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Applications for 2015-16 LFMWF Program Open in April

February 25th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

Leadership Fargo Moorhead West Fargo is a great way to grow as an individual and a member of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo businessKoalas community. This nine-month leadership program runs September through May and meets once per month at various locations throughout the community.

Participants will:

  • Develop lasting relationships with other leaders.
  • Discover the inner workings of their community.
  • Define their individual role and responsibility as a leader within their organization and their community.

Applications open on April 1.

For more information, please contact Sam at sgust@fmwfchamber.com or 218.359.0529.

Nearly 100 Members Attend Chamber Day at the Capitol

February 25th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

Two buses filled with engaged Chamber members traveled to Bismarck last month to see lawmakers in action and network with elected officials. The Chamber Dayfull day of activities included committee hearings, floor sessions, updates from legislative leaders and the governor and a reception with legislators. More than 30 legislators found time in their busy schedules to spend the evening talking with Chamber members and hearing what issues are most important to Fargo business professionals.

During the floor sessions, Chamber members could sit with legislators or view the action from the gallery as lawmakers debated and discussed amendments to bills and the bills themselves.

“The Chamber leadership program continues to provide experiences that enhance our personal and professional lives,” said Diane Sandven, Heartland Trust Company. “Having the opportunity to sit with a representative on the floor while the House of Representatives held session was definitely one of these experiences. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe the political process from this unique perspective.”

Gov JackGov. Jack Dalrymple briefed the group in the afternoon, explaining that the state has continued interest in funding levy construction projects in the Fargo area to protect the city from future flooding. He also explained that recent dismal forecasts about falling oil prices may change once new analytics are available later this month. “Yes, we are going to recover,” Dalrymple asserted. “It’s just a question of how fast.”

Those thoughts were echoed by other legislators who addressed the Chamber group such as House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad and House Majority Leader Al Carlson. “The sky is not falling but we need to be good managers of the state’s money,” Carlson said.

While flood protection is a major issue for the metro, another concern is the availability of water in dry times. Sen. Rick Sorvaag spoke about the need for a water supply project that will ensure the metro has constant access to clean, safe water.

“We can fight a flood but we can’t fight a drought,” Sorvaag said.

Sen. Rich Wardner said that while the priority may be on the western part of the state right now, legislators have not overlooked the eastern half.

“The state of North Dakota can’t afford to have Fargo flood,” he said. “Fargo is too big of an economic generator for our state.”

Other individuals who addressed the group included Senator Minority Leader Mac Schneider, Sen. Tim Flakoll and Laney Herauf, government and regulatory affairs specialist for the Greater North Dakota Chamber. Herauf discussed six major bills the state chamber is tracking throughout this legislative session.

The Chamber extends a special thank you to the CVB for its warm welcome and complimentary coffee and snacks.

Military Affairs Committee Profile: Brian Shawn

February 25th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

MAC_Brian ShawnBrian Shawn, regional communications officer for American Red Cross – Red River Valley Chapter, has served as the chair for the Military Affairs committee since September 2014, after serving as vice chairperson in 2013.

How long have you been involved with the Military Affairs committee? I have been involved with the Military Affairs committee for about four years. I was excited that The Chamber brought the committee back, and it has been a great group to be a part of.

What have you enjoyed most about working with the Military Affairs committee? I have enjoyed getting to know all the people that serve and lead our military branches around the area. We have a lot of committed and dedicated service men and women who take a great deal of pride in the work they do both in our communities and throughout the entire world. It’s great to be on a committee that helps supports our military because they are true heroes in the work they do and play a critical role in keeping us safe and supporting local businesses.

What is one thing you would like other people to know about the Military Affairs committee? We are a group that really strives to advocate and support our service members and their families. We are always looking for new people throughout the business community to join us, get involved and learn more about what is going on with our local military branches and how we can best support them in Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth. Thanks to all of our Honor Star members that help support us as well!

Join Honor Star Program, Support Local Military Community

February 25th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

Honor Star LogoThree years ago, The Chamber created what is known as the Honor Star program as a way for businesses and individuals to say thank you to the men, women and families who have answered the call to serve our nation.

Through an annual $100 investment, members contribute to funds that help foster a community of support for our local military and their families. These funds have been used to provide uniforms for the Junior ROTC program, and the program recently signed on to support WDAY with their organization of the Honor Flights focusing on local Korean and Vietnam War veterans.

The Honor Star program is also involved with The Chamber’s Annual Military Appreciation Day with the Fargo- Moorhead RedHawks as a way to say thank-you to our service members and their families.

If you are interested in becoming an Honor Star member, please contact Elly Peterson at epeterson@fmwfchamber.com or 218.359.0512.

March 2015: Message to Members

February 25th, 2015 by Craig Whitney

Craig WhitneyAt our State of the Cities event in January, we polled our audience members on the number one issue affecting the FMWF region that city leaders should address, and 40 percent responded with workforce while 36 percent responded with comprehensive flood protection. While we recognize the importance of workforce development, I want to make it perfectly clear that the diversion is just as significant.

We hear about workforce challenges nearly every day, so we were not surprised by the result of the poll, to which 200 audience members responded. The issue has been newsworthy for several years now, and our collaboration with other organizations to conduct a regional workforce development study is a testament to its prominence in our thriving metro.

What may not be as visible to people is what’s happening with the diversion; you may see construction on flood projects downtown, and while those are part of the federal diversion project, the bulk of the diversion has yet to begin. Once ground is broken on the diversion channel, it will likely take 8-10 years to build. Ground-breaking will begin as soon as this fall.

In the meantime, The Chamber’s Business Leaders for Permanent Flood Protection Task Force, which was organized more than two years ago with the explicit purpose of lobbying the legislature for support, is back at work. The group has been meeting and has sent representatives to Bismarck already to gather continued support for the diversion project.

The diversion is one of two priorities for The Chamber this year. Just like workforce development, it is a regional issue that affects businesses in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. While workforce may have edged out comprehensive flood protection in our State of the Cities poll by a few percentage points, it doesn’t diminish the importance of the diversion even a little.

Thank you for your membership,
Craig Whitney
President/CEO
The Chamber

Economic Experts: National and Local Outlook Positive

February 19th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

Despite a slow U.S. economic recovery and a suddenly lagging oil boom in North Dakota, the outlook for the next year is positive, economic experts asserted at the Economic Outlook Forum. More than 500 people learned about economic forecasting and the risks to a stable or improved economy from U.S. Chamber Deputy Chief Economist J.D. Foster.

Foster highlighted how the past performance is one of the best indicators of how the economy will perform in the future, though recessions can still occur. He also explained that the labor market conditions depend on the quality of the workforce, which has degraded slightly due to prolonged unemployment.

“The economy naturally tries to close the inefficiency gap between potential output and actual GDP performance,” Foster said. He pointed out that the U.S. has experienced 11 recessions since the end of World War II and that we’ve been recovering from the most recent for the past six years.

Foster also pointed out that the economy isn’t recovering as fast as it could because business policy has stifled optimism and reduced the amount of high-risk opportunities and investments businesses will take advantage of.

“Being able to focus on what your business is doing and not what Washington is doing will help the economy recover,” Foster asserted. Download Foster’s presentation.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani highlighted the impact a research institution has on the local economy by contributing more than $80 million to the North Dakota tax base. In addition, NDSU also contributes a $17 million decrease in social costs, citing that college graduates often lead healthier, more productive lives. In total, the economic impact of NDSU on the local economy is more than $800 million, and the data Bresciani cited was provided by a third-party organization two years ago.

“A top-notch research university is not a cost; it’s an investment,” he said. Download Bresciani’s presentation.

Mike Krueger, founder and president of The Money Farm, provided a sobering picture of the commodities market where no crops look profitable today based on current prices. He cited the major concern is weather; the threat of drought in the northern plains may cause more market fluctuations. Download Krueger’s presentation.

Finally, Dan Staller from Starion Financial presented the findings from the annual business conditions survey. Businesses are exceeding their expectations on an annual basis, he reported, but major concerns continue to be the ability to attract trained employees and the availability of affordable housing in the community. Download full survey results.

 

Are You Really On Top of All of the Affordable Care Act Penalties?

February 4th, 2015 by Member Contributor

The latest discussions around the looming and potential penalties employers face under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, are no longer just the “pay or play” penalties for employers who either do not offer insurance or offer inadequate or unaffordable insurance to their employees, but rather other penalties that can make the “pay or play” penalties look insignificant.

This is not to say the “pay or play” penalties are a thing of the past; they are still in place and businesses will start being exposed to them in 2015.  These looming penalties are associated with businesses who reimburse employees for individual health insurance, regardless of whether the reimbursement is done pre-tax or post-tax.

The penalty for employers currently doing this—$36,500 per employee per year for employers large and small. That’s a far cry from the $2,000 “no insurance penalty” or the $3,000 “unaffordability penalty” that only large employers thought they were facing for their employees starting in 2015.

Before understanding these penalties, let’s first step back and understand how we got here. Revenue Ruling 61-146 along with Code Section 106 specifically laid the groundwork for employers to be able to pay individual insurance premiums directly to the individual’s insurance company or to reimburse the individual for those premiums upon proof of payment. These reimbursements were excluded from the employee’s gross income under Code Section 106. This type of payment plan is referred to as an Employer Payment Plan (EPP).

The market reforms put in place under the ACA have two specific requirements that need to be mentioned. They prevent group health insurance from placing annual limits on certain benefits, and they require non-grandfathered plans to provide certain preventative care without cost-sharing requirements.

Notice 2013-54 issued on September 13, 2013, detailed penalties for plans not abiding by the market reforms. It also specified that if employers were providing EPPs pre-tax, they are considered to be providing group coverage and will then fail the market reforms, as the amount of the individual coverage would be considered an annual limit, which under the market reforms is not allowed.

However, it also stated that employers who were utilizing these EPPs and providing these payments post-tax were not part of this notice. Therefore, it was advised that employers start taxing these EPPs, rather than offering them pre-tax, in order to avoid the costly market reform rules.

Fast forward to November 6, 2014, in which the DOL in conjunction with the IRS and Treasury put out a short FAQ (frequently asked questions) which specifically stated that employers reimbursing employees for individual insurance premiums, whether that reimbursement is done pre-tax or post-tax, will be subject to the costly $100-per-day excise tax under Code Section 4980D, per person. Keep in mind these excise taxes are considered penalties, which are non-deductible when it comes to filing income tax returns. The date these excise taxes kicked in for this reimbursement was January 1, 2014.

The problem gets worse when it comes to 2 percent S corporation shareholders. These shareholders, who had individual health insurance plans, are required to have the company reimburse them for their premiums paid personally in order to take the self-employed health insurance deduction on the front page of their individual tax return per Notice 2008-1.

The November 6 guidance, although only issued in an FAQ, states that by reimbursing these individual premiums, the S corporation will be subjecting itself to the $100-per-day penalty per shareholder who was reimbursed. Without this reimbursement from the S corporation, the shareholder loses a valuable deduction on page one of their individual tax return. However, it should be noted that the market reforms do not apply to plans with “less than two participants.”

Obviously, the tax rules and the market reforms are in conflict with each other. For now, businesses need to weigh the potential benefits of pre-taxing or post-taxing individual coverage or subjecting themselves to a penalty of $36,500 per employee per year. The recommendation is to stop offering reimbursement of insurance premiums for individual coverage, regardless if that reimbursement is done pre-tax or post-tax.

However, there is nothing to stop a business from giving employees bonuses for whatever dollar amount they choose. It’s of the utmost importance, however, that businesses do NOT label this bonus as an insurance reimbursement, as this will then lead to the penalty. Businesses need to keep in mind the potential impact bonuses have on employee’s overtime rates as well as employee expectations should the post-tax bonuses get too costly for the business once they’ve started.

The rules surrounding the Affordable Care Act are continually changing. It’s essential that businesses, large and small, keep up with these changes to make sure they do not inadvertently get caught on the wrong side of the penalties.

There are many questions surrounding health care reform, insurance costs and the Marketplace. Visit www.eidebailly.com/healthcarereform to learn more.

Women Connect Program Kicks Off With Sell-Out Crowd, Phenomenal Speaker

January 30th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

WCMore than 500 women packed the Hilton Garden Inn Fargo on January 27 for a chance to be inspired by author and businesswoman Lynette Lewis, the author of “Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos.” Lewis served as the keynote speaker for the new program’s inaugural session, and she did it with panache, humor and humility.

Her message about dreams and the power of connection resonated with attendees, who left with Lewis’s book, new connections and motivation to pursue what they most want to achieve. Lewis shared her 1-1-1 strategy, which encourages taking one step once a week toward one dream, a principle busy women who balance work, home life and community involvement can relate to.

Lewis also worked in reflection and connection moments throughout her presentation to ensure attendees would leave with well-defined steps as well as individuals to help them move forward in those steps.

“Your dream is someone else’s answer,” Lewis said. “If you don’t move forward on your dreams, that person will never realize theirs.”

Intertwined in her presentation were heartfelt, touching stories about her own trials of re-evaluating her life plans in college to counseling to marrying later in life to dealing with the death of a beloved stepson to adopting twin girls.

“Don’t ever quit dreaming,” she said. “Dreams are what tell our hearts that we’re living, not dying.”

A social after the event offered attendees the opportunity to continue networking and discussing the content. Lewis also signed copies of her book for attendees.

Attendees also donated more than 100 pairs of shoes to Dress For Success Red River Valley, a local nonprofit that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to succeed in work and life. Dress for Success Red River Valley was a nonprofit partner for last year’s Leadership Fargo Moorhead West Fargo program, which helped the organization develop a professional women’s group.

The next Women Connect session will be held on February 24.

Check out all the great observations from the event by searching #FMWFWC, and be sure to join the FMWF Chamber Women Connect Facebook group to continue the conversation. Photos are also available online.

 

Chamber Members Offer Flowers, Candy and Cookies to Celebrate Loved Ones

January 26th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

In 2013, Americans spent $1.6 billion on candy and $1.9 billion on flowers during the month of February to show their affection for loved ones, according to a CNN article. That same year, an estimated 224 million roses were grown in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

If you’re planning to celebrate the holiday this year, here are a few Chamber members that could help you with your candy, baked good or flower needs.

Breadsmith
This Fargo favorite offers hearth-baked breads, rolls and other baked goods made every day from scratch using the best all-natural ingredients that are free from preservatives.

Carol Widman’s Candy Co
Four generations of candy makers have been perfecting Widman recipes since 1885, including the famous Chippers.

Cash Wise Flower Shoppe – Fargo and Moorhead
The technicians at Cash Wise can put together a variety of floral arrangements for many special occasions.

Country Greenery – Fargo and Moorhead
Country Greenery offers a large inventory of fresh flowers, interior plant leasing and maintenance, gifts and home accessories as well as gourmet fruit baskets and balloon bouquets.

Dalbol Flowers Gifts
More than 25 years, this family owned and operated shop has been spreading happiness throughout the community, one floral arrangement at a time.

Fantasies in Frosting LLC
While this bakery specializes in wedding cakes, bars, cookies, pies and desserts are available to order.

Great Harvest Bread Co
This neighborhood bakery focuses on making breads, muffins, cookies and scones from scratch each day. Baked goods are made with 100% whole wheat flour that is milled daily.

Paradise Donuts
For a new treat, try donuts made by this locally owned franchise or check out the rest of the baked goods available.

Prairie Petals
Looking for a creative, personal, affordable and environmentally friendly arrangement? Prairie Petals is the place for you; all items are locally grown and gathered.

Quality Bakery
This wholesale and retail bakery has been a staple in the community for more than 90 years, offering cakes, cookies, pops, buns, pies, breads and donuts.

Sandy’s Donuts and Coffee Shop – West Fargo and Downtown Fargo
This local eatery has been serving up donuts, baked goods, cakes and cookies since 1983. Items are also available by delivery, and Sandy’s now offers its treats in two locations.

Shotwell Floral Greenhouse
One of the oldest florists in the community, Shotwell provides fresh floral arrangements and gift baskets to people throughout the metro and surrounding communities.

Sweet Dreams Confections
If you’re looking for an old-fashioned treat, Sweet Dreams Confections is the place to check out. The shop offers old-fashioned soda pops and retro candies as well as homemade fudge, chocolates and other gourmet foods.

Public Relations Committee Chair Profile: Kayla Beehler, BioLife Plasma Services

January 26th, 2015 by Danielle Teigen

Kayla BeehlerKayla Beehler, a senior regional marketing representative for BioLife Plasma Services took over as the chair of the committee in September 2014.

How long have you been involved with the committee and program? I have been involved with the Ambassador program since 2010, and I love it!

What have you enjoyed most about working with the public relations ambassadors? One of the most enjoyable things is the group of individuals that we have on our committee and the commitment they all make to the program. One of the highlights for us as a whole is getting to meet the leaders responsible for our growing business community as well as the fun aspect of getting to celebrate the major milestones for all of the successful businesses in our community.

What is one thing you would like other people to know about the public relations ambassadors? The Public Relations Ambassadors are a fun and professional group of volunteers from the business community in the Fargo-Moorhead area. They simply become another family to you and another resource for anything you can think of. I highly encourage anyone that has a growing interest in the business community to apply for our committee and join in our fun!

 
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