All posts tagged Advocacy

Final Rule: Overtime Update

On September 24, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule to make 1.3 million American workers newly eligible for overtime pay.

The final rule updates the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative, and professional employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, and allows employers to count a portion of certain bonuses/commissions towards meeting the salary level. The new thresholds account for growth in employee earnings since the thresholds were last updated in 2004.

In the final rule, the Department is:

  • Raising the “standard salary level” from the currently enforced level of $455 per week to $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker)
  • Raising the total annual compensation requirement for “highly compensated employees” from the currently enforced level of $100,000 per year to $107,432 per year
  • Allowing employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level, in recognition of evolving pay practices
  • Revising the special salary levels for workers in U.S. territories and the motion picture industry.

The final rule is effective on January 1, 2020.

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This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s January 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Advocacy Committee to Host Commissioner Candidates Forum

The Chamber’s Advocacy Committee looks forward to hosting a Candidates Forum on May 3, where community members can learn about the seven candidates for County Commissioner and hear their stance on local issues.

The forum will start with breakfast at the Quality Inn & Conference Center in Franklin at 7:30 a.m., with the program following from 8 to 9:30 a.m.

The Advocacy Committee will be compiling a list of topics to discuss with the candidates, and input from the community is welcome.

The County Commissioner candidates include:
• Albert “Chip” Abramovic
• Sam Breene
• Tim Brooks
• Joe Carulli
• Mike Dulaney
• Darrell Karns
• Bonnie Summers

Additional topics discussed at the recent Advocacy Committee meeting include transportation, blight, poverty, workforce, connections between communities, and business opportunities.

The purpose of this committee is to work with our elected officials and community partners to establish regulations and policies that will affect the ability of a business to compete in the worldwide economy and continue to generate income and jobs that will help to improve the quality of life in the Venango Area.

If you are interested in getting involved with our advocacy efforts, contact the Chamber at or (814) 676-8521.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s April 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Route 8 Public Meeting

PennDOT Schedules Public Meeting to discuss the Route 8 asset management and corridor improvement

The open-house format meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Franklin High School auditorium at 246 Pone Lane. A presentation will begin at 6:15 p.m.

PennDOT says it is studying options to best manage and improve Route 8 in Venango County between Georgetown Road in Irwin Township and DeBence Drive in Sandycreek Township, a distance of about 10.5 miles.

PennDOT has said one of the considerations in the study is reducing the corridor from four lanes to two lanes. That proposal has met with vehement opposition the last few months from officials in Venango County and many municipalities in the county.

The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce joins local officials in urging you to attend this public meeting.

Chamber Director Susan Williams remarks “Businesses from across the region have expressed their concern to us, about the threat of a lane reduction.  Route 8 provides important access to local industry, emergency services and residents, traveling in or out of the county.  This highway additionally moves traffic to and from neighboring counties. We must urge PennDot to remove any consideration of a lane reduction”

The purpose of the meeting is to introduce the study to the community and receive input on ideas for the corridor and PennDot has invited the public to attend at any time during the open house hours.

Information on the study’s purpose status, schedule, existing and forecast roadway conditions and an initial range of ideas to consider will be available for review and comment.

PennDOT representatives, along with the department’s design consultants, will make a brief presentation and will be available to answer questions.

The meeting location is handicapped accessible.

Williams adds “This forum is an important opportunity for a unified business voice. I encourage you to let us know that you plan to attend, in support of future growth of Venango County.”

Will you attend? Let us know if your business will be represented or if you are unable to attend, but would like to share your comments, by completing this form.


Advocacy – Your Chamber, Your Voice

By Jim Marshall

Often when I tell someone that I am the Chairman of the VACC Advocacy Committee, I’m met with a quizzical look—but most are too polite to ask what that means. The mission of the committee is: “To work with our elected officials and community partners to establish regulations and policies that will affect the ability of a business to compete in the worldwide economy and continue to generate income and jobs that will help to improve the quality of life in the Venango Area.” Wow, that’s a mouthful. Simply put, we identify things that make it difficult for our members to successfully do business here, then come up with resources and ideas to turn those problems into solutions.

Currently, the forefront of our attention is the study that PennDOT is completing on Route 8 between Franklin and Barkeyville. The results of this study and the actions of PennDOT will potentially be hugely impactful to our membership and the quality of life in Venango County. As such, the Chamber has been gathering information from businesses on their usage of this highway, and the impacts any changes might have on them. Our objective is to ensure that PennDOT has all the necessary data needed to make the best decision for local businesses and for the region as a whole.

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, I highly encourage you to do so. It can be found on our homepage at, by clicking on the banner image.

Another issue we have been addressing is blight in our communities. Blight has the potential to impact every business in the County and we feel it is an important issue to tackle. Currently, we are trying to ascertain some of the struggles local communities have addressing blight in their communities, and determining ways we can advocate for additional resources, less regulation, and a more unified approach to both stop the spread of, and reverse the current blight situation within the County.

If there’s an issue in the community that you feel that the Advocacy Committee should be looking at, please reach out to us by calling the Chamber at (814) 676-8521 or emailing


Two or Four? Chamber Impact Survey

PennDOT is currently conducting an asset management study of the limited-access portion of Route 8 highway between Franklin and Barkeyville and it is expected to be completed in April 2018. This corridor is a main artery to the Venango Area.  Almost all freight to and from this region, even up to Warren, is transported along this stretch of Route 8.  The traffic study could ultimately result in a reduction of the size of Route 8 from four lanes to two.

Such a change would have a major impact on area businesses.  “As a business wanting to survive in Venango County, easy and efficient access to Interstate 80 is vital, not only to our company, but to our community as a whole,” remarked Greg Lander of Klapec Trucking Company. “This roadway is our life line to Interstate 80 and the United States. “

Industry, manufacturers, automobile sales, retailers, hardwood companies, scrap dealers, etc., all rely on this efficient access for truck traffic to move their cargo. It is also an essential connection for commuting employees that these companies rely on.

The study is being conducted by Michael Baker International and started earlier this spring.  A final report is expected by April 2018. “This expressway section of Route 8 was built in the 1970’s and has already exceeded its expected service life,” said PennDOT District 1 spokesman Jim Carroll. “It is in need of reconstruction, and a preliminary estimate is that could cost $35 million to $40 million.”

Carroll said the goal of the study isn’t to make the four-lane highway into a two-lane road, but rather to see what its needs are moving forward.

“The study is laying the groundwork for the project,” Carroll said. “The first perception was that we are doing the study to reduce it to two lanes. That is not the goal. The goal is to examine how the road best serves the region and how it serves the needs of the communities. It’s possible that the outcome could be reducing lanes, but that isn’t the purpose (of the study). The purpose is to look at the needs of the road, how it fits economic development, community aspirations and how it serves the region.”

The study will evaluate pavement and bridge conditions; analyze traffic and accident histories; develop projected traffic models; prepare cost estimates for alternatives and develop implementation and funding plans, Carroll said. The study also includes interviews with stakeholders – many of which have been completed – and opportunities for public review and comment in the coming months, Carroll said.

The Venango Chamber’s Advocacy Committee has begun reaching out to several local businesses to explore the potential impact of a lane reduction, anticipating that any consideration of this would have a negative impact on the local economy.

Representative Lee James shares, “An efficient highway infrastructure is vital to attracting new businesses, keeping existing businesses and ensuring a healthy economic future for the region. Cutting down a significant section of Route 8 from four lanes to two would do nothing but harm Venango County.”

Given that the viability of our area is directly related to access to Interstate 80, the Venango Chamber’s Advocacy Committee has begun reaching out to several local businesses to explore the potential impact of a lane reduction, anticipating that any consideration of this would have a negative impact on the local economy.

The objectives of the Advocacy Committee’s exploration are to first make certain businesses are aware of the study, and then to collect and report specific data, regarding impact of a two lane highway versus a four lane highway.

Chamber Director Susan Williams remarks, “The role of the Chamber is to be the voice of business.  We believe this is a great opportunity to better understand how our businesses use this corridor to move goods, attract and retain a regional workforce, and respond to emergency services.”

“We are developing a questionnaire, to be available in print or electronically, for businesses to respond. I am encouraged with each conversation that confirms many of our members have seen recent increases in business and anticipate this trend to continue,” she said. “We will be reaching out to our members and businesses across the region, but welcome any inquiries from those who wish to provide input.”

If you would like to take the questionnaire and inform us on how this change will affect your business or organization, please find the link at the top of this article. We also invite you to reach out to the Chamber at or (814) 676-8521.

Read the latest edition of VenangoWorks!