women’s Law Center article suggested using grants and mentoring to encourage more providers to offer NTH and assisting those that already offer care. Establishing technical assistance, mentorship, professional networks, and shared services may provide the opportunity to support existing NTH providers and the recruitment of new programs.
2. Accessibility for Families - Only 9% of eligible children use CCW subsidy to pay for NTH child care. Families who qualified and received CCW said it was inadequate to afford high-quality NTH child care.9 The add-on using ARPA funds should help to begin to address this problem; however, we must acknowledge that the add-on is added to a market rate that is not the actual cost of care. The costs to remain open and provide quality care are huge barriers for providers, and addressing the base-rates and NTH care add-on is critical for ensuring families have access. The state should monitor how the add-on rate impacts provider offerings and family accessibility.
3. Resources and Supports Pennsylvania should explore how other financial incentives like grants and contracts have the potential to expand the supply and quality of NTH care. This may begin with an analysis of demand to support target efforts to build supply in regions with the most need. A 2018 National Women’s Law Center article suggested using grants and mentoring to encourage more providers to offer NTH and assisting those that already offer care. Establishing technical assistance, mentorship, professional networks, and shared services may provide the opportunity to support existing NTH providers and the recruitment of new programs.6\
4. Standards and Regulations Only one in four regulated providers offer NTH care, and those that do are half as likely to be a STAR 3 or 4.8 Policymakers should consider developing minimum licensing and increasing quality standards for evening and overnight care so that providers have clear benchmarks. Additionally, they should define what quality looks like in caring for children outside the daytime, weekday hours such as routines and activities for bedtime.
5. Research In order to consider policies and increased funding for NTH child care across the state, it would be helpful to have a method for updated and ongoing data. Gathering additional information from providers, families, and employers would help policy-makers to better understand what strategies and policies would be most beneficial for
AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE HEALTH CARE
The Chamber believes Pennsylvanians must have affordable and accessible health care. Addressing the rising cost of health care is paramount to impacting affordability. Government should build on the strengths of market-based, employer-sponsored systems or purchasing pools to obtain stable premiums while enacting reforms aimed at lower costs, incentivizing improved quality outcomes, and access to a more value-driven system that relies on well informed and cost sensitive consumers. We also support increased transparency of cost and quality outcomes to assist the consumer. We are opposed to a government-run health care system that would impose mandates and cost shifting that hinders fair market competition. The Chamber is opposed to any proposal that will further increase the cost of health insurance impacting small businesses and individual premium payers. The Chamber supports community partnerships with local health care providers. These partnerships should identify community health issues and work together to address these health issues to create healthier communities while also helping to further reduce the cost of health care in this region.
EDUCATION & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
The Westmoreland County Chamber believes a highly skilled, well-educated population is essential to our local economy’s success. Cooperation between the public and private sectors is needed to ensure accountability and accomplishment. The Chamber believes students of all ages need to pursue appropriate educational opportunities to meet the demands of local employers. We acknowledge that many jobs in today’s market do not require a traditional four-year degree or graduate level studies. While professional occupations are important, that track may not be appropriate for some students. Job seekers must be made more aware of the advantages of pursuing family sustaining jobs in what is often referred to as the ‘blue collar’ sector.
The Westmoreland County Chamber stands strong in the belief that all citizens must possess a general understanding of how our economy works. This understanding is paramount to the long term stability and success of our society. Students should have at least a basic knowledge of the importance of free enterprise, basic economic theories, the impacts of profit and loss, rules of supply and demand, the importance of government and business cooperation, and an appreciation for the role of profitability in our culture.
ENERGY MARKETS AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS
All businesses and residents need access to reliable and affordable energy. This requires a regulatory climate and necessary infrastructure to foster exploration, production, generation, transmission and distribution systems throughout the Commonwealth. The Chamber supports the passage of comprehensive energy legislation that seeks to increase domestic production and conservation, upgrades our energy delivery system, and encourages development of new energy technology. It is imperative to the health and well-being of our community that energy sector businesses be environmentally conscious and follow existing regulations. The Chamber seeks to encourage energy sector growth while at the same time striving to protect the natural environment. We passionately believe these two objectives need not be in direct conflict with one another.
CREATING AN EQUITABLE CIVIL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Pennsylvania’s legal climate is conducive to frivolous lawsuits and lacks protections that create a fair, balanced and common sense system. The Chamber supports legal reforms that help prevent lawsuit abuse while protecting the right of legitimate plaintiffs to seek justice. The Chamber supports lawsuit abuse reform proposals that provide for full and timely compensation of parties legitimately able to demonstrate damages; give employers predictability and certainty; change the judicial system to achieve greater efficiencies and unbiased justice; and contribute to greater productivity and economic prosperity.
MODERN, SAFE, EFFICIENT AND RELIABLE INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS
It is imperative that Westmoreland County possess and maintain adequately funded and reliable transportation and utility systems and other infrastructure. The Chamber advocates for greater efficiencies in their construction, maintenance and delivery, including streamlined permit and regulatory processes. To be competitive with neighboring states and within our own region, we must improve our infrastructure to better facilitate the free flow of goods and commerce along with the mobility of our citizens for business and recreational activities. This includes roads, bridges, ports, railways, airports, mass transit, water, sewage, internet access, electricity, natural gas, and more.
Among the specific transportation projects we identify as vitally important to our long term economic success, are the Laurel Valley Transportation Improvement Project which connects Routes 30 & 981 with the Pennsylvania Turnpike near New Stanton; and the construction of a new interchange connecting the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) to Route 130 in Penn Township.
BALANCED LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAWS AND REGULATIONS
State laws and regulations that dictate labor relations and employment policies in Pennsylvania are often outdated, insufficient or unbalanced and changes are necessary to address abuses and facilitate a fair work environment. The Chamber supports eliminating misuse and improving the financial condition of the unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation systems. We oppose excessive mandates and artificial wage inflators that unnecessarily increase the cost of doing business.
OUR REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT IS NEGATIVELY IMPACTING BUSINESSES
The Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce supports sensible business regulations. However, we believe that many regulatory agencies have overstepped their bounds by instituting regulations not passed by Congress at the Federal level or by the General Assembly at the State level. The often politically charged regulatory atmosphere has become overly burdensome on the business community.
Learn more by reading the Clean Power Plan Amicus Brief at https://www.pachamber.org/advocacy/priorities/energy_environmental/environmental/testimony/pdf/166_Business_Associations_-_Clean_Power_Amicus_Brief.pdf?1460722390
GAMING REVENUE AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR LOCAL ECONOMY
The Westmoreland County Chamber believes casino gaming has benefitted the Commonwealth in terms of job creation and tax generation, and has spurred development in and around casino locations. The Chamber strongly supports amending current legislation, or introducing new legislation, which collects and distributes gaming revenue on a more fair and equitable basis. Effective change would create a level playing field among counties and move all of Pennsylvania forward.