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Deriving Personal Value from the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce

By Amy Lewis, vice president of the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce
July 2014

I’ve been asked several times why I joined the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce and volunteer several hours a month to the organization, particularly when local client prospects for my business are generally limited. My reasons are several, and I think, justified.

First, I believe in individuals’ dream of entrepreneurship. I started my company, Renown Marketing Communications, in 2000 on literally a wing and a prayer. It was an exhilarating yet frightening experience to quit my perfectly good day job to venture into the unknowns – the unknowns of how I would be able to pay my mortgage, attract clients and even run a business. Many people supported me in the early years, and I’ve done my best to help others as they’ve taken their own leap into self-employment.

The Chamber allows me to support entrepreneurs on a broader scale. We give businesses opportunities they would otherwise not have, such as visibility to the local community through co-op advertising and social media, networking events with other business owners, and chances to hear from elected and civic representatives. This fall, the Chamber plans to host a small business series of classes through Lakeville and New Prague Community Education Departments to help entrepreneurs and hope-to-be entrepreneurs run their businesses better.

Through the Chamber, I also have an opportunity to interact with Elko New Market city officials and support local economic development initiatives. The Chamber has a strong working relationship with the City, built through our regular attendance City Council meetings to stay abreast of local issues and update the Council on Chamber activities, and partnering with the City on community-wide events such as Fire Rescue Days. The Chamber has an ex-officio representative serving on the City’s Economic Development Authority to be a business voice on that board that determines economic development priorities for Elko New Market.

The Chamber has also formed a working group with the City to spearhead focused economic development efforts. As a New Market Township resident, I would never have the opportunity to work on these initiatives if not for the Chamber. This is important to me because eventually Elko New Market will have more commercial businesses where I will spend my money. I hope our efforts will spark developments sooner and result in desired businesses that will contribute to the quality of life.

The Chamber also strives to connect businesses with one another and with the community, and be an information source for the community. As a “soloprenuer” (an entrepreneur who works on my own in a home office), the Chamber helps me overcome the isolationism that sometimes comes from working home alone. Through our Facebook page (Facebook.com/ENMChamber), we share developments from City Council meetings, events in the area, business news, road construction updates, etc., that residents have come to appreciate.

If you’d like to learn more about the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce, please visit www.enmchamber.org. You may also like to follow our Facebook page for local news.

Scott County ‘Open to Business’

Business Counseling and Financing Now Available for New and Existing Businesses in Scott County

Small businesses make up the heart and soul of the business community in Elko New Market. Now, new resources are coming to our community to make starting and growing a business easier, thanks to the Scott County Community Development Agency (CDA) and the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD).

The Open to Business program in Scott County provides one-on-one business counseling assistance customized to meet the needs of current business owners and prospective entrepreneurs. Financing is also available to qualified applicants. The Open to Business program is being offered free of charge to Scott County businesses or residents.

Christine Pigsley, Scott County Open to Business Advisor, is located at the Scott County Government Center every Tuesday and is available to meet with entrepreneurs and business owners by appointment. If Tuesday doesn’t work, alternate options can be discussed. For more information about Open to Business or to schedule an appointment, please contact Christine Pigsley at 612-843-3277 or cpigsley@mccdmn.org. You can also learn more at http://www.scottcda.org/first-stop-shop.

Recap: 2013 ENM Chamber Annual Meeting

Re-envisioned Chamber undertakes many initiatives and looks ahead to 2014

Approximately 25 Chamber members and guests attended the 2013 annual meeting at the doublewide Event Center on Wednesday, Nov. 13, to hear how the Chamber all but started from scratch at the beginning of 2013 and marshalled time and energy from an all-volunteer board to provide valuable marketing and networking opportunities for its members during the year.

Todd Anderson, Chamber president and account executive with Dick’s Sanitation, said, “For not knowing where to start 11 months ago, I’d say the board accomplished a lot. Our activities gave members an opportunity to network with one another. To market their businesses to the community and one another. And to engage with public officials. And they supported the Chamber’s mission of helping our members become more successful through strong leadership, providing education and resources, and advocating for their needs.”

According to Anderson, the Chamber has many ideas for 2014 activities and initiatives to draw more people to the community and support business growth. Some of the ideas were gathered from community members, who expressed interest in a music festival, craft fairs, another 5K or 10K run, among other suggestions. The board will meet on Wednesday, Dec. 11, to define short and long term goals, and identify priorities for 2014. Chamber members are invited to attend that meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. and will be held at the Market Village Apartments (110 J. Roberts Way).

Chamber VP Amy Lewis also reminded the meeting guests that the Chamber can help market their businesses through:

  • Networking opportunities
  • Partner marketing efforts
  • Attending, hosting or sponsoring events
  • The Chamber’s 2 Facebook pages
  • The Chamber’s monthly e-newsletter (events, accolades, job openings, new hires, etc.)
  • Participating in Shop Local initiatives

The evening closed with a tallying of votes for the board. There were three people on the ballot, with three seats to fill. Anderson was re-elected to a three-year term, as was Jeanne Mahoney, owner of the Old Hotel Market. Rick Luebbert, executive pastor of Tapestry Vineyard Church, was also elected to a three-year term. Luebbert served on the board as an appointed ambassador in 2013.

Recap: 2013 State of the County Address

Scott County in ‘good shape’

(Shelton’s presentation: 2013 State of County)

Nearly 50 people gathered at The Firehouse Grille in Elko New Market recently to learn about the “State of the County.” The event, hosted by the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce, drew representatives of business, education and government who heard Scott County Administrator Gary Shelton explain how the county has achieved long-term fiscal stability while minimizing tax impacts to residents and spurring economic development.

“Structurally, we’ve offset nearly $17 million in federal and state funding reductions and cost shifts – that’s 21 percent of our operating budget,” Shelton said. “We have the lowest rate of expenditures per capita in the metro area and we’ve limited levy increases. The average annual levy increase has been 6/10ths of 1% — well below the level of inflation and new construction growth. We have the third lowest tax rate in the metro area.”

For the first time since 2005, Scott County’s fund balance is at the state recommended level. The county anticipates closing 2013 on or slightly under budget. The county accomplished this in the midst of the recent recession, when demand for county services increased, and while contributing to several major infrastructure/roadway improvement projects to help improve access for residents and commuters.

Economic Development Investments

“We are investing in economic development activities and seeing positive outcomes,” Shelton said, citing more than 3,000 jobs flowing into the county from corporations including Emerson, Datacard and Shutterfly. Shelton attributes the economic development successes to lobbying efforts, the county’s infrastructure – namely roads and broadband/fiber network – workforce development, direct investments of business incentives and programs to help businesses grow, and collaboration with cities through planning, market analyses, grants and the establishment of the First Stop Shop, where businesses and developers can go to learn about locating anywhere in Scott County.

Within Elko New Market, the county partnered with the city on the development of the Market Village Apartments and the new library, as well as studies on land use and transportation of the I-35 and County Road 2 interchange, and the commercial/industrial development potential in the city. County “TAP” grants and its broadband network are also available in Elko New Market to help support economic development.

“It’s encouraging to see Scott County and the City of Elko New Market collaborating so closely to prepare our area for business development,” said Todd Anderson, president of the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce. “With their focused marketing efforts and the improved economy, we’re hopeful that development is close at-hand. The residents, the city, the county and the chamber are all anxious to welcome new businesses to the city.”

When asked how the business community and residents could support economic development in Elko New Market, Shelton encouraged the audience members, if they are among the 300 randomly selected residents from across the county, to participate in research being conducted by students from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management on city and county services, and their economic development efforts. He also suggested that businesses advocate on behalf of the state within their respective industries on a national level.

“Minnesota is sometimes its own worst enemy,” Shelton said. “We talk about living in the ‘arctic tundra’ and wonder why people don’t want to come here. It’s not the arctic tundra. We need to be promoting Minnesota better.”

 

 

Health Care Reform – Key Issues for Businesses

By Andy Weitnauer of Financial Concepts

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as the health care reform law, Obama care, or the Affordable Care Act, was enacted on March 23, 2010. The past three years have been a steady stream of regulations and guidance as various governmental entities clarified employers’ requirements under the law. While much of the implementation phase of the law is already under way, the most significant aspects to businesses and individuals are not effective until 2014. At that time, most Americans will be required to purchase health insurance coverage that meets a certain minimum standard. If such coverage is not purchased, the individual would pay a penalty tax on his or her personal income tax return. For businesses, there are several things to consider:

Small vs. Large Employer – Only small employers are exempt from potential liability under the Employer Mandate provision (potential for penalties has been delayed until 1/1/2015). A small employer is defined as one that employed less than 50 full-time employees (taking into account full-time equivalents) during the previous year.

Employer Mandate – If you are a large employer, the Employer Mandate, also known as the Play or Pay provision, applies. On July 2, 2013, the Obama Administration announced that the effective date of the Employer Mandate and related reporting requirements would be delayed until January 1, 2015. The decision to “Play” or “Pay” can be summarized as follows: Employers can either offer coverage that meets requirements or they become exposed to potential penalties. To avoid potential penalties, employers must offer a minimum level of coverage that is affordable to all employees working 30 or more hours per week.

Exchanges – An exchange is an online marketplace for individuals and small employers (< 50 employees) to shop for health insurance. It is only through a state’s public exchange starting on January 1, 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, that individuals will be able to qualify for subsidized rates, and small employers will be able to qualify for a tax credit.

Community Rating – In Minnesota, prior to 2014, small employers (<50 employees) generally receive a risk factor rating of .75 to 1.25. This risk factor correlates to the insurance carriers’ perceived risk (expected claims) for that specific group, capped at +/- 25% around the carriers’ average rate for the plan. This means that a small employer with high expected claims could have rates 66.7% higher than an otherwise identical employer with low expected claims. Starting with the first renewal on or after January 1, 2014, rates will be community rates – all employers will have the same rates for a given plan (theoretically a 1.0 risk factor); however, in practice, we are anticipating that the rate will be more similar to today’s 1.05-1.10 risk factor. For example, this means that if your organization has a risk factor above 1.10, you will likely see a rate reduction at your first renewal in 2014; conversely, if your organization has a risk factor below 1.05, you will likely see a rate increase. This simplified analysis is causing many small employers to consider moving their renewal date to either delay the increase (move renewal to 12/1), or start the decrease earlier (move renewal to 1/1).

Caps on Deductibles and Out of Pocket Maximums – Effective upon your first renewal in 2014, small employers (<50 employees) with fully-insured medical plans will not be allowed to offer a health plan that has a deductible greater than $2,000 for Single coverage or $4,000 for Family coverage. In addition, both small and large employers regardless of whether they are fully insured and self-insured, will have a cap on their out of pocket maximum of $6,350 for Single Coverage or $12,700 for Family coverage (the cap on out-of-pocket maximums has been delayed until 2015, but the cap on deductibles for small groups is still scheduled to take effect in 2014).

Maximum Waiting Period of 90 Days – Effective January 1, 2014, employers can no longer have a waiting period longer than 90 days.

Individual Policy Rates Increasing – Effective January 1, 2014, individual policy insurance carriers will no longer be able to deny coverage to someone who has a pre-existing condition. They will now have to accept anyone who applies within their eligible time frame. This is a significant change to the individual insurance market in Minnesota, which historically has given carriers the opportunity to deny coverage completely, or delay coverage if an applicant had a pre-existing condition. It will make buying individual coverage easier because you won’t have to go through underwriting, but it is expected to significantly increase individual policy premiums.

New Fees and Taxes – There are three new fees and taxes being assessed to employers and/or insurance carriers to fund the Affordable Care Act; these new fees and taxes are expected to increase medical insurance costs by 4-7%. They include the:

  • Patient Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) fee is a temporary annual fee on plan years that end after October 1, 2012 and before October 1, 2019; the fee starts at $1, increases to $2 for plan years ending after October 1, 2013, and increases thereafter.
  • Transitional Reinsurance Fee is another temporary fee, scheduled to be in place from 2014-2016. It is intended to help shore-up the carriers who take on more of the adverse health risk in 2014 being they are no longer able to underwrite individuals and small employers based on health risk. The fee is expected to be $63 per covered life in 2014, $42/life in 2015, and $26.25 in 2016, and is payable annually by the insurance carrier for a fully insured plan.
  • Health Insurance Tax (HIT), a permanent tax on insurance carriers, is intended to help fund the cost of implementing the Affordable Care Act. It is calculated as a percentage of the carriers’ total premiums, payable annually starting in 2014 and is estimated to be .75% to 2% for the first year, increasing thereafter.

Removal of Annual Limits and Impact on HRAs/VEBAs – In general, certain HRAs will be impacted by the rules contained in the ACA regarding annual limits.  Unless an HRA is exempt from the annual limit rules, starting with the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2014, the HRA will not be able to impose an annual dollar limit on the amount of reimbursements provided under the HRA for essential health benefits.

In addition to considering and planning strategically for the above changes to the health care system, below are a few of the immediate action-items:

  • Update Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC)
  • Cap Health FSA at $2,500
  • Send out Exchange Notice – Before October 1, 2013
  • Update COBRA Election Notice
  • Prepare for the Cadillac Tax

This is a historic time in health care, with so many changes happening in such a short period of time. As you design and implement an action plan for your organization, feel free to contact me, Andy Weitnauer, Benefit Consultant at Financial Concepts, Inc. by calling 763-450-1817 or emailing aweitnauer@fci-benefits.com for a free consultation or even just for a second opinion. Financial Concepts, Inc. specializes in working with employers to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their employee benefits program, and we have extensive experience working with Minnesota employers.