Lancaster City businesses receive tax credits to drive innovation and growth

Four Lancaster City businesses have received more than $220,000 in 2022 Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) tax credits, Lancaster City Alliance announced Tuesday. 

Lancaster City Alliance is the state-designated coordinating agency for the KIZ tax credit program in Lancaster. 

The aim of the program is to help drive business innovation and growth by encouraging and cultivating entrepreneurs in important industry sectors. The sectors include high technology, life sciences, business services, and advanced materials/diversified manufacturing. 

Awardees include the following businesses: 

  • Creative Coding Group Inc. – $22,975.00. 
  • Pipedream Marketing Inc. - $77,546.00. 
  • Triode Media Group, LTD - $21,307.00. 
  • VIZpin Inc. - $100,000.00 (maximum amount) 

“We are pleased for the opportunity to serve as coordinators for the Lancaster City KIZ in support of the City’s vibrant entrepreneurs,” Lancaster City Alliance President Marshall W. Snively said in a statement. “Each time we support a small business owner in the city, we are promoting job growth, investing money back into our community, and improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods.” 

The KIZ Program is an incentive program providing tax credits to qualified small businesses in existence for less than eight years. It is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. 

Lancaster is one of 29 KIZ regions in Pennsylvania. 

“We appreciate the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development in providing this program to foster innovation and growth,” said Paul Bodell, president and CEO of VIZpin Inc. “As a manufacturer of smartphone access control and visitor management solutions, this credit has made it possible for VIZpin to bring on new staff in sales, customer service, and product development, increasing leads over tenfold and facilitating the launch of a new product.” 

Lancaster City Alliance also manages the Building On Strength Economic Development Strategic Plan for the City. To encourage investment, Lancaster City Alliance has worked to align the City’s KIZ locations with the areas identified in the Building On Strength Plan. 

“The Lancaster City Alliance team is here to support our business community with a variety of programs that make it as easy as possible to do business and grow and thrive here in the city,” said Jeremy Young, Lancaster City Alliance Director of Community and Economic Development, and Lancaster City KIZ Coordinator. 

“What’s more, programs like the KIZ specifically encourage the growth of businesses in the types of industries that create thriving-wage jobs, now more important than ever in today’s economic climate.” 

Businesses interested in viewing a map of the Lancaster City KIZ and learning how to qualify for the tax credit program can visit lancastercityalliance.org.

Downtown Dollars available for purchase at Lancaster Central Market

Seeking to keep money in Lancaster City and benefit local shoppers and merchants, Downtown Dollars are now being sold at Central Market. 

The Lancaster City gift certificates can be purchased on Market days at the information stand in Market House on 23 N. Market St. The Downtown Dollars can also be bought on the Central Market website. 

Every Central Market stand will honor the gift certificates, which can be used at restaurants, retailers, cultural sites and more than 100 venues in Lancaster City. By encouraging shoppers to shop in Lancaster City, Downtown Dollars will keep the money local, and area merchants and farmers will benefit from shoppers purchasing locally made or grown products.  

“Downtown Dollars serve as a gift certificate to so many shops, restaurants, services, and cultural institutions in the city,” Marshall Snively, president, Lancaster City Alliance, said in a statement. “Now that shoppers have the opportunity to purchase Downtown Dollars at Central Market, it is now even more convenient to experience all that Lancaster City has to offer.” 

Lancaster Central Market is open on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday 6 a.m. – 3 p.m. Downtown Dollars can be purchased by shoppers during market days and at the Downtown Investment District Office during regular business hours at 115 E King Street in Lancaster. 

Melissa Siwiec, executive director, Lancaster Central Market, said selling Downtown Dollars at the Central Market information stand makes sense since they’re gift certificates that can be used at stands and markets across Lancaster City. 

“It gives shoppers one more reason to shop locally and meet us at market,” Siwiec said.

PA Chamber examines Shapiro’s strategy to rebuild workforce

Gov. Josh Shapiro has been touring Pennsylvania speaking of his proposals to restore the state’s flagging workforce. An effort that may not be looking enough at the big picture, according to the PA Chamber of Business and Industry. 

Jon Anzur, vice president of public affairs for the PA Chamber, noted that Pennsylvania businesses of every size and industry are dealing with a workforce shortage that predates the pandemic but was intensified by COVID-19. 

“Even before COVID, businesses were struggling with the worker shortage, but the pandemic really exacerbated this challenge,” said Anzur. “So many workers left Pennsylvania to go to another state to find opportunities or just left the workforce entirely. Employers as a result are struggling to find qualified workers. 

“You’re seeing Pennsylvania largely starting to recover the jobs that were lost during the pandemic. The challenge, though, is that Pennsylvania lagged the rest of the nation by six months to fully recover those jobs and our workforce today is smaller than it was pre-pandemic.” 

In the two-plus weeks following Shapiro’s first budget address, the governor has crisscrossed the state discussing his budget’s “commonsense” proposals to rebuild Pennsylvania’s workforce.  

Shapiro’s tour has taken him to Lancaster City to speak to local firefighters, to the Pennsylvania Police Academy in Hershey, the George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science in Philadelphia, Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Gwynedd Mercy University, Colfax K-8 Elementary School in Pittsburgh, and Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy in Erie. 

A common thread to all the above is Shapiro’s desire to hear firsthand the challenges facing nurses, police, and teachers, three professions that have been hit particularly hard by a decreased workforce. 

Anzur said that while the PA Chamber appreciates the governor focusing on the workforce issue, he thinks the chamber would encourage lawmakers to focus on policies that would improve workforce development across all sectors. 

“From our perspective, job training and investing in proven job training and career and technical job training programs would help individuals develop the skills they need for the jobs that are available,” Anzur stated. “We talk to employers in manufacturing, in technology and innovation, in health care and they have jobs that are available. They just can’t find the workers who have the skills necessary for those careers.” 

“Investing in different educational programs and job training, and re-training of workers for these available jobs would go a long way,” he added. 

Lack of affordable health care is another challenge the chamber sees as exacerbating the worker shortage. 

“This is really a multi-pronged issue,” said Anzur. “We see younger families struggling to afford childcare and it’s leading to one of the adults in the family to leave the workforce to stay home with the kids. This is something we really think the private sector is responsible for driving solutions.” 

To that point, Anzur said the chamber is seeing Pennsylvania’s employers taking up the task of addressing the crucial childcare issue in various ways. Employers are assessing their employee’s needs to determine what working parents need from their employers, what their flexibility is in the business, and if they can provide hybrid work schedules and work from home. 

“Implementing these sorts of strategies and tracking the impact is something we’re seeing from our members and businesses across Pennsylvania, and I think it’s starting to have a positive impact,” said Anzur. “Figuring out that childcare piece will go a long way to getting adults back into the workforce.” 

Viewing the workforce shortage from a macro-economic perspective, Anzur said that as Pennsylvania’s tax and regulatory environment improves, so will investment into the state. That means more economic growth, which would have a positive impact on wages and bring Pennsylvanians back into the workforce and keep them in state. 

“With the pandemic, we saw tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians leaving the state to go other places for opportunities,” said Anzur. “As businesses are able to save on costs as the result of tax and regulatory reform, they will be able to invest more of that money back into the workforce. That’s going to lift wages and lead to more Pennsylvanians seeking employment here.” 

An additional key factor in rebuilding the state’s workforce focuses on continuing the phase down of the corporate net income tax from its current 8.99% to 8.49% later this year and eventually down to 4.99% by 2031. 

Permitting reform is another issue Shapiro has been speaking to, and Anzur noted that Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate have introduced legislation to streamline and speed up the permitting process. 

“That’s a process that costs businesses millions of dollars annually here in Pennsylvania,” said Anzur. “As businesses save on those costs and are able to reinvest that money back into their workforce, I think you’ll see a positive impact of people coming back into the labor force here in Pennsylvania.” 

Workforce shortages rank among the biggest challenges facing Pennsylvania residents, and Shapiro has proposed incentivizing the nursing, police, and teaching professions with a three-year tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for new recruits. 

Anzur said the PA Chamber agrees with the governor’s prioritizing the labor shortage, and at the same time is taking a big picture view of the crisis. 

“From our perspective,” said Anzur, “while we share the governor’s concern and focus on strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce, we’re looking at a more macro approach to addressing this issue that will impact positively Pennsylvania’s workforce across all sectors – job training, childcare, and improving our tax and reg environment.”

New tourism trail targets coffee drinkers

Cafe One Eight at 18 W Orange St, Lancaster, is one of 21 coffee shops on the Discover Lancaster Coffee Trail. PHOTO/CAFE ONE EIGHT

Discover Lancaster is rolling out a new initiative that puts coffee drinkers on the road to Lancaster County coffee shops.

Some 20 unique coffee shops, in fact, are spread across Lancaster County and reach from Lancaster City to Ephrata.

“The rollout comes at a time when tourism has traditionally seen an uptick in out-of-town visitors arriving for the popular fall harvest season,” said Ed Harris, President & CEO of Discover Lancaster. “This is one more fun activity to add to a jam-packed itinerary to enhance the visitor experience. There’s plenty of options to find a great coffee and pumpkin-spiced latte.”

Developed in partnership with Bandwango, the Discover Lancaster Coffee Trail is the first in a series of themed trails to be rolled out in future seasons to enhance the visitor experience. Harris said the mobile passport offers a curated collection of coffee shops in Lancaster, as well as exclusive deals and discounts to favorite local coffee spots.

“From Lancaster City, to Intercourse, to Ephrata, and everywhere in between,” said Harris, “there’s a wide range of unique coffee shop experiences that can be found in our towns across Lancaster County.”

The list of participating shops on the Coffee Trail include:

Aura Espresso Room; Bird-in-hand Bakery & Cafe; Butter & Bean; Cafe 301; Cafe Arabella; Cafe One Eight; Coffee Co – Lancaster; Copper Cup; Courtyard Cafe on Main; Hudson Botanical; Javteas Gourmet Coffee Cafe; La Mattina Caffe; Mill 72 Bake Shop & Cafe; Passenger Coffee & Tea; Prince Street Cafe; Rachel’s Cafe & Creperie; September Farm Cheese; Speckled Hen Coffee; Square One Coffee Roasters; The Houston Co. Cafe; and The Roasted Rooster

“Our new mobile-based coffee trail highlights the many small businesses who have poured everything they have into opening the coffee shop of their dreams,” Harris said.

Visitors to the participating coffee shops can check-in digitally at each stop to count towards their prize. After 5 stops visitors earn a Discover Lancaster Sticker & Coaster. After 10 stops, a Discover Lancaster Coffee Mug. A Discover Lancaster Canvas Bag is earned after 15 stops. Prizes can be redeemed at Discover Lancaster visitors center.

“This is an invitation to celebrate Lancaster and bring more business to our small businesses,” said Harris. “Our mission is to educate people about what’s in our back yard. We have expectations for an ice cream trail, a brewery trail. We’re excited to roll this out and test it.”

Central Pa., Lehigh Valley businesses get KIZ tax credits  

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday the approval of $14 million in 2021 Keystone Innovation Zone tax credits for 197 early-stage technology companies, including 10 in central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. 

In the Northwest Lancaster City KIZ, tax credits went to Triode Media Group Ltd., $100,000; Creative Coding Group Inc., $9,074; and VIZpin Inc., $95,826, while ReturnLogic Inc. in the York County KIZ got $100,000 in tax credits. 

In Southside Bethlehem KIZ, Soltech Solutions LLC, $100,000 and $50,326; Almas Foods International, $88,569; Paro AI Inc., $100,000; UBMe Inc., $2,824; Seven Sirens Brewing Co., $100,000; and Optamo LLC, $14,895, received tax credits. 

The Keystone Innovation Zone program provides tax credits for companies that have been operating for less than eight years, have increased gross revenue over the previous year, are located in a KIZ, and are within a targeted industry sector such as information technology or advanced manufacturing/diversified materials, a release explained. 

The program provides young companies with working capital to meet critical needs, whether that’s capital expenditures, workforce expansion, operational expenses or making these businesses more attractive to investors.