Small Business

Association Health Plans: Expanding Health Coverage, Reducing Health Costs

By | General, Regulations, Shopfloor Policy, Small Business | No Comments

For more than a decade, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has supported efforts to increase small businesses’ health insurance options through what are known as Association Health Plans (AHPs), and today we officially filed comments with the Department of Labor that again underline that support. What’s an AHP? At its core, an AHP essentially enables associations and groups to band together to provide health insurance to member employers and employees. Given the increased purchasing power and wider insurance pool that comes from banding together, AHPs often offer the potential of better care and lower costs. It’s a great idea for small businesses and employees alike and, thanks to a wide-ranging executive order President Donald Trump signed in October promoting more choice and competition in the health care market, small businesses and their employees may soon be able to take advantage of them.

Manufacturers have a proud tradition of providing health care to employees—in fact, nearly 100 percent of our member companies do so—which is why the NAM is eager to advance additional market-based policy changes that can expand coverage even further while reducing health care costs at the same time. AHPs offer an important pathway to get there, and we believe it is time to make this health care option more widely available to smaller manufacturers and their employees. We appreciate all of the efforts of President Trump, his Labor Department and Congress in moving us one step closer to making that vision a reality. We will continue to be a partner along the way, so more manufacturing employees can thrive, be healthy and share in their sector’s success.

House Moving Forward to Restore Joint-Employer Standard

By | General, Labor Unions, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Small Business | No Comments

In 2015, the National Labor Relations Board, in the Browning-Ferris Industries case decision, overturned 30 years of case precedent by redefining a joint employer. Previously, businesses could meet the definition of an “employer” if they had “direct and immediate” control over another’s work. Now, a business owner who has “potential” or even “reserved control” over the practices of another business and its employees could be considered a “joint employer.” This change means businesses may now be liable for the contents of a collective-bargaining agreement they did not negotiate, employee overtime issues they did not cause and other employment practices.

This new definition affects more than 770,000 employers nationwide across multiple sectors and impacts every manufacturer that contracts for performed work with an outside entity. Manufacturers that contract out for any product or service with another company could find themselves mired in unexpected issues that arise from that company’s conduct.

The decision has already had a chilling effect on manufacturers’ ability and willingness to hire outside entities they would normally hire for specific expertise and services in differing fields. This hampers productivity and leads to increased overall costs. It also injects risk into the use of innovative and flexible workforce designs that manufacturers may use to cope with uneven production levels or market uncertainties.

The House will take up H.R. 3441, the Save Local Business Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL), which will restore the previous standard by amending the National Labor Relations Act to define that a person may be considered a joint employer in relation to an employee only if such person directly, actually and immediately exercises significant control over the essential terms and conditions of employment. Due to the importance of this legislation to manufacturers, the NAM will be key-voting this measure. We are hopeful the Senate will do its part next and take up this important measure so that manufacturers and others can focus on job creation and running businesses, rather than trying to navigate the complicated labor policy landscape.

Young Manufacturers Told: ‘Think Video Games’

By | General, Small Business | No Comments

A new employee at the Ruby Concrete Company in Madisonville, Kentucky, struggled to understand how to operate its high-tech production line that essentially mixes sand, rock, cement and water to make a host of concrete products.

“Think video games,” Kent Waide, company owner and president, told the 20 year old.

“It was like a lightbulb popped on,” Waide said. “He could suddenly see, ‘Yes, there is a progression or flow of production. It’s like a video game. You go from one level to the next, to the next, to the next.’”

Waide talks video games and workplace technology to connect with young employees and help keep his small family-owned company up and running in Kentucky’s western-coalfields region.

While many businesses come and go within five years, Ruby Concrete is nearing its 150th anniversary. The company is proud of its history as a scrappy innovator and survivor with primary markets in commercial and residential construction—and as a modern manufacturer that welcomes young workers wanting to learn.

Waide draws inspiration from those who ran the company before him, starting with John Ruby. An entrepreneur, Ruby began the operation in 1869 as a lumber company that obtained a contract to provide all the wooden ties to a railroad expanding through town.

Ruby’s family inherited the company and navigated it through the “Great Depression” by diversifying with a variety of new divisions, including ones for heating, plumbing, appliances and construction.

Waide said he again thought of the Rubys a decade ago when he struggled to survive the “Great Recession.” “If the Rubys could figure out a way to get through the ‘Great Depression,’ I could figure out how to get through the ‘Great Recession.’”

So, he took a hard look at his company and decided to build a high-tech plant that could run two shifts instead of just one and manufacture several new lines of concrete products.

It worked. Ruby Concrete became far more efficient. Its output soared 50 percent.

And the company transformed with the help of not just technology but also people.

“The employees we need now are different,” said Waide. “We need ones with specialized skills,” such as “mechatronics,” a technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering.

To help hire workers with an interest in creativity, teamwork and technology and ease the industry’s nagging “skills gap,” Ruby Concrete engages in joint ventures with area schools, including an annual robotics competition.

“Employers want young employees willing and able to work, and there are training programs in place to advance these young people to good, high-wage jobs,” said Waide.

On average nationwide, a trainee can earn from $35,000 to $40,000 a year while a skilled worker can get between $75,000 and $100,000 a year.

“Some people in the business are frustrated with the young people of today,” Waide said. “They say they just don’t have the same work ethic as they did years ago. But what we find is that they just go about things differently. You need to get them excited about work and things that they can relate to. This is a generation of video game players. And that is one way that we can relate.”

Waide points out that the story of what evolved into Ruby Concrete is the story of three generations of the Ruby family, followed by three generations of his family.

In the early 1940s, John Ruby’s grandson, Clyde Ruby, returned from World War II and began Ruby Concrete. In 1965, retiring family members closed the lumber company and transferred its assets to the concrete company.

When Clyde Ruby retired in the early 1970s, Waide’s father, Harry Waide, became president. Harry had begun work there in 1953 as a laborer. In 1982, Harry became the owner.

In 2012, Harry Waide’s son, Kent Waide, took over as president. His son, Jonathan Waide, 20, is just getting started, having worked there in recent years during his high school and now college breaks.

“We’re proud. We’re grateful,” said Kent Waide, who hasn’t yet figured out how the company will mark its 150th anniversary in 2019.

But he knows this: “We’ve been able to survive and remain independent through technology. To last this long, you need to endure a lot of hard knocks. You need to be tough. You need to take advantage of the innovation of the day and try to make the most of it.”

Power of Small: More than 90 percent of the National Association of Manufacturers’ 14,000 members are small to medium-sized businesses. These are our stories.

NAM’s Executive Insights Series Makes Its First 2016 Stop in North Carolina

By | General, Infrastructure, Shopfloor Main, Small Business | No Comments

Manufacturing executives gathered in North Carolina today for a panel discussion on innovation, the future of manufacturing and key policies. The panel was hosted by John Ferriola, chairman, CEO and president of Nucor Corporation; other participants included Jay Timmons, NAM president and CEO; Matt Barr, chairman and CEO of Carolina Color Corporation; and John Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., and NAM Board vice chair.

Heading into a presidential election year, panelists discussed policies that candidates should be prioritizing to promote growth in the manufacturing sector. Last week, the NAM released a roadmap for political candidates, “Competing to Win: Manufacturers’ Agenda for Economic Growth and American Exceptionalism.”


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Senate Confirms Ex-Im Bank Chairman, Ensures Continued Support for Exports

By | Economy, Small Business | No Comments

Today, more than 80 U.S. Senators joined together to confirm Fred Hochberg for a second term as President of the Export-Import Bank. This bipartisan expression of support comes as no surprise as the Bank, under Mr. Hochberg’s leadership, has been a champion of job creation during a period of economic turmoil.

The Ex-Im Bank’s focus on supporting exports has allowed manufacturers in the United States to reach new markets and continue to do what they do best – create jobs, grow the economy, and increase our global competitiveness.  Last year alone, the Bank authorized more than $35 billion in financing for U.S. exports, which supported more than 255,000 American jobs and 3,400 U.S. companies, 85% of which were small businesses.

While President Hochberg’s confirmation ensures job creators will continue to have a steady ally at the Ex-Im Bank, the vote more importantly ensures the Bank’s Board of Directors will have the necessary quorum to approve transactions and operate effectively.

The NAM commends the Senate on this important vote and looks forward to working with Ex-Im Bank as it continues working to keep U.S. manufacturers competitive in global markets.

American Posts, LLC awarded ‘End-User Efficiency Initiative of the Year’

By | America's Business, Small Business | No Comments

Last week American Posts, LLC won the Platts Global Metals Award for ‘End-User Efficiency Initiative of the Year’ Award for their innovative steel u-channel post manufacturing techniques. Foreign production competition threatened this Ohio based and family owned steel manufacturer, but innovations in efficiency and investments in production, moved American Posts in place to compete. As the last manufacturer of steel u-posts for the lawn and garden industry left in the United States, American Posts, LLC is staying true to their motto, “Buy a Stake in America.”

Manufacturers in America continue to lead the way in innovation and American Posts is a great example. In order to stay competitive in the fierce global marketplace, manufacturers need Washington to move forward with pro-growth policies. The NAM has released a Growth Agenda which outlines the policies needed to help manufacturers compete.

A Timely Introduction for the Disaster Loan Fairness Act

By | Small Business | No Comments

With Washington metropolitan area businesses bracing today for yet another round of serious wind and rain storms, we’re pleased to see that the House tomorrow will take up the Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2012 ( HR 6296) introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta(R-PA). The legislation would lower the interest rates on Small Business Administration disaster loans and make the program simpler and more transparent.

This measure is welcomed news to the thousands of small businesses that have—or will—sustain losses because of natural disasters. And there have been many.  According to Rep. Barletta, since January 2011, over 200 congressional districts have been impacted by a major disaster declared by the president. Communities in almost every state in this country have been flooded by a tropical storm or a hurricane, burned by a wildfire, crippled by a snowstorm, or destroyed by a tornado. Let’s hope no one suffers damage from today’s series of storms and rest assured that, if disaster does strike, businesses will be able to obtain the financial resources to rebuild.

Small Business Sentiment Virtually Unchanged in May

By | Economy, Small Business | No Comments

The National Federation of Independent Business said that small business owner confidence was virtually unchanged in May. The Small Business Optimism Index edged slightly lower from 94.5 in April to 94.4 in May. The longer-term trend is more positive, as the index stood at 90.9 at this point last year. Still, small businesses remain concerned about the economy, with the index well-below the threshold of 100 which would suggest growth for the sector.

The net percentage of respondents saying that the next three months are a “good time to expand” was also unchanged at 7 percent, where it has stood for three consecutive months. For those saying that it was not a good time for expansion, the economy was the top concern, with political uncertainty also a factor. With that said, last month “poor sales” dropped from being the top concern for the first time since 2008 to second place. This top concern this month is “taxes,” perhaps a recognition of the expiration of tax cuts at the beginning of 2013. After taxes, the top concerns were sales and the regulatory environment.

The data points behind the index were mostly mixed. Expectations of sales, earnings and capital spending were lower. In contrast, it appears that small business owners are stepping up their hiring, with employment and job openings measures showing increases. Credit conditions remain an ongoing concern.

Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

Small Business Owners Optimism Edges Slightly Higher

By | Economy, Small Business | No Comments

The National Federation of Independent Business said that small business owner confidence was slightly higher in February. The Small Business Optimism Index rose from 93.9 in January to 94.3 in February. This was the sixth consecutive month that the index increased, with a steady improvement from the 88.1 reading of August. It is worth noting, though, that small business sentiment remains sub-par. The small business sector has historically expanded when the index exceeds 100 – a level that it has not seen since April 2006.

The net percentage of respondents saying that the next three months are a “good time to expand” fell from 9 percent to 8 percent. For the most part, small business owners remain anxious about the economic and political environment, as indicated by the reasons cited for their response on the expansion question. While many of the indicators in this survey have improved of late, it seems that progress has been slow, with owner anxieties playing a large role.

Since the beginning of the recession, “poor sales” – a proxy for the economy – have been cited as the “single most important problem.” In this survey, it still is, but the percentage stating this has been falling. It is now the most important problem for 22 percent of the respondents, down from 28 percent one year ago and 34 percent at its peak.  Right on its heels are “taxes” and “government regulations and red tape,” both with 21 percent each.

Improvements in the Small Business Optimism Index (and the “poor sales” figure) can be tied to increased confidence in many of the indicators. For instance, measures for expected sales, current job openings, expected compensation and inventory growth were all higher in February. Yet, many of the indicators remain weak, reflecting continued caution among many small business owners. For instance, fewer owners plan to increase employment this month, and credit conditions remain an ongoing concern.

Manufacturing Gaining Attention in Kentucky

By | General, Small Business | No Comments

Manufacturing is gaining some additional attention in Kentucky. Recently Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray have undertaken a regional initiative to help improve the competitiveness of advanced manufacturing in both cities.

Member of the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors and President of Atlas Machine & Supply in Louisville, Rich Gimmel will be hosting Mayor Fischer next week to further discuss this initiative. Mr. Gimmel is hopeful that the local leaders are serious and is happy they are talking about manufacturing.

Read Mr. Gimmel’s comments to the Louisville-Courier Journal:

“As a manufacturer who depends on other manufactures as customers, and as a board member of the National Assn. of Manufacturers, I’m delighted that community leadership is once again putting manufacturers on their economic development radar screen.  For the past several years, most of the emphasis was on “corporate HQ’s” and service or medical jobs.”