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The ups, downs and continuing sagas of 2021

Like their peers around the U.S., local businesses were battered in 2021 by inflation, labor shortages and supply chain glitches – not to mention the persistent challenge of navigating Covid-19.
  • But there also were ups and downs unique to Central Pennsylvania.

Like what: On the upside, a new hospital opened -- and another is on the way -- while a former pharma plant is back in operation. Here's a recap:
What were the downs: Two of the region’s biggest companies announced they were picking up stakes, and a well-known textile manufacturer shut down.
What are the toss-ups: Several stories in 2021 covered events likely to see some kind of resolution in 2022, including the legal fight over federal Covid-19 vaccine mandates and an investor’s push for the sale of a regional bank.
  • In July, New York-based hedge fund Driver Management began pressing for a sale of Codorus Valley Bancorp, the York County-based parent of PeoplesBank
  • The hedge fund’s campaign continued through the summer and fall, with the investor most recently taking issue with by-law changes by Codorus Valley that Driver claims will make it harder to nominate new board members. The changes include moving up nomination deadlines.
  • “It couldn’t be a more lame attempt to jam us up,” said Abbott Cooper, the head of Driver Management. 
  • In a press release this month, Codorus Valley described the changes as “promoting industry leading corporate governance practices,” adding: “The Company and Board will continue to maintain an open dialogue with shareholders.”
  • A bank spokesperson declined to comment further.
  • In September, President Joe Biden unveiled a series of vaccine mandates. Legal challenges quickly followed, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear arguments on Jan. 7 over a vaccine-or-test mandate for firms with at least 100 employees.
  • Plans for tolling motorists that cross the Interstate 83 bridge in the capital region also are likely to continue attracting attention -- and fire -- in 2022.

What about elections: The coming year will usher in a new governor for Pennsylvania. After two terms, Gov. Tom Wolf is barred from running again.
  • Attorney General Josh Shapiro will be the likely Democratic standard-bearer.
  • A host of Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination. They are scheduled to meet for their first debate on Jan. 5 at Dickinson College in Carlisle. 
  • Some Central PA voters also may see new names on the ballot this spring for state and federal legislative races, provided officials can agree on a new map laying out legislative districts.

The bottom line: The Covid-19 pandemic shows little signs of loosening its hold on the health care system and the economy at large.
  • Encouraging signs for 2022 include the approval of new pills to treat the disease, though there are caveats related to supply and effectiveness.
  • Inflation, meanwhile, shows little signs of abating despite the likelihood of higher interest rates next year.
  • And if anyone has a secret to solving the labor shortage, they are probably keeping it to themselves.  

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Quick takes

WHAT SOLD: Frey Village, a senior-living complex at 1020 N. Union St. in Middletown. Owner Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries sold Frey Village earlier this month for nearly $9.8 million, according to Dauphin County deed records. In a press release, the nonprofit identified the buyer as an affiliate of Lion Healthcare Management, a New Jersey-based company with experience in senior living. A Diakon spokesperson said the deed reflected the value of the real estate only, not the entirety of the senior living operation, but declined to comment further on the terms of the transaction. Efforts to reach Lion Healthcare were not successful.
  • Frey Village is one of three communities Diakon sold to Lion Healthcare. The other two are the 215-unit Manatawny Manor in Pottstown and the 167-unit Ohesson Manor in Lewistown.
  • Frey Village has 222 units, including 136 units for skilled nursing, according to disclosures tied to bonds issued in 2019 for Diakon.
  • The nonprofit also is selling senior living communities in Hagerstown, Maryland, pending regulatory review, according to the press release.
  • Diakon said the sale proceeds are being used to pay down debt and that it plans to focus on its remaining properties, including the Cumberland Crossings community in Cumberland County, where Diakon is building new cottage homes.

The background: The sales leave Diakon with 617 independent living units, 197 personal care units and 414 skilled-nursing beds, according to the bond disclosures.
  • Diakon had revenue of $265.1 million in 2020, down from $269.9 million in 2019, according to the disclosures.
  • Its operating income, however, nearly doubled, rising from $4.2 million in 2019 to $8.3 million in 2020.

WHO'S MAKING PROMOTIONS: Print-O-Stat, a York-based printing and information solutions company. Russell E. Horn III has been named CEO of the company, a subsidiary of PACE Resources and sister company to engineering firm Buchart Horn. Horn, whose grandfather co-founded Buchart Horn, had been president of Print-O-Stat.
  • He is being succeeded as president by Ronald Nunemaker, who had been Print-O-Stat's vice president of technical sales and marketing.
  • Nunemaker began working at Print-O-Stat in 2016 as a territory manager based in Lancaster.
  • Founded in 1954, Print-O-Stat has offices in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

WHO'S BUYING: The parent of AMES Companies, a Camp Hill-based manufacturer of True Temper garden tools and related implements. The manufacturer could soon add ceiling fans to its product menu. Ames' parent, New York-based conglomerate Griffon Corp., has agreed to pay $845 million for Hunter Fan Co., currently owned by MidOcean Partners, a New York-based investment firm.
  • If the deal goes through, Hunter would be folded into the AMES business, according to a press release, which adds that Hunter is expected to generate $400 million in annual revenue and $90 million in EBITDA, i.e., earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
  • The deal is expected to close in January
  • However, it faces opposition from an investor, Voss Capital, that wants Griffon to split up.


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Compiled and written by Joel Berg

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