BVCC Member Knight’s Limousine Services Goes Green

There are many ways to think negative in any economy, and there are ways to think positive!

Ribbon-Cutting

On October, 24th, State Senator Michael Moore, the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce represented by Jeannie Hebert, and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce represented by Tim Murray, participated in a ribbon-cutting at Knight’s Limousine.

Knights Ribbon Cutting

“Today, Knight’s Airport Limousine Service, Inc., unveiled its newest fleet vehicles powered by low-cost, clean propane autogas at the “Propane Autogas: Driving Knight’s Limo to a Greener Ride” event in Shrewsbury.

Green Corporate Commitment

“As a part of our corporate commitment to reducing emissions and providing dependable, efficient transportation options to our passengers, we’ve chosen American made propane autogas to fuel our new Ford vans,” said Michael F. Hogan, president of Knight’s Airport Limousine Service.

The fleet of ROUSH CleanTech Ford E-350 passenger vans will also emit 1.15 million fewer pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of the vehicles. Propane autogas is a low carbon fuel that reduces greenhouse gases by up to 25 percent, carbon monoxide by up to 60 percent, nitrogen oxide by 20 percent and virtually eliminates particulate matter when compared to conventional fuels. In addition, non-toxic propane does not harm soil or groundwater.

Changing Legislation

Knight’s Airport Limousine Service, ROUSH CleanTech, the Propane Education & Research Council and the New England Propane Gas Association worked with Senator Michael O. Moore in order to change the Massachusetts State Regulations. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts now allows alternative fuel vehicles to travel through its tunnels. Due to the recent change, Knight’s elected to move forward with “greening” its fleet.

“I am pleased to have worked to facilitate a change to our state regulations regarding propane-powered vehicles in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael O. Moore. “This change had a direct positive impact on a local small business in my district. The previous regulations were prohibitive to economic growth in Massachusetts. These changes will not only help our small businesses succeed, but will also continue to ensure a greener environment.”

Investing in the Future

For refueling infrastructure, Knight’s Airport Limousine Service installed an above-ground 18,000-gallon tank at its Shrewsbury facility. The infrastructure for propane autogas is less expensive than any other alternative fuel, and with thousands of stations across the nation, propane autogas already has the largest public refueling infrastructure of all alternative transportation fuel options.

“Knight’s Airport Limousine Service can reduce their harmful emissions while experiencing a positive return on investment with this clean-burning alternative to gasoline or diesel,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech.

Knights Propane Van

The eight alternative fueled vehicles will service Logan International, T.F. Green and all New England and New York airports, as well as provide ground transportation for private events.”

Visit Knights Limousine for more.

 

Want to give back to the community? Form a non-profit.

non-profit

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.” Alexis de Tocqueville

No matter what a person may think about the proper role of government versus the strengths or limitations of private sector institutions, few would object to the notion that there are instances where neither of these is sufficient for some of the challenges that exist in our society.

Whether the goal is to feed the homeless, rescue abandoned animals, provide support services for cancer patients and their families, run a youth soccer league, or some other charitable purpose, Americans of all stripes and in all walks of life are able to band together to achieve some common purpose through the formation and operation of non-profit organizations.

What is a non-profit company?

Not-for-profit, or charitable, organizations are often referred to as the “third sector of the economy.” These organizations allow private citizens to serve a niche sector of the community through the ability to raise funds as tax exempt entities under section 501( c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Setting up a non-profit company has many benefits, but there are legal requirements that need to be followed before those benefits can be realized. In Massachusetts that means, among other things, filing articles of organization with the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State’s Office along with the required filing fee. It can also mean completing the necessary paperwork to apply for federal tax exempt status with the IRS.

What are some of the benefits of forming a non-profit company?

Tax savings: One of the most important benefits, of course, are the exemptions from state and federal taxes that your organization will enjoy. Under current law, the top federal tax rate on corporate income is 35%. In addition to federal taxes, any corporation doing business in Massachusetts is subject to the Massachusetts corporate excise tax, which is a combination of a corporation’s property/net worth and net income.

However, as explained on the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website:

“… any corporation that is exempt from the federal income tax under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code (and has received the 501 exemption from the IRS), or is organized under M.G.L. Ch. 157, sec. 10, is exempt from the Massachusetts corporate excise tax.”

Obviously, any money that does not have to be paid in taxes can be applied toward achieving the organization’s goals and used to fulfill the organization’s charitable mission.

Encourage donations: By donating to an entity with 501( c)(3) status, individual donors can take advantage of the federal charitable deduction when filing their annual tax returns. In this way, citizens are free to support causes that are dearest to them, either by providing much-needed funding or by participating in the formation, management and charitable activities that an organization is dedicated to serve.

In addition to the the benefits found in fundraising from individuals, 501( c)(3) entities may be eligible to receive grants from government agencies and to accept donations from private foundations.

Personal liability protection: Just as incorporating a business shields owners, executives, directors and employees from personal liability for business-related injuries and debts, those same protections apply to members of non-profit corporations.

Organizational immortality: Incorporation means that the company is a separate legal entity from the individual(s) who originally founded it. This enhances the organization’s ability to attract donors who are interested in making a long term commitment, since its charitable activities can continue long after the individuals who established it have moved on.

Miscellaneous benefits: Depending on the mission, a charitable organization might be eligible for lower postal rates, and may even be able to take advantage of reduced advertising rates, including spots on television and the radio.

What are the disadvantages in forming non-profit companies?

Filing fees: Depending on the size of the organization, an application for obtaining tax exempt status must include a user fee when submitted to the IRS. Those fees range from $400-$850, and are determined based on the association’s gross receipts. That doesn’t include any state fees associated with incorporating the organization.

Lots of paperwork: After the organization has been formed, it may be required to file annual reports with the state. As explained on the website of the Massachusetts Attorney General, “all public charities operating in Massachusetts [are required] to register and file annual reports with the Attorney General’s Office Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division.” In addition, as corporations, non-profits must hold and keep detailed notes of meeting minutes, and must follow other corporate formalities.

Strict public oversight: Even though the organization is run by a board of directors who must adhere to the organization’s charitable mission, the Attorney General is ultimately responsible for overseeing the company’s activities (at least in Massachusetts).

Difficult to dissolve: Given the significant public benefits provided by non-profit corporations, a Massachusetts non-profit can only be dissolved “with the approval of the Attorney General’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division.” Also, if the organization has assets in any amount during the time of the dissolution, a petition must be filed with the Supreme Judicial Court.

Conclusion

Anyone interested in forming a non-profit company should carefully review the goals and mission, and should weigh those against the benefits and disadvantages of forming and operating such an entity. On balance, the ability to benefit a subset of your community is a great way to give back, and the positive results will be immediately visible to you along the way.

Forming a non-profit company should be a rewarding choice if you have a passion for a particular cause and are looking for ways to give back to your community.

The Magical History of Heritage Starlight Celebrations

2010 Starlight Heritage at Riverdale Mill

2010 Image at Riverdale Mill’s Heritage Starlight Celebration

For the last 6 years, the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce has hosted one magical event each year, and that is the Heritage Starlight Celebration. Each year a mill in the Blackstone Valley is highlighted, decorated, themed and brought alive for an evening of festivities. Here is a glimpse back at those years:

Belinda Mazur has led the decorating committee from the beginning! She shares, “I have been involved since the first Heritage Starlight held at Alternatives. We featured artists and food…. with a touch of wines and so forth. Many local students had entered their pumpkins into a contest, these were featured that evening.”

Whitin Mill

Many of us in the Blackstone Valley are familiar with Alternatives and the beautiful restoration it has achieved. So, what a wonderful place to start the Starlight Heritage Celebration.

The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce will mark the 2nd annual Heritage Starlight Celebration on Friday, Oct. 24, 7-10 p.m., hosted by Manchaug Mills.

The 2nd year was entitled, “Manchaug Night Under the Stars”. The evening under the stars featured musical entertainment and merriment. Sutton Wines & Liquors provided a beer and wine sampling featuring more than 50 wines from around the world. “Taste of the Valley,” a culinary event, included a menu from culinary resources of the Blackstone Valley donating their time and talent to the evening.

Performances by well-known jazz saxophonist, Clyde Wheatley, often referred to as “the British Kenny G with a hint of Benny Goodman,” as well as local pianist MacKenzie Mazur, will perform.

Belinda shares the third year experience. “Onto the Whitin Mill…. where we visually uplifted the space with paint and lots of cleaning. Our theme to this point had remained pretty much consistent…. Heritage Starlight…. a celebration of the the mills in the Blackstone Valley. Again we had many artists, foods and wines etc, plus many dressed in period costume. Mackenzie Mazur played the piano that evening.”

Different years require different levels of work from the few volunteers that bring together the magic of the evening. This yearly event draws 300-500 people who enjoy wine tastings, food samplings, fine music and extraordinary vendors.

Riverdale MillOur last venue stuck for 3 years! “The Riverdale mill had been more than a gracious host to the Heritage Starlight for the past three years….. antique cars, live music, food, artists and wines…. I believe many enjoyed the event at Riverdale over the past three years.”

Jim and Betty Knott, our hosts at Riverdale, have been extremely gracious, even lending their employees as helpers. The warehouse portion of the mill, where the themes were created each year, suddenly had streets created with tape, rivers with paint, street lamps appeared with stars named for streets. Every year was different and Belinda led the transformations! Here’s our album from the 2012 event!

images-golocalworcester-com--business_Felters13-360x360

And so, here we are, at our 7th Starlight Heritage Celebration! Our theme this year? James Bond, From Connery to Craig! The venue? Felter’s Mill in Millbury, and Oh My Goodness, what a beautiful job the Romeo brothers have done changing the mill into a shopping and service mecca. Here is a recent story about the successful renovations.  Every space on both floors is already enjoying shop tenants of all kinds.

Picture entering the large foyer through double doors and facing a grand open staircase. Picture Dale Lepage and Dale LePage and the Manhattansthe Manhattans, (entertainer of the year three years in a row), playing on the second floor with a view to the whole foyer. We expect many Bonds in costume as well as Bond girls! The paparazzi will be in full stealth mode, photographing away.

Food sampling vendors include; Valley Cafe,  Wicked Good Treats, Goretti’s Supermarket, Salmon Health & Retirement, Longhorn, Lindt, Feng, Calabria, Pizza Chef, Red Rock, Elm Draughthouse and Devine Thai.

Merchant vendors include; Expressions of You, Blue Dragon, Lia Sophia, Sugarplums Dance Studio, Denjise’s Gift Baskets, Paul Robinson Photography, Leeward Interiors, Sparkleberrys, Thirty-One Gifts, Lynne’s Crafts, Traci Lynn Jewelry, Beautycounter, hannah Jane Jewelry! This has always been an awesome venue to get a jump on that holiday shopping!

And, please pass on that Veterans are always welcome at no charge!

10-16-2013 11-13-33 AM

For details and to register for Thursday, October 24th! Hope to see you!

Michelle Fontaine

The Tech Tax Repeal Awakening Small Tech businesses (Part 2)

In a continuation of Jim Henderson’s, The Tech Tax Repeal Awakening Small Tech Businesses, this post, also written by Jim Henderson, describes a stronger tech industry in Massachusetts. In addition, you might want to check out Representative George Peterson’s blog, “Not on our Watch” on this subject too.

Massachusetts Tax Tech LawSPARK Coalition.org is one of the groups that will be attempting to answer and help address that question for the little guys and freelancers, the heart of the technology and innovation economy in Massachusetts.

MA High Technology Council is starting a Small Tech Business Initiative. The MA Chambers formed a coalition against the repeal – maybe it can be converted to a coalition to foster tech companies and the innovation economy. Together, there is an opportunity to use this to build a better Massachusetts.

We marveled at the lack of information available online and tools for citizen advocacy. Expect some new tools, or even startups, coming out of Massachusetts as a result.

The Globe described “tech lords” against repeal.  However, I might say that in today’s business fabric, small tech companies – and the technologists who work at them – are the future of the middle class.

People often focus on the sexy, leading edge startups – but it is solid companies and freelancers working on the incredible variety of software, operating systems, and hardware that make up the backbone. According to Tech America, there are 13,500 tech companies in Massachusetts, and 219,000 tech workers in Boston.

It’s time now to look at the policy that ensures this tech industry area thrives. Let’s look at national and global competitio in this area. Make no mistake – the competition for tech companies is fierce, with competitors coming from every state and countries like India, Poland, Brazil, and China.

Having recently moved here from out of state, I can say with certainty that Massachusetts – and particularly this area – is a phenomenal place to live as a tech geek that loves board games and wants to spend time with his 11 month old.   We need to make sure it not only stays that way, but carves out – and keeps – it’s spot as a global leader.


Jim Henderson is the founder and CEO of The Exemplary Group, as well as moderator and contributing blogger for Chief Executive Boards International. He has helped numerous founders and executives navigate and execute solutions to
their most challenging people, product, and pipeline issues.

He moved to Grafton last year and currently spends most of his free time enjoying time with his wife and 11-month old son.

He is a career software entrepreneur, having bootstrapped a company into the Inc. 500 as one of America’s fastest growing company. Jim can be reached at 774-545-5184.

 

The Affordable Care Act – Explained by AIM Kristen Lepore at BVCC Breakfast

The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce was pleased to bring Kristen Lepore of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) to the podium this morning at the monthly BVCC breakfast to speak to us about the new ACA and its ramifications on Massachusetts employers.

Kristen Lepore of AIM spoke at Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce on the ACA.

Kristen Lepore of AIM spoke at Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce on the ACA.

Kristen Lepore is Vice-President of AIM, the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan association of Massachusetts employers. As VP, Kristen is responsible for AIM’s health care agenda and advocates for policies to lower the cost of providing health care in Massachusetts.

Kristen simplified some of the major implications on Massachusetts employers, to the well-attended Chamber breakfast. This is a matter that will affect us all, and not in a positive way.

Massachusetts has Done an Exemplary Job

Massachusetts has done an exemplary job on its own with healthcare reform, when it established the individual mandate to have health insurance in 2006. MA is the first and only state to do this and it has achieved a high level of success with 97% of MA residents covered by health insurance.

MA has the highest healthcare participation in the nation. “We are the envy of the nation”, Kristen stated. “We assumed transitioning would be pretty easy, that the Federal plan would be modeled after us.”

In MA the state issued 67 pages of regulations under Massachusetts Health Care Reform. So far the Federal plan has released 20,000 pages of info!

Differences between MA and the Federal Plan

In MA, if you have 11 or more full time employees, you are obligated to offer health insurance. That has been repealed. Under the federal law, it is 50 or more full time employees. If you opt not to offer insurance to your employees and those employees purchase insurance through the Massachusetts Health Connector, you will be assessed $2000 per employee annually.

The definition of a full-time employee also changes. Currently, an employee in MA is considered full-time when they work 35 hours. Under the new federal law, full-time status is 30 hours.

The extra financial burden this places on employers certainly creates fear. Kristen expressed, “I can only say that this is very concerning to employers. All say they are going to be cutting back the number of hours employees work. It only takes 1 or 2 employers to set a trend. In Massachusetts – a state where 97% of its population is insured and 77% of employers offer health insurance – we have nowhere to go except backwards.”

Will be Cost-Prohibitive

It’s an obvious conclusion that, if the cost of providing health insurance becomes more unaffordable, it will become cost prohibitive to small employers in this state.

In 2007, MA merged its small group (employers with 50 or fewer full time employees) and non-group (individuals) market. Both groups are now community rated. This makes it more affordable for individuals.

Rating Factors

At the same time, we have rating factors that insurance companies use to set premiums for small employers.

If not for the rating factors, the premiums would have been higher for many small employers. Under federal law we are only allowed to use 4 of those factors out of the 9 we currently use. This is expected to be very disruptive to a relatively stable insurance market.  Although there will be both winners and losers under the new rating structure, many small employers will see increases of up to 57%.

In 2016, employers who have 51-100 employees will become part of the merged market and be community rated. Initial analysis says that these employers will see a 10% increase in their insurance premiums.

The Division of Insurance recently approved fourth quarter rates for the small group market.  The rates for each health plan are all over the place ranging from a 24% decrease to a 4.9% increase resulting in an average base rate of 1.9%.  Although this is the lowest average base rate increase in several years, it does not include the effects of eliminating the rating factors.  Increases as a result of the rating factors going away will be added into the base rates.  Our Governor recently sent a letter asking for a waiver to allow MA to keep its 9 rating factors. We need to be proactive in getting the message to our legislators that we want to keep the system we have in place working. We want a waiver to the new federal plan.

“We hoped to have been held harmless.  The lack of flexibility and recognition that we already accomplished what the federal law has set out to do is frustrating,” said Kristen

“That is the difference between undertaking a major policy like this at the state level versus the federal level.  Under Massachusetts Health Care Reform, we were able to work with sate leaders to develop and make technical corrections.  That opportunity is sorely missed from the current process.”

Contact Legislators

Please contact Congressman McGovern’s office with your questions and be sure to send a clear message to support the waiver and let MA handle health insurance as they have been.