Greater Mankato Growth Blog

New Community Resource to Address Food Insecurity

In 2021, a new community resource will help South Central Minnesota businesses find a way to donate usable food and will help non-profit organizations seeking food to address food insecurity. With the support of community leaders, Wooden Spoon received a Prevention of Wasted Food and Food Rescue grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. This grant allows the ideas being discussed for some time to come to fruition and establishes the South Central Minnesota Food Recovery Project.

The project seeks to address two important social issues: food waste and food insecurity. The goal is to create a system for local businesses to donate safe, healthy excess food to be used by local organizations and coalitions serving people who are low-income and/or people who are Black or Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). The grant will create a space for storage of donated items, a system to attain the food, and an app for communicating the availability of the food for use by the agencies that need it.

We are currently seeking input from local restaurants who are interested in reducing food waste and/or donating food.  Please fill out the survey, found here: https://forms.gle/mDE3L2qL1m5DhsB58

If you are unable or unwilling to fill out the survey, and still would like to have your voice heard, please contact me directly at natasha@woodenspoonmn.com or 213-675-1533.

Does your Business have a Scorecard?

Over the last several months, businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 in many ways. Some industries have been impacted more severely than others. Across the board, businesses have had to act and adjust like never before. Joe Paulsen with Pinnacle Business Traction would like to help you with ensuring that your company has the Traction it needs to overcome current and future challenges.The following is part four of a guest blog series where Joe will share tips on how you can gain traction in difficult times.  

How do you know if you had a good week, are having a good month, are tracking to the quarter or year?  More importantly, how do your employees know if they had a good day or week?  We are all wired to deliver expectations we understand and agree with.  Having a clear and concise Scorecard will provide your employees and you with a pulse on how they are performing and when they have issues that need to be solved.  This is helpful when employees are working in the office and it is even more helpful when they are working remotely.  A great Scorecard will efficiently point out the critical issues your organization must address to keep the organization on track to deliver the weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual results you expect.

Joe Paulsen (Meet Joe) and Pinnacle Business Traction’s passion is to Enrich the Lives of Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders in the Mankato area.  He has been implementing EOS since 2016 and has helped over 35 entrepreneurial organizations get everything they want from their organizations.  Please reach out to him if you are wanting more information or assistance.  joe@pbtraction.com 

GMG is also offering the best-selling book Traction to members wanting to learn more about the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Please contact jsprague@greatermankato.com to schedule a time to pick-up your free copy at the GMG office.

A New Year – A New Plan for MRCI

The following is a guest blog post from MRCI. MRCI welcomes 2021 with exciting new programming based in the community.

MRCI made the decision to move its employment and life enrichment programs entirely to the community. It was originally a five-year plan but COVID pushed up the timeline.

To make the plan happen MRCI has closed buildings in Chaska, Shakopee, Rosemount, Fairmont and New Ulm, and consolidated two buildings into one for its Mankato headquarters. The concept has been discussed for several years, but COVID-19 nudged the organization to move from concept to reality. The change impacts about 1,400 program participants.

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Local Programming Ensures 200 Youth Continue to be Supported

Learn more about the YMCA’s Mentoring Programs through this guest blog post from Allison Braswell, Brother/Sister Program Advocate and Recruitment Coordinator. As we reach out to serve the greater community during the pandemic, our continued efforts are bringing comfort and stability to our youth.  The “not to be forgotten” story, tells how the mentoring program ensured that over 200 youth in our community were still cared for.  Even though the early stay at home order suspended the in-person mentor/mentee weekly match meetings, we successfully found a solution, so mentors were still contacting their mentees to let them know they were not forgotten.

There are many issues in our community that the YMCA is addressing as a socially responsible organization; however, without mentor volunteers we stand a chance of not supporting the youth in our community who need it most.  We need your help to keep the Brother/Sister and School-Based mentoring programs strong. Our intention is to meet every commitment and provide the youth in our community with the qualified quality mentors.  Your support is key in solving this problem.

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Applications Being Accepted for Blue Earth County’s Business Assistance Grant Program

Greater Mankato Growth encourages Blue Earth County businesses to review the recently approved Blue Earth County Business Assistance Grant Program. The funds have been allocated to Blue Earth County from a COVID relief package by the State of Minnesota.

Eligible business owners may apply for a one-time grant to cover operational expenses. Operational expenses may include, but are not limited to, insurance costs, legal fees, payroll, rent, utilities, property taxes, marketing/advertising, licensing fees, accounting fees, routine maintenance, travel/vehicle expenses, office supplies, repairs to existing building and equipment. Grant awards will be based on business type and employee count. Businesses must be able to demonstrate they were adversely affected by Executive Orders related to COVID-19.

Full Details on the Grant Program & eligibility can be found on the Blue Earth County Website

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Does Your Business Have the Right People in the Right Seats?

Over the last several months, businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 in many ways. Some industries have been impacted more severely than others. Across the board, businesses have had to act and adjust like never before. Joe Paulsen with Pinnacle Business Traction would like to help you with ensuring that your company has the Traction it needs to overcome current and future challenges.The following is part three of a guest blog series where Joe will share tips on how you can gain traction in difficult times.  

As Jim Collins and his research team found and explained in Good to Great, successful companies have “Right People” on their bus and they are all in the “Right Seats”.  I think all of us can agree with this concept, but when the labor market is tight, it is tempting to tolerate employees that truly don’t share our Core Values or can’t adequately perform the requirements of the job.  Fear of losing an employee and the prospect of having to recruit and train his/her replacement often stops leaders from having the important conversations to lay out their expectations and explain how that employee is not meeting those expectations.

  

I estimate that when you clearly articulate your expectations and show your difficult employees where they are falling short, 80% of the time those employees will modify their behaviors and actions to meet your expectations.  However 20%  will not and that means they need to leave the company.  So there is a risk in confronting problem employees, but the odds are clearly in your favor when you take action!  Also consider the message you are sending to your good employees.  If they sense that you won’t ever take action on employees that are bringing them down, they will likely be the ones that will leave your company and that is a cost you can’t afford!

Joe Paulsen (Meet Joe) and Pinnacle Business Traction’s passion is to Enrich the Lives of Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders in the Mankato area.  He has been implementing EOS since 2016 and has helped over 35 entrepreneurial organizations get everything they want from their organizations.  Please reach out to him if you are wanting more information or assistance.  joe@pbtraction.com 

GMG is offering the best-selling book Traction – Get a Grip on Your Business to members wanting to learn more about the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Please email jsprague@greatermankato.com to schedule a time to pick-up your free copy at the GMG office.

Expanded Opportunities for PPP and the Employee Retention Credit

The following blog post was contributed by Abdo, Eick & Meyers, LLP to assist businesses in understanding how recent federal legislation has changed criteria related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Employee Retention Credit (ERC).

The COVID Tax Relief Act (COVIDTRA) that was passed late December made drastic changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) for both 2020 and 2021. The most critical changes for eligible employers include:

  • Qualifying expenses paid with PPP funds are now deductible for federal income tax purposes, however, we are still waiting on guidance from most state legislatures regarding state deductibility. This change officially means that PPP loans and their forgiveness will not be subject to federal income tax.
  • Employers may now be eligible for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). Previously, organizations which received a PPP loan were ineligible to claim the ERC. That requirement has been removed and the credit has been extended through the first six months of 2021. To employers that are eligible, the ERC may provide up to a $7,000 per employee tax credit per quarter.
  •  The SBA announced they will begin accepting applications for new PPP loans from limited borrowers beginning January 15, 2021. Minority and women-owned businesses will be able to borrow first-time PPP loans initially, followed by minority and women-owned businesses requesting a second-time loan.  

The COVIDTRA legislation is good news for many employers. There are several critical planning considerations to discuss with your tax advisor to maximize your credit eligibility and avoid missing out on significant funding.  Key decisions that should be discussed include:

  • Applying for a first-time or second-time PPP loan.
  • Applying for 1st round PPP loan forgiveness if your organization experienced a partial or complete operational shutdown or a significant reduction in 2020 gross receipts.
  • Electing to take the Employee Retention Credit for 2020 or 2021.

There are still many unanswered questions about the PPP and ERC that we expect to receive further guidance on from the IRS in the coming weeks.  Additionally, are a few strategies to consider when determining if PPP, ERC or both are right for your specific situation. Be sure to contact your tax advisor to discuss your organization’s relief options and ensure that you don’t miss significant tax credits and funding opportunities.

About Abdo, Eick & Meyers, LLP 

Abdo, Eick & Meyers is a progressive CPA firm that leverages its “People + Process” by partnering with businesses to increase value, helping government audit clients operate more efficiently, and providing the very best in tax planning and preparation services. Established in 1963 in Mankato, Minnesota, the firm has evolved into a mid-sized leader in the regional accounting industry through a combination of steady organic growth and key mergers and acquisitions. Since its earliest days, the firm has carefully listened to its clients and then developed new areas of expertise and service lines to meet their needs. Learn more at www.aemcpas.com

New: Nicollet County Business Relief Grant Program

The Minnesota Legislature and Governor have passed legislation authorizing funding to Minnesota counties for relief grants to local businesses and nonprofits impacted by an executive order related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small businesses and nonprofits in Nicollet County impacted by COVID-19 can apply to receive grants to help with expenses incurred during the pandemic.

Grant awards will be provided to eligible businesses and nonprofits that have been adversely impacted by a Minnesota Governor executive order related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Applicants must also have experienced a financial hardship as a result of the public health emergency. Grant awards will be up to $10,000 based on eligibility.

For more information, visit: co.nicollet.mn.us/800/Nicollet-County-Relief-Grant-Program

Grant applications and IRS Form W9 must be emailed to grant@co.nicollet.mn.us or left in the Nicollet County Government Center drop box located on Mulberry St. in St. Peter by 4:30 p.m. on February 5, 2021.  

EEOC Guidance on Employer Vaccination Requirements

This is a guest blog post by Greater Mankato Growth member, Blethen Berens.

As COVID-19 vaccinations begin to take place in the United States, discussions are emerging about potential vaccination mandates from employers. In light of these discussions and questions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released guidance for employers on vaccination mandates and the interplay with various workplace anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The EEOC guidance on vaccinations indicates that employers can require that their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, subject to certain federal and state anti-discrimination laws. Such vaccinations could be required and administered by the employer, required by the employer but administered by a third party (e.g. pharmacy or health care provider), or offered by an employer on a voluntary basis.

The process of deciding whether or not to establish a mandatory vaccination policy should involve consideration of anti-discrimination laws, non-legal business and practical considerations, and if a policy is established, clear communication with employees is critical.

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Grant for City Center Businesses

The City Center Partnership works to promote collaboration and foster investment in the City Center to attract and support the growth of a diverse array of business, customers, visitors and residents to the region. To assist in fulfilling this mission, the City Center Partnership and it’s associated geography (see map below) is a designated Main Street district. The Main Street district designation is part of the City Center Partnership’s national accreditation as a member of the Main Street America program.

The Main Street America program is offering grants to support brick-and-mortar small businesses in designated Main Street districts as they work to adapt to COVID-19 and prepare for the next phases of reopening across the country, while also helping to revitalize and strengthen older and historic commercial corridors. Grants of $5,000 to $10,000 will be awarded on a competitive basis. 

In order to be eligible for participation, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • The applicant must be located in an Accredited or Affiliate Main Street America community or UrbanMain commercial corridor. This list is available here.
  • The applicant must be a for-profit business. 501c3 and 501c6 entities are not eligible. The applicant must be a business entity in good standing in the state in which it was formed and the state in which it does business. 
  • The applicant must operate a “brick and mortar” storefront located in an older or historic downtown or neighborhood commercial district. 
  • The applicant must employ less than 20 full time employees. 
  • The applicant must be an owner of the business. 
  • The applicant must be at least age 18 years or older.

Eligible grant expenses include but are not limited to:

  • Physical improvements to business space to meet relevant reopening requirements implemented because of COVID-19
  • Equipment to comply with public health and safety guidelines (i.e., touchless payment methods, automatic door open sensors, or disposable menus)
  • Fees associated with expanding the business to e-commerce sales
  • Other professional services, such as business plan modifications
  • Rent, payroll, and other operating expenses

Applications will open at 12pm EST/ 11am CST on Thursday, January 21 and continue to be accepted through Thursday, January 28 at 7:59pm EST/ 6:59pm CST. The application and additional information can be found here: https://www.mainstreet.org/howwecanhelp/brother

Does Your Business have a Shared Vision?

Over the last several months, businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 in many ways. Some industries have been impacted more severely than others. Across the board, businesses have had to act and adjust like never before. Joe Paulsen with Pinnacle Business Traction would like to help you with ensuring that your company has the Traction it needs to overcome current and future challenges. The following is part two of a guest blog series where Joe will share tips on how you can gain traction in difficult times.  

Do you know what your organization will look like on 12/31/2021?  How about 12/31/2023?  How about at the end of 2030?  Is your vision clear to you and is it clear to all of your employees?  Just imagine if every one of your employees could vividly see your vision and are rowing just as hard as you are to get there.  How easy would your organization run and how confident would you be in achieving the results that are expected?   The Vision Key Component clarifies that question for you and everyone in your organization.  You and the rest of your leadership team currently all have a vision for your business, but there are likely differences.  We need to consolidate your individual visions to come up with the organization’s collective vision.  Once you have a vision of where the organization is heading, it makes the planning process much easier.  There are eight questions that need to be answered and agreed upon by your leadership team to have a great vision and plan:

What are your Core Values?

What is your Core Focus?

What is your 10-Year Target?

What is your Marketing Strategy?

What is your 3-Year Picture?

What is your 1-Year Plan?

What are your 90 Day Rocks (objectives)?

What are all other Issues for your organization?

Now that your vision and plan is written and agreed upon, we need to make sure that it is shared by everyone in your organization.  It will be critical that everyone can see where you are going and that they want to be a part of that journey.  We will talk more about this next week when we introduce you to the People Key Component.

Joe Paulsen and Pinnacle Business Traction’s passion is to Enrich the Lives of Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders in the Mankato area.  He has been implementing EOS since 2016 and has helped entrepreneurial organizations get everything they want from their organizations.  Please reach out to him if you are wanting more information or assistance:  joe@pbtraction.com (Meet Joe)

GMG is offering the best-selling book Traction – Get a Grip on Your Business to members wanting to learn more about the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Please email jsprague@greatermankato.com to schedule a time to pick-up your free copy at the GMG office.

Governor Walz Turns Dial Forward

Governor Walz announced today that the dial will turn forward on current COVID-19 restrictions effective January 11, 2021.  Major changes include the reopening of restaurants and bars, indoor events and entertainment, movie theaters, youth sports, and gyms restrictions being loosened. Walz also announced that business relief checks will be sent in the next week. Full details can be found in Executive Order 21-01 or Minnesota’s Stay Safe Plan.

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