GRCA Commerce Quarterly Fall 2022

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Chamber Alliance

FALL 2022
Quarterly Supporting Berks County Agriculture Plus:

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606 Court Street, Reading, PA 19601 • 610.376.6766

The opinions expressed in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

As the business voice of Greater Reading, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance leads the business community, as the economic driver, to a vibrant community.

Your Greater Reading Chamber Alliance…

» Partners with all other economic development organizations in creating an environment for growth.

» Enables all businesses to take deliberate and decided action on issues affecting their welfare.

» Helps small business thrive and entrepreneurs strive.

» Develops employees through training and educational programs/alliances.

» Prepares tomorrow’s workforce with our involvement in education partnerships.

» Operates as a model business and pursues best practices.

» Maintains a five-star rating as one of the best chambers in Pennsylvania.

» Reflects our multicultural community at large.

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Commerce Quarterly Magazine is published quarterly by Hoffmann Publishing Group, Reading, PA • 610.685.0914

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Greater Reading Chamber Alliance On the cover: Taste of Berks... (See page 8) Wayne Becker, Zerbe Photography FEATURES: 8 Taste of Berks 13 Spotlight on the FBA Supporting Berks County Agriculture 14 Protecting the Land 16 Farming for the Future 18 An Ode to Agriculture IN EVERY ISSUE: 5 Letter From the Editor 6 A Message from GRCA CEO & President 26 Greater Together 30 Member News 34 New Members 34 Member Anniversaries 8 In Your Community 28 Main Street Programs DEPARTMENTS: Business & Community Advocacy 20 Far More Than Just a Farm Bill Events 27 2023 Event Calendar Preview 22 Moving Manufacturing Forward 2022 MFG Summit Explores Industry Trends, Challenges 24 What Do You Really Want Out of Work?

letter from the editor

Although this fall edition of Commerce Quarterly magazine is dedicated to all things food and agriculture, I thought I would use this opportunity to give you a little run down of the fun project we have been working on to add more value to the GRCA membership.

GRCA has partnered with Owners and Co-Founders of Bell Media Group Zach Bell and Kyra Denlinger and local photographer Lauren A. Little to tell the story of five GRCA-members businesses and how each has been innovative to grow and thrive.

Board of Directors


Chairman Daniel R. Langdon – East Penn Mfg, Co., Inc.

Vice Chairman Ernest J. Choquette – The Stevens & Lee Companies

Treasurer Jeffrey R. Rush – Fulton Bank

Secretary Michael A. Duff – Penske


Gregg A. Bogia – Bogia Engineering, Inc.

John H. Gallen, Jr. – EthoSource

Jim Gerlach – Greater Reading Chamber Alliance

Laura Haffner – Wells Fargo

Bob Harrop – East Penn Mfg, Co., Inc.

Sara Kuzma-Stump – Suburban Testing Labs

Susan D. Looney – Reading Area Community College

Jamey Maack – Industrial Metal Plating

Debra L. Millman, Esq. – Greater Berks Development Fund

Michele L. Richards – Fulton Bank

David C. Roland – Truist

Timothy D. Romig – Customers Bank

Peter Rye – Brentwood Industries

David W. Stonesifer – Herbein + Company, Inc.

Christina L. Weeber – East Penn Mfg, Co., Inc.

John Weidenhammer – Weidenhammer


Chairwoman Michele L. Richards – Fulton Bank

Vice Chairwoman Sara Kuzma-Stump – Suburban Testing Labs

Solicitor Timothy Dietrich – Barley Snyder

Treasurer Laura Haffner – Wells Fargo

Secretary Gregg A. Bogia – Bogia Engineering Inc.


Lucy Cortez – Community First Fund

Brian Dietrich – Ernst & Young (EY LLP)

Jonathan Encarnacion – UPMC for You, Inc.

Josephina Encarnacion – SBDC – Kutztown University

Becky A. Eshbach – UGI Utilities, Inc.

Andrea Funk – Enersys

So far, the project has taken us to America’s oldest hatmaker, a restoration company, a bilingual magazine, a bakery machinery producer and a toy company — all of which exude what it means to be innovative. By the time this edition is in your hands, a few of the stories will already be published, and you’ll be able to see exactly what I mean.

While we hope that other businesses see these stories and say they want to join the Chamber, that wasn’t necessarily the main goal. We wanted the community to connect with these businesses, and more importantly, with the stories of the people who run them.

Think your company should be featured in this series?

Please contact me at or 610-898-7780 and tell me why and what sets your company apart. I know the GRCA membership base is full of companies which are doing business differently. Those are the stories we want to tell.

Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz – Mi Casa Su Casa

John H. Gallen, Jr. – EthoSource

Jim Gerlach – Greater Reading Chamber Alliance

Jack Gombach – Community Networking Resources

Dr. George Grant – Penn State Berks

Dan Gring – D&B Construction

Dr. Jill M. Hackman – Berks County Intermediate Unit

Bob Harrop – East Penn Mfg. Co., Inc.

Joey Jurgielewicz – Jurgielewicz & Son, Ltd.

Daniel B. Laws, Jr. – DaBrian Marketing Group

Kristi Gage-Linderman – Gage Personnel

Paul Oxholm – Sharpoint Partners, Inc.

Ryan Redner – Redner’s Markets

Jennifer C. Rivera – FirstEnergy Corp.

Rodney Ridley – O’Pake Institute at Alvernia University

Peter Rye – Brentwood Industries

Alan Shuman – Shuman Development Group

David W. Stonesifer – Herbein + Company, Inc.

Ira Tauber – Triose

John Weidenhammer – Weidenhammer


Chairman Dan Langdon – East Penn Mfg. Co., Inc.

Vice Chairman Ernest J. Choquette – Stevens & Lee/Griffin

President Debra L. Millman, Esq. – Greater Berks Development Fund

VP/Treasurer/Secretary Jeffery Rush – Fulton Bank

Secretary Michael Duff, Esq. – Penske Truck Leasing


Richard Bashore – Reading Electric Motor Service, Inc.

Joseph Butto – Tompkins VIST Bank

P. Michael Ehlerman – Yuasa Battery, Inc.

Jim Gerlach – Greater Reading Chamber Alliance

Scott Hauseman – Fulton Bank

Ginger Kunkel – Tompkins VIST Bank

Susan D. Looney – Reading Area Community College

Visit our website

For the most up-to-date schedule of events, training and webinars, visit and click on the events calendar at the top of the page.

Jamey Maack – Industrial Metal Plating

David C. Roland – Berks BB&T

Timothy D. Romig – Customers Bank

David Shaffer – EnerSys

Joseph Sigle – Santander Bank

Sally Stewart – Greater Reading Chamber Alliance

Michael Vind – FSL Public Finance

Christina L. Weeber – East Penn Mfg. Co., Inc.


Committed to supporting ag

For the past two years, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) has continued its robust support for the agribusiness community. Because agriculture is a top industry in Berks County, GRCA launched its agricultural literacy campaign “Grow Together” on the Rebuild Berks website in 2020.

The campaign was created to educate the community about the local products grown and produced right here in Berks County. The campaign has also highlighted our growing “agritourism” industry, where farmers are opening their farms for consumers to reconnect with where their food comes from and experience the fun of corn mazes, picking out a fresh Christmas tree, sipping local wines amongst the vines and much more. While the campaign will still tell the stories of local farmers and their products, the website content will have its own home.

In the coming months, will launch as its own microsite. GRCA will continue to partner with Strunk Media Group and local photographer Susan Angstadt to assist in populating the pages to add new content and photos.

A new, more interactive directory will be built to highlight the agribusinesses of Berks County. Visitors will be able to toggle between a list view and map view of the directory and filter results by desired product and type of business.

We’ll also be including an “Ag Events Community Calendar” to serve as a central location to find farm markets and agritourism events year-round.

Financial assistance

GRCA is also committed to increasing economic development opportunities for Berks County’s farmers by offering low interest, manageable term financing through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) program. This matching financing program is open to eligible businesses and farms that retain or create jobs in Pennsylvania. It helps them purchase land, buildings, construction and renovation costs, machinery and equipment purchases, working capital and accounts receivable lines of credit and other eligible expenses. GRCA works with the business’ other lender(s) to maximize the utilization of this program and give the farm the best chance for future success in the future.

Farmers across Berks County have successfully utilized this program to expand, grow, and diversify their operations thereby increasing the diversity of local products and contributing to the capacity of the global supply chain. To find out more about PIDA, visit

Stay connected

Sign up for our monthly agriculture newsletter by visiting This newsletter is full of news you can use, farming financial resources and agriculture-related events. We also use this network to send out important, time-sensitive notifications, such as opportunities for local funding through Berks County during COVID and alerts related to the Avian Influenza outbreak this past spring.

GRCA also recognizes that not everyone in the agricultural community utilizes the internet. In response, it has been sending out postcards to more than 600 recipients each quarter and plans on doing so into 2023. The postcards contain important information and upcoming events with a phone number they can call to learn more about each item or event.

a message from GRCA CEO & President

Thank you!



Taste of Berks provides full bellies, fun

The Taste of Berks was back with a bang this year at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in the heart of downtown Reading! More than 500 registered attendees were drawn up to the beautifully restored ballroom by the sounds of The Architects – a local band with big sound who coaxed everyone to dance.

Although the tunes tempted toe-tapping, the real star of the show were the vendors – nearly 30 food and beverage vendors lined the floor, offering sweet, savory and thirst-quenching treats. Just a few of the highlights included fresh shrimp from Adelphia Seafood, creamy cheesesteak over mashed potatoes from Devour Catering, jerky from Gauker Farms, short ribs and polenta from B2 Bistro & Bar, sausage from Konopelski Katering, coconut-chip ice cream from the Great American Creamery, pecan cupcakes from Straight from Heaven Charcuterie, and so much more that it boggles the mind. Between bites, guests stayed hydrated at strategically placed beverage vendors around the room, featuring Sly Fox, Chatty Monks, Folino Estate Winery and Roselawn Bistro.

New this year was the Maker’s Market. Across the Abraham Lincoln’s mezzanine glittered beautiful, handmade treasures for sale just in time for the holidays. GoggleWorks featured blown glass, candles, and ceramics while next door Shearer’s Farm showed its goats’ milk soaps. At the end, Riverview Garden & Gifts glittered with books, bags, beauty products and more.

All photos courtesy of Wayne Becker, Zerbe Photography By Katie Johnsen, Event Coordinator, GRCA

Herbein + Company, Inc. (Herbein) is a leading Mid-Atlan�c regional CPA advisory firm whose professionals specialize in crea�ng impact for clients.

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The makers weren’t the only ones selling – many of the food and beverage vendors also had items available for sale either to sip as people walked around, or to bring home with them. Not only was this a great way to kick off the holiday season, but a boon to the local businesses represented in the room. Attendees also went home with a Holiday Gift Guide featuring the vendors so they can continue to support them in the coming holiday season.

If that weren’t enough, there was more to take home than good memories, gifts and full bellies. The Photo Booth Lady was there to capture those memories with silly props and hats, and Caricatures by Courtney made quick work of smiling faces all night long.

on page 10

WFMZ reporter Jack Reinhard went live from the event floor during the 5:30 p.m. broadcast and interviewed Rachael Romig, Senior Director of Events & Special Programs, who said, “The pandemic really hit hard. I know we’re hopefully coming out of it, and this gave us an opportunity to really bring them back and say, ‘We’re still open, we’re still here and we still have great things to offer the community.’”

You can still shop the fantastic Taste of Berks vendors for all your holiday gifts and everyday needs. Check out our Go Buy Berks Gift Card Program It’s a gift card you can purchase that lets you shop locally, and all the vendors who came to Taste of Berks are part of it. With your help, we will continue to support local businesses, in this season and beyond.

10 COMMERCE QUARTERLY FALL 2022 cover story continued
Scan QR code for our Holiday Gift Guide!
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Spotlight on the FBA

Since its founding in 2014, the Family Business Alliance’s (FBA) goal has been to provide family-owned and closely held businesses with opportunities to develop and learn alongside each other. The FBA, a signature program of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA), also has a variety of resources available to its members, such as its peer groups.

FBA peer groups are designed to facilitate discussion among businesses which may be facing similar problems, as well as create friendships and professional connections with like-minded individuals. This year, the FBA has expanded to include small and closely held businesses within their peer groups since many face the same issues as family businesses. Currently there are five peer groups containing members from a variety of industries. Together, they all share open discussion and both give and receive advice.

“The benefit to me for being a member of the FBA and being in a peer group is the relationship that I have with the other members. We can bring any triumph or challenge to the table and know that we will walk away with ideas to bring back to our company to tackle that challenge,” said Kim Loudis, Barbey Electronics Vice President and FBA member.

Many FBA members are grateful for the space that the alliance provides to discuss issues related to running a small business.

“I find the FBA invaluable to me as the President, and co-owner with my husband Craig, of VA Productions. The safe environment it offers to share all your challenges with the group is valued as are the relationships formed,” said FBA member Virginia Dodge.

One key component of the FBA is the Next Gen Peer Group. The Next Gen group was created to address the issues that family-owned businesses face when dealing with company succession. Participation in this group allows for upcoming leaders to have an open dialogue about generational differences between new and old executives.

Though the FBA has been growing steadily since its invention eight years ago, the program continues to prioritize connection and growth between its members.

FBA fosters a great atmosphere for collaboration. In January of this year, Chatty Monks Brewery hosted the January FBA Peer group reception. FBA member Justin Spannuth, COO of Unique Snacks, was introduced to Rajavel Jagadesan, owner of Chatty Monks, during this event. This chance meeting spawned the invention of Split Face, a craft beer inspired by pretzels and created by Chatty Monks in collaboration with Unique Snacks.


Protecting the Land

Farmland preservation benefits everyone

Berks County is an important agricultural hub. Home to some of the most productive non-irrigated soils in the country and within an overnight drive of 100 million people, it is a vital contributor to the regional food and fiber supply. Berks County’s diverse agriculture provides our community with everything from chicken, dairy, and beef to Christmas trees, produce and honey. It contributes $555 mil lion1 of raw agricultural products annually to our economy and enhances our rural landscape.

In 1988, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, recognizing the value of its farmland and the need to protect it from irreversible loss, passed legislation to create the agricultural land preservation program with the goal of pur chasing perpetual easements on farms so that they must be used for agriculture. Individual counties were tasked with administering the program through county boards. Berks County’s own program began in 1989 with the first farm preserved in 1990. To date, the

county has preserved 801 farms, which total 76,896 acres. Berks County has one of the highest numbers of preserved farms in Pennsylvania and the nation.

The Berks County Department of Agriculture supports the Berks County Agricultural Land Preservation Board to administer the Berks County Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and guide partic ipants through the process. Landowners voluntarily apply to the program and their farm must meet certain criteria to have their application consid ered. Each year, farms are scored, ranked, and then selected based on the available funding, which comes from both the county and the state. Typically, 15 farms are selected each year, but the number of applications is usually several times this amount. Once selected, landowners have the option of preserving their farms through the easement program, the process for which takes one to two years. Landowners


are compensated for the easement, but typically the value is much higher than the amount received. All told, Berks County preserved farm owners have donated over $40 million in their farms’ easement value. The dedication of county farmers is the driver of the continued success of the program.

Maintaining our local food supply is vitally important. There is absolutely no comparison between a locally grown, in-season tomato and one that was shipped across the country. Unfortunately, farmland is a non-renewable resource – once paved over, a farm cannot be restored without extreme measures. Farmland preservation ensures that there will always be land available for our food and fiber production in Berks County. This has proven especially important during recent years considering difficulties with shutdowns and the supply chain.

Large blocks of preserved farmland also provide economic benefits to the county. In addition to the direct employment and economic contributions provided by agricultural production, farms require support services from local businesses, such as equipment and seed dealers, insurance providers, banks, mechanics and truck drivers. Farmers also reinvest their own dollars earned in the community. Especially once the land is committed to farming, a landowner is more willing to invest in their operation and property, including purchases of equipment or construction of buildings, which employs other local businesses. Preserved farmland also requires fewer public services than housing does – i.e., schools, roads and emergency services, which means that farms require fewer tax dollars. This keeps our taxes lower overall.

Preserving our farmland provides other nontangible benefits, too. It maintains the rural character and history of Berks County’s culture and landscape. Farms are important environmentally, as well. All preserved farms are required to have a conservation plan, which supports soil health and water quality. Farmland provides large areas for groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration, which helps keep our water supply clean and helps reduce global climate change. Open farmland and associated woodland also provide habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife.

The preservation of its farmland is an investment by Berks County in both its people and its future. It is not only a permanent commit ment to agriculture, but to the economic, social and environmental benefits that our farmland provides.

1 Source: 2017 Agricultural Census. NASS, USDA.

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Farming for the Future

Financing helps local family

Mark Balthaser, a young, beginning farmer, is following his family’s 130-year tradition. He has worked for his parent’s dairy and cropping operation for years. His parents, Randy and Traci, have owned and operated Northkill Creek Farms in Bernville since 2010 when they purchased their three farms made up of 280 preserved acres from Randy’s father, Wilson Balthaser.

Mark and his parents have constructed two poultry houses for Bell & Evans. Mark will be raising ABF birds for Bell & Evans with the intention of eventually transitioning to organic birds. The family worked with TeamAg for the site prep and worked with Zeise Equipment for the construction of the buildings. They included an additional pad in preparation for a third building in the future. These buildings were constructed on a 79.4-acre farm property located at 665 Shartlesville Road, Bernville.

The Balthaser’s currently milk about 120 cows. Their herd is primarily Holstein cattle, with some registered Brown Swiss. Randy and Traci also farm approximately 400 acres in crops. This

new venture with Bell & Evans is their way of providing a new enterprise for Mark to continue the farming operation and begin the sixth generation of the family business.

The Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) worked with Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit and Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) to finance the $1,300,000 project. Through the collaboration of these institutions, GRCA was able to facilitate the succession planning of these local farmers as well as add to the economy of Berks County.

Every five years, the Berks County Workforce Development Board sets its Industry Priorities to identify leading sectors. For the five-year period of 2022-2027, agriculture is listed as a ‘sustaining industry’ as it continues to track with relatively stable employment at approximately 3,600 jobs in Berks County. Location Quotient (LQ) quantifies how concentrated an industry is within an area in comparison to the rest of the country. For example, an LQ number over 1.0 indicate sectors in a region have high concentrations of employment compared to the national average. Strong Ag Sub-


Sectors based on Location Quotient in Berks include:

• Mushroom Production LQ = 106.62

• Poultry Production LQ = 86.92

• Chicken Egg Production LQ = 9.16

Over the past several years, the majority of PIDA loans in Berks County have been for agriculture-related projects. PIDA provides low-interest loans for eligible businesses and is directly administered by GRCA’s affiliate organization, the Greater Berks Development Fund (GBDF). As the only Certified Economic Development Organization in Berks County, GBDF can assist a variety of different industry sectors to access PIDA financing including manufacturing, industrial, agricultural, research and development, hospitality, defense conversion, recycling, construction, child daycare, retail and service, export, and computer-related service enterprises. PIDA financing can be used for land and building acquisition, construction and renovation costs, machinery and equipment purchases and working capital.

For information on the PIDA program or other financing opportunities, please contact me at 610.898.7761 or ssabanos@

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An Ode to Agriculture

I am often asked what kind of work I do as a food & agriculture attorney in Barley Snyder’s Food & Agribusiness Group. “It depends on the day, we do a lot of different things,” is my response.

It’s been a tough year for farmers – but how many years can we say that’s not the truth? The families that grow the crops and raise livestock to put food on our tables and clothes on our backs face unique challenges that the rest of the world doesn’t. Take, for example, the recent pandemics. Yes, plural. While our firm was helping the rest of the world navigate a new normal “post-COVID,” Barley Snyder’s Food & Agribusiness Industry Group was also serving as a 24-hour hotline for poultry producers dealing with Avian Influenza.

And that’s far from the only extraordinary dilemma farmers face. Corn prices may have been good this year, but it may have been a wash when the change from hot and dry to drowning in rain came a bit too late to support the hay crop. Figuring out how to

fill standing supply agreements is nothing new to our food & agriculture attorneys, even though the lead times associated with all agricultural products create times of both starvation and abundance. Sometimes even when things look good, a disaster wipes out months of planning and hard work, leaving crop insurance and indemnity payments as our only strategy to provide assistance. It’s not always natural disasters –when tariffs burden exports, for example, counseling on available government assistance is challenging but can be the difference that allows a farm to carry on for another season.

How does one pay for a large financial emergency when there is no cash flow but instead wealth only in the form of decidedly illiquid land? That’s where Barley’s team of dedicated food & agriculture attorneys must get creative, helping turn dirt into money. Many times, however, turning money to dirt is just as important, and expanding existing operations onto leased or pur chased land requires careful consideration and planning. Speaking of planning, the next generation is so critical to the majority of farms, and ensuring a smooth transition calls for solutions that


are exclusively tailored. When the cows come home, whose home do they go to when the farm family splits up? It is questions like that which we approach with compassion and experience. It’s not easy operating in a world that not only doesn’t understand your craft, but sometimes even finds it offensive, especially when it comes to the application of pesticides, but our food & agriculture attorneys understand how important the Right to Farm is; and when the regulatory landscape changes out of nowhere, we helped navigate the flux. The only thing constant about the agencies that govern our food system – especially USDA and FDA – is change.

Nurturing connections between farmers and food on our tables presents opportunities to enhance and protect the supply chain. Things that affect food manufacturers have a profound effect on the agricultural businesses that supply them, so every contact we make with food manufacturers, whether it be to negotiate supply contracts or settle a dispute, eventually impacts a farmer’s bottom line one way or another.

There is no “get rich quick” in the agricultural world, even in a bumper crop year. As food & agriculture attorneys, we take great care to make sure farmers understand and mitigate the risks of new ventures, like when industrial hemp first came on the scene.

On the other hand, farmers are renowned for bright ideas, like a gourmet yogurt made exclusively from your family’s organic milk or a chicken so good that supermarkets fight to get it on shelves, and we are proud to counsel these committed entrepreneurs.

Farmers are now, and have always been, some of the most resilient, generous and creative members of our society. Barley Snyder’s Food & Agribusiness Industry Group recognizes the sacrifices and the contributions they make every day and thank them. Each day presents new challenges and new things to be excited about, for farmers and for the attorneys that serve them. More than anything, we are humbled to be able to serve the agricultural community.

Barley Snyder features a team of attorneys dedicated to navigating the unique challenges that the food and agribusiness sector faces. We have experience working with food, beverage and agribusiness clients from family farms to national food and beverage production firms. If you have questions regarding matters related to your food or agricultural business, please contact EmmaRose Strohl or any member of Barley Snyder’s Food & Agribusiness Industry Group.


Far More Than Just a Farm Bill

By the time you read this, the General Election will be over, and we’ll most likely know who has won the races for state and federal offices as well as which party has control of the various chambers. Polls going into the election currently indicate that Republicans are poised to take control of at least the U.S. House since inflation and the economy remain the top issues for voters. The U.S. Senate may also flip or continue to be evenly divided. One of the most important bills that will need to be drawn up and passed by the end of September 2023 is the Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill is an omnibus spending bill that appropriates nearly $500 billion over a five-year period on a vast array of programs related to commodities support, conservation, environmental protection, agribusiness support, supply chain, trade, nutrition, school lunch programs, energy, forestry, specialty crop assistance, rural economic development, credit and financing programs, crop insurance, research and extension, and dedicated support for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. The nutrition title, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), was added to this bill in 1973, ballooning the overall cost and adding a much larger and diversified stakeholder base to the process. This bill has direct impact on every aspect of our daily lives and most Americans don’t even realize it.

The key element for the 2023 Farm Bill is Pennsylvania will have a unique opportunity to be in the driver’s seat for this new bill. Should Republicans take control of the U.S. House, Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15) will become the first Chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee since the 1880s. Through Rep. Thompson’s leadership, we will have the ability to shape this bill and hopefully include more consideration for diversified and specialty crop production while finding ways to control the costs that have skyrocketed over the last decade.

Once the 118th Congress convenes, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee will organize multiple hearings and official listening sessions to gather input from farmers, ranchers, business leaders, community advocates and other stakeholders. Over 100 such sessions were conducted in the process of developing the 2018 Farm Bill and the leaders of the committee are committed to

Business & Community Advocacy

continuing that standard for the development of this year’s bill. As these sessions are scheduled and drafts of the bill are released, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) will share those details with members so that they can identify ways this bill might affect their business.

The Farm Bill is about far more than just the farm. This bill has importance to any business that relies on raw or value-added products produced by U.S. farms or forests as well as any business that relies on our local, national and international agribusiness economy for customers. In 2023, the Business and Community Advocacy Council (BCAC) will be reestablishing the policy committees process where we will be reviewing the many facets of this bill as well as other state and federal legislation, policies and regulations that will come from the Biden Administration, the 118th Congress, our next Governor’s Administration and the new state legislature. If you are interested in participating in the BCAC and developing GRCA positions on this and other important issues, reach out to me at kcunfer@greaterreading. org. GRCA would love to include your perspective, knowledge and expertise to the council.

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Moving Manufacturing Forward

2022 MFG Summit explores industry trends, challenges

The Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) hosted its annual manufacturing summit Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Miller Center for the Arts. This year’s summit brought together manufacturing professionals, educational and community partners as well as community leaders to celebrate the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing holds the number one spot as both the largest industry sector based on employment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Berks County. Manufacturing contributed the largest portion of GDP in 2021, $4,799,310,000, accounting for nearly 20% of Berks County’s economy.

This half-day event recognized and celebrated manufacturing while bringing together manufacturers throughout the area to discuss common trends, current challenges and exciting, future possibilities. Tim Simpson, Ph.D., Penn State University, was the keynote speaker for the event. Simpson is a Paul Morrow Professor of Engineering Design & Manufacturing. His presentation titled,

“Manufacturing in the Metaverse” focused on the intersection of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), the internet of things (IoT), augment and virtual reality (AR/VR), cloud and edge computing and 5G. He discussed the convergence of these technologies and how this will impact and shape manufacturing in the years to come.

“Digitalization will define the 21st century similar to how industrialization shaped the 20th century,” Simpson said.

He explained why it’s so important for companies to understand these technologies and how they will impact the future of business.

His presentation was followed by an expert panel of regional manufacturing professionals moderated by Alexia Pursley, Human Resources Manager, Arkema. The panel shared insights and experiences on how organizational culture plays in attracting critical talent and retaining them. The resounding theme from the panelist


centered around creating a culture that is not only welcoming, but also supports employees and helps them grow personally and professionally. They talked about the importance of investing in your employees’ growth, creating learning opportunities and articulating clear career advancement pathways to help retain top talent. Panelists shared how their organizations approach these strategies as well as lessons they learned along the way.

In this tough talent environment with low levels of unemployment and the high rates of quitting, companies need all the information they can get to make informed, strategic decisions. Nic Thomas, from Gage Personnel, presented a local wage and labor market analysis and examined some current trends as well as pitfalls for companies to know. Through an interactive polling activity, Thomas was able to illustrate some patterns between attendees including what businesses they compete with for talent, where the workers are, and the shortcomings in data collection and reporting that attendees are experiencing. He shared which talent metrics companies should be focusing on besides wages and the importance of understanding the true cost of turnover.

The event wrapped up with Karen Norheim, President & CEO, American Crane Equipment and Dan Fogarty, COO, Berks County Workforce Development Board, giving an overview of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Competitiveness Playbook, which was recently released by the PA Manufacturing Advisory Council. This report identifies three overarching game changers for PA manufacturing and 10 specific recommendations to turn around Pennsylvania’s economic performance in manufacturing. Some of these include: provide a unified voice to advice the Governor and legislature on the needs of manufacturers, deliver training in automation to upskill incumbent employees and attract new workers, and strengthen regional manufacturing workforce pipelines. This playbook provides strategies to ensure the viability of Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector for many years to come. If you are interested, you can review the playbook here:

Anyone who is interested in more information about the Manufacturing Industry Partnership of the Greater Reading region can contact me at or 610-898-7776.


What do you really want out of work?

Women2Women’s Evening of Empowerment

left attendees asking deep questions

Are you the kind of person who sends emojis and detailed texts to your friends, or are you the type who just responds, “K”? That’s the question keynote Marissa Orr asked nearly 200 guests during Berks Women2Women’s (W2W) annual Evening of Empowerment Thursday, Oct. 20.

The night kicked off with champagne and boozy cider drinks, along with a delicious spread laid out by Catering by John Lowe. Several VIPs had the chance to meet and chat with Orr in the Roosevelt Room of The Abraham Lincoln amidst centerpieces by Saraí Variety Flower Shop.

Rachael Romig, Director of Women2Women, invited attendees to think about their walk-up song – the song that empowers you and gets you pumped up – before telling us all about what W2W has accomplished this year.

Next, she invited Alison Snyder, Chairwoman of W2W, to the stage, who welcomed our sponsors and shared her 10-year journey as part of W2W before introducing the keynote speaker.

Orr, author of Lean Out and former executive at Facebook and Google, navigated the workplace with some success – making early, but awkward, introductions to Cheryl Sandberg. When Orr was up for a promotion that would force her to manage a larger team, she felt dread. After tak ing a few personality quizzes, and

All photos courtesy of Wayne Becker, Zerbe Photography Keynote speaker Marissa Orr told the crowd of nearly 200 stories of her time at Facebook and Google and how she redefined what it meant to her to be successful at work. VIP guests had the opportunity to meet and chat with keynote speaker Marissa Orr.

really asking herself what she wanted, she figured out why that position wasn’t right for her. Just like texting without emojis, that wasn’t where her strengths were. When she first approached her supervisor with this revelation, it was immediately rejected. This was the way the office worked, and they would not change it for her. She took the promotion but was miserable.

Eventually, she was able to communicate with a superior that what she really wanted out of work was more money and a genuine compliment, and she got it! The email she received may have been written by her direct manager and then copied and pasted into an email from a higher up, but it meant the world to her. And she got a bonus out of it!

Through her candid storytelling and deeply personal experience, Orr asked guests to consider what they really wanted out of our work – and their lives – and realize that not everyone should define success the same way. Just because their work environment is set up to appeal to one type of worker does not mean it should be the only way.

Everyone has different ways of communicating. Some are emoji people, and some are terse. There is nothing wrong with either! Through the lens of Orr’s experience, she challenged everyone to really get to know themselves by asking some deep questions about what we really want out of work and life.

Rachael Romig, Senior Director of Events & Special Programs, GRCA, got the evening started by shar ing her walk-up song, “I AM WOMAN,” by Emmy Meli. She then welcomed attendees and asked them to think about what their walk-song would be — the song that represents them and gets them pumped up.

Catering by John Lowe provided the delicious spread.


Here’s a taste of what the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) has been working on in the past couple of months and what’s to come!


This fall has been all about the 2022 General Election, and 2023 will be all about introducing the newly elected state and federal officials to GRCA members. In preparation for the new year, we’re working on some major changes for the Business & Community Advocacy Council, bringing back the member-led policy committees. We’re also writing our 2023-24 policy positions that will dictate what and how GRCA advocates on behalf of the Berks County business community. If you have ever had any interest in how government affects your business, now is the best time possible to get involved with GRCA’s advocacy program.

Economic Development

GRCA’s Community Initiatives Team has partnered with the Chester County Economic Development Council to launch the Pennsylvania Loan Catalyst Fund. This new program is intended to provide flexible financing to Berks County small businesses, in partnership with financial institutions. Over $2.8 million will be allocated to Berks County over the next three years.

Events & Special Programs

September is often slower for everyone, with kids going back to school and everyone prepping for the new budget year. We do the same, but in the events world that means putting dates on the next

year’s calendar! We are excited for you to preview our 2023 event schedule across GRCA, Women2Women and Family Business Alliance. Event planner surveys show that 2023 will be the “new benchmark” for events. How many people will come? What will it all cost? Our members have seen that we won’t stop, and, in 2023, we added 11 new events to the calendar! See page 27 for a preview of our 2023 Events Calendar. We hope to see you soon!


From Flying Drones to Spilling Tea, members are learning and connecting with GRCA! If you haven’t taken advantage of the many events, workshops, conferences, or fun and impactful gatherings this year, please join us in 2023. We are packing the calendar with more than ever before. Stay tuned for monthly Lunch & Learns, Member Mixers (new!), Roundtables and more Networking Experiences. And, if your business has an event or training space available, we would love the opportunity to show it off and partner with you as a host.

Training & Workforce Development

GRCA’s training and professional development department continues to meet the needs of our members while bringing new and innovative approaches to professional development. Two recent workshops included a DISC workshop where participants learned their communication and leadership styles and how their styles interact with others who may have different styles. The second workshop had attendees flying drones as a tool to teach critical teambuilding concepts. Continue to fly high with GRCA training and professional development programs.



• Mujer a Mujer: 2nd Thursday of the month, 5:30-7 p.m.

exceptions: April (Expo), July, August, September (summer), October (EoE)

• Networking: 4th Thursday of the month

exceptions: April (regional networking), May (Dinner), July (summer), moved up a week in November & December for the holidays

• Penn Street Market: every Thursday, June-September

New Member Events:

• New Member Orientations January (virtual), May, September

• Breakfast4Success

February, June, October

Signature events are highlighted in blue, and events without dates currently scheduled are listed first.


• 12: Mujer a Mujer (2nd Thursday)

• 13: Commissioner’s Breakfast

• 17: Women2Women

• 25: New Member Orientation

• 26: Networking (4th Thursday)

• 31: Family Business Alliance


• 8: Breakfast4Success

• 9: Mujer a Mujer (2nd Thursday)

• 16: Women2Women

• 23: Networking (4th Thursday)


• GRCA Trip Info. Session

• 8: Women2Women

• 9: Mujer a Mujer (2nd Thursday)

• 15: SHARE

• 21: Family Business Alliance

• 23: Networking (4th Thursday)

• 30: W2W Networking Experience


• 12: FBA Peer Group Reception

• 20: W2W Conference & Expo

• 27: Regional Networking Event


• 3: Leadercast

• 11: Mujer a Mujer (2nd Thursday)

• 16th: Women2Women

• 17 or 23: Annual Dinner

• 24: New Member Orientation

• 25: FBA Spring Symposium


• W2W Regional Networking

• Penn Street Market – every Thursday thru September

• 1: Women2Women

• 6: Family Business Alliance

• 7: Breakfast4Success

• 8: Mujer a Mujer (2nd Thursday)Awards

• 9: State Legislator Breakfast

• 22: Networking (4th Thursday)

• 29: W2W Lobsterfest


• GRCA Night at the Fightin Phils

• Penn Street Market – every Thursday thru September


• Annual Picnic

• Penn Street Market – every Thursday thru September

• 15: Lean In Info. Session

• 23: FBA All in the Family Gathering

• 24: Networking (4th Thursday)


• Penn Street Market – every Thursday thru September

• 12: New Member Orientation

• 13: Family Business Alliance

• 14: W2W Networking

• 28: Networking (4th Thursday)


• Congressional Conversation

• Manufacturing Summit

• 11: Breakfast4Success

• 17: Family Business Alliance

• 19: Evening of Empowerment

• 26: Networking (4th Thursday)


• GRCA Trip

• Taste of Berks

• Local Government Forum

• 9: Mujer a Mujer (2nd Thursday)

• 14: Women2Women

• 16: Networking (3rd Thursday –moved due to Thanksgiving)

• 29: FBA Fall Forum


• 5: FBA Ag

• 6: Women2Women

• 14: Mujer a Mujer (2nd Thursday)

• 21: Networking (3rd Thursday –moved due to Christmas)


Main Street Programs hamburg Businesses are blooming in Hamburg

Over the past few months, several new businesses opened their doors or expanded to a larger location in downtown Hamburg. This is an ongoing trend that Our Town Foundation, which is Hamburg’s non-profit community revitalization organization, hopes to see continue.

After several years of being vacant, the Wells Fargo bank building located at 555 State St. now houses two new business: Duran’s Express LLC and Body by You Boutique, both owned by Yeika and Stalin Duran.

Duran’s Express is a courier business offering delivery services for anything you need shipped which can be locally or even across the country, excluding certain items such as animals. Something that stands out about Duran’s Express is the ability to offer same day pick-up and delivery usually within an hour of requesting a quote from them. Duran’s can be reached at or by calling 484-347-6983.

Before moving into a brick-and-mortar shop, Body by Yei started as an online women’s clothing boutique in March of 2021. After Yeika and Stalin opened Duran’s Express, they decided to use some of their extra space to open their boutique and expand it to include men’s clothing and accessories. They have even branched out into the custom print making world, making t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants, etc. If you can’t stop in at their boutique, you can visit their online store at or call 484-240-5808 for additional information.

Rita’s Italian Ice also recently opened its doors and welcomed the customers who flocked to its grand opening on Oct. 9. Owner Dennis Udicious purchased the property during the summer of 2021 and immediately began the process of converting the former attorney’s office into the Rita’s of Hamburg. After many months of renovations and setbacks the long-awaited franchise finally opened at the corner of Windsor and South 4th Streets.

According to Rita’s website, Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard is the largest Italian Ice concept in the nation, currently operating in 31 states with over 600 shops. They offer a variety of frozen treats including its famous Italian ice, frozen custard, milkshakes, sundaes, layered Gelati and signature Misto and Blendini creations. Visit for additional information.

Lucky Leprechaun Winery first opened its doors in downtown Hamburg during the fall of 2019. In addition to offering wine tastings, it offers several fun activities on a weekly basis to increase its presence within the community. After three years of being open, owners Than Wright and Teresa McCarthy-Wright moved their business to a larger property located at 335 State St. in the heart of downtown Hamburg. This new location is great for the business, because it makes it easier for them to process wine on-site. For additional information on the winery, visit or call 610-554-9189.

Lastly, B’s Sip and Paint located at 332 State St. has expanded to include the adjoining property. Nancy Boyer, owner of B’s, offers public and private sessions of Sip and Paint Classes as well as art classes and camps for children. For additional information, call 484506-3188 or email

Business entrepreneurs who are interested in learning more about downtown Hamburg and the surrounding area can contact Deena Kershner, Director of Our Town Foundation, by emailing otfmanager@ or by phone at 610-562-3106. You can also visit hamburgpa. org for additional information on the town.

28 COMMERCE QUARTERLY FALL 2022 in your community

West reading West Reading welcomes new businesses

Fall in West Reading kicked off with the Annual Fall Fest on Saturday, Sept. 17. On this day the weather was perfect, and there were more vendors than ever this year. We also added a new stage in the 400 block which gave us three stages this year. Thank you to everyone who came out; it was great to see the community on this amazing day. It was also fun to see our new businesses out experiencing their first major event in West Reading.

Living their West Life.

Since May, we have welcomed seven new businesses to our Main Street, which includes Ezekiel 47 Cafe, Takkii Ramen, DeLune Boutique, Reiki Balance, The Nest Collaborative Yoga Studio, The Cheese Shop by Say Cheese and Little Lotus Children’s Shop. Be sure to check them out soon and say hello!

#ShopSmall Saturday will be our biggest event of the winter season. Come down to West Reading Saturday, Nov. 26 for music, giveaways and a free shopping bag that will include discount coupons. This is a great way to support your local community businesses, find some unique gifts and enjoy a day on the Avenue with your friends.

The holiday season will again be filled with carriage rides and Victorian carolers along with the Annual Tree Lighting Friday, Dec. 2. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram @VisitWestReading for daily events and updates from our merchants!

29 in your community


Reading Bakery Systems (RBS), one of the world’s leading manufacturers of snack production systems, has introduced a new advanced machine called Thomas L. Green WCX Wirecut offering more product flexibility, control, better safety features and easier sanitation than previous designs. This new machine has an expanded range of product capabilities including standard and filled bars, multicolor products, filled and encapsulated cookies, pet treats, frozen dough applications and more. The WCX is capable of producing throughput yields of up to 300 cuts per minute (cpm), while maintaining a high degree of accuracy and consistent piece weight.

Barley Snyder is pleased to announce attorney Rachael Shaw has joined the firm in its Wyomissing office. Shaw will work in the firm’s Business and Real Estate practice groups. She concentrates her practice on business law where she counsels her clients on a variety of business matters such as corporate formation, governance and mergers and acquisitions. In her real estate practice, Shaw helps clients with agreements of sales and leasing matters.

Entech Engineering, Inc. (Entech) has announced that Bryon Killian, PE, has been promoted to Business Unit Director of Entech’s Civil Environmental Resources Business Unit. He is replacing Robert Weir, PE, who will assume the role of President later this year. In this position, he will oversee all facets of the Business Unit including engineering/ design, resource management, business development, project management, and client management for the firm’s municipal and water and wastewater clients and industrial environmental services.

RKL LLP is pleased to announce that firm Partner Timothy Kraft, CPA, has been named one of Lehigh Valley Business’s Forty Under 40 honorees. The award recognizes professionals 40 years of age and younger who are making an impact on the Greater Lehigh Valley through their career accomplishments, community service and commitment to inspiring change.

30 COMMERCE QUARTERLY FALL 2022 member news: industry & community newsmakers

Omega Systems, a portfolio company of Pfingsten Partners and managed service provider to highly regulated and security-conscious organizations, today announced it has acquired PICS ITech, an IT services company based in Greater Philadelphia. A Top-50 MSP by Channel Futures this year, Omega continues to achieve accelerated growth with the addition of PICS, strengthening its team of technology professionals and bolstering its portfolio of ‘Smart’ solutions. Committed to helping today’s mid-market enterprises traverse the challenges posed by escalating cybersecurity, data protection, and regulatory compliance standards, Omega delivers a premier suite of services to businesses in need of robust, secure and professional support.

Discovery FCU announced that after a comprehensive, nationwide search, its long-time Vice-President/Chief Information Officer Michele Smith succeeds retiring CEO Edwin William. Smith brings 22 years of service and experience with Discovery FCU to her new position. She has been instrumental in leading the organization through the pandemic, countless strategic initiatives, product and service enhancements and the recent renovation of the branch. She is a passionate advocate for the credit union movement and philosophy of people helping people.

The Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC) has named Barley Snyder attorney John “J.” Quain its “Light of Liberty Pro Bono Attorney” for 2022. The prestigious award is bestowed annually on the organization’s top pro bono attorney, honoring his/her exceptional service and support. PIRC, based in York, Pa., provides free legal services and education to either help immigrants obtain or to protect their legal status. Quain routinely volunteers with PIRC helping immigrants and their families in Pennsylvania receive legal aid they would not have access to otherwise. Quain dedicated his time to a pro bono program, which helps immigrants obtain their U visas.

In August, Barry Isett & Associates, Inc. opened its newest regional office — a development that will expand Isett’s services to the businesses and residents of the Greater Scranton Area — in Olyphant. The engineering and consulting firm has grown to nine locations across Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. The new facility allows Isett associates to have larger and smart workspaces with several common spaces for meetings and team building; and other modern amenities.

Continued on next page

Fromm, a leading electrical distributor in the Mid-Atlantic Region, named Stephen Miller as Vice President of Information Systems and Strategy. In this role, Miller will be responsible for managing the company’s digital infrastructure and implementing new technology initiatives.

Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation (BLWDC) announced the appointment of Violet Emory to the role of its next Executive Director. In this role, Emory will be responsible for leading and guiding all aspects of the organization’s critical functions including board relations, philanthropy, staff development, execution of the strategic plan, education and skills programming. She also will be partnering with key community leaders and partners to further integrate Berks Tec Centro both in city as well as county economic and labor force development.

Herbein + Company, Inc. (Herbein), a leading CPA advisory firm, announced it has merged in the Chagrin Falls, Ohio based organizational psychology firm Watterson & Associates, Inc. (WAI). Founded in 1996, WAI strategically partners with companies to manage employees’ development needs. As part of Herbein, WAI will initially operate as a Herbein division called Herbein | Watterson Talent Solutions. In January 2024, the division will operate as Herbein Talent Solutions.

Berkshire Investment Group announced Nickolas Crosby has joined the team as Client Services Manager. In the role, Crosby will be working directly with client’s operational inquires along with building and maintaining relationships. He will also be involved in daily operations, compliance and regulations, financial reporting, managing accounts and supporting the team of advisors in the office.

Lehigh Valley Business has named Barley Snyder partner Thad M. Gelsinger to its annual Forty Under 40 list. Forty Under 40 recognizes professionals 40 years of age and younger who have been successful in the central Pennsylvania area. Honorees, chosen by Lehigh Valley Business (LVB) editors, were selected based on their professional accomplishments, community service and commitment to inspiring change.

news: industry & community newsmakers continued

To support the company’s growth and client success, Barry Isett & Associates, Inc. has appointed three associates to assume new positions across several offices. With over 20 years of experience in marketing and client management, Erin Burke will serve as the company’s Vice President of the Southeast Pennsylvania Region. As Vice President, Burke will focus on providing executive-level communication and oversee the management of multi-discipline projects.

Brandon Trate, PG, will assume the role of Vice President of

the Lehigh Valley Region. Trate will provide the company with executive-level project and client management across Isett’s multidiscipline services. Formerly serving as Isett’s Vice President of the Southeast PA Region, Chris Kotch, PG, will assume the position of Vice President of the Field Division. Kotch will oversee Isett’s Environmental Consulting, Forensic Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, Survey, and Construction Materials Testing departments and services.

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The best


New Members

Aston Carter


Cornerstone Financial Strategies, LLC

Diversified Family Interventions

Haven Behavioral Hospital of Eastern Pennsylvania

HawkRidge Fulfillment

Jireh Cleaning Services, Inc.

LGBT Center of Greater Reading Malvern Communications, Inc.


Morgan Truck Body LLC

NAMI Berks

Offices at Penn Square Plaza

Phoenix Physical Therapy (Douglassville location)

Phoenix Physical Therapy (Sinking Spring location)

Post Precision Castings

Reading Pride Celebration

T.A. Industries

Tailor Brands

The Crossroads Group

The Poopbusters

Interested in becoming a part of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance?

Contact Senior Director of Membership Julie Larison at or 610.898.7785.

ABLE Equipment Rental, Service and Sales

Anytime Fitness

Bell Media Group

Berks Homes

Boot Barn

Brute Athletic Apparel

Caring Concept HomeCare LLC

Hubric Resources

Hugg Media Group LLC

Keller Williams Platinum Realty

Kemerton Refill & Refresh

Kimberton Whole Foods

Kissinger Associates, Inc.

Planet Fitness - Reading

Realty One Group Exclusive

SmartCost Incorporated

Social Clover Marketing 5


Berks Plastic Surgery

Holiday Inn Morgantown

HonIsT Solutions

Irish Creek Construction

Pollen Consolidated LLC

Reading Parking Authority

SOLO Laboratories

The String Tree, Inc.

Firstrust Bank

Malsnee Tile & Stone, Inc.

McMahon Associates, Inc.

Sigmet Corporation

Toppan Interamerica

Medical Service


Candlewood Suites

Colorfin, LLC


Bally Block Company

Berks County Living

Classic Harley-Davidson

Custom Milling & Consulting, Inc.

Custom Processing Services, Inc.

Mid Penn Bank


Atlantic Energy Concepts, Inc.

Delaney EyeCare

Morgan Stanley

Shuman Development Group

Spotts Insurance Group

Vision Resource Center of Berks County


Bethany Children’s Home

Cobra Anchors Corporation

Dave Roche Electric, Inc.

Habasit America, Inc.

IFS Industries, Inc.

Timber Tech Engineering, Inc.


Berks Arts

M.J. Reider Associates, Environmental Testing Laboratories, Inc.


R.M. Palmer Company

member news: new members & anniversaries
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Fish! Seafood 20
JULY 2022

Maggs & Associates

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management 985 Berkshire Blvd. Suite 200 Wyomissing, PA 19610 610.320.5462

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