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Monroeville Ranks on CNN Money's List of "Where Homes Are Affordable"

Read the full story here: http://money.cnn.com/gallery/real_estate/2013/08/12/best-places-affordable-homes.moneymag/22.html


Six Back-to-School Tips
Huntington Learning Center

It is back-to-school time, and if your student's summer has been filled with trips to the pool, hanging out with friends, television and video games, and other leisurely activities, now is the time to transition from summer to school mode.

"We always encourage families to relax and enjoy the less structured pace of summertime," says Katrina Burkett of the Monroeville Huntington Learning Center. "However, there are several things you can do toward the end of summer break that are immensely helpful in getting students ready to return to the classroom."

Burkett offers these six back-to-school tips:
1. Set goals. Goal-setting is a great way to help your child reflect on last school year and think ahead about what he or she wants to accomplish and avoid this year. Talk with your child about the things he or she is excited and anxious about and have him or her set several goals and measurable milestones. You can do this just before classes start or during the first week of school.

2. Organize the desk and home. Get your house back into "school shape" by designating spots for important school papers that come home, a family calendar, backpacks, shoes and jackets, and a homework station. Your child's homework station could be a desk in a bedroom or other room. Make sure it is stocked with the supplies he or she will need for the school year, and have your child help get the space ready.

3. Reestablish a schedule. Talk with your child about the school-day routine, including wake-up time, school hours, homework time, dinner time and any extracurricular activities in which he or she will participate during the week. In the week or two before school, try to have your child go to bed and wake up at approximately the same times as during the school year.

4. Review school work and information. Being prepared will help your child ease into the first weeks of school. Review assignments, spelling words and other work from the previous school year. Amp up the reading these final few weeks of summer. And find out as much as possible about what is to come: your child's teacher, class schedule, classroom locations and more.

5. Set a positive tone. A child who struggled last year might dread going back to school, so it is important to help him or her get into the right mindset for school success. Let your child know that you are there to support him or her no matter what. Talk about things he or she is looking forward to this year-and offer ideas if he or she needs some encouragement-and point out some of the good parts of last year. Be optimistic and encourage your child to embrace the same outlook.

6. Arrange for tutoring help if needed. If last year was difficult, don't wait to reach out for help this year. Help your child build his or her skills, preparedness and confidence with a customized, one-to-one tutoring program.


Identity Theft Information
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Testimony Before the Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee
MACC President Frank Horrigan

Below is MACC President Frank Horrigan's testimony from the Pa Senate Transportation Committee hearing at CCAC Boyce Campus on May 30, 2013. The hearing was convened to discuss proposed legislation for transportation infrastructure improvement throughout Pennsylvania.

 

Introduction and Thank You

Good morning.  My name is Frank Horrigan.  I am the president of the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber is a diverse, member-driven organization, focused on being an advocate to promote and advance business excellence and business alliances, thereby strengthening our local communities. We are 700 members strong, with our membership focused in eastern Allegheny County and western Westmoreland County. 

I would like to start by thanking Sen. Rafferty and Sen. Wozniak for convening this hearing in Monroeville, and especially to thank Sen. Brewster, who was instrumental in bringing Harrisburg to Monroeville, if only for a day. I’d also like to thank the members of my Board and Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, some of whom are in attendance today.  They have been instrumental in helping the Chamber refine its goals and objectives with respect to statewide transportation policy. 

The Issues

Pennsylvania’s transportation funding needs have been well documented.  In 2006, Governor Rendell’s Transportation Funding and Reform Commission released a study concluding that Pennsylvania’s transportation funding gap totaled $1.7 billion.  In 2010, the Pennsylvania State Transportation Advisory Committee calculated that the annual funding gap had grown to $3.5 billion.  And this is not just a trend in Pennsylvania.  In its 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, the ASCE reported that the Federal Transit Administration has estimated that a maintenance fund of $78 Billion is required to bring the nation’s infrastructure into a state of “good repair,” defined as scoring a 2.5 on a scale of 5.0. 

As a Commonwealth, we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to correct our course.  The bill before you represents an investment in Pennsylvania that will create jobs, ease traffic congestion, thereby reducing fuel consumption, and increase efficiency and productivity.  The benefits to southwest Pennsylvania and the Monroeville Area in particular of adequately funding transportation will be profound.  The completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway will open up development opportunities in the Mon Valley and create a better link between the eastern suburbs of Allegheny County, downtown, and the Pittsburgh International Airport.  The Chamber fully supports funding this project.

However, the reason I have been invited to testify is not only to lend my voice in support of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, but to make the business case for more comprehensive public transportation in the Monroeville Area and its environs.  As you know, in March 2011 the Port Authority of Allegheny County was forced to eliminate or curtail much of its service.  Twenty nine routes were eliminated, including those serving Elizabeth, Forest Hills, and Plum.  In addition, 37 routes were reduced, including Sunday service in Penn Hills. 
These reductions have had at least two detrimental effects.  First, they constrain employees who are trying to get from their homes to their workplace in the Monroeville area.  Three of the Chamber's largest employers have expressed support of expanding public transit options.  CVS Caremark, employing more than 1,500 people in two 24/7 help desk facilities, reported that the elimination of the weekend service in Penn Hills has created real hardship for many of their employees.  Similarly, the Doubletree Hotel, employing more than 300, has reported that many of their housekeeping staff have been affected by the service reduction.  And Forbes Regional Hospital has reported that inadequate public transit has made recruiting for entry level positions more difficult -- some job offers have been declined because people can't get to work. Most alarmingly, Hospital officials also reported that some patients in need of critical care have forgone that care due to lack of access to public transit.

As you can see, the reduction or elimination of public transportation alternatives predominantly affects low-income workers -- people who may not be able to afford a car, let alone a second car.  This is an issue that is essential not only to people's employment prospects, but to their health.

The other detrimental effect of reduced transit service deals with Monroeville area residents who work in the City of Pittsburgh.  Fully 50 percent of those who work in the city take public transit to their workplace.  Transit cuts in the eastern suburbs have forced people to make difficult decisions.  I have been told of several instances in which a two-income family had to purchase a second car as a direct result of these cuts in transit service.  This is not the kind of economic stimulus this commonwealth needs. 

From the perspective of my membership, the Monroeville area views our region’s transportation solutions as taking place over two time horizons.  In the long term we favor the Mon-Fayette Expressway.  However, it is equally important, if not more so, that we restore the cutbacks of our public transit routes, and that this bill includes a stable funding stream for the Port Authority.  This is a remedy that can be applied in the short term, and need not come at the expense of the Mon-Fayette project. 

The Costs

Everyone who has been following this issue is aware that the price tag for this investment is considerable, and that a vote in favor of this bill is politically fraught.  No serious advocate for a bill of this size can ignore the reality of how it is to be paid for. 

My membership is aware that there will be costs.  But considering what the cost estimates are -- roughly $2.50 per week, less than a gallon of gas -- they are willing to bear them.  Moreover, this cost must be weighed against the costs that we all would incur if this bill is not passed.  Increased traffic congestion wastes gas and time.  Substandard public transportation inhibits productivity and impacts low-wage employees disproportionately.  The cost of deferred maintenance on roads and bridges may one day be measured in lives lost.  And not enacting this legislation will have a direct cost in tens of thousands of fewer jobs and a less attractive economic development climate in Pennsylvania.  Far from being some kind of “tax and spend” government program, this is an investment with a measurable return -- the kind of return that any competent, private sector CFO would make in a heartbeat.

Conclusion

In conclusion, thank you again for bringing this hearing to Monroeville and listening to our business community with respect to transportation issues.  I hope I have impressed upon you that this community regards transportation as critical to maximizing its economic development potential and quality of life, and that public transportation is every bit as critical as infrastructure development.  I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Disaster-Proof Your Business
TeamLogic IT of Monroeville

No one expects disaster to strike, but back-to-back monster blizzards last fall and winter reminded New Englanders of the value of contingency planning. Once considered impractical or even impossible for small-business owners, disaster readiness now is a mandate. And thanks to a slew of new technology assets and managed services, even solopreneurs can outsmart Mother Nature.

First, there is no need to lose productivity if your brick-and-mortar office becomes inaccessible. A prepared remote-office work plan can keep you up and running, and that plan could be as simple as assigning one key employee to work from a remote location far away from your main operation.

Second, abandon reliance on locally embedded technology, such as landline telephones, that could fail during regional emergencies. Small businesses that implement Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone systems can ensure their voice, Fax, SMS and voice-messaging applications are accessible, giving you a better chance of uninterrupted service and business continuity.

Finally, your employees can continue accessing critical business applications, such as email, invoicing and other software, if you move these services to the cloud. One choice cited by small businesses is the Google Apps suite, which allows you to use Gmail, Google Drive, calendaring and other services from anywhere with a smartphone or computer and Internet connection.

No technology can make a business immune from disaster, but these simple steps will minimize your exposure and provide an easy-to-scale template for contingency planning.


How do we respond to the Boston Marathon attacks?
Frank Horrigan, MACC President

As I write this, it is one day after the explosions at the Boston Marathon changed the course of hundreds of people’s lives, ending several.  We do not know who is responsible or why they felt compelled to commit such a dark and despairing crime.  But we all know, somewhere in our hearts, that we were not terribly surprised.  These things happen, we tell ourselves. From Columbine to Aurora to Newtown.  From Oklahoma City to the Atlanta Olympics to September 11. We look at the pictures, we keep up with all the current developments, and we move on.  We have to -- we cannot see the pictures of the children from Newtown or the eight-year-old boy from Boston without conjuring all too quickly our own children at that age.

One of the many pernicious aspects of these acts of terror is that they happen in everyday settings -- at work or school or a community festival. The terrorists’ choice of setting is designed to fray the ties that bind our communities together, to exploit the best elements of our humanity and to mock them. By their very nature terroristic acts dare us to put aside the best elements of ourselves and fight fire with fire, because justice must be done, after all.  When it’s all said and done, the terrorists want to prove that we are not so different from them.  But we are.

But what shall we do? The evil genie that is Terrorism is out of the bottle and has been for some time. There is no putting it back.  How then are we called to act in this world?  The best answers I can come up with are: with grace and courage and hope, in small doses, every day.  I think we are called to be our own heroes.


Gardening Do’s and Don’t’s
The PT Group Physical Therapy

Spring is here, meaning more and more people will be outside and beginning the spring ritual of gardening. Now don’t laugh at me, but gardening comes with risks and you need to be careful out there.
Gardening safety is something you need to take seriously, even if it sounds a little silly. You don’t think about it, but activities like digging, mulching, pulling weeds, bending down to plant flowers, trimming trees, etc., result in stress and strain on your joints and muscles.

With all of the bending over and getting down on the ground, your knees and back are the most at risk. While taking care of your yard does not carry the same risks as playing full contact sports like football, you should still know these gardening safety tips.

* Warm up! Don’t just walk outside and start working right away. Complete a stretching routine and maybe take a short walk to get your blood flowing and heart rate up a little
* Don’t stay in the same position for too long. If you find yourself bending over a flower bed for an extended period of time, stop what you’re doing and do something where you are standing upright
* Lift with your legs, not your back, when moving tools or other materials
* If carrying tools or other materials, don’t make quick changes in direction. This can lead to balance problems injuries
* If something you’re doing hurts, stop doing it!
* Don’t try and show off with carrying materials. Use a wheelbarrow or a cart for heavy things
You’ve spent months waiting for the weather to improve and to get out of the house. Don’t risk injury and more time in the house by not taking the proper gardening safety precautions


Let’s Talk About Economic Development
Frank Horrigan, MACC President

When I was the Regional Director of the Governor’s Action Team in the Rendell Administration, I had a hand in almost all of the large economic development projects in southwest Pennsylvania.  Occasionally I would be challenged about why state taxpayers should support what is essentially a private sector transaction.  It was a good question and one that I would like to address over a short series of articles. 

There are a couple of overriding reasons for why the public sector would engage in economic development activities.  The first is a basic economics principle:  while free markets are remarkably efficient at allocating resources through the magic of supply and demand, they are not perfect.  Markets occasionally fail.  The term “market failure” is actually a term of art among economists.  It refers to a situation where the demand of a good or service outpaces supply. 

For example, imagine that you lived in a town where fire protection was based on a contract between a fire company and the individual homeowner.  Suppose you valued fire protection so much that you were willing to pay for it, but that your neighbors on either side of you decided to “play the odds” and not buy fire protection.  So far, so good, as long as there is no fire. 

But what if the worst occurs, and a fire starts at your neighbor’s house?  Having no contract with a fire company, your neighbor’s house is likely to burn down.  Moreover, your house is at risk as well.  Unchecked, the fire may spread to adjacent houses, some protected, some not.  Even if your house is not damaged, you have a burnt houses on either side of you, your neighbors are devastated, and your community is worse off.  The damage may not have been prevented, but it would have been mitigated with universal fire protection. 

What this example of market failure illustrates is that there can be more stakeholders in a private sector transaction than the buyer and the seller.  Communities can benefit or be harmed by these transactions.  A very timely and local example is the debate over hydraulic fracturing technology in the extraction of this region’s Marcellus Shale.  Stakeholders who are not directly involved in private transactions are members of a town, or residents who live downstream from a facility that is discharging waste into a nearby river. 

In general terms, then, this is why the public sector undertakes economic development initiatives.  Markets can fail, and the public can be a stakeholder in private transactions. 

Next: How Economic Development Works