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The Leadership Lansing Blog is the open communication forum of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. In the Leadership Lansing Blog, we will highlight all things related to the Greater Lansing business community. We will feature posts from our staff, our membership and the legislative leaders of this region. If you have any questions or would like to be a contributor to the Leadership Lansing Blog, please contact Eric Dimoff, Marketing and Communications Director, at 517-853-6460 or We appreciate the continued support!


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Alcohol Beverage Licenses 101

Posted By Scott A. Breen, Willingham & Cote’, P.C., Friday, March 3, 2017

By Scott A. Breen

All businesses desiring to manufacture, import, distribute, or sell alcohol to consumers must obtain proper licenses and permits from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (“Commission”). There are numerous types of liquor licenses and permits, and the names for these licenses make it difficult for applicants to determine what is needed. In addition, the jargon used by industry insiders and the acronyms used for the various licenses do not make it any clearer. This article only relates to some of the common licenses and permits that apply to retailers.

On or Off Premise?  

Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, gas stations, liquor stores, and other establishments that sell alcohol to the end consumer are known as retailers. The first question for retailers is whether alcohol will be served for “on-premises” or “off-premises” consumption (or both). For example, a restaurant will certainly serve alcohol for consumption on their licensed premises. However, that restaurant may also sell/fill growlers that are brought home by the consumer and consumed off the licensed premises. Separate licenses are needed for each of these types of business activities. A grocery store, on the other hand, generally does not serve alcohol for consumption on its licensed premises (although this is becoming more popular).

Although there are numerous types of retail licenses, the main three types are “Class C,” Specially Designated Merchant (known as “SDM” licenses), and Specially Designated Distributor (known as “SDD” licenses). Class C licenses allow for the sale of beer, wine, and spirits on the licensed premises. Therefore, Class C licenses are needed by restaurants and bars.

SDM licenses allow for the sale of beer and wine for consumption off the licensed premises. SDD licenses allow for the sale of spirits off the licensed premises. Therefore, many grocery/liquor stores will desire SDM and SDD licenses.

Quotas on Licenses

Class C, SDM, and SDD licenses are all subject to a quota system, which limits the number of licenses that may be issued within a particular local unit of government. To the extent that there are no longer any licenses available directly from the Commission, the applicant will need to purchase the license from a willing seller.

In addition to licenses, the retailer will need to obtain all necessary permits. For example, “Sunday Sales,” “Entertainment,” “Dance,” or “Catering” permits may be desired depending on when sales will occur and what types of activities will be conducted.

This article only covers a very small number of licenses and permits that can be obtained from the Commission by a retailer. Each situation is different and should be tailored to each applicant’s desired business goals.

Scott A. Breen is an attorney and shareholder at Willingham & Cote’, P.C. in East Lansing, Michigan. He specializes in the areas of hospitality and alcohol beverage law as well as business and real estate transactions. Mr. Breen may be reached at 517-324-1021 or

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MSUFCU Shares Ways to Help You Save this Summer

Posted By Admin, Thursday, July 14, 2016

Learn smart money tips for an enjoyable summer season

Ah, summer in Michigan! The days are long, the weather is gorgeous and the temptation to spend money on a good time is all around us. Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) knows that with so much to do this season, it can be easy to loosen the grip on your budget and spend, spend, spend. This is why MSUFCU has taken the opportunity to share its top five picks on budget-friendly options this summer to help you save money and beat the heat (or soak it up!).

  1. Enjoy a home cooked meal. Busy schedules can often lead us to settling for the convenience and marked up prices of eating out, but be careful because those expenses can add up! Don’t let convenience govern your budget and drain your accounts. Things to think about when looking to spend less money on food include buying groceries, preparing meals more, and eating out less. Before venturing off to the store to get groceries for the week, make a list and only buy the things that are on it. You will find yourself saving money right then and there by avoiding impulse purchases. Fortunately, the summer is a great time of year to make food at home, with more opportunities to fire up the grill and many varieties of fresh, local fruits and vegetables available to you and your family. It’s a great time for summertime savings and healthy eating!
  2. Earn extra spending money. Take time to look in your closet and around the house for things you no longer use. Those items might not have value to you any longer, but someone else might see it as a treasure worth buying. Investigate the events in your neighborhood this summer to see if there will be any community yard sales in the coming weeks, or just find a weekend that works well with your schedule to set up shop. While it will take a little work up front finding items, setting prices, and advertising your sale, the reward at the end is extra money to put towards something you’ve been looking forward to this summer.
  3. Consider Taking Day Trips. Planning road trips around Michigan is a great way to travel on a budget and when it comes to saving money while traveling, the most important thing is to plan and research your trip ahead of time.  If you’re not careful, the items you find yourself needing or wanting to buy could add up quickly while on the road and at your destination. To keep your trip low cost, pack meals, snacks, and plenty of water to avoid spending money at rest stops and fast food restaurants. Before you hit the road research any possible free activities your destination may have, such as museums, hiking trails, public parks, or beaches.  Save money by planning ahead to ensure you have the right necessities for a happy and safe adventure. 
  4. Attend Free Community Events.  We’ve finally reached the season of longer days and warmer temperatures, and there’s so much to do in Michigan! From festivals and races to live performances series, local events will help you avoid breaking the bank while having fun. Check out what activities local businesses and towns near you have to offer. You may be surprised at how quickly your calendar can fill up with fun and free activities for the entire family.
  5. Get Involved. One of the best ways to enjoy summer without spending money is to get involved in your community—and the warm temperatures are a great excuse to get started! There are plenty of organizations that are in need of volunteers this time of year, so start exploring your options now. If you love animals, volunteering at a nearby animal shelter may be the perfect option for you. Shelters are always looking for volunteers for both indoor and outdoor tasks, but if your goal is to enjoy the sunshine, consider signing up to walk the dogs. Taking some time out of your schedule to help others can have a huge impact on your community, and it will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you made a difference.

Whatever you choose to do, MSUFCU wants to wish you and your family a safe, relaxing and happy summer!

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What’s at the heart of your financial plan?

Posted By Eric Dimoff, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2016

By Nick NautaNick Nauta Financial

Sound financial planning doesn’t seem to be a big part of the average American’s everyday life. I get it, it’s not exciting, it’s not flashy, and it doesn’t offer immediate gratification. And yet, finances are vital to our existence.

In a 2015 study conducted by the Financial Planning Standards Board, people admitted to not feeling confident about reaching their financial goals. With increasing demands on how money is spent and the limited amount of time available, we can’t ignore the fact that the importance of having a financial plan is ever increasing. The question is how to create a financial plan that works for you?

The key? Finding what is most important to you and placing it at the heart of your financial plan. Here are our 3 tips on how to do that!

1. Start with what’s important to you

Traditional financial planning is clouded with the idea that financial ingenuity and mathematics can create an answer to all of your financial questions. The truth is, financial planning should be about what’s at the heart of your existence.

What do you value and who do you want out of life? If we only paid attention to investment rates of return and increasing your net worth, you could end up living in a cardboard box with a million-dollar investment account. Probably not the ideal outcome you’re looking for.

2. If it’s important to you, you’re more likely to stick with it

Retirement, compound interest, inflation, etc. are all abstract ideas that challenge even the wisest individual’s resolve over time. The financial industry has been using scare tactics to get you to do what they want for the last 50 years. How many of us have heard if you don’t start saving now you’ll never retire?

If the heart and soul of your financial plan are achieving the things in life you cherish, your willingness to sacrifice will be that much greater. It’s one thing to save money out of fear of having to work well into your golden years. It’s an entirely different experience to save up to be able to retire early and travel the world, or to quit your job and start your dream business.

3. Partner with the right financial professionals

If you’re going to understand how to create a financial plan, you need to identify the people that will help you achieve these goals. Find a financial adviser who spends more time asking about who you are, where you came from, and where you want to go, than they spend talking about their theories and ideas.

Your financial planner should spend 70 to 80 percent of your meetings listening to what you have to say. A planner can’t guide you to make the right decisions if they don’t know what you value and what you want out of life.

Like most thing in life, financial plans rarely work out exactly the way they were drawn up the first time. As your life evolves and your plans change, so will your financial plan. Having a plan that focuses on what’s most important to you and your family, and you’re working with the right financial planner, will increase your confidence in achieving the goals that have the most meaning to you.

Want more insider information? Here are our 6 Steps to Successful Financial Planning.

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Common indoor mold: What to look for and how to take a proactive approach

Posted By Eric Dimoff, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Monday, April 11, 2016

By Chamber member ServiceMaster Absolute

Mold can be found virtually anywhere indoors and outdoors – the only requirements are a damp environment and organic material to feed in order to grow. While mold has some redeeming qualities, including helping to produce antibiotics, foods and beverages and breaking down dead plants and trees, mold can also be dangerous. Certain strains can cause serious health problems including allergies, asthma, respiratory problems or a weakened immune system.

Types of Mold:

  • Penicillium – Green or bluish, this mold is most commonly found on moist, dead organic matter, such as food or damp wood. Its airborne spores can cause serious allergic reactions and consuming food contaminated with Penicillium may lead to severe gastric problems.
  • Cladosporium – Often black, dark brown or olive-colored, this mold can be found indoors in any dark, damp, non-porous area – such as the inside of a refrigerator, on walls, or along the water line of a toilet. While it’s non-toxic, it can cause severe allergic reactions in people with mold allergies.
  • Aspergillus – Black or tan-colored, it’s one of the most dangerous molds, often found on decaying organic matter and things like wood, paper, soil and food. It’s commonly found in basements after water damage or flooding. Aspergillus can be hazardous to people with severe allergies or asthma, or a weakened immune system.
  • Alternaria – Green, black or gray, it’s often found indoors in showers, on wallpaper, window frames, fruits and vegetables, carpets and clothing. It can cause severe allergic reactions and chronic respiratory problems

While less of a problem in the colder months, mold growth picks up in the spring when the temperatures begin to climb, and because it often grows in dark, damp places (like a basement), it can often go undetected for a long period of time.

Preventative Measures:

Here are a few easy ways to prevent mold from developing inside your home or business:

  • Keep your indoor humidity low and be aware of condensation that develops on walls or windows – this can be a sign of high humidity.
  • Using dehumidifiers, fans and air conditioners when necessary.
  • Attending to water damage, leaks or flooding immediately after the damage occurs. The more quickly the area is dried, the less chance of mold growth.
  • Cleaning and vacuuming your home on a consistent basis.
  • Use exhaust fans inside the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry areas.
  • Insulate the attic and crawl space and make sure they are well-ventilated.

If you think your home or business is experiencing mold growth, the most important thing to remember is to act immediately and call an expert in mold remediation right away. Do not try to remove mold yourself; you can put your own health at risk! Instead, let an expert assist you and ensure that all mold is removed properly.

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Getting started with AdWords: 6 tips for PPC newbies

Posted By Eric Dimoff, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Monday, March 14, 2016
Updated: Friday, March 4, 2016

By Scott Swanson, Founder and Principal of Moonsail North

Google AdWords can be a confusing beast at first blush. A complicated user interface, different keyword match types, search network vs. display network — it can feel overwhelming to the uninitiated. Compound the variables with the fact that Google constantly makes tweaks; this past week, for example, it was just revealed that the layout and display of ads has changed. (More on that below.)

When you put aside all the bells and whistles, however, the basic concept is pretty simple: you bid on keywords in order to get your ads showing up in someone’s Google search, and you pay per click (PPC).

Consulting with an experienced AdWords professional can help you get the most of your AdWords campaign, but you don’t necessarily have to be an AdWords expert to get a solid return on investment. If you’re interested in going at it alone, here are a few tips to get you started in the wild world of AdWords.

1.) Structure your account wellOnce you’ve signed up for AdWords, your next step is figuring out the structure of your ad groups. Essentially, ad groups organize all your ads by a common theme. If your company focuses on one service — say, for example, solar panel sales — you may only need to set up one ad group. But if you’re a large law firm that offers real estate law, family law and bankruptcy law services, you’ll want to set up an ad group for each. It’s usually a good idea to set up your ad groups similar to the structure of your website.

2.) Use exact match keywords

AdWords offers different keyword match types to help you control which searches trigger your ad. If you choose broad match, for example, misspellings, synonyms, and related searches of your keyword can trigger your ad. If you choose exact match, only searches that exactly match your keyword will trigger the ad. Broad match will get you more clicks — but they may not be quality clicks. Remember, you’re charged every time someone clicks on one of your ads, so you want to ensure that your ad shows for only the most relevant search queries — otherwise, you’re going to be wasting budget that could have gone to another online advertising or digital marketing campaign.

3.) Keep the copy simple

It’s tempting to get creative or cute with your AdWords copy — it seems intuitive that being clever will drive more clicks. Surprisingly, we’ve found just the opposite to be true. AdWords copy should be simple and straightforward, highlighting prices, promotions or exclusives when applicable. You get an extremely limited number of characters to get your message across, so be direct. Also, make sure to include at least one of your keywords in the text.

4.) Your website landing page matters

Each Google AdWord ad links to a landing page on your website. You could have great ad copy and great keywords — but if your landing page doesn’t effectively tell your story, it’s all for naught. Your landing page should contain useful content and be directly relevant to your ad text and keywords. It also should be easy to navigate and free of distracting popups. If you’re targeting your ads to mobile users, make sure your website is responsive! (In general, make this your mantra: Your website should be responsive, for so many reasons — one of which being that Google penalizes you if your website is not responsive.)

5.) Be prepared to invest quality time into the project, and be nimble

Here’s the great thing about the metrics you have access to through with an AdWords campaign — you’ll know pretty quickly whether your ads are working. Not getting enough impressions? Try increasing your bid slightly, or targeting different keywords. Low click-through rate? Maybe it’s time to switch up your copy. Don’t be afraid to try new things using the data you’ve already collected. There is no way around investing time into refining your campaign to net the best results.

6.) Know your options if you’re a nonprofit

Google AdWords already offers excellent PPC for small businesses and organizations of every stripe. But nonprofits have access to an even better deal: Google offers Google Ad Grants, a special AdWords program for nonprofits. Make sure you understand how you can benefit from utilizing this program.

Good luck! If you’re still not feeling confident in your PPC skills, give us a shout and we’ll be happy to help.

Scott is an AdWords certified professional.

P.S. As I mentioned above, Google has confirmed that it will no longer be showing ads in the right-hand column, focusing only on ads on the tops and bottoms of pages.

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Do You Disagree with Your Property Tax Assessment?

Posted By Eric Dimoff, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2016

By Scott Breen, Real Estate, Willingham & Coté, P.C.

Appealing Your Residential and Business Property Taxes

Property tax, tax assessment, appeal, Each year, the city/township assessor determines the “assessed value” of all real estate within its jurisdiction. The assessed value is equal to one half of the fair market value of the property. The “taxable value” (which ultimately determines your property taxes) is then calculated based on this assessment.

After the assessed value (and taxable value) is determined, the local assessor will mail a Notice of Assessment to each property owner during the month of February. This notice will include the assessed value and taxable value of your property, as well as the dates that you may appeal those valuations. If you believe that your assessment (and taxable value) is too high, it may be advantageous to appeal this determination.

The process to appeal real property taxes depends on the type of property involved. The most common types of property are residential, agricultural, commercial, and industrial. The appeal process for each of these classifications is outlined below.

Residential and Agricultural Property

With respect to residential or agricultural real estate, there are two steps to the appeal process. You must first appeal to the local unit of government (e.g., the city or township in which the property is located). These appeals are presented at a very informal meeting with the local government’s Board of Review (and sometimes to both the assessor and then to the Board of Review). The appeals are generally held at the city/township hall during the month of March. At these Board of Review hearings, the property owner should present an appraisal of the real estate or comparable sales information for other properties in the area in order to demonstrate the overvaluation.

If the Board of Review does not sufficiently reduce the assessed value (and corresponding taxable value), you are then permitted to appeal to the Michigan Tax Tribunal on or before July 31. An appeal of residential or agricultural property to the Tax Tribunal is generally assigned to the “Small Claims Division” of the Tribunal that is heard by a referee. The referee then makes a recommendation to the Tax Tribunal Commissioners, who can then either adopt or reject the recommendation. If you prevail at the Tribunal, the local unit of government will be required to return any overpayments along with interest on those amounts.

Commercial and Industrial Property

With respect to commercial and industrial real estate, there is no requirement that the property owner appeal the valuation to the local Board of Review. However, as a matter of strategy, the owner is not prevented from doing so, and this may result in an immediate reduction in the assessment.

The property owner may appeal the assessment directly to the Tax Tribunal. However, the deadline for filing a petition with the Tax Tribunal is May 31. Therefore, if you believe that the assessed value (and corresponding taxable value) is too high, you need to make sure to meet this earlier deadline. Commercial and industrial assessment appeals are assigned to the “Entire Tribunal Division” of the Tax Tribunal. This is a more formal process as compared to the Small Claims Division and is somewhat similar to the procedures of a state court lawsuit. Similar to the residential and agricultural appeals, if the property owner prevails in reducing the taxable value, the local unit of government will be required to return any over payments along with interest on those amounts.

Ongoing Benefits of an Appeal

In 1994, Michigan voters passed “Proposal A,” which limits the amount that taxable value can increase to the rate of inflation or 5%, whichever is less. As a result, if a property owner is successful in significantly reducing the taxable value of the real estate, it can provide reduced taxes for many years into the future. For example, if taxable value is reduced from $200,000 to $150,000, it would take at least six years to get back to its original value.

If you need assistance with filing an appeal of your property taxes, please contact Mr. Scott Breen.

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8 Signs That Your Aging Parents Aren't OK To Live Alone Anymore

Posted By Michelle Rahl, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Monday, February 15, 2016

The holidays bring scattered families together -- giving adult children the perfect opportunity to closely inspect how aging parents are managing. It's not by chance that calls to Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care communities spike just after the holidays. This is when families detect hints of trouble or see catastrophes on the horizon.

So while you're enjoying the festivities of the season, take time to investigate the following eight potential signs of trouble. Remember, it’s better to be proactive than reactive in a crisis!


 1. Show Your LOVE with a Big Hug.

Look for:

·         Obvious weight loss. Depression, cancer, or even difficulty grocery shopping & cooking can be behind a noticeable loss of weight.

·         Increased frailty. Pay close attention to the way your loved one walks (do they shuffle more?), and moves (do they rise easily from a chair or have trouble with balance?). Compare these benchmarks to the last time you were together.

·         Obvious weight gain. Injury, diabetes, and dementia might be the cause. Money troubles that lead to fewer fresh foods and result in more dried pasta & bread can also be culprits.

·         Strange body odor. Changes in personal grooming habits, due to memory issues or physical ailments, might be noticeable on very close inspection.

2. Rifle Through the Mail.

Look for:

·         Unopened personal mail. Everybody leaves some junk mail untouched, but few of us can ignore a good old-fashioned, hand-addressed letter.

·         Unopened bills. This can be a sign that your loved one is having difficulty managing finances--one of the most common first signs of dementia.

·         Letters from banks, creditors, or insurers. They may be routine business. But it's alarming if they're referring to overdue payments, overdrawn balances, recent accidents, or other worrisome events.

·         Thank-you messages from charities. Older adults are often vulnerable to scams, and even those who have always been fiscally prudent are vulnerable if they're having cognitive difficulty (a common sign of Alzheimer's disease). Some charities hit up givers over and over, and your loved one may not remember having donating the first time.

3. Take a Drive with Mom or Dad Behind the Wheel.

Look for:

·         Nicks or dents as you enter & exit the car. These can be signs of careless driving or decrease in vision.

·         Does your loved one fasten his or her seatbelt? Basic routines are not always remembered by someone with mild dementia.

·         Signs of tension, uneasiness, or distraction. Is your loved one no longer willing to drive at night? Or on highways? Is it hard for him or her to talk to you or listen to the radio and also pay close attention to the road?

·         Signs of driving issues. Tailgating, slow reaction time, consistently going below speed limit, or confusing gas and brake pedals are signs to watch for. See #8 for more ways to assess someone's driving.

·         Dashboard warning lights. Does the car have sufficient oil, gas, antifreeze, windshield-wiper fluid?

4. Inspect the Kitchen--Refrigerator to Counter to Cupboards.

Look for:

·         Perishables past their expiration dates. Your loved one might be buying much more than he or she needs, but you want to be sure there's a reasonable ability to ditch the old stuff (rather than use it).

·         Multiples of the same item. Ten bottles of ketchup or a dozen different vinegars might indicate he or she can't remember from one shopping trip to the next what is still in the cupboards at home.

·         Appliances that are broken & haven't been repaired. Check the microwave, coffeemaker, toaster, washer, and dryer--any device you know your parent used to use routinely.

·         Signs of past fire. Look for charred stove knobs or pot bottoms, potholders with burned edges, a discharged fire extinguisher, smoke detectors that have been disassembled. Accidents happen, but accidental fires are a common home danger for older adults.

·         Increased takeout or simpler cooking. If someone who used to cook a lot no longer does or has downshifted to extremely simple recipes, the explanation could be a change in physical or mental ability.

5. Look Around the Living Areas.

Look for:

·         Piles of clutter. Especially if this is a change for your loved one, being unable to throw anything away may be a sign of a neurological or physical issue. Papers that spill onto the floor are a particular tripping hazard.

·         Cobwebs, signs of spills that haven't been picked up, or other signs of housekeeping that's more lax than it once was. Spills are a common sign of dementia; the person lacks the follow-through to clean up after a mess. Or your loved one may have physical limitations and simply need more housekeeping help.

·         Bathrooms that are not clean. Often those who make an extra effort to tidy for guests in main rooms neglect the bathroom, where a truer picture of how the person is keeping up with things may be reflected.

·         Signs that your loved one has cut back on activities & interests. Is a hobby area abandoned? Are there no longer engagements written on the hall calendar? There are many reasons people cut back, but a dramatic loss of interest in activities is a red flag for depression.

6. Inspect How House Plants or Animals are Being Cared For.

Look for:

·         Plants that are dying, dead, or just gone. How well other life is looked after may reflect how well your parents can look after their own lives.

·         Animals that don't seem well tended. Watch out for dogs with long nails, cat litter boxes that aren't changed routinely, dead fish in the fish tank, or any animal that seems underfed or poorly groomed.

7. Walk Around the Grounds.

Look for:

·         Signs of home maintenance problems. Look for discolored siding or ceilings that might indicate a leak, gutters choked with leaves, broken windows or fences.

·         Newspapers in the bushes. Check for papers that were delivered but ignored. –

·         Mail piled up in the mailbox. Watch for this indication that your loved one doesn't know to retrieve it regularly.

8. Talk to Those in Your Loved One's Circle: Ask Neighbors, Church Family, Friends.

Look for:

·         Comments that reveal your loved one doesn't get out much. "We don't see her much lately.", "She doesn't call anymore.", "She quit coming to the Senior Center."

·         Statements that reflect that your loved one has complained about health or needs extra assistance getting basic chores done. "Has he had that heart test yet?" "We were worried the day the ambulance came."

·         Indications of concern in their voices. Listen for comments about your loved one; about his or her health, pets, anything.

We're here to help you.

Call our Community Specialist, Lisa or Michele to schedule your personal visit & discuss how we can provide peace of mind for you and your parent in a vibrant supportive community.

(517) 627-7585 | 4775 Village Dr., Grand Ledge, MI 48837 |

Tags:  Aging  assisted living  community  concern  dementia  frailty  grooming  injury  parents 

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Important Employer Requirements for the Affordable Care Act due in 2016

Posted By Michelle Rahl, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Beginning in 2016 (for health coverage offered on or after January 1, 2015), Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6056 requires Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) to file information returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to report applicable healthcare information. An ALE must file Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage, for each full-time employee, and the related Form 1094-C, Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns. In addition, employers of all sizes will have a reporting requirement under IRC Section 6055 if the employer self-insures. These reporting requirements help administer the employer shared-responsibility mandate and the individual mandate added as a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Maner Costerisan P.C. is concerned that many businesses may be unaware of these new reporting requirements as this is the first time it is mandatory to file these forms. Although we are not experts with respect to the legal and regulatory aspects of the ACA, our firm wishes to inform you of some of the reporting requirements we believe could impact your company. Certain aspects of these new information-reporting requirements are highlighted below, based on information from the Internal Revenue Service. However, this letter does not address everything you may need to know as an employer in order to comply with the ACA requirements.

Who Needs to File?

Employers with 50 or More Employees

For calendar year 2015, employers with 50 or more full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) and all self-insured employers, regardless of size (see below), must report healthcare coverage information both individually to their employees and to the IRS. Reporting is mandatory for 2015. Full-time employees are those who worked an average of 30 hours or more per week for more than 120 days in a year. has some tools, including a Full-Time Equivalent Employee (FTE) Calculator, to help determine an entity's filing obligation as determined by the number of its FTEs.

Small Employers with Fewer Than 50 Employees That Are Members of a Controlled or Affiliated Service Group

Small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) will be required to file Forms 1095-C and 1094-C if they are members of a controlled or affiliated service group that collectively has at least 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents). Companies could be in a controlled or affiliated service group if they have common owners, provide services for each other, or work together to provide services to third parties.

Employers with Employer-Sponsored Self-Insured Plans

Employers of all sizes that offer employer-sponsored self-insured coverage will also be required to report information to the IRS and to affected individual employees about individuals who have minimum essential coverage under the employer plan and therefore have met the individual shared-responsibility requirement for the months that they are covered under the plan. Small Self-Insured Employers would file Forms 1094-B and Forms 1095-B; Large Self-Insured Employers would file the necessary information using Part III of Forms 1094-C and 1095-C.

What Are the Filing Deadlines?

The federal filing deadlines for this new ACA reporting are consistent with W-2 and 1099 reporting. Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C, as applicable, must be provided to employees by January 31, similar to W-2 forms. For 2015, statements must be provided no later than February 1, 2016 (since January 31, 2016 is a Sunday). You will meet the requirement to file if the form is properly addressed and mailed by the due date.

Due dates for the required forms are as follows:

  • Form 1095-C must be provided to each employee by February 1, 2016;
  • Form 1094-C (transmittal) are due to the IRS by February 29, 2016 and
  • Copies of each Form 1095-C are due to the IRS by February 29, 2016, or by March 31, 2016 if filing electronically.
  • If your organization files 250 or more Forms 1095-C, you will be required to file electronically.

What Actions Should an Employer Take to Prepare?

Given the complexity of information required to be reported and the potential size and impact of the penalties, employers need to ensure that adequate procedures are in place for determining and documenting each employee's full-time or part-time status month-by-month, as well as procedures to collect information about health coverage and enrollment month-by-month. Even what might seem a simple count of full-time employees is much more complex for employers that hire variable-hour or seasonal employees.

We strongly encourage you to take the extra time now, if you have not already done so, to discuss your reporting requirements with all of your applicable service providers (plan administrator, payroll vendor, and/or a qualified legal representative, etc.) to help you determine your company's readiness for complying with the new information-reporting requirements for employers under the ACA. Be certain to clearly designate responsible parties for the data collection and form preparation.

If your company would like us to assist you with the preparation of the

  • 2015 Form 1094-C: Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns
  • The applicable 2015 Form 1095-C: Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage

Please contact Mike Weller at (517) 886-9521 or email at for information regarding the nature of the services we can provide.

Where Should I Look for Additional Information If I Have Questions Regarding My Reporting Obligations?

Information and resources are available on the Internal Revenue Service website at We suggest that you check this website regularly for further information and updates.

What Are the Fines and Penalties for Not Complying with the Reporting Requirements?

Employers who fail to report will be subject to fines. The penalty is $100 per violation, up to a maximum of $1.5 million per year. However, employers that report within 30 days of the deadline will be fined $30 per violation. Those that file within five months of the deadline (by August 1, 2016) will be fined $60 per violation. The penalties will increase to $250 per violation next year, with a maximum of $3 million per year, with $50 per violation if filed within 30 days, and $100 per violation if filed after 30 days.

Entities that intentionally disregard the reporting requirements face a penalty of $250 per violation this year and $500 per violation in 2016, with no cap on the potential liability.

Information provided by the team at Maner Costerisan

Tags:  Affordable Care Act  businesses  filing deadlines  full time employees  health care  large employers  reporting requirements  small employers 

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Why Light?

Posted By Michelle Rahl, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why Light?

The United Nations has chosen to celebrate its 70th year with the theme, International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies. Why? There are so many reasons!

Broadening our understanding of light:

Let’s start with the basics: remember photosynthesis? We all know light is necessary for the generation of life itself. Another concept that most of us are not as familiar with is photonics, or the study of photons—which are the particles of light. It is believed that the 21st century advances will depend on photonics as much as our prior century depended on electronics. Photonics already is utilized within the technologies of our daily lives—our electronics, smartphones, medical devices, and lighting technologies.

Lighting the World: Advancing Lives

About 20% of global electricity consumption goes to lighting. Lighting allows us to safely venture into our communities for recreation after dark; beyond that, think of the importance of light to work and study every day. Where would our homes, schools, cities and recreation facilities be without light?

Powering the World: Sustainability

Unfortunately, the light (and energy) we are creating isn’t always done sustainably. Light pollution is causing real threats to scientific research as well as the above-mentioned photosynthesis that is necessary for vegetation to thrive. The fossil fuels that are burned to create this light and energy are causing other damage to the planet. What is the solution?  In part—it’s light! Real advances in solar technologies are creating sustainable alternatives, which in turn create economic opportunities.

We hope you are able to join us on October 25-26 as we further explore the importance of light in our society, and how it can move our communities forward in a sustainable way.  More information will soon be available at

Article written by Jade Sims, a Trade Specialist at the Michigan State University International Business Center. She is involved in all efforts to connect the mid-Michigan business community with the resources of the International Business Center (MSU-CIBER) and the Broad College of Business. This work is strongly export-focused, and includes programs such as the Global Business Club of Mid-Michigan, the Michigan Export Growth Program. 

Tags:  70th anniversary  Economic Opportunity  Life  Light Pollution  Light-Based Technologies  Photonics  Photosynthesis  Solar Technologies  Sustainability  United Nations 

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Fortitude: The Fourth Principle of Great Leadership

Posted By Michelle Rahl, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tuesday, September 15, 2015

There is a lot of help out there for those who wish to improve their leadership skills. One can choose from 22,000 books with “leadership” in the title. If “self-help” is what you are looking for, 38,000 choices are available. If “character” is your area of concentration you have another 31,000 titles to select from. And if reading isn’t your preferred method of learning then you can always purchase thousands of CDs or DVDs to get you where you think you need to go.

With so many educational choices, one would think to be a “great” leader is easy. If only it were so. There’s a parallel to this conundrum as to why we have so many laws on the books—34 million by last count. Perhaps we should have just stuck with the Ten Commandments. But I digress.

Maybe we should align our thinking with Dr. Ray Guarendi, well-known author and clinical psychologist, whose Parenting Facts of Life mirrors certain “leadership truths.” For those who have the dual responsibility of both raising children and inspiring adults the following advice may be helpful:

  • Leadership Fact of Life #1—There are no perfect leaders (parents). Strong leaders (parents) don’t have all the answers and don’t know what to say or how to say it.
  • Leadership Fact of Life #2—Mistakes are as integral to the workplace (home life) as employees (children) are. Strong leaders don’t fear mistakes.
  • Leadership Fact of Life #3—Leaders (parents) aren’t always paragons of patience. Patience is an ideal to strive for, not a day-to-day reality.
  • Leadership Fact of Life #4—Leaders (parents) aren’t always popular. Strong leaders (parents) may be temporarily disliked because they are willing to make decisions based on their company’s (family’s) long-term welfare.
  • Leadership Fact of Life #5—Time is the essence of the workplace (home) and the framework for investing in the company’s (family’s) greatest resource—its people (children).

Fortitude is what differentiates good parenting from great parenting—good leadership from great leadership. Demanding perfection won’t cut it. Learning from your mistakes will. The key is to recognize that there will be times when fortitude—courage, conviction, and character—represents the formula to both face and overcome adversity. Or said another way:

                        “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”

                                               General George S. Patton, World War II Commander, 3rd Army

David Eich 
Marketing & Public Relations Officer
Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan

Tags:  Adversity  Character  Conviction  Courage  Fortitude  Leadership Skills  Leadership Truths  Mistakes  Parenting  Patience  People  Popularity  Resource  Time 

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