Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Helps Businesses Navigate Health Care Changes with New Online Tools

/PRNewswire/ -- In an effort to help minimize confusion regarding implementation of health care reform provisions among business owners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa) has created two new tools to help business navigate the changes in health care, a grandfathering tool and a tax calculator tool.

Both tools are available at www.anthem.com/healthcarereform. The small business tax calculator tool and tax content were developed by The Tax Institute at H&R Block and also may be viewed by visiting www.thetaxinstitute.com.

The interactive grandfathering tool is designed to help businesses better understand what grandfathering means, if they qualify for it, and what options are available to them with regard to their health plan. BCBSGa has also joined forces with H&R Block to provide a convenient, comprehensive tool to help small business owners understand the financial impact, as well as the opportunities that accompany the changes in the health care system.

"The grandfathering tool is another part of our commitment to help make health care reform work," said Morgan Kendrick, President, BCBSGa. "This tool will allow business owners to understand what grandfathering means to them, what the qualification parameters are, and if it is potentially in their best interests to grandfather their current health plan. This tool can help businesses quickly and easily determine a course of action based on their current plan in an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand tool."

Kendrick added, "We are also extremely pleased to be partnering with H&R Block to make the small business tax calculator available, which can help small business owners understand the tax credits they are qualified for and allow them to better control and anticipate their health care costs. It's BCBSGa's hope that this resource will enable owners to focus on running a successful business and add some clarity as they navigate the health care system."

The small business tax calculator can help users understand the following reform provisions:

* The small business health care premium credit for qualified employers with 25 or fewer employees and average annual wages under $50,000 (2010)
* Requirements to provide employee coverage for full-time employees who work for businesses with 50 or more employees (2014)
* Employer penalties for not providing coverage when at least one full-time employee is enrolled in a subsidized health care plan (2014)
* The excise tax on high-cost health plans, which applies to plans that cost more than $10,200 for an individual and $27,500 for a family (2018).


"These tools will provide us with an easy way to navigate and communicate the financial impact that health care reform may have on our small business customers," said Jeff Fishback, President and CEO, Purchasing Alliance Solutions. "They will also help us to better communicate about grandfathering and if it might be in their best interest. For example, whether they should take advantage of the available credits and other provisions designed to improve the affordability of health care. I anticipate that interactive tools such as these will help small businesses save time and money. This is just one more example of why BCBSGa is the leader in the industry."

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Great Airlines Join Forces: AirTran Airways Agrees to Acquisition by Southwest Airlines

/PRNewswire/ -- AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AAI), the parent company of AirTran Airways, announced today that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) in a transaction currently valued at more than $1.37 billion. Including existing AirTran Holdings, Inc., indebtedness and capitalized aircraft operating leases, the aggregate transaction value is approximately $3.42 billion.

Under the terms of the agreement, shareholders of AirTran Holdings, Inc., will receive a combination of Southwest common stock and cash valued between $7.25 and $7.75, depending upon the average trading price of Southwest stock for a 20 trading day period to and including three trading days prior to the closing of the merger. At least $3.75 of the merger consideration will be in cash. The stock portion of the consideration will be 0.321 shares of Southwest common stock for each share of AirTran common stock, unless the trading price of Southwest common stock would cause the overall merger consideration to exceed $7.75 per share (in which case the number of Southwest shares will be decreased so that the consideration equals $7.75 per AirTran share) or would cause the overall merger consideration to be less than $7.25 per share (in which case additional cash, Southwest shares or a combination of the two will be added so that the consideration equals $7.25 per share).

Based on Southwest Airlines' closing share price as of September 24, 2010, the value of the merger consideration would be $7.69 per AirTran share. This represents a 69 percent premium over the September 24, 2010, closing price of AirTran stock.

The acquisition of AirTran Airways by Southwest Airlines will bring together two great companies and create one even stronger low-cost carrier. The two airlines currently serve 106 communities from coast-to-coast, Mexico and the Caribbean, with 685 all-Boeing aircraft and nearly 43,000 dedicated, fun-loving Employees.

"This agreement is great news for our Crew Members, our shareholders, our customers and the communities we serve. Joining Southwest Airlines will give us opportunities to grow, both professionally as individuals and as a group, in ways that simply would not be possible without this agreement," said Bob Fornaro, AirTran Airways' chairman, president and chief executive officer. "This agreement with Southwest is a testament to the success and hard work of the more than 8,000 AirTran Crew Members who have built this airline. I am tremendously proud of the things we have accomplished together and look forward to continuing that great work during this next exciting chapter of our history."

The combined airline will benefit from greater economies of scale and the integration of operations will be aided by significant fleet commonality. The result is an airline that is better prepared to meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive airline environment and take advantage of strategic opportunities better than ever before.

"Both companies have dedicated people with kindred Warrior Spirits, who care about each other, and who care about serving Customers. We will continue to enhance our award-winning Customer experiences and high-quality operations," said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines' chairman, president, and chief executive officer. "We believe this deal can benefit all Stakeholders through an expansion of low fares for Customers, opportunities for Employees of both companies and for suppliers and vendors, and favorable returns for Shareholders. Ultimately, we want to spread low fares farther and look forward to working together with AirTran's Crew Members to realize the new opportunities we expect to achieve from this deal."

The AirTran Board of Directors, on the unanimous recommendation of a Special Committee of independent directors, approved the merger agreement and recommends that AirTran Holdings, Inc., shareholders approve the transaction.

Completion of the transaction, which will require both regulatory and shareholder approvals, is expected to close by the first half of 2011. Commercial and operating integration is slated to culminate in 2012, with both carriers operating under Southwest Airlines' Federal Aviation Administration operating certificate in Dallas.

Morgan Stanley acted as lead financial advisor to AirTran Holdings, Inc., with both Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP, and Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, acting jointly as legal advisors.

Until the acquisition is approved and finalized, both carriers will continue to operate independently. For more information, please visit: www.lowfaresfarther.com.

AirTran Airways is a Fortune 1000 company and has been ranked the number one low cost carrier in the Airline Quality Rating study for the past three years. AirTran Airways is the only major airline with Gogo Inflight Internet on every flight and offers coast-to-coast service on North America's newest all-Boeing fleet. Our low-cost, high-quality product also includes assigned seating, Business Class and complimentary XM Satellite Radio on every flight. To book a flight, visit www.airtran.com.

After nearly 40 years of service, Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) continues to differentiate itself from other low fare carriers--offering a reliable product with exemplary Customer Service. Southwest Airlines is the nation's largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded, now serving 69 cities in 35 states. Southwest also is one of the most honored airlines in the world known for its commitment to the triple bottom line of Performance, People, and Planet. To read more about how Southwest is doing its part to be a good citizen, visit southwest.com/cares to read the Southwest Airlines One Report(TM). Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,200 flights a day and has nearly 35,000 Employees systemwide.


Important Information for Investors and Shareholders

This communication does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or a solicitation of any vote or approval and relates to a proposed merger of AirTran Holdings, Inc. ("AirTran") with Southwest Airlines, Inc. ("Southwest"). The merger agreement will be submitted to the Shareholders of AirTran for their consideration and to solicit their approval of the merger agreement and the transactions contemplated thereby. Southwest will file with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") a registration statement on Form S-4 that will include a proxy statement of AirTran that also constitutes a prospectus of Southwest. AirTran and Southwest also plan to file other documents with the SEC regarding the proposed transaction. INVESTORS AND SECURITY HOLDERS OF AIRTRAN ARE URGED TO READ THE JOINT PROXY STATEMENT/PROSPECTUS AND OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS THAT WILL BE FILED WITH THE SEC CAREFULLY AND IN THEIR ENTIRETY WHEN THEY BECOME AVAILABLE BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROPOSED TRANSACTION.

Investors and Shareholders will be able to obtain free copies of the joint proxy statement/prospectus and other documents containing important information about AirTran and Southwest, once such documents are filed with the SEC, through the website maintained by the SEC at http://www.sec.gov. Copies of the documents filed with the SEC by AirTran will be available free of charge on AirTran's website at www.airtran.com under the tab "About AirTran" then under the tab "Investor Relations" or by contacting AirTran's Investor Relations Department at (407) 318-5188. Copies of the documents filed with the SEC by Southwest will be available free of charge on Southwest's website at www.southwest.com under the tab "Investor Relations" or by contacting Southwest's Investor Relations Department at (214) 792-4415.

AirTran, Southwest and certain of their respective directors and executive officers may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from the Shareholders of AirTran in connection with the proposed transaction. Information about the directors and executive officers of AirTran is set forth in its proxy statement for its 2010 annual meeting of Shareholders, which was filed with the SEC on April 2, 2010. Information about the directors and executive officers of Southwest is set forth in its proxy statement for its 2010 annual meeting of Shareholders, which was filed with the SEC on April 16, 2010. These documents can be obtained free of charge from the sources indicated above. Other information regarding the participants in the proxy solicitation and a description of their direct and indirect interests, by security holdings or otherwise, will be contained in the joint proxy statement/prospectus and other relevant materials to be filed with the SEC when they become available.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This communication contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that are not limited to historical facts, but reflect AirTran's and Southwest's current beliefs, expectations or intentions regarding future events. Words such as "may," "will," "could," "should," "expect," "plan," "project," "intend," "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "predict," "potential," "pursue," "target," "continue," and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements include, without limitation, AirTran's and Southwest's expectations with respect to the synergies, costs and other anticipated financial impacts of the proposed transaction; future financial and operating results of the combined company; the combined company's plans, objectives, expectations and intentions with respect to future operations and services; approval of the proposed transaction by Shareholders and by governmental regulatory authorities; the satisfaction of the closing conditions to the proposed transaction; and the timing of the completion of the proposed transaction.

All forward-looking statements involve significant risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements, many of which are generally outside the control of AirTran and Southwest and are difficult to predict. Examples of such risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, (1) the possibility that the proposed transaction is delayed or does not close, including due to the failure to receive AirTran's required stockholder approval or required regulatory approvals, the taking of governmental action (including the passage of legislation) to block the transaction, or the failure of other closing conditions, and (2) the possibility that the expected synergies will not be realized, or will not be realized within the expected time period, because of, among other things, significant volatility in the cost of aircraft fuel, the significant capital commitments of AirTran and Southwest, the impact of labor relations, global economic conditions, fluctuations in exchange rates, competitive actions taken by other airlines, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, difficulties in integrating the two airlines, the willingness of customers to travel by air, actions taken or conditions imposed by the U.S. and foreign governments or other regulatory matters, excessive taxation, further industry consolidation and changes in airlines alliances, the availability and cost of insurance and public health threats.

AirTran and Southwest caution that the foregoing list of factors is not exclusive. Additional information concerning these and other risk factors is contained in AirTran's and Southwest's most recently filed Annual Reports on Form 10-K, subsequent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, recent Current Reports on Form 8-K, and other SEC filings. All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements concerning AirTran, Southwest, the proposed transaction or other matters and attributable to AirTran or Southwest or any person acting on their behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements above.

Neither AirTran nor Southwest undertakes any obligation to publicly update any of these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that may arise after the date hereof.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Small Business Financing Bill May Shortchange Veterans

/PRNewswire/ -- While applauding its intent, leaders of The American Legion say that new federal legislation designed to bolster small business may not do enough to support veteran-owned enterprises.

The legislation being questioned by The American Legion is H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010. Introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) this past May, H.R. 5297 would create a $30 billion small business lending fund to be administered by the Secretary of the Treasury, as well as provide $12 billion in tax breaks to help small businesses.

"The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act is a terrific piece of legislation in its purpose," says Joe Sharpe, director of The American Legion's economic commission, "but it does very little, if anything, to correct the sorry circumstances facing service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses today."

Government regulations require that three percent of all appropriate government contract money be awarded to eligible small businesses owned by service-disabled military veterans. Yet, to date, awards have totaled only about half that mandate.

"We are not asking for preferential treatment, but simply some legislative language that levels the playing field," says Sharpe. "Without going into minute detail, let's just say the current wording does not do the job."

Jimmie Foster, national commander of The American Legion, says, "Historically, the federal government has done very poorly with regards to implementing veteran preference rules on contracts. This time, from our point of view, things must be different. When implementation of this law is accomplished, veteran-owned businesses must finally be able to gain the recognition – and contracts – they deserve. The American Legion will campaign hard to make sure that happens."

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Many More Small Businesses Now Eligible for Long-Term Financing With SBA 504 Loans

/PRNewswire/ -- A number of very substantial benefits for America's small businesses were incorporated into the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010, recently passed in Congress. Included in the legislation were major enhancements to the SBA 504 loan program, an important U.S. Small Business Administration financing program. SBA 504 loans are long-term, government-guaranteed loans designed for small businesses to finance the purchase, construction or renovation of commercial real estate and the purchase of long-term capital assets.

As a result of the legislation, many more small business owners across the country now qualify to receive SBA 504 loans. The net worth for companies to be eligible for an SBA 504 loan was increased, maximum loan size was raised and refinancing of existing debt was also approved.

Among the most important benefits included in the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 is an extension of the fee relief for SBA 504 loans. This fee waiver was first enacted in February 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Recovery Act. An additional $505 million has been allocated to fund SBA loan fees through December 31, 2010 saving borrowers many thousands of dollars.

Maximum loan amounts were also permanently increased to a range of $5 to $5.5 million from a previous maximum range of $1.5 to $4 million. Larger projects are now eligible for 504 loans and borrowers who already have loans with the SBA can now return for additional funding.

There was also an increase in the business size standard to be eligible for an SBA 504 loan. Businesses with a tangible net worth of $15 million and 2-year average net income after Federal income tax of $5 million, are now be eligible to apply for SBA 504 financing opening the door to many more small business owners across the country.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial enhancements to the SBA 504 loan program is a temporary two-year program for refinancing existing small business commercial debt. Small business owners holding commercial real-estate loans with undesirable rates will have the opportunity to refinance these loans using the SBA 504 loan program. This will be a boon for small businesses that are having difficulty keeping current on existing high-interest loans since SBA 504 loans are currently available at extremely attractive interest rates. Businesses will be able to remain in their facilities while lenders are not left holding vacant real estate.

SBA 504 loans are typically used by small businesses needing more operating space or by businesses that have lost their leases and decide to invest in their own facilities. Still others want to construct or retrofit facilities to incorporate energy efficient technologies to decrease operating expenses. Businesses needing to invest in capital-intensive equipment and machinery also look to the SBA 504 loan for funding. Small business owners definitely see the advantage of the low down payment which is typically only 10%. The hidden value to our economy is that all SBA 504 loan recipients are also adding jobs in their communities.

Certified Development Companies, or CDCs, are the SBA's conduit for providing 504 loans on Main Street. They are ready and waiting for the anticipated increase in demand this new legislation will generate. CDCs know that many small business borrowers will want to take advantage of these long-term, fixed, low interest rate loans now. Chris Crawford, President of NADCO, the trade association for the nation's CDCs pointed out, "The bottom line is that more small businesses now have an opportunity to invest in their own facilities or expand existing facilities using SBA 504 financing. At a time when the commercial real estate market is depressed and property is more affordable, this is great news for many small business owners."

Since 1986 the Certified Development Company industry has provided nearly $60 billion worth of financing to over 123,700 American small businesses resulting in the creation or retention of over 2.2 million jobs. Contact a Certified Development Company to discuss the program or visit the NADCO website at www.nadco.org for additional information.

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Passage of Small Business Jobs Act a Huge Win

/PRNewswire/ -- NSBA applauds the House's prompt approval of the Small Business Jobs Act today. Offering various tax incentives, a much-needed small business lending fund and numerous other pro-small-business provisions, the legislation stands to be of great assistance to America's struggling small businesses. Among the various provisions is the incredibly-important but less-talked-about language that will make health insurance more affordable for the nation's self-employed.

"Seemingly absent in discussions over this bill is the fact that it will end a major tax inequity which forces the self-employed to pay an additional 15.3 percent tax on the cost of their health insurance," stated NSBA President and CEO Todd McCracken. "For years, this unfair penalty has been a thorn in the sides of millions of self-employed individuals, and we applaud its inclusion in this bill."

The Small Business Jobs Act will allow self-employed individuals to fully deduct the cost of their health insurance from their self-employment taxes for 2010. Currently, self-employed individuals are prohibited from fully deducting the cost of their health insurance from their self-employment taxes, resulting in an additional tax that no other worker or business owner is forced to pay.

Additionally, the Small Business Jobs Act includes myriad avenues that will benefit small businesses, including: improved access to capital via small- and mid-sized community banks and through the extension of the highly-successful SBA stimulus lending programs; meaningful tax breaks such as an extension of the bonus depreciation and expanded Section 179 expensing; strengthening of the SBA Office of Advocacy - the regulatory watch-dog for small business within the federal government; an improved federal marketplace for small-business contractors; and enhanced exporting opportunities for small businesses.

"This bill offers a broad array of initiatives that will help America's small businesses," stated Larry Nannis, chair of NSBA and shareholder at Levine, Katz, Nannis + Solomon, PC. "And it comes not a moment too soon."

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Obama Jobs Bill and Task Force Ignore Major Challenge for Small Businesses, According to the American Small Business League

/PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by the American Small Business League:

Neither the Obama Administration's Jobs Bill nor the recommendations released on Wednesday by President Obama's Small Business Task force contain any language that will stop the federal government from giving billions of dollars a month in small business contracts to Fortune 1000 firms.

During his campaign, President Obama promised to end the diversion of federal small business contracts to Fortune 1000 firms and stated, "It is time to end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants." (http://www.barackobama.com/2008/02/26/the_american_small_business_le.php)

Since 2003, over a dozen federal investigations have found corporate giants from around the world as the actual recipients of billions of dollars in federal small business contracts.

Some of the firms that have received government small business contracts include: Rolls-Royce, British Aerospace (BAE), Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, SAIC, Titan Industries, Raytheon, Dell Computer, Xerox, French firm Thales Communications, Italian firm Finmeccanica SpA, and Ssangyong Corporation headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Textron, a Fortune 500 firm, received over $775 million in federal small business contracts in a single year.

In 2005, the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General (SBA IG) referred to the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants as, "One of the most important challenges facing the Small Business Administration and the entire Federal government today." (http://www.asbl.com/documents/05-15.pdf)

In Report 5-16, the SBA IG found large businesses had received federal small business contracts illegally by making "false certifications" and "improper certifications." The SBA Office of Advocacy found large businesses had received small business contracts illegally through "vendor deception." (http://www.asbl.com/documents/05-16.pdf)

Section 16(d) of the Small Business Act prescribes a penalty of up to ten years in prison for firms that misrepresent themselves as small businesses to illegally receive federal small business contracts.

As opposed to offering legislation and policy that will end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants, language in the "jobs bill" could actually protect large businesses that misrepresent themselves to illegally receive federal small business contracts.

Section 1341, paragraph 4 of H.R. 5297, Small Business Jobs Act, creates a legal loophole that could allow fraudulent firms to avoid prosecution and penalties by claiming they received federal small business contracts through, "unintentional errors, technical malfunctions, and other similar situations."

If the bill becomes law the American Small Business League (ASBL) plans to challenge the language in section 1341 in federal court.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sluggish Housing Construction Reduces 2011 Sawtimber Forecast by 6% in US South; Pulpwood Markets Become Increasingly Localized and Diversified

/PRNewswire/ -- Anemic housing construction - and the resulting impacts on lumber demand - delayed the expected recovery of pine sawtimber prices this year. Despite the apparent delay in recovery, several states, and end markets for pulpwood, show signs of resiliency. Forisk Consulting's mid-year update of its 10-year, state-by-state forecast for pine sawtimber and pulpwood stumpage in the US South reflect the variability across local timber markets as sawmills retool and bioenergy projects come on-line.

South-wide, Forisk's update indicates pine sawtimber prices will be 6.4% lower in 2011 than expected six months ago. Results vary across states, with Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina best positioned to rebound quickly as lumber demand strengthens. According to Forest Economist Dr. Tim Sydor, "Expectations for key macroeconomic factors - such as GDP and housing starts - have, frankly, proven to be way off-base. GDP grew faster than expected, but housing starts are expected to remain 30% below 2009 projections. As a result we've adjusted our forecast of US softwood lumber consumption downward by 6.3 billion board feet for 2010. Lower lumber demand means lower stumpage prices, and pine sawtimber prices in the South have been revised downward by nearly $1 per ton for the year."

Forisk's President, Dr. Brooks Mendell, agrees that 2010 is a "bridge" year and emphasizes to investors the benefits of patiently following local markets. "Robust local markets, with capitalized mills and resilient loggers and wood suppliers, pay dividends to their investors through faster recoveries."

Pulpwood demand, relative to sawtimber, is distinct for the complexity of its end-use markets. "We follow several factors that have push-and-pull effects on pulpwood demand and stumpage prices," says Dr. Sydor. "For instance, while a housing recovery lifts demand for pulpwood from OSB producers, it decreases demand for roundwood through increased residual chip flows from lumber mills." Forisk projects that 9.6% of pulpwood demand across the South will come from new bioenergy facilities. "Bioenergy and OSB end-use markets drive any growth in pulpwood demand over the next 10 years," says Dr. Sydor.

Pine Pulpwood and Sawtimber forecasting products from Forisk Consulting help industry leaders follow and understand the impacts on stumpage prices from the economic recovery and changing demand for lumber, pulp and bioenergy products. For more information, visit www.foriskstore.com and click "Stumpage Price Forecasts."

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Three Georgia Companies on Counselor's 2010 Best Places to Work List

Alpharetta-based eCompanyStore is No. 24 of ad specialty companies with greatest corporate cultures

Loyal staffs, trustworthy management, solid benefits and team effectiveness helped land 75 companies on Counselor magazine’s 2010 list of best places to work in the ad specialty industry.

Every company on the list provides typical health-care and financial benefits. But some also infuse their corporate culture with unique benefits such as an incentive program offering $1,000 to employees who buy eco-friendly cars. Other companies use food to win over workers, including wine tastings and family barbeques.

The number one "Best Place to Work" is Dacasso, a Gainesville, FL-based supplier that emphasizes the fun and the progressive, whether it's a holiday party, wellness program or late-afternoon sales challenge. The company also provides a fitness room, favorable scheduling policies and a tax-advantaged profit-sharing plan that allows employees to become fully vested at three months.

Three Georgia companies are included on the list: eCompanyStore (Alpharetta), Pinnacle Promotions (Norcross), and The Icebox (Atlanta).

The list of 75 is a mix of large and small, geographically diverse companies identified by an in-depth survey process. To create the list, Counselor - published by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) - partnered with third-party research firm Quantum Workplace, which conducts Best Places to Work contests in more than 40 major cities, including Boston, Dallas, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

“At a time of unprecedented economic challenge, the companies on our list are rising to the task and providing a great workplace for their employees,” said Timothy M. Andrews, president and chief executive officer of ASI. “In return, they’re rewarded with loyalty and creativity by hard-working employees who simply love their jobs and enjoy going to work every day.”

The list appears in the September issue of Counselor, the “voice” of the promotional products industry. The accompanying cover story was written by Counselor Editor Andy Cohen and Staff Writer Dave Vagnoni and includes an interactive map. To view, click here.

The “Best Places to Work” list includes distributors and suppliers, companies with hundreds of employees and small firms with only 12 staffers (to qualify, a company had to have at least 10 employees).

The Counselor 75 Best Places To Work List:




1 Dacasso (Gainesville, FL)
2 Royal Crest Promotions (Golden, CO)
3 Hirsch Gift (Houston, TX)
4 Albrecht & Co. (Milford, OH)
5 The Book Company (Delray Beach, FL)
6 Metromedia Marketing (Edmonton, Canada)
7 Catalyst Marketing (Seattle, WA)
8 SnugZ/USA (Salt Lake City, UT)
9 Talbot Marketing (London, Canada)
10 MadeToOrder (Pleasanton, CA)
11 LogoBranders (Montgomery, AL)
12 Custom Logos (San Diego, CA)
13 Overture Premiums & Promotions (Vernon Hills, IL)
14 Pingline (Chicago, IL)
15 Sunrise Identity (Woodinville, WA)
16 The Sunshine Group (Maitland, FL)
17 Akran Marketing (Ottawa, Canada)
18 NewClients (Richmond, VA)
19 Posh Xessories (Chino, CA)
20 BrandVia Alliance (San Jose, CA)
21 The Vernon Company (Newton, IA)
22 Identity Marketing Inc. (Tempe, AZ)
23 Zebra Marketing (Memphis, TN)
24 eCompanyStore (Alpharetta, GA)
25 JH Specialty (Fort Wayne, IN)
26 Bluegrass Promotional Marketing (Charlotte, NC)
27 Pinnacle Promotions (Norcross, GA)
28 Go USA (Wenatchee, WA)
29 Identification Services/Halls and Company (Brooklyn Park, MN)
30 The Icebox (Atlanta, GA)
31 iClick (Seattle, WA)
32 Stitch Designers (Louisville, KY)
33 Mac Mannes (Bethesda, MD)
34 Insight Resource Group (Orinda, CA)
35 Image Group (Vancouver, Canada)
36 Stowebridge Promotion Group (Chandler, AZ)
37 Immediate Sales Agency (Waterloo, Canada)
38 Boundless Network (Austin, TX)
39 Cotton Candy (Mississauga, Canada)
40 Greater China (Bellevue, WA)
41 Metropak (Richardson, TX)
42 Moore Exposure (Fayetteville, NC)
43 Indoff (St. Louis, MO)
44 Mid-Nite Snax (Mineola, NY)
45 Cavanaugh Marketing Network (Pittsburgh, PA)
46 American Ad Bag (Woodstock, IL)
47 Sonoma Promotional Solutions (Sonoma, CA)
48 Image Source & Branded Solutions by Edgar Martinez (Kirkland, WA)
49 Bob Lilly Professional Promotions (Dallas, TX)
50 Crystal D (St. Paul, MN)
51 Show Your Logo (Oswego, IL)
52 Genumark Promotional Merchandise (Toronto, Canada)
53 Atlas Embroidery & Screen Printing (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
54 SanMar (Preston, WA)
55 Walker-Clay (Hanson, MA)
56 Proforma (Independence, OH)
57 Pinnacle Designs (San Fernando, CA)
58 Adco Litho (Broadview, IL)
59 Sweda Company (City of Industry, CA)
60 AddVenture Products (San Diego, CA)
61 CSE (New Berlin, WI)
62 Rightsleeve (Toronto, Canada)
63 Brand Fuel Promotions (Morrisville, NC)
64 BamBams (Lorton, VA)
65 ePromos Promotional Products (New York, NY)
66 14 West LLC (Pewaukee, WI)
67 Match-Up Promotions (Longwood, FL)
68 California Tattoos (Tucson, AZ)
69 MediaTree (Parsippany, NJ)
70 Bag Makers (Union, IL)
71 The Promotional Specialists (Markham, Canada)
72 Digispec/Visstun/CounterPoint (Las Vegas, NV)
73 Bag Designs (Concord, Canada)
74 Sonic Promos (Gaithersburg, MD)
75 HDS Marketing (Pittsburgh, PA)

Promotional products, or advertising specialties, are often imprinted with slogans or logos to market a company, organization, product, service, achievement or event. The items are used in marketing campaigns to dramatically increase response rates.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Bad CEO leadership causes companies to fail, according to new GSU study

When big companies hit the skids, their leaders often point the finger at something – or someone – other than themselves.

But the reality is bad leadership can push distressed companies over the edge, causing them to fail, while excellent leaders can help lift troubled companies faster from problems such as regulatory scrutiny, according to a new study co-authored by a Georgia State business professor.

“CEOs often play the blame game and say that things are beyond their control,” said Martin Grace, professor and associate director of the Center for Risk Management and Research in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

He added, “But great CEOs are more efficient and when under scrutiny, they can influence a company, lowering the probability of a company failing.”

In the report, “Dupes or Incompetents: An examination of management’s impact on firm distress,” Grace and co-author Tyler Leverty of the University of Iowa, tracked 12,000 insurance companies because that industry is in the business of taking on risk, and distress is relatively frequent and severe, even in good economic times. It’s also a great laboratory because industry CEOs frequently move around.

The study looked at such factors as company performance during financial distress and how well the CEO was able to marshal a firm’s resources efficiently and move it away from regulatory scrutiny or potential failure.

Researchers found excellent CEOs were able to remove their firms from regulatory scrutiny eight to 16 times faster than poor leaders. In insurance companies going out of business, a more talented CEO showed a better return on the firm’s assets by up to 10 cents on the dollar.

The study looked at performance of companies between 1989 and 2000. The majority of the data for the study came from the 1989 to 2000 National Association of Insurance Commissioners Property-Casualty (NAIC) annual statement database. Other data is from the A.M. Best Company’s “Key Rating Guide,” and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

King’s Hawaiian Announces Oakwood Location

State-of-the-art bakery and distribution operation to create 126 jobs

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that Torrance, California-based King’s Hawaiian will locate a bakery and distribution operation in Oakwood in Hall County. The company produces its brand of Hawaiian sweet bread dinner rolls, sandwich and snack rolls and round bread. This project will create 126 new jobs over two years. King’s Hawaiian expects to add an additional 100 jobs around 2015.

“Georgia’s economy receives a considerable boost from the success of food processors in our state, which employ more Georgians than any other sector of manufacturing,” said Governor Perdue. “By selecting Georgia and Hall County, King’s Hawaiian serves as another example of how our state’s pro-business climate continues to create opportunities for new and existing companies, and for communities throughout the state.”

King’s Hawaiian is a leading producer of dinner rolls, and accounts for more than half of U.S. dinner roll sales. The company will complete construction on an existing 111,000-square-foot shell building in the Oakwood South Industrial Park for its Hall County operation. The bakery and distribution facility will be developed by Pattillo Industrial Real Estate.

“It’s always a pleasure to welcome new companies and jobs to Georgia, but it’s even better to welcome them to my hometown,” said Lt. Governor Cagle. “King’s Hawaiian will quickly come to find that Georgia’s talented workforce, quality of life, and business friendly climate are second to none. I applaud Hall County for their commitment to this project and welcome King’s Hawaiian to our neighborhood.”

“In spite of the short time since our first meeting with the folks from the state of Georgia and Hall County, our relationship already feels as if it’s based on years of trust and collaboration to make this a great place to work and live,” said Mark Taira, King’s Hawaiian CEO. “We are looking forward to being a member of this fabulous community. I’ve learned that the spirit of Aloha lives in Hawaii and in Georgia; only the accent is a little different!”

“If there is a model for harmonious collaboration between a state, county and the business community, Georgia and Hall County wrote the patent on it,” said John Linehan, King’s Hawaiian executive vice president. “We’re grateful to the state and county officials who so graciously introduced us to this amazing environment.”

King’s Hawaiian will join Georgia’s vast community of food manufacturers and processors who employ nearly 70,000 Georgians. In addition to the state’s welcoming business environment, advanced manufacturers in the food processing sector can also leverage Georgia’s highly-skilled workforce backed by the Technical College System of Georgia and Quick Start. King’s Hawaiian will receive long-term support from the resources at nearby Lanier Technical College.

“The ‘Aloha Spirit’ is spreading in Hall County and Northeast Georgia,” said Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “King's Hawaiian has an inviting corporate culture that produces irresistible products. We are very pleased with the quality jobs and long term partnership with this community and Georgia.”

Quick Start, Georgia’s acclaimed workforce training program, will provide King’s Hawaiian with training that is customized to the company’s own processes and technology. Quick Start is able to draw upon a rich background of experience training on the use of sophisticated automated control systems and quality-assurance procedures required to produce the distinctive products that have made King’s Hawaiian such a successful brand.

The company expects to begin production at its new bakery and distribution center in fall 2011. Applicants interested in employment opportunities with King’s Hawaiian should register at the Georgia Department of Labor’s Gainesville Career Center. Georgia Department of Economic Development statewide project manager Annie Baxter assisted the company with this project.
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Friday, September 3, 2010

UWG Forms RISE Program to Aid Small Businesses

The University of West Georgia, along with the Carroll County Economic Development Foundation and the UWG Small Business Development Center, is creating the Resource for Innovation, Small business and Entrepreneurship (RISE) Program.

The RISE program will create an online “incubator village” to assist entrepreneurs in Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson, Heard and Polk counties. The goal of the program is to offer counseling, resource information exchange, distance learning opportunities and other information for local business owners on the program’s website.

RISE will host three small business forums throughout the year, as well as provide online training. An estimated 2,500 small businesses in the West Georgia region will benefit from the RISE program’s virtual village.

A celebration of the official announcement of the RISE program will take place at an Entrepreneur Excellence Banquet on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. in the Z-6 Food Services Building on the UWG campus. It will feature a panel discussion with Allen Nance, founder and president of the Mansell Group; W. Cliff Oxford, founder and CEO of Entrepreneur Advisors; Christa Pitts, COO of Creatively Classic Activities and Books and Bob Stone, founder and chairman of Systems & Methods Inc. The banquet is for invited members of the business community and is also open to the media.

For more information call 678-839-5031.
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

TIMCO Aviation Services to Expand in Macon

New Contract Means 130 New Jobs
Governor Sonny Perdue today joined TIMCO Aviation Services in Macon to announce the company has made a commitment to add B767 aircraft maintenance capability to its facility in middle Georgia. The expansion will add 130 new jobs and TIMCO will invest approximately $1.49 million in new tooling, facility upgrades and renovations, recruiting and training. Governor Perdue and state economic development officials met with TIMCO executives to share more about Georgia’s competitive resources for aerospace and aviation companies during the 2010 Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.

“Georgia has a rich, century-long history in aerospace and aviation, and a vast amount of strategic assets that enable companies in this industry to be successful here and abroad,” said Governor Perdue. “TIMCO’s decision to expand in Macon is indeed a testament to our state’s position as a global leader in aerospace, and I am excited to see the company flourish here in Georgia.”

Headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, TIMCO is one of the largest independent providers of airframe MRO services in the country. TIMCO has serviced narrowbody aircraft at Macon such as the B737, B757 and A320 since it first purchased the operation in 1998. Through this expansion, the company’s Macon facility will now be able to provide specialized B767 airframe services, thereby accommodating the maintenance needs of airlines that operate one of the largest commercial widebody fleets in the world. Located on the campus of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, the Macon facility complex includes more than 115,000 square feet of space in two hangars, with capacity for three simultaneous lines of work. The complex is AS 9100B certified and also includes back shop support and customer liaison engineering.

“We are proud of the quality of services our team has delivered at our Macon, Georgia location for the past twelve years, and our decision to invest in widebody capability will position Macon as a viable source for commercial aircraft maintenance for many years to come,” said Kevin Carter, who along with Ron Utecht shares the CEO Office for TIMCO.

“TIMCO has been a great asset for our community and the Middle Georgia Regional Airport,” said Mayor Robert Reichert. “The city, partnering with the Federal Aviation Administration, has made improvements to our airport to take full advantage of this tremendous resource we have and we are excited to welcome TIMCO’s expansion.”

Aerospace is a strategic industry for Georgia, and was identified as a sector with significant growth potential in 2003 by the Commission for a New Georgia. The state ranks among the world’s aerospace leaders, and is the most productive aerospace state in the U.S. Georgia ranks eighth among U.S. states for aviation industry employment, with more than 80,000 employees in more than 500 operations. In addition to the Farnborough International Airshow, Georgia has also attended globally-recognized airshows including the Paris Airshow, the Dubai Air Show and the NBAA Air Show to explore opportunities for growth in this sector.

Georgia’s total aviation exports worldwide topped $3.4 billion in 2009.

Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Regional Project Manager Jennifer Nelson assisted the company with its location.

About the company 
This year, TIMCO Aviation Services is celebrating 20 years of providing aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services and aerospace manufactured products to a broad array of commercial, government and military customers. Over the years, the company has grown beyond its core airframe, base maintenance business by adding engine MRO services, aircraft seat manufacturing and PMA parts, comprehensive engineering design and interiors manufacturing through its TIMCO Aerosystems division and line maintenance services at a large number of airports through its TIMCO LineCare network. 
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

AirTran Airways and City of Atlanta Agree to Seven-Year Lease

/PRNewswire/ -- AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AAI) , and the city of Atlanta yesterday announced the completion of a seven-year master lease agreement for facilities at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.

AirTran Airways, based in Orlando, Fla., operates the world's largest low-cost carrier hub at Hartsfield-Jackson and has a considerable economic impact on the city, state and region. The low-cost carrier is the 25th largest employer in Atlanta and employs more than 6,000 Crew Members in the state.

"Finalizing our long-term lease with the city of Atlanta brings economic certainty to the airline and sets the platform for future growth," said Bob Fornaro, AirTran Airways' chairman, president and chief executive officer. "This agreement is good for the city, AirTran Airways and fans of low fares around the nation."

The carrier is the second largest airline at the world's busiest airport serving dozens of destinations around the country and throughout the Caribbean.

"AirTran Airways plays an important role at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the residents, business leaders and visitors to our City," said Mayor Kasim Reed. "In addition, AirTran is deeply involved in the community. This agreement between the City of Atlanta and AirTran Airways is a strong example of how a robust public/private partnership can spur economic growth and prosperity for the Atlanta region."

AirTran Airways has a major presence in the metro Atlanta area. In addition to flight operations at the airport, the airline also operates pilot and flight attendant bases, a maintenance hangar and base, two reservations centers, marketing and sales, security offices and corporate and flight training centers in the area. AirTran Airways is also a proud sponsor of the Atlanta Falcons, flying a specially-designed Boeing 717, Falcons 1, in honor of this unique partnership with the city and the team.

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GSU unveils small business tax credit calculator for health reform

Georgia State University researchers have unveiled a small business tax credit calculator to help employers crunch the numbers to see if they’re eligible for health reform credits under the new law.

The tool, called the 50-State Health Reform Calculator for Small Businesses, will help small employers, including non-profits, determine if they’re eligible for tax subsidies to cover part of the cost of health insurance starting this year. It is the first comprehensive nationwide calculator for all states. It can be accessed at www.gsu.edu/ghpc.

“We’re trying to provide information for employers about the impact and effects of health reform on their business decisions,” said Bill Custer, associate professor and director of the Institute of Health Administration in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business.

Small businesses, or employers with fewer than 25 full time employees making less than $50,000, may be eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of insurance starting this year.

Incentives are being offered because as premiums have increased, the number of workers with employer-sponsored health coverage has declined.

Custer, with associate professor Patricia Ketsche, also of the Institute of Health Administration, developed the tool in collaboration with the Georgia Health Policy Center in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, the Florida Public Health Institute and the Center for Mississippi Health Policy.

The Georgia Health Policy Center has spearheaded a collaborative effort to break down the complexities of the nation’s health reform law through a series of policy briefs. The latest is “Health Reform Implications for Employers,” which was released last week (http://bit.ly/9u3z4q).

Other topics have included state and community implications and the impact to health care providers. Many states have come to the center to request a breakdown of health reform and its impact in their localities.

The calculator is the latest tool being offered in a series intended to help consumers, employers, providers and policy makers understand health reform.

“This has been a great opportunity to not only partner across Georgia State University, but with other states, to bring relevant information about health reform to those who will be impacted by the law,” said Karen Minyard, executive director of the Georgia Health Policy Center. “Our group’s goal from the beginning has been to interpret, share, and apply what is learned to real world situations.”

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