Monthly Archives: August 2015

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Mid-Atlantic STIHL makes new hire

Mid-Atlantic STIHL, a division of STIHL Inc., has hired Genie McClain as its new marketing manager. McClain, who specializes in brand management and marketing, brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, merchandising and product management. Her list of past employers features nationally recognized brands and companies such as AT&T, YP, Miller Brewing Company, Gibson Guitar and Cunard Cruise Line. In addition to serving several multi-billion dollar companies, she has a proven track record of helping companies drive profitability, brand awareness and product preference. At Mid-Atlantic STIHL, McClain will be developing and implementing the branch marketing activities and communications programs.

 

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On the fringe

The Internal Revenue Service is reportedly considering taxing the perks many businesses use to attract and retain employees like food and gym memberships.

Far from leveling the playing field between the high-flying tech companies and the far larger number of small employers such as the average snow and ice removal business, the potential crackdown illustrates the importance our tax rules play in attracting and retaining qualified workers.

Fringe benefits are rewards given to employees for their service and play a crucial role in employee retention and recruiting. Benefits can include paid life insurance, dependent care assistance, group insurance and parking, among other perks.

The value of many fringe benefits can be excluded from an employee’s income. And, so long as tax laws are followed closely, every smart contractor can afford to offer fringe benefits to their workers.
 

Required employee benefits.

In general, there are two types of employee benefits: those every employer must provide by law, and those the employer offers as an option to compensate employees.

The law requires employers to:

  • Provide time off to vote, serve on a jury and perform military service.
  • Provide workers’ compensation.
  • Withhold FICA taxes from employees’ paychecks and pay the employer portion of FICA taxes, providing employees with Social Security retirement and disability benefits.
  • Pay state and federal unemployment taxes, thus providing benefits for unemployed workers.
  • Contribute to state short-term disability programs Comply with the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
     

An employer is not required to provide:

  • Retirement plans
  • Health plans (except in Hawaii), dental or vision plans
  • Life insurance plans
  • Paid vacations, holidays or sick leave

     

Generally speaking.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to give workers up to 12 weeks off to attend the birth or adoption of a baby, or the serious health condition of an employee or an immediate family member. After 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the snow and ice removal business must reinstate the employee in the same job or an equivalent one. The 12 weeks of leave doesn’t have to be taken all at once.

Most states subject only employers with 50 or more employees to the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, some states have family leave laws that place family leave requirements on businesses with as few as five employees. And, in many cases, special rules apply to seasonal employment.
 

What do they want?

The best perk that an employer can give an employee is often one that he or she wants and costs little or nothing. While stock options, big salaries and big ticket benefits may be needed to lure higher level employees, you can get pretty good mileage out of some inexpensive perks. A few common ones that consistently get high marks are:

  • Flex time
  • Free food and beverages
  • Education or personal development training (on or after company time)
     

Notice that among the perks most often chosen by employees, only one, education or personal development, is a significant cost to the employer. That’s where our tax rules can provide a financial helping hand.

Ordinarily, every employee, as well as the operation’s owner, is permitted a personal income tax deduction for money spent for educational expenses, even if they lead to a degree. When education is offered as a fringe benefit by a snow removal or ice management business, the payments received by an employee for tuition, fees, books, supplies, etc., under the employer’s educational assistance program may be excluded from the employee’s income up to $5,250 per year.

Although the course covered by an employer’s plan need not be job related, courses involving sports, games or hobbies are usually covered only if they involve the employer’s business or are required as part of a degree program. Best of all, the snow removal business may claim a full tax deduction for the amount paid. Drawbacks include the necessity of a formal tuition reimbursement plan and, obviously, sufficient cash flow to fund the program.
 

Cash is king.

No small-business should provide competitive cash compensation in the absence of employee objectives. If the snow and ice removal operation establishes specific objectives that people will be rewarded for reaching or achieving, that’s exactly what they will do. Cash compensation, including bonuses, is really important.

Unlike many fringe benefits, bonuses and awards must be included in an employee’s taxable income. Should the bonus or award be in the form of goods or services, employees must include the fair market value in their income. The same applies to holiday gifts. Employees who receive turkeys, hams or other similar items from their employers at Christmas or other holidays may exclude the value of the gift from their income.

On a similar note, so-called “de minimis” benefits may be worth little or nothing in the eyes of our lawmakers, but can go a long way toward making an employee happy – without an accompanying tax bill.

Under the rules, employees may exclude from income the value of fringe benefits that qualify as de minimis.
 

Retirement savings.

Small businesses should, according to many experts, consider a bigger menu of benefits to attract and retain older workers. In many cases, the standard benefits could include health insurance and an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k).

After that, a snow removal contractor or business might consider adding a “cafeteria” plan, which allows employees to pay certain qualified expenses such as health insurance premiums, adoption assistance, dependent-care assistance, group-term life insurance coverage, as well as contribute to health savings accounts, on a pretax basis, thereby reducing their total taxable income and increasing their spendable/take-home income.
 

Benefits from benefits.

Unfortunately, employers face plenty of uncertainty as the administration delays key pieces of the Affordable Care Act. The latest delay granted large businesses another year, until 2016, before offering affordable coverage to all full-time workers.

The delay means businesses with 50-99 workers will not have to meet the requirement until 2016. Larger employers must cover 70 percent of full-time workers next year and 95 percent by 2016. However, according to the Kaiser Foundation, more than 90 percent of employers with 50-199 workers already offer insurance, as do 99 percent of businesses with 200 or more workers.
 

The bottom line.

Many small snow and ice removal contractors mistakenly believe they cannot afford to offer benefits. However, while going without benefits may boost the snow removal and ice management operation’s bottom line in the short run, a “penny-wise” philosophy could strangle the business’s chances for long-term prosperity.

The IRS’s predicted crackdown on extravagant benefits will likely center on whether they benefit the employee – and are thus taxable – or benefit the business.

With benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans falling under government scrutiny, the importance of qualified professional assistance to help your snow removal business afford to keep the workers so essential to its success – and compete for new workers – can’t be emphasized enough.

 

The author is a financial writer based in Ardmore, Pa.


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Husqvarna Group makes appointment

Anders Johanson has been appointed SVP Technology Office and CTO at Husqvarna Group and member of group management as of Oct. 1. He replaces Henric Anderson, who has been appointed president construction division.

 
Anders Johanson is partner and global practice leader technology and innovation management at Arthur D. Little. In parallel Anders holds a part time role as adjunct professor in industrial product development at KTH, Royal Institute of Technology, since January 2015.
 
Anders has a MSc. Chemical Engineering and a MBA from Chalmers University of Technology.
 
“The appointment of Anders Johanson underlines Husqvarna Group’s commitment to continue developing cutting-edge technologies combined with increased product development efficiency and strengthening synergies between the divisions in our group,” said Kai Wärn, president and CEO of Husqvarna Group. 

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Terex releases new GEN2 machine

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Featuring a 74-hp turbocharged Tier 4 final diesel engine with variable flow hydraulics for productivity and quick cycle times, the new 2,650-lb rated operating capacity Terex R265T compact track loader is the newest member of the Terex Generation 2 (GEN2) loader line-up. With a narrow machine width (70-in), the R265T radial lift path compact track loader can easily maneuver and operate in confined or congested work sites, making it a good loader for rental stores and contractors working in site preparation, construction, landscaping, infrastructure development and demolition applications. Its purpose-built chassis is designed to be a heavy-duty machine within a compact package.  

 
Proving it has the power and productivity to get the job done, the R265T loader has 221 ft-lb of peak torque, a tipping load of 7,571 lb, a bucket breakout force of 5,800 lb and a lift height of 125 in, enabling it to get loading, picking and carrying, grading, back dragging or snow removal jobs done faster and more efficiently. Compact track loaders, like the R265T unit, engineered with a radial lift path – meaning the loader arms raise in an arc pattern – excel at digging and grading applications. Another benefit of the radial lift path configuration is the visibility around the unit it provides to operators, especially when working around existing infrastructure, such as homes and in backyards.
 
The Terex R265T compact track loader comes standard with 18-in wide tracks and patented Posi-Track undercarriage technology with multiple levels of suspension that distributes the machine’s 9,180-lb operating weight down to only 3.6 psi of ground pressure. The low ground pressure prevents damage to the ground below (e.g. turf) and provides extended track life. For exceptional ride comfort and traction, this loader’s undercarriage is suspended from the chassis of the machine by torsion axles. These torsion axles are independent, so there are multiple levels of suspension points connecting the chassis to the undercarriage. This design allows the bogie wheels on the Terex R265T compact track loader to flex, creating a smooth ride and taking away much of the vibration and shock associated with running over rocks, curbs and other rough terrain. This model is also available with optional 20-in tracks for increased versatility to keep operators working year-round, even in wet, muddy or snowy conditions. 
 
GEN2 compact track loaders, including the new R265T model, utilize a proprietary all-rubber track, rather than a rigid track technology with steel embedded tracks mounted on an existing skid steer chassis. With this system, these compact track loaders achieve more traction, higher flotation and better operating comfort so operators can make full use of the machine’s higher travel speeds. By utilizing composite materials rather than a steel skeleton, Terex tracks do not corrode or rust.
 
For more information about Terex GEN2 skid steer loaders and compact track loaders, visit www.terex.com/construction.

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SavATree announces promotions

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. – SavATree has announced the promotions of Mike Harris to the position of branch manager of the Hudson Valley Branch, and Craig Geddis to branch manager of the Cape Cod office located in Mashpee, Mass. 

 
Harris has been an arborist with SavATree in this office, and previously out of the Wyckoff, NJ branch since 2003. In his new role, Harris will be responsible for day to day operations and sales management of the branch as well as servicing clients in Yorktown, Cortlandt Manor, Croton-On-Hudson and Peekskill.
 
Harris is a highly credentialed arborist, having completed the rigorous coursework to attain the prestigious New Jersey Tree Expert certification; one of the toughest in the U.S. Harris also has a degree in Biology from Earlham College in Richmond Indiana.
 
In his new role, Geddis will assume responsibility for sales management and daily operations of the branch, in addition to servicing clients both on and off the Cape.
 
Geddis has worked in tree and plant health care for the past ten years, most recently in SavATree’s Lincoln branch. A native of Massachusetts, Geddis is an ISA certified arborist with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Forestry from Unity College.

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Area manager promoted at Ruppert

LAYTONSVILLE, Md. – Ruppert Landscape has announced the promotion of Ibn Furaha-Ali to the position of area manager in the King of Prussia Landscape Maintenance branch. 

 
Furaha-Ali began his Ruppert career as an intern in the Toughkenamon maintenance branch in the summer of 2007. He was hired as a crewman in 2008 and was promoted to field manager a year later. He transferred to the King of Prussia branch in 2011 and continued to work as field manager until recently being promoted to area manager. In this new position, he will be responsible for the sale, renewal and production of the branch’s landscape management work; the training and development of the branch’s personnel; and ensuring quality, customer service and customer retention.
 
“Ibn is a great example of the Ruppert Culture,” says Mike Monde, branch manager. “He started with us as an intern and through hard work, dedication and excellent customer service he has attained the well-deserved position of Area Manager. We look forward to seeing him advance our team and the Ruppert brand.”
 
Furaha-Ali, a resident of Upper Darby, Pa., earned his Associate’s degree from Williamson College of the Trades in 2008. He is also a Certified Landscape Technician (CLT).

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DSTE announces speaker lineup

The Deep South Turf Expo has announced the line up for the event’s inaugural education program. Breakouts from the program include professional development, professional pesticide usage and safety, soil and water management, golf turf, sports turf and lawn and landscape education.

 
Industry professionals from all over the southeast to speak on their specialties in turfgrass management. Among the academics and researchers who will be presenting are Drs. Beth Guertal, Dave Han, Lawrence Graham and Scott McElroy, (Auburn); Drs. Stephen Enloe and Bryan Unruh, (University of Florida); Dr. Ron Strahan, (LSU); Drs. Christian Baldwin, Jay McCurdy, Barry Stewart and Maria Tomaso-Peterson, (Mississippi State) and Dr. Mike Goatley (Virginia Tech).
 
In addition, industry professionals will speak on aspects of professional development in all arenas of turf management, including Bill Brown, Turf Republic; Ken Magnum, CGCS, retired from Atlanta Athletic Club; and Ray Sayre of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. For a complete listing of the speaker line-up go to DeepSouthTurfExpo.org.
 
According to Dr. Jay McCurdy, "The Deep South Turf Expo is a great opportunity for the region’s professional turfgrass managers to broaden their knowledge base, right in their own backyard. The educational topics featured are relevant to southern turfgrass management, and the speaker list is phenomenal. The expo will be unprecedented, with vendors and sponsors from around the nation."
 
Dr. Bryan Unruh, University of Florida agrees. "There is strength in numbers! Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana: Four states – one Turf Conference. An excellent opportunity to meet with your colleagues to learn the latest in turf management, participate in a large equipment expo, and enjoy comradery with each other."
 
The Deep South Turf Expo is a collaboration of the Alabama Turfgrass Association, the Alabama Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Gulf Coast Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Louisiana-Mississippi Golf Course Superintendents Association and the Mississippi Turfgrass Association. 
 
The inaugural event is scheduled for Oct. 13-15 in Biloxi, Miss.

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BLEC joins the Redexim stable

Redexim bv, the parent company of Redexim North America, has reached an agreement to purchase the assets of BLEC Global Ltd of the United Kingdom. The deal includes the purchase of the BLEC name and means that the products will continue to be traded around the world by Redexim under the name of BLEC.

 
Redexim will now be responsible for the full manufacturing and distribution of the current range of over 80 different BLEC machines throughout the world including the United States and Canada. Discussions are currently underway to set up dealer arrangements in the countries within which BLEC operates, and announcements about this will be made in due course.
 
BLEC, founded in 1986, has developed a good reputation around the world for developing new innovative machinery that is well engineered, built for long life and reliability. The company offers a wide range of specialised landscaping and turfcare machinery, both walk behind and tractor mounted models, to suit a varied range of requirements. BLEC products have been used by superintendents, sports turf managers, sod farms, and contractors around the world.
 
For more information about Redexim or Blec products, contact the sales and marketing office at 636-825-8300 or visit www.Redexim.com.

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John Deere announces promotion

OLATHE, Kan. – John Deere has just announced its Gear Up For Fall program. The program, which runs from August 15 to the end of October, gives customers who attend Drive Green events an extra $250 off a wide range of turf equipment, in addition to the other Drive Green program product discounts and the sweepstakes.

 
According to Tom Elliott, product marketing manager for John Deere, customers can get the $250 Gear Up For Fall coupon when they attend a fall Drive Green event and apply it toward the purchase of a new John Deere ZTrak, EZTrak, QuikTrak mower, Signature or Select Series tractor, or select Gator utility vehicle models.
 
“Fall is a great time for residential and rural property owners, farmers and ranchers and others in the green industry to check out a wide selection of John Deere equipment,” Elliott said. “These fall Drive Green Demo events are the perfect place to compare competitive models and test drive the latest utility tractors, lawn and garden equipment, Gators and more. Plus, the Gear Up For Fall incentives, along with the other Drive Green coupons, make this an especially good time to invest in John Deere equipment.”
 
In addition to the $250 Gear Up For Fall coupon for turf equipment, event attendees can receive a $500 coupon for the purchase of select John Deere utility tractors and discounts on attachments. Attendees also can register for a chance to win a John Deere 3032E Compact Utility Tractor with loader and rotary cutter package to be given away later this year.
 
“Along with making the Drive Green events fun and informative experiences, the first 50 people who attend fall events at participating dealerships will receive a special limited-edition John Deere Gear Up For Fall camo cap,” Elliott said.
 
At Drive Green events this fall, John Deere dealer experts will be on hand to demonstrate the equipment and answer questions. Admission is free and no pre-registration is required to attend.
 
For more information on the Drive Green equipment discounts and events in your area this fall, visit www.JohnDeere.com/DriveGreen, or see your local John Deere dealer.

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PACE expands warehousing

To keep up with continued growth, outdoor power equipment distributor, PACE recently doubled its Lakeland, Fla. warehouse space to an expansive 41,628 total square feet. PACE also purchased an additional 44,000 square foot building on Keel Street near the PACE headquarters and main warehouse in Plymouth, Mich. The purchase and expansion brings PACE’s total warehouse space for the four locations (including West Bend and Sacramento) to 205,000 square feet. 

 
Much of the expansion is made possible by PACE’s use of state-of-the-art technology. PACE is able to provide online ordering and same day shipping on parts and most equipment orders for enhanced dealer and end-user satisfaction. Dealers also benefit from PACE’s customer service from factory trained staff, plus 24-hr access to pricing and online ordering. “Ease of doing business is key. The easier we make things for our dealers, the better they can serve their customers. That’s great for everyone, and it’s great for business,” said PACE’s VP of Operations, Shawn Hill.
 
“It’s a challenging, dynamic business environment, but we have a dedicated, versatile staff. PACE team members welcome the challenges, and we are always developing and implementing new ideas to better serve our customers,” said Chris Saxton, president of PACE.
 
For more information, call 1-734-453-6258 or visit www.pacelink.com.

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