Small Business Optimism Index Hits 30+ Year High

Optimism soared among small business owners in December, with confidence levels the highest since 1980 as expectations about the economy’s prospects improved dramatically in the aftermath of the presidential election. The National Federation of Independent Business’s index jumped 7.4 points last month to 105.8, the highest since the end of 2004, from 98.4. While seven of the 10 components increased in December, 73 percent of the monthly advance was due to more upbeat views about the outlook for sales and the economy, the Washington-based group said. Read more about it.

IBM Goes Hollywood for “Hidden Figures”

Hidden Figures, the drama about the black female mathematicians who played a pivotal role in the space race behind the scenes at NASA, has been the number one movie in America for two weeks now, so it seems an ideal time to bring up the role a little local business called IBM plays in the film. Yes, an IBM mainframe computer plays a large part in the film, and those mainframes were manufactured right here in Poughkeepsie. IBM has teamed up with studio behind the movie to put together an extensive look at its role in the Hidden Figures story. 

What They’re Saying: American Manufacturing

Robotic Automation Feature Intro Photo

The Atlantic has published a very thorough look at the current state of the Manufacturing industry in America. If you’re looking for an interesting weekend read, we recommend you check it out:

As some types of manufacturing disappear in America—manual jobs that can be performed in places like Mexico where there are lower wages, and repetitive ones that can be automated—other types are growing. So-called advanced manufacturing, which is highly specialized and requires a facility with computers, is actually expanding. The U.S. economy will need to fill 3.5 million skilled manufacturing jobs over the next decade, the White House says. This is an industry that employs skilled and educated workers such as engineers and scientists. It’s also an industry that adds significant value to the economy. Manufacturing output continues to rise in the U.S., and the average factory worker makes $180,000 worth of goods every year, more than three times what he produced in 1978.

Read more

How LEGO might Turn Kids into Robotics Engineers

Everybody’s played with Legos at some point in their lives, the plastic bricks are easily some of the most iconic toys in the world. But in recent years LEGO has expanded into video games and robotics (MindStorms), but the core of LEGO has always been about building and play. The challenge for LEGO is how to meet the growing demand for younger and younger kids to have more tech connected toys, while still staying true to their building roots. The company believes the answer is LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox.

LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox is a robotics kit for kids ages 7-12 with a heavy emphasis on building and playing. It’s a set of motors and programmable bricks that can work with existing Lego kits and turn them into motorized or motion-sensitive toys. And the app can record voice effects… so, yes, you can make your robot Lego-cat speak. If all goes well this toy could introduce Robotic Engineering to a whole generation of children. Read more.

Meet New York’s new $15 minimum wage and 12-week paid family leave law

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As part of New York’s 2016-2017 budget approval process, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed two pieces of legislation affecting employers: a minimum wage increase and paid family leave. Collectively, the dual-track legislation was packaged as Victory for New York Families. Similar to the Oregon minimum wage geographical tier, New York’s minimum wage rate depends on the geographic location of the workplace, the size of the employer’s workforce, and the calendar.

 

In NYC the minimum wage rose to $10.50 for businesses with fewer than 10 employees, and $11.00 for everyone else with the start of the new year. In Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties it rose to $10.00 for all workforce sizes. And for the rest of the state it rose to $9.70 for all workforce sizes.

For paid family leave, workers will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid family leave in 2018. The time may be used for caring for family members during a serious health condition or to support the worker’s family when a member is called to active military service. Workers must be employed for six months before being eligible to participate.

As with the minimum wage increase, New York is staging benefit increases, beginning with 50 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage, capped to 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. The average weekly wage will increase to 67 percent by 2021, with a 67 percent cap. The good news for employers is that workers will pay for the program from a nominal payroll deduction from their checks to cover the entire payroll cost of the program. Except for the cost of scheduling replacement staff, of course.

Click Here to find out more about the minimum wage increases, including future scheduled raises.

Where to Next? Auto Suppliers and Changing Transportation

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Can auto suppliers keep pace with a changing transportation environment? That’s the question the Deloitte University Press asks. In the not so distant future automakers will be expecting them to deal with new light weight materials, major redesigns, and even new high tech hardware and software. Suppliers have already moved to adjust, but there’s still a question of whether or not it will be enough to compete in a changing car culture. 

What the Government is Doing to Build the Internet of Things

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The Center for Data Innovation recently released a report of all the different government programs that have been adopted across various agencies to encourage the private sector’s development of the Internet of Things. these programs can do a variety of things, such as provide technical resources, strengthen cybersecurity, develop industry-friendly regulations, ensure spectrum availability, support research, and coordinate stakeholders. Many of these programs are underway, although they often lack the coordination and scale necessary to support the Internet of Things as completely as possible. The report is intended to shine a light on the activities already underway, so policymakers have a better understanding of what is being done today and where gaps exist. Read the full report.

If you’re curious about the Internet of Things and want to learn more then you can start with this article from our own HV Mfg Magazine.

Hudson Valley Jobs #s: No Manufacturing Revival Yet

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New York’s Department of Labor has released its latest jobs numbers for the Hudson Valley. For the 12-month period ending in November 2016, private sector employment in the Hudson Valley increased by 4,700 or 0.6 percent, to 796,400. Those gains were not in the manufacturing sector however, which lost 1,100 jobs. Job losses were also found in natural resources, mining, and construction (-2,900), financial activities (-900), other services (-700), and information (-500). In November 2016, the region’s private sector job count came in a little weaker than expected. Private sector employment grew by just 0.6 percent – its weakest November over-the-year growth since 2009. More industry sectors reported losses than gains, with a ratio of five to four. The education and health services sector continued to be region’s leading job generator, up 2.7 percent year-over-year. Employment growth in the leisure and hospitality sector (+3.4 percent) was quite apparent – strongest November year-over-year growth since 2013.

The Latest: Empire State Manufacturing Survey

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Business activity showed modest growth in December, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s latest manufacturing survey. The headline general business conditions index climbed eight points to 9.0. The new orders index rose to 11.4, while the shipments index remained at 8.5. Labor market conditions remained weak, with manufacturers reporting declines in employment and hours worked. Inventories continued to fall, and delivery times shortened. The prices paid index rose seven points, pointing to a pickup in input price increases, while the prices received index showed only a slight increase in selling prices. Indexes for the six-month outlook conveyed a high degree of optimism about future conditions, the highest level in nearly five years to be specific.

Export-Import Bank 101: Protecting Small Business Exporters and Driving Economic Growth

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Note: This blog post was written by our friends at the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Are you one of the 300,000 U.S.-based small businesses that export your products and services to international markets?  Do you know there are ways to protect your company’s assets from non-payment by foreign buyers and to improve your cash flow? 

Established in 1934, the Export-Import Bank of the United States is an independent federal government agency whose mission is to support U.S.-based jobs by facilitating the export of U.S.-produced goods and services.   EXIM Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States and fills in the gaps when private sector lenders are unable or unwilling to provide financing for international sales, and almost 90 percent of EXIM Bank’s transactions support small businesses.  Here are a few examples of ways EXIM Bank supports small business exporters:

Export Credit Insurance

Export credit insurance is an insurance policy issued by a commercial broker that is underwritten with the full faith and credit of the United States Government.  The policy protects exporters’ accounts receivables and empowers companies to increase their competitiveness by offering credit terms to foreign buyers up front.  With export credit insurance, an exporter can:

  • Extend credit terms to foreign customers at very low risk.
  • Insure against nonpayment by international buyers.
  • Cover commercial (e.g., bankruptcy) and political (e.g. war or the inconvertibility of currency) risks.
  • Arrange financing through a lender by using insured receivables as additional collateral.

Working Capital Loan Guarantee

Building products and/or preparing proposals for international buyers often require an infusion of cash.  EXIM Bank’s Working Capital Loan Guarantee can unlock cash flow and provide funds to fuel international sales.  Funds can be used to:

  • Pay for materials, equipment, supplies, labor and other inputs to fulfill export orders.
  • Post standby letters of credit serving as bid bonds, performance bonds or payment guarantees.
  • Purchase finished products for export.

EXIM Bank doesn’t replace your commercial bank.  We work with your lender to provide a 90 percent loan guarantee that backs the debt and protects the lender from nonpayment.

Eligibility

Export credit insurance and working capital loan guarantees are just two examples of ways EXIM Bank supports small businesses that have been in business for at least one year and have financial statements or tax returns and a D&B DUNS number, and are exporting products that have greater than 50 percent U.S. content, including labor but excluding mark-up.  EXIM Bank products are generally not available for exports to foreign militaries and defense related industries, with some exceptions (e.g. some agriculture products).

Learn More

EXIM Bank has regional offices located throughout the country that can answer questions, provide education on products and services and guide you through the application process. 

Simply complete the Request for Consultation form below and an EXIM Bank representative will contact you shortly.  Remember the old saying?  Well, we are from the federal government, and we really are here to help!

Click Here to request a Free Consultation