Just a reminder that Allentown is the 3rd largest city in PA. I often wonder what is the greatest thing about living in the valley and what’s holding the area back from being a thriving community? I do see the potential here in the valley, the opportunity to leveraging the gift, talents and diversity of the community at large. The challenge could be the fear of letting go of the single stories we all have about each other. Learning to leverage the different in a way that honors your truth and challenges your truth. The Valley will be a thriving community, when we decide to step into the being uncomfortable in order to leverage creative tension to grow. At that very point Allentown and the Valley will be a thriving community for all it’s residents. It requires each person to honor your own story, speak your truth without blame, shame and guilt. While creating the opportunity to suspend your judgement and challenge the single stories we have about others. Are you willing to connect and appreciate “others”, for your growth? This kind of work creates belonging, businesses thrive in this space because we appreciate each other’s humanity. Feeling valued and appreciated creates loyal customers, it is directly linked to economic longevity.
Lehigh Valley Economic Report
Dr. Kamran Afshar
Chamber Chief Economist
The Chamber’s Finance Committee
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) consumer price index rose by 0.2% in December 2019. This sets the inflation rate for 2019 at 2.3%, which is low on historical bases, however, it is the highest inflation we had since 2011 when it peaked at a high of 3%.
Increases in the price of gasoline by 7.6% and healthcare by almost 4% pushed the overall inflation in 2019 to 2.3%. There were other interesting price changes in 2019 also; beef roast prices rose by 7%, while eggs became 3% cheaper. And electronics prices continued to pull down the overall inflation with computers dropping by 15% and TV becoming 20% cheaper during the year, which was not really much of a surprise. However, I’m sure this one will surprise almost everybody by hearing that new car prices, according to the BLS, rose by only one-tenth-of-one percent last year! That is because the new car that the BLS prices every month does not really exist; it is the price of a new car if it had the same equipment and quality that it had in 1997 but built in 2019. All the additions and improvements are deducted from the price, which goes to the joke that the salesman says and do you also want an engine to go with car you just bought!
Before the Great Recession, inflation was rising at a pretty healthy rate, reaching as high as 5.6%, however, the recession wiped out that inflation alongside 8.7 million payroll jobs, a booming housing market, more than 500 commercial banks as well as thousands of other businesses.
Prior to the Great Recession the FED’s major concern was to prevent the rate of inflation from continuing to climb while not killing the labor and stock markets. Well we know how that one went.
While the FED was behind the 8 ball at the beginning of the Great Recession, it rapidly cutup and to its credit, it then liberally provided credit to the banking system helping many banks fend off bankruptcy. As it was also rapidly raising the amount of high-powered money in circulation, increasing it by more than 4-fold. Still some 500 banks disappeared during that period.
In the process the FED expanded its balance sheet and reduced the rate of its overnight loans to member banks to almost zero. It should be noted that during the same period, many European center banks reduced their rates to below zero to encourage their member
banks to borrow and lend.
The unemployment rate now at 3.5%, the economy at full-employment, and while the rate of economic growth is dropping, it still presents a potential for higher inflation. Inflation rate over the last 3 months was 3.3%, significantly higher than the 1.8% of the previous 12 months. Adding this to all the uncertainties of the international markets and politics, shows a higher probability of real inflation in 2020.
Written By: Jennifer Glose
When Bethlehem native Christopher Morganelli was growing up, he had the mindset of a builder and the creativity of an architect, and was always intrigued with understanding how things worked.
That thought pattern would cultivate into a passion for the innovative, ever-changing world of technology, paving a career path for Morganelli that began with a computer science education at DeSales University, where he blazed a trail, graduating with seven internships under his belt, including with several highly regarded corporations and organizations in the Lehigh Valley.
“I saw firsthand what the corporate world and working on a team was like,” Morganelli said of the internships. “And I saw how quickly technology is being utilized.”
Upon his college graduation in 2011, Morganelli made the decision to give entrepreneurship a try and go into business for himself.
Morganelli knew that his vision of opening and managing an IT (Information Technology) firm, which would offer managed IT services, meant for a long journey, if taken alone.
Enter friend and New Jersey na- tive Alai Caetano.
In 2014, Morganelli joined forces with Caetano, whose computer programming and IT experience spans 20 years, including leading large departments of IT at AIG and Tiffany & Co., as well as on Wall Street where he maintained and managed IT for trading companies.
“Technology is truly a passion and is also of interest at the hobby level for him,” Morganelli said of Caetano. The union of Morganelli and Caetano soon became Morganelli Caetano IT, LLC, known today as MC IT.
Today MC IT has five engineers and provides Help Desk to more than 1,200 users in the Greater Lehigh Valley, as well as in New York, New Jersey and Florida. Morganelli is the company’s Director of Operations, while Caetano serves as Director of Technology.
“Growth has been really exciting,” Morganelli said.
Response Time, Knowledge Base
MC IT’s original path to managed services was different than most, with first focusing on user experiences through software implementations, which Morganelli said was a great avenue to secure a foot in the door of businesses. Once the relationship was built with the customer, MC IT was able to talk with the client about allowing MC IT to also manage its technology needs and provide the ongoing Help Desk support needed.
This became the beginning of the managed services product line for MC IT.
The sweet spot for MC IT’s man- aged services, according to Morganelli, are companies with 20-60 employees, but the firm services companies with as little as five employees and as many as 350.
“We will support any size business that values technology,” Morganelli said.
When asked why someone should choose MC IT, Morganelli was quick to reply.
“Our response time and knowledge base.”
According to Morganelli, the company has invested greatly in its technology and infrastructure, from cutting edge industry monitoring and management tools, to on-site and cloud-based data centers that span across the U.S. Not to mention the redundancy for peace of mind.
Also, the five engineers on staff are all local to the Lehigh Valley, keeping a rapid response time of within 15 minutes.
“We don’t outsource our Help Desk unlike other MPS’s,” Morganelli said. “We are very proud of that.”
Other vital solutions offered by MC IT are disaster recovery, managed security, and user training and education.
‘Connecting the Dots’
As growth continued through MC IT’s nearly six years of business, Morganelli and Caetano wanted to tap into the minds of some great business leaders to help keep the company trending upward.
To accomplish that, the duo recently put together an advisory board for MC IT.
Morganelli said the purpose of the advisory board is two-fold.
“It allows us to get guidance and feedback from veteran technologists, and what hurdles they have seen,” he said. “It’s about being open to suggestions and guidance, while gratefully being introduced and gaining access to the next level of business leaders.”
The advisory board of MC IT consists of Mark Kuester, former Vice President of Business Technology for Pfizer Inc.; Marc Kramer, American serial entrepreneur, business book author and journal- ist; and Kim Plyler, President and CEO of Sahl Communications Inc.
In addition to having an advisory board, according to Morganelli, being a Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber member has helped grow MC IT.
“It’s been a vehicle for meeting new business owners and growing our networks,” said Morganelli, who now sits on the Board of Governors for the Chamber.
When asked to offer advice to other entrepreneurs that might be daring enough to take the leap of starting a business, Morganelli was happy to pay it forward.
“Have a focus and a vision, and stay true to it,” he said.
“Mistakes are going to happen. Learn from them and master your craft.”
Although the road may have seemed long in the beginning, Morganelli credits his family for their encouragement to take the step to become an entrepreneur.
“Risk is something not everyone may want to take on. The uncertainty is scary,” Morganelli said. “But, with hard work, perseverance and a clear vision, the reward can be worth it.”