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Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals Expanding with Third Location

Chamber News, Community

Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals to Open Third Location

Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals is expanding to Lackawanna State Park in North Abington Township. They will rent out paddleboards, single and tandem kayaks, pedal boats, canoes, and rowboats (with and without electric motors) for visitors to explore Lake Lackawanna.

Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals now operates three locations across Northeastern Pennsylvania. Their original shop in Falls opened in 2007, providing boat rentals along the Susquehanna River. In 2019, they opened the boat concession at Frances Slocum State Park in Wyoming, Luzerne County.

With the new location, Lackawanna State Park will be the only place in Lackawanna County to offer kayak rentals.

“For me personally, it’s exciting because we serve three counties: Wyoming, Luzerne, and Lackawanna,” said Art Coolbaugh, owner of Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals. “It’s also great for people from Clarks Summit and Scranton. They don’t have to drive far to rent a kayak and get out on the water. Lackawanna State Park will be right in their backyard.”

The Lackawanna State Park boat rental opens on May 24, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. They will remain open until Labor Day.

The rental stand will also sell supplies like bait and firewood. In the future, Coolbaugh hopes to offer bicycle rentals so visitors can discover the park’s popular mountain biking trails.

The Lackawanna State Park boat rental is located near the pool complex. For more information, call 570-540-1587 or visit kayaktheriver.com for details and online booking.


2024 Annual Chamber Paddle

Join us on July 25, 2024, for a serene journey down the Susquehanna River with the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce. Trusted guide Art Coolbaugh and the Susquehanna Kayak team will lead our annual chamber paddle from The Vosburg Neck State Park to Tunkhannock’s Riverside Park, offering a scenic 4-mile route through the Endless Mountains. Meet us at the Tunkhannock Riverside Park Launch at 4:30 PM to begin our paddle adventure. Afterward, indulge in a sweet treat from the 1961 Ice Cream truck waiting for us at Riverside Park!

Register at https://www.kayaktheriver.com/trips/river-events/

2023 Chamber Kayak Paddle, with special guest paddler WNEP Chelsea Strub.

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Tunkhannock Students & Employers
Embrace School-to-Work Program

Chamber News, Community

Tunkhannock Students & Employers Embrace School-to-Work Program

To address the shortage of workers that is affecting almost every sector, Wyoming County businesses have been looking to Tunkhannock Area High School to supply them with employees. Students enrolled in technology and trades-based curricula are enhancing their skills at ever faster rates, and many are already finding employment during and after school hours. These include coursework as diverse as engineering, cyber security, automotive technology, culinary arts, carpentry and construction, workplace financial management, and early childhood education.

The TAHS School-to-Work Program suffered during the pandemic largely due its intrinsic hands-on components. But it has more than bounced back in the past two years as students and parents reassess the benefits of trades-based education as it relates to an ever-evolving economy and industrial landscape. There are currently 72 students enrolled in the welding program alone. An impressive 20 percent of this year’s seniors have turned to cooperative education as a pathway to employment.

The curriculum is a combination of state-approved programs from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and a variety of supplemental programming. There is strong emphasis on employability skills, which include teamwork, interview skills, and writing resumes and cover letters.

“Pretty much everybody has a job or is close to getting one,” Greg Ellsworth, director of Career and Technology Education (CTE) for the school district, said of senior enrolled in the program. The 600-hour School-to-Work course requires 120 hours of daily classroom work, with 40 seniors currently enrolled. “If they complete that, they take the NOCTI test at the end.”

The nationally-rated NOCTI exams are tailored to the individual CTE programs. In addition to the aforementioned, they include small engines and power equipment, building construction, business technology, computer programming and coding, information technology, graphic design and print media, engineering technology and architecture, machining and metal fabrication, and wood technology.

Many students, Ellsworth noted, take classes in more than one course of study to fine tune skills for a specific job or career path. If they opt to further their education after TAHS, many of the CTE courses can be converted to college credits, giving them a head start toward a degree. Five participants are currently employed by the school as paid interns – four of them working together on the District’s tech support system and one as a custodian. Others have found work outside the school.

Tunkhannock senior Collin Matosky-Bradbury is in his second year of the CTE business program with additional coursework in computer technologies. He and a fellow classmate Michael Volker have been working at Milnes Engineering after school helping to digitize handwritten records that go back several decades.

“It’s nice to have these kids in an office environment,” Ellsworth remarked. “And they are making a big difference too.”

“It’s a fun job,” said Collin. “And we’re going to scan all of their maps and hyperlink them.” He credits TAHS instructor Rob Kuschke for giving him a solid understanding of Microsoft Office. “Just having that class has prepared me for the job.”

Tony Ostir, another TAHS senior, has been applying his education in automotive technologies as an employee at Northstar Stone where he works on a wide variety of equipment and vehicles. Tony will continue his education in electronic diagnostics and related studies beginning in June at the Universal Technical Institute in Exton. He plans to take back-to-back certification programs that will include specific instruction on Ford vehicles.

Collin will attend Penn State to pursue an accounting degree with the intent of securing a future as an accountant or financial manager. “This is a new generation,” he stated. “Newer minds are good minds, and we have much to offer.”

Both young men credit the School-to-Work Program and their teachers for helping them identify and follow their interests. “If a kid really likes a certain subject, they are going to want to work in that field,” Tony maintained. “And they’re eager to learn more.”

Third-year students in the Early Childhood Education program are also finding gainful employment outside the school, working at local day care centers. Like their counterparts in automotive, welding, carpentry, and construction whose coursework is largely hands-on, they work directly with children involved in the Tiger Tots program at TAHS.

Instructor Lori Bishop explained that her students are getting all of the individual credentials mandated for certification as a Child Development Associate, including CPR, first aid, and food safety. And they can all be completed right at the school. “It’s all about getting the certification earlier,” Bishop related. “They’ll be ready to get a job when they leave here.”

On the flip-side of career-specific courses are Employability Skills, handled at TAHS by Andrew Ulitchney, who was brought on board as an instructor when students returned to their classrooms as the pandemic eased. “This would include soft skills, which are personality traits and behaviors that will help candidates get hired and succeed at their work,” Ulitchney explained. “They relate directly to how well you can work with and interact with others.” Lessons also include resume and interviewing skills, communication skills and financial management. And Ulitchney conducts monthly meetings at a student’s place of employment with the student and the employer.

Ellsworth and all of the CTE instructors are pleasantly surprised by the growth in participation among students in the School-to-Work Program, at least double what it was prior to the pandemic and equally involving girls and boys. The Tunkhannock Area School District is gaining a reputation for turning out work-ready students, and Ellsworth fields calls daily from local business owners looking to fill entry-level positions. “Increasing CTE programming and student participation is a great trend for our students and community,” Ellsworth stated.

To learn more about the program, including dual enrollment, which allows a student to earn college credits while they are still in high school, interested readers can log on to tasd.net and click on Curriculum and Instruction under the District Information tab. Ellsworth can be reached at Greg.Ellsworth@tasd.net or by phone at 570-836-3111.

– Written by Rick Hiduk


Automotive Technology teacher Kyle Snover (right) provided the knowledge for Tunkhannock senior Tony Ostir to get a job at Northstar Stone as a vehicle mechanic.

Tunkhannock senior Collin Matosky-Bradbury (right) got his Microsoft Office training from instructor Rob Kuschke and is using it for a job at Milnes Engineering

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CDL Scholarships Available for Wyoming County Students

Chamber News, Community

CDL Scholarships Available for Wyoming County Students

As the demand for certified truck drivers continues to grow, classes at the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center’s CDL Training Center near Dimock are filling faster. The current count of successful graduates of the 150-hour course stands at about 130 having passed the 100 graduate milestone in June 2022. Opportunities for students have grown along with enrollment, thanks to the ongoing support of companies that need new drivers to fill their own ranks due to growth in the industry and positions left open by retirees.

“We started very small with two trucks,” said Tammi Mowry, financial aid director and adult continuing education office coordinator for the SCCTC. The addition of two more big rigs, trailers of different sizes, a dump truck, and a deluxe driver trainer simulator have helped students explore a greater variety of options available to them upon completion of the course. “We’ve received an enormous amount of support from the industry,” Mowry related. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the additional equipment needed to support the program’s growth.”

Material contributions, corporate donations and even funding through the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are fueling the tremendous success of this program. Business owners and managers participate as Advisory Board members to keep school administrators abreast of changes in the industry. They also have opportunities to meet students prior to graduation at recruitment events.

“As a feeder program, SCCTC has produced more well-rounded students than any other CDL training school in the area,” said Matt Austin, president and CEO of Eastern Freight Systems and several other businesses that routinely employ truck drivers. “We are actively engaging with every class, contributing to the students’ exposure to the vast number of transportation opportunities that we are able to provide them upon graduation.”

Austin’s companies, including Holcombe Energy, have hired more than 40 drivers from the school so far. Fresh graduates are mentored for up to six months as they learn to apply their education to job-specific tasks. “We are routinely impressed with the students regulatory knowledge, which makes our continued education easier to grasp,” Austin stated.

Students learn that there is much more to operating a big rig, dump truck, or water hauler than just moving it from point A to point B. According to Bob Bennie, trucking foreman for GasSearch Drilling Services (GDS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Coterra Energy, proper loading and unloading procedures, as well as proper radio communication skills via a CB and two-way radio are equally important facets of operation that must become second nature before a new driver can strike out on their own. GDS recently hired its 14th driver from the program and, with 20 more open positions, Bennie is eager to continue filling the ranks from SCCTC.

According to Patrick Musheno, director of safety at Meshoppen Transport and subsidiary Susquehanna Gas Field Services (SGFS), the need for drivers is increasing due to a number of factors. “The current driving force is aging, and new drivers are not lining up quickly enough to fill that gap,” he remarked. “We must do what we can to interest others in a driving profession.”  

SCCTC administrators are finding new ways to bring people, including veterans and high school students, into the program, and the school has also added a third instructor. Students give the CDL Center high marks too, crediting the instructors for spending ample time preparing them for testing and building their confidence.

“They basically taught me how to drive,” said Layne Koziol of Susquehanna, who graduated from the summer 2022 session. “They’re all great people there.” Koziol was immediately hired by Nelsen’s Tree Service in Binghamton, NY, where he is working his way up through the ranks to drive a Freightliner.

One initiative that has gathered steam over the past year is the opportunity for 18-year old high school students to use Coterra’s EITC funding to enter the CDL program and obtain a CDL license at no cost.

“This program is tremendously successful, and it is our fastest growing cohort at the school,” said Mowry.

Last year, Coterra’s external affairs manager Bill desRosiers challenged Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce president Gina Suydam to spread awareness by offering 10 such scholarships to Wyoming County students.

“Coterra supports Wyoming County Chamber’s workforce development efforts by allocating additional scholarships to the Susquehanna County CDL school to Wyoming County students,” desRosiers stated. “This funding is available to high school students interested in a career in driving or those who want to bolster their resume.” The scholarships are available to high school seniors and juniors who are 18 years old and interested in a CDL.

Whether you are a high school student or an adult learner, now is the time to inquire about upcoming sessions and financial aid. Class B permits can be used for driving dump trucks, water tankers and cement mixers, which can provide a steady income while the driver pursues the Class A license, which allows them to drive combination vehicles like tractor trailers.

Since June 2022, alone, the CDL school has enrolled 39 students, 12 of whom received the high school scholarship. “A lot of students are interested but don’t know how to pay for it,” Mowry related. “There are so many funding opportunities out there for tuition assistance.” Tuition assistance for adults can come from the Workforce Initiative and Opportunity Fund, Veterans Education and Training Services, and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Some companies cover all or part of the tuition for employees to complete the course, as their certification increases their flexibility and value on the job.

“In short, the SCCTC CDL program is critical to our success and has become a vital source of extremely qualified drivers,” Bennie stated.

“If not for schools like SCCTC, it would be much more difficult for trucking companies to fill their empty seats,” Musheno agreed.

Classroom seats are already filled for the first session of 2023, which starts in February. Though the start date for the next session has not yet been confirmed, Mowry is taking names of those interested. To learn more, interested readers can log on to www.scctc-school.org  or call 570-278-9229.

 
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Food Distribution Program Continues in Wyoming County

Chamber News, Community

Members of the Wyoming County Community Alliance joined together with local volunteers to pack boxes for the Food Emergency Distribution Program of Wyoming County on Monday, Feb. 21. Taking part in that activity were, front row, Sue Gumble from Lackawanna College’s School of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce (WYCCC) President Gina Suydam, Sarah Paddleford and Jonathan Todd. In the second row are Joan Hutchison and WYCCC Marketing and Events Coordinator Allison Schultz. In back are Timothy VanVleek, Jeremy Yadlosky and Thomas Evans. Absent from the photo are volunteers Dianne and Judd Fitze.

By Warren Howeler

On Monday, Feb. 21, the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce offices in Tunkhannock Township were abuzz with activity.

People moved from room to room, packing boxes and sealing them.

Those boxes, once packed, were then moved outside of the Mile Road facility and stacked in specific piles.

The work was orderly in its nature and the volunteers were determined to do the best job possible.

A scene like this has been commonplace at the chamber offices on the third Monday of every month for the past two years.

The purpose behind this particular day was to make sure that over 100 families within Wyoming County had enough to eat as the area—much like the rest of the nation—struggles in the aftermath of the recent pandemic.

What brought this group of dedicated people out on this Monday was the continuation of the county’s Food Emergency Distribution Program.

The initiative was started in 2020 at the height of the issues being encountered with COVID-19 and was spearheaded by Debbie Shurtleff of the Wyoming County Community Alliance.

Every month since April of that year, volunteers have gathered with representatives from the community alliance and the chamber to pack boxes of food for those in need throughout the county.

In that time, the program has delivered more than 1,500 boxes to families in need.

The non-perishable food items for these deliveries are provided by CEO and Weinberg Food Bank. Potatoes and fresh fruit are purchased for each delivery using donations provided to the community alliance.

In some cases, boxes meant for families with young children have diapers and formula included in them.

Once the boxes are fully packed and sorted to their specific destination, volunteer drivers pick them up and deliver them to where they need to be.

Approximately 100 families within the county were set to receive a box from Monday’s distribution.

The program has been made possible through donations from local businesses and residents, as well as tax credits that were awarded by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development’s Neighborhood Assistance Program.

Families who are in need and would like to be added to the distribution program are asked to sign up by going to wyccc.com/alliance.

In addition, anyone who would like to volunteer or make a donation to the program is encouraged to visit that website for more information.

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Why Shop Local?

Community

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, “Small local businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy; they create two thirds of net new jobs and drive U.S. innovation.” What does that mean for Wyoming County and for local economies in general? For a number of reasons, small businesses are integral to economic success on a regional level.

While larger firms tend to hire people from broader regions, smaller businesses typically hire workers in their geographic areas. This means the wages and wage taxes remain local and cycle through the economy. Workers spend most of their wages in their own communities, which supports other businesses and jobs – the ripple effect. Earned income taxes from these wages support local government.

The businesses’ revenues are also subject to local taxes regardless of business structure. Sales taxes and property taxes from these ventures also support the local governments.

Furthermore, small businesses have the ability to respond and adapt to regional change. They know and understand their communities. They are also vested in these areas; instead of simply perceiving the locations as markets through which they may profit, people associated with small businesses are at home in their communities. They are unlikely to relocate, and because of their commitment, they tend to support their areas in a variety of ways – through philanthropy, volunteerism, and purchasing locally themselves.

There are 652 businesses in Wyoming County, which employ about 10,500 people. Over 78 percent of these businesses employ less than nine people. Although there is no way to identify how many of those 652 businesses are locally owned, many with less than nine employees fall into the category. A few of those with more than nine workers may be locally owned as well. A study by the American Economic Review found that “local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar as they tend to create locally owned supply chains and reinvest in their employees and community. The data also shows that local retailers return 52 percent of their revenue back into the local economy, compared to just 14 percent from national chains.”

Grant Barnhill, founder of shared workspace community Shift Workspace noted in his research that, “If every U.S. family spent an additional $10 per month at a local shop, the result would be an additional $9.3 billion directly returned to local communities.” In other words, high-level economic impact analysis demonstrates that a Wyoming County retailer with three employees is responsible for about $350,000 of impact rippling through the economy in a given year!

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