Early-Stage, Technology-Oriented Businesses and Entrepreneurs Benefit from Tax Credits Through Keystone Innovation Zone Program

Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) tax credits for 273 early-stage companies totaling $15 million were announced by Governor Tom Wolf on Dec. 28, 2017. Included are 11 companies located within the Greater Susquehanna Keystone Innovation Zone, which includes portions of Bloomsburg, Danville, Lewisburg, Sunbury, and Selinsgrove.

The Keystone Innovation Zone Program is designed to support and encourage entrepreneurship in and around Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities by providing young Pennsylvania companies with vital working capital to meet critical needs, including covering capital expenditures, workforce expansion, operational expenses, and making companies more attractive to venture investment.

Run out of the PA Department of Community & Economic Development, the program provides tax credits for companies that have been in operation for less than eight years, whose gross revenues have increased over the previous year, are located in a Keystone Innovation Zone, and are operating within a targeted industry sector such as information technology or advanced manufacturing/diversified materials.

“By providing these tax credits, we’re helping to reduce the burden placed on companies as they go through the early stages of growth, thereby helping new ideas take root while pushing both our economy and the thriving tech sector forward,” said Governor Wolf.

For more information about the KIZ program, contact the Rural Business Innovation office in Bloomsburg at 570-245-0096.

Tax Reform Bill Provides More Benefits for Small Business

A final tax reform package is expected to be on President Trump’s desk as early as Wednesday, Dec. 20. Following the passage of differing bills in the House and Senate, a conference committee with leaders from both chambers was formed to come to reach a compromise. A representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told local chambers that the final legislation provides additional benefits to small businesses and middle class taxpayers.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act conference report was filed on Friday evening, Dec. 15. A few technical changes had to be made prior to the Senate vote, which then needed to be confirmed in the House. Here is an executive summary prepared by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.

Members Learn About Different Generations in the Workplace at Learn at Lunch

A group of engaged individuals from Chamber member organizations enjoyed a presentation from Tina Welch of Welch Performance Consulting on different generations in the workplace last Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Wesley United Methodist Church. Chamber Learn at Lunches are sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities and this specific Learn at Lunch was also co-sponsored by PA CareerLink Columbia/Montour Counties

Welch, a former HR executive who now runs her own consulting business, began the presentation by noting that she did not have any magic bullets that would automatically solve generational problems in the workplace. However, her presentation was done with the hope that making organizational leaders and others aware of the various differences in generations and what each is able to offer in terms of strengths can provide opportunities for HR and other leaders to implement strategies that can overcome generational barriers.

Why is this important for any organization that has multiple generations of individuals working for it? Take these statistics for instance.

– The proportion of working 65-69 year-olds in the U.S. has risen from nearly 18% in 1985 to 32% in 2011.
– During each quarter of 2016, over a quarter million Americans turned 65. 
– Millennials will make up the majority of the workforce by 2025. 
– Millennials have passed Baby Boomers as the largest generational group in the workplace.
– Fewer than 1 in 3 American workers are committed to the success of their organization and are engaged in their work
– 74% of Americans expect to work even after “retirement.”
– 68% of corporate recruiters say that it is difficult for their organizations to manage millennials

With those statistics in mind, and with turnover costing any employer, large or small, approximately 6-9 months of the lost employee’s salary, it is more critical than ever that organizational leaders understand the benefits, values and needs that each generation and individual brings to the workplace and be able to apply specific strategies to encourage communication and collaboration across the generations as well as to diffuse conflicts. 

Attendees were given a handout that in general terms, defines the characteristics and stereotypes as well as the workplace needs of all four generations — Traditionalists (born 1922-45), Baby Boomers (born 1946-64), Generation X (born 1965-1979) and Millennials (born 1980-2010), as well as those of “cuspers,” which are those born near the end or beginning of a specific generation. This is especially important for Xennials, a micro generation born during the cusp years of Generation X and Millennials (1977-1983). This group often shows characteristics and stereotypes of and has similar workplace needs as those usually attributed to one or both of Generation X and Millennials. 

At the end of the workshop, Welch asked the attendees to name one thing they could do immediately when they returned to their workplaces to help facilitate better inter-generational understanding and cooperation, while allowing for the fact that some workplace policies obviously can’t be changed immediately or at all. Some of the responses included taking a look at the standard employee orientation presentation, keeping notes on individuals such as board members and organizational volunteers in order to be able to best communicate and/or facilitate activities with them, as well as taking a look at a company cell phone policy. 

A Win-Win: Add Value to Your Employee Benefits With Life and Disability

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

Accident and tragedy are two things no employer wants to see for employees.

“Disability products and life insurance give employees peace of mind, knowing they have financial support in the event of unforeseen circumstances,” says Chuck Whitford, consultant at JRG Advisors. “They also give employers peace of mind in knowing that they help protect their employees. Ancillary benefits can even help businesses recruit and retain the best employees.”

Smart Business spoke with Whitford about how life insurance and disability coverage benefits employers and their employees.

Why should employers consider getting a disability plan?
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, every 7 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers an illness, injury or accident that will keep them out of work for more than one month. For individuals out of work for three months or more, the average time off of work due to a disability averages 2.6 years. That’s 136 weeks without a paycheck.

The cost of implementing a long-term disability plan is relatively small. For most business owners, the problem escalates as the owner tries to satisfy the current work demand and take care of the disabled employee. Providing long-term disability coverage is also valuable to employees — buying coverage on their own can cost as much as an entire group account because of stringent underwriting. Plus, the program can be structured so that the premiums are deducted as a business expense, but benefits can be received on an income tax-free basis.

What’s the difference between short-term and long-term disability?
Short-term disability fills the gap between day one of disability and when the long-term benefits kick in. Typically, a short-term disability contract covers the first 13 or 26 weeks of disability. Unfortunately, many people live paycheck to paycheck. Short-term disability can benefit those lacking sufficient savings.

Long-term disability is usually fully insured, with the exception of extremely large employers that self-fund the benefit. For most employers, the cost is determined by employee demographics and industry classification. Claims experience isn’t a significant factor. Long-term disability pays a portion of the disabled employee’s income after he or she runs out of both sick leave and short-term disability benefits, typically after 90 to 180 days. Depending on the plan design and how the policy defines disability, it may pay a monthly benefit for a specific number of years, such as two years or until normal retirement age under Social Security.

However, an employer shouldn’t administer its short-term disability program. Most employers aren’t equipped to assess when an employee is unable to perform his or her own job or when he or she is able to return, and employers are estimated to pay out 30 percent more in benefits than if the plan was managed by a claims professional. It is possible to outsource the claim adjudication process to a qualified third party, often referred to as ‘advise to pay.’

How has life insurance changed and why is this coverage important?
A recent study found nearly 70 percent of U.S. workers, across all generations, believe having a life insurance benefit available at work is important. This importance has grown over the past five years, an increase of 22 percent. For many, it is the only life insurance they own. Group life insurance can fill gaps in coverage and the purchasing power of a large group helps keep the coverage affordable for the employer.

Sixty-five percent of employees with group life coverage believe they need more life insurance beyond what their employer provides. Depending on the plan design and type and amount of coverage elected, employees may be able to buy additional life insurance without answering health questions. Some plans allow employees to purchase coverage on a spouse and/or dependent children. Buying life insurance at work is convenient because premiums can be paid through payroll deduction. When they leave the employer, people typically can choose to maintain coverage, paying premiums to the insurance company.

Employers that don’t have group life or group disability should meet with their insurance consultant. They most likely will be surprised by the relative low cost involved in establishing a program that can provide additional value to their employees.

Tax Reform Plan Expected to Save Middle Class Taxpayers

Congressman Lou Barletta speaks to members of the Columbia Montour Chamber at a breakfast in October.

The average person in Pennsylvania will save over $2,000 annually on their taxes with the passage of a tax reform plan being ironed out between the House and the Senate, according to Congressman Lou Barletta. When Barletta spoke to Chamber members in October, he pledged that any tax reform plan would have to benefit the middle class. Following the passage of a House plan in mid-November, the Senate plan passed along party lines in the early morning of Saturday, Dec. 2. The bill now goes to a conference committee to work out the differences between the plans with a goal of having a final version to President Trump by Christmas.

Here is a full article on the passage of the Senate bill and the path forward from the Harrisburg Patriot News.