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Alex Brandon 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election. (AP Photo, Alex Brandon)


Michael Bupp, The Sentinel 

Linda McMahon, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, tours Appalachian Brewing Co. in Mechanicsburg with owner Artie Tafoya.


Mechanicsburg
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McMahon promotes small business at Appalachian Brewing

Linda McMahon, head of the Small Business Administration, made a pit stop at Appalachian Brewing Co. on Tuesday to promote the federal agency’s assistance programs for small companies and entrepreneurs.

“We don’t want to be the best-kept secret for small businesses, we want to let everyone know how we can help,” McMahon said.

Appalachian Brewing’s location on the Carlisle Pike in Silver Spring Township, which McMahon and SBA officials toured Tuesday afternoon, was financed in part by federally backed loans made through the SBA’s 7(a) program.

“The SBA is a great way to get around some of the hurdles and access capital you wouldn’t otherwise,” said Artie Tafoya, partner and manager of operations at Appalachian Brewing. Tafoya said SBA-supported loans helped reduce the cost of Appalachian Brewing’s roughly $4.5 million expansion in Silver Spring Township, which opened in 2014.

The SBA’s most popular loan program, authorized under federal title 7(a), allows the administration to guarantee loans made by certain private banks who participate in the SBA’s program.

Federal backing means less risk for the lender, which allows them to offer more favorable terms, providing small businesses access to capital at favorable rates that would otherwise only be available to larger, more established corporations.

The SBA approved $25.8 billion worth of 7(a) loans in the 2017 fiscal year, according to the agency’s annual report.

Locally, Centric Bank, which financed Appalachian Brewing, is the largest originator of 7(a) loans, lending to 77 Midstate businesses last year and creating a projected 2,500 new jobs, the bank announced recently.

McMahon said that the SBA seeks to expand its core programs by attracting more lending partners willing to invest in small business expansion.

“Most small businesses fail because they are undercapitalized,” McMahon said. “What we’re doing now is helping to grow our lender base.”

McMahon was appointed to head the SBA last year by President Donald Trump. She is well-known as the founder of World Wrestling Entertainment along with her husband, professional wrestling guru Vince McMahon.

Over the past year, McMahon has also promoted the potential benefits to small business of the Republican tax plan, which passed Congress in December.

McMahon has continued to press Congress to make the individual tax cuts, not just the corporate reduction, permanent. While corporate relief is permanent under the new tax code, the GOP placed a sunset on personal rate reductions in order to stay within the $1.5 trillion 10-year deficit rule needed to pass the Republican tax plan via reconciliation.

This is of particular concern for small business owners who are not organized as corporations, but have their businesses set up as pass-through entities and report profits as personal income.

“The businesses I’ve spoken with have talked about the anticipation of the tax cuts and the optimism we’re seeing since they passed,” McMahon said. “I would really like to see the tax cuts for individuals made permanent.”

Although the 7(a) program is the largest, the SBA also administers other loan programs, such as the 504 capital loan program, disaster relief loans, and others. It also offers training and guidance to entrepreneurs on a variety of issues.

While Trump’s budget proposals have sought cuts to the SBA, the funding resolutions that have passed Congress have featured less significant reductions. Congressional funding resolutions have the agency funded at $881 million on an annualized basis, compared to $887 million in the 2017 fiscal year.

“We’re getting strong congressional support,” McMahon said. “We have seen a little bit of [budget] reduction, but we didn’t have to cut our programs.”

With the demand for 7(a) loans growing, Congress is considering a bill that would authorize the SBA to raise the cap on the value of assets it backs, although McMahon said the agency is unlikely to hit that cap in the short term.


Carlisle
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Chapel Pointe unveils plans for new townhome community in Carlisle

Chapel Pointe unveiled plans for a new townhome community in Carlisle at an open house Tuesday morning.

The new 62-plus community, called Pointe Place, will be at 1026 Ritner Highway on a 1.5-acre site currently occupied by Betra In Home Care. Officials expect to break ground this summer and complete construction of the $5 million project by next year, although the actual start date for construction hinges on securing five reservations.

“We have to have five people make reservations before we can start construction,” said Lindsay de Bien, communications coordinator at Chapel Pointe.

According to de Bien, the open house provided an opportunity for people to learn about the townhomes, the benefits of living in a townhome community like Pointe Place, and its association with Chapel Pointe.

“When people move to Pointe Place, they are part of this community as well,” she said. “We want them to understand that Chapel Pointe is a faith-based community, and people are loved and cared for here. We want to give them the lifestyle they want and meet their needs.”

She said there will be 12 single-story townhomes with floor plans of either 1,000 or 1,250 square feet. Eleven of the homes will feature two bedrooms and either 1.5 or two bathrooms; the other will be wheelchair accessible and have one bedroom and one large bathroom. All of the townhomes will have one-car garages, and there will also be a community building.

“There will be an entrance fee plan (between $199,000 and $220,000), similar to other retirement communities, to buy into the community, and everyone will have the opportunity to use the services and amenities at Chapel Pointe,” de Bien said. “There will be a monthly fee to maintain a maintenance-free style of living, so they won’t have to shovel snow and mow grass, or fix appliances.”

“As the aging-in-place trend has developed, we’ve seen a growing number of people choose a home that will meet their needs long into the future rather than choose to move to a traditional continuing care retirement community,” Chapel Pointe Executive Director Debbie Sprague said. “Pointe Place gives people the best of both worlds — providing a timeless townhome in an active neighborhood plus the guarantee of priority access to health care services if they’re ever needed. Pointe Place represents ultimate independence and ultimate security.”

Sprague said the idea to build Pointe Place came as a result of a conversation with John and Sandy Hockensmith.

“In early 2015, John and Sandy Hockensmith met with Chapel Pointe leadership to describe his father’s vision of building townhomes for seniors on his property along Ritner Highway,” she said. “As an innovative nonprofit community, we try to continually evaluate options that will further Chapel Pointe’s mission to provide a loving way of life for seniors. The Hockensmiths’ overall vision aligned with our values, so Chapel Pointe purchased the property in December 2016, and our leadership began meeting with a team, including an architect, a contractor, site engineers, and an interior designer, to develop plans.”

According to Sprague, the general contractor is Arthur Funk & Sons and architect is Cornerstone Design-Architects.


Local
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Bon-Ton Stores finds last-minute buyer

A last-minute deal may keep Bon-Ton stores in business.

An investor group composed of DW Partners and mall owners Namdar Realty Group and Washington Prime Group has signed a letter of intent to buy the department store chain and save it from liquidation, the company announced late Monday.

Bon-Ton Stores Inc. and the investor group are finalizing an asset purchase agreement in advance of an auction of the company, which is now scheduled for April 16.

“We are pleased to have received this signed letter of intent and are advancing our discussions with the investor group to complete an asset purchase agreement as we proceed toward the court-supervised auction,” Bon-Ton president and CEO Bill Tracy said in a statement.

A hearing to approve the sale is expected later this month.

Bon-Ton announced in January that it would close its Carlisle store and more than 40 others nationwide as part of a “turnaround plan.”

The York and Milwaukee-based company has more than 200 stores in 23 states, including local stores in Camp Hill, Chambersburg, Hanover, Harrisburg, Lancaster and York.


Govt-and-politics
GOP brass appeal for unity amid gubernatorial primary fight

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s Republican Party chairman called for party unity Tuesday as a hard-edged primary campaign attack ad against its endorsed gubernatorial candidate played on television screens across the state, and another potentially tough attack ad waits in the wings.

At the party’s Harrisburg headquarters, chairman Valentino DiGiorgio said Paul Mango’s attack ad against Scott Wagner is “over the top” and a character assassination that only benefits the man Republicans are trying to defeat in November’s election, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Mango’s 30-second ad calls Wagner a “deadbeat dad” and a “slumlord” among other labels that Wagner says aren’t true, and promises another ad about “violent Wagner.”

Mango has refused to take down the ad, and campaign spokesman Matt Beynon insisted the ad was grounded in fact.

“They may be ugly facts, but they are facts, and we believe the voters of Pennsylvania have a right to know who Scott Wagner is, how he has conducted himself and what type of nominee the party would have if he is our standard bearer in November,” Beynon said.

Beynon said Mango’s campaign made the ad after Wagner aired his own ad distorting Mango’s work as a health care systems consultant.

Wagner, a state senator from York County who owns waste hauling and trucking firms, said it is out of line to characterize him as violent and that he expects a forthcoming “violent Wagner” ad could mention a temporary restraining order his then 19-year-old daughter took out on him in 2006.

Wagner suggested he was trying to save his daughter from going a down a wrong path after an incident with alcohol.

“I tried to save my daughter’s life, that’s what this is all about,” Wagner said Tuesday at the news conference. “And Mr. Mango wants to go after my daughter? He’s going after the wrong person’s daughter. Trust me.”

In a petition for protection from abuse petition filed by Katharine Wagner, she told the court that her father had come to her grandparents’ house to confront her after finding photos of her drinking.

As they argued, he put both hands on her neck, squeezed and shook her, making it hard for her to breathe, the court document says. He then grabbed her wrists and pushed her up against the kitchen counter, leaving after her grandfather confronted Wagner, the document says.

In a letter to state committee members in November, Katharine Wagner addressed the matter because, she wrote, Mango had been spreading it around. Wagner did not choke her, she said, and she called Wagner “a good dad and a loving grandfather to my son.”

“My father did what any parent would do to save their child’s life,” she wrote. “And I reacted like an angry teenager by filing a PFA against my father — an act that I deeply regret to this day.”

Beynon, however, suggested that the matter would not be part of Mango’s “violent Wagner” ad, saying “we’ve never brought that up. We believe that is between Mr. Wagner, his daughter and the law.”

A “violent Wagner” ad will contain numerous other instances, Beynon said. The ad currently airing closes with a narrator saying, “And coming soon, violent Wagner” over a video clip from last year when Wagner grabbed a camera from a campaign tracker working for a liberal political opposition group.

Wagner was not charged in the incident and the campaign tracker did not appear to suffer more than a minor finger injury.

The primary election is May 15. Wolf is running for a second term without Democratic opposition.

Over the weekend, the third Republican candidate in the race, commercial litigation attorney Laura Ellsworth, issued an op-ed titled “our sullied election” that called Wolf, Mango and Wagner “out of touch” and presented herself as the responsible alternative.

“This is no longer the grand exchange of ideas, framed in the idealism that engages citizens,” she wrote. “It’s rank and petty name-calling without a hint of civic purpose.”