Akron/Canton (3279)

Cascade Capital Awards 2013 --Sales Growth (tie)

Ben Biery
Biery Cheese Co. Inc.

While the basic process of making cheese hasn’t changed much over the years, innovations such as those launched by Biery Cheese Co. Inc. continue to be discovered.

Biery Cheese has been innovating from the beginning. Founded in 1929, at the start of the Great Depression, Norman F. Biery Farm was having a hard time selling milk to bottlers. The solution? The Biery family, along with a group of local Ohio dairy farmers, created a co-op in order to market their milk in the form of Swiss cheese.

Today, Biery Cheese continues to innovate by creating custom cheese blends and flavors and winning national and worldwide cheese awards.

In 2010, to create additional production space to meet current and future sales opportunities, the company committed to a large expansion of its Louisville, Ohio, plant. In conjunction with the expanded facility, Biery Cheese is committed to implementing new technology to improve and expand the business.

A new ERP system has been introduced to convert the existing product and operation management, allowing Biery Cheese to reap the benefits of real-time inventory control and tracking, as well as increased efficiency.

The company’s facilities are equipped with the latest packaging technology that allows Biery Cheese to continue innovative expansion into new products and markets. Most recently, the company launched new prepackaged cheese trays and custom arrangements for the retail market. The facilities are USDA, FDA, kosher, organic and military approved to ensure customers are receiving the highest quality products.

Ben Biery serves as CEO of the family-owned company, which is now in its fourth generation. ●

How to reach: Biery Cheese Co. Inc., (330) 875-3381 or www.bierycheese.com

Cascade Capital Awards 2013 --Technology category -- Best Story

Jay Mellon
Jim Laber
AtNetPlus Inc.

As technology evolves, AtNetPlus Inc. evolves along with it.

The managed IT services provider was an early adopter of several technologies that have changed the industry. For instance, AtNetPlus offered online backup solutions years before competitors, was one of the first to become certified by VMware, and embraced the managed services business model long before it was common practice in the industry.

AtNetPlus takes pride in its cutting-edge technology solutions designed to fit the needs and budgets of small and midsized organizations. From moving companies to the cloud to providing managed IT services and network design and installation, the company’s certified IT specialists deliver headache-free monitoring, maintenance and support.

Jay Mellon, CEO, and Jim Laber, president, have driven the company’s success by creating customer-centered service and recognizing which emerging technologies are viable solutions for small business.

Cybersecurity is a critical issue currently facing all businesses. AtNetPlus has developed a comprehensive solution called Attack Safe, designed to make cybersecurity accessible and affordable for its clients. Designed to evaluate clients’ current security policies and procedures, Attack Safe identifies gaps and implements a prioritized plan to lower risk.

With continued dedication to customer-centric solutions and services, AtNetPlus has experienced sustained growth over the past several years. The number of clients served has increased along with the company’s own headcount and market presence. To accommodate this growth, the company is implementing plans to physically expand its current offices.

How to reach: AtNetPlus Inc., (330) 945-5685 or www.atnetplus.com

Technologies such as smartphone apps offer quick access to information, which leads to better decision-making. But technological improvements are only part of a solution to any given problem.

“You don’t start by simply adopting technology. You start by seeking a solution to a problem,” says Keith Stump, vice president of sales at Blue Technologies.

For example, the cost of labor is a business’s most significant expense. The more a company can influence what its employees do, how they do it and the time it takes, the more productive and cost-effective the business becomes, he says. And often technology can help achieve that goal.

Smart Business spoke with Stump about coupling technology and processes to create efficiency.

How do process improvements and technological upgrades intertwine?

Consider the problem you’re trying to fix, and then examine all aspects of the surrounding process to understand it. You should start to see how everything fits together, and if there’s a better solution. For instance, you may have excellent hardware for copying, printing and faxing, but the software managing the information and devices is in need of an upgrade.

Attack the problem piece by piece. Determine your outcome and develop a strategy to work toward that goal. There must be milestones along the way, as well as consistent, structured reviews.

How might technology boost productivity?

It’s common for some technology to be well structured within the business. For example, a company has specific IT help desk procedures, remote monitoring and data backup. However, the print management could be unstructured. Employees may be buying printer supplies from several stores. There’s no typical process for toner delivery. Support comes in a variety of fashions.

Nationally, on average, 19 percent of service calls to internal help desks are related to printers. If your IT department is supporting printers, it means high-paid people are doing a low-paid activity, which isn’t cost-effective. With the right service provider, software can automate your print management with supply alerts and service triggers. Now, toner is automatically shipped. If there’s a problem, the machine notifies the provider to send a repairperson.

How can companies better integrate mobile devices?

Today, there’s a greater proliferation of tablets and other mobile devices in the workplace, especially for employees operating in the field or at multiple locations. However, it’s still necessary to print and scan documents. There are free, downloadable apps that enable mobile devices to automatically sync with the multi-functional scanner/printer as soon as the device is brought into the facility.

What can be done to improve document management?

There are software applications that allow users to search for business documents, similar to how information from the Web can be pulled up through a search engine.

The information is housed within an infrastructure, and a software application allows you to easily access business documents, such as contracts, packing lists, invoices, copies of checks, etc. It’s a huge advantage in terms of speed and efficiency.

Also, when scanning, it’s important that everything ends up in the right place, accessible to the right people. With auto-capture software on multi-functional devices, an employee hits a speed dial button and the machine routes the scan to the appropriate storage place. Documents are more accessible and secure with fewer errors.

What is key to successful change?

Business technology — and the processes it improves — touches many areas. All employees must embrace changes that are implemented to enhance productivity, whether in the IT infrastructure and support, hardware or software applications. Designate champions within your staff to help employees understand why change is necessary. Having C-level support and a well-designed rollout is critical.

Buying hardware, software or managed services is a part of doing business. But the best companies ensure each purchase decision starts with an effort to improve processes and create cost efficiencies.

Keith Stump is vice president of sales at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or kstump@btohio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Companies using the Interest-Charge Domestic International Sales Corporation (IC-DISC) provisions of the tax code, which are intended to help U.S. companies compete internationally, already know that the incentive essentially reduces the top federal tax rate on certain income from qualified goods and services from 39.6 to 20 percent.

“What you may not realize is that the intended and allowable available savings are often much, much greater,” says Amit Mathur, CPA, director at WTP Advisors.

Rob MacKinlay, president of Cohen & Company, says, “Many companies use basic, aggregate IC-DISC calculation methods, though other allowable methods explicitly encouraged in the regulations yield a much higher result. This can be the equivalent of claiming a standard deduction on your individual tax return when itemized deductions are much higher. Many of our clients have dramatically increased savings with a transactional analysis.”

Smart Business spoke with Mathur and his industry peers about IC-DISC and how business owners can extract more value from its proper implementation.

How can IC-DISC savings be maximized?

Most companies utilizing the IC-DISC enjoy the reduced tax arbitrage for either 4 percent of their qualified export gross sales, which is limited to the taxable income from those sales, or 50 percent of the taxable income from qualified export sales. Many believe that these are the maximum amounts used to determine the IC-DISC commission, which is subject to a top rate of 20 percent, rather than 39.6 percent. In reality, these amounts should be considered the minimum commission that results from the two simplest, basic methods.  

Truly maximizing the intended and allowable benefits from the IC-DISC requires a more in-depth calculation, but may not take much more time. Each transaction can utilize a choice of many other attractive methods explicitly defined and encouraged in the regulations. For instance, transactions that yield a loss can generate commission. Transactions for products with less-than-average profitability compared with their product group or line also may yield additional benefits.

An analysis utilizing the most beneficial of these methods for different transactions will yield higher results, often more than double, compared with using the basic methods at an aggregate level.

Steve Switaj, CFO of Three D Metals, a company that has used transactional analysis in conjunction with the IC-DISC for years, says, ‘While fluctuation in material prices and unforeseen costs are constant concerns, the increased IC-DISC savings that often results from such variability is a nice feature of the incentive, and enables us to compete in export markets more effectively.’

Can prior year IC-DISC savings be improved?

Re-determinations of IC-DISC benefits can be performed for any open tax years. As Jim Bowen, tax partner at Bober, Markey, Fedorovich & Company, puts it, ‘If the savings from a transactional analysis of IC-DISC benefits is significant, amending the results should be considered, particularly for companies under audit for given tax years.’

Are you overlooking the IC-DISC entirely?

Closely held manufacturers, distributors, growers, software producers, equipment leasing companies, and architectural or engineering firms should consider it.

Mark Klimek, head of the tax practice at McDonald Hopkins, LLC, says, ‘Manufacturers and distributors not fully exploring this incentive may be missing significant tax benefits from a relatively inexpensive to implement government incentive that does not disrupt business operations.’

If products and services are ultimately used outside of the U.S., they will typically qualify. The rules for component parts ultimately sent outside of the U.S. are even more generous — generally, they can even return to the U.S. after being incorporated into another product. Tod Wagner, of Libman Goldstine Kopperman & Wolf, says, ‘Because of the favorable rules defining qualified export property, many companies eligible to use an IC-DISC are overlooking the incentive entirely as they do not think of themselves as manufacturers or exporters. In reality, they may need not to be either.’

Amit Mathur, CPA, is a director at WTP Advisors. Reach him at (216) 292-6732 or amit.mathur@wtpadvisors.com.

Insights Tax Incentives is brought to you by WTP Advisors

Many small business owners only have a certain budget for insurance, so a strong relationship with an insurance agent who takes a proactive approach to mitigating risk and protecting their business is key. The cost of business insurance is not prohibitive, but replacing offices and not being able to work because of a loss can be.

“Remind yourself that having good coverage is one of the costs of doing business and part of your responsibility to yourself, your business and others who depend on you,” says Tim Able, a client advisor at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency.

Smart Business spoke with Able about what small business owners need to understand about their insurance coverage and risks.

What are the most important insurance coverages for small businesses?

Every business, even if it’s home-based, needs to have liability insurance. This provides both defense and damages if you, your employees, your products or services cause or are alleged to have caused bodily injury or property damage to a third party.

If you own your building or have content, known as business personal property, including office equipment, computers, inventory or tools, you will need property insurance that will protect you if you have a fire, vandalism, theft, smoke damage, etc.

It is also important to include business interruption/loss of earnings insurance as part of the policy in order to protect your earnings in the event the business is unable to operate.

Lastly, with commercial auto insurance, you can insure your work vehicles from damage and collisions. If you do not have company vehicles, but employees drive their own cars on company business, you should have hired and non-owned auto liability to protect the company in case the employee does not have insurance or has inadequate coverage.

The top 10 insurance coverages are:

  • General liability insurance.
  • Property insurance.
  • Commercial auto insurance.
  • Workers’ compensation.
  • Professional liability.
  • Employment practices liability.
  • Directors and officers insurance.
  • Privacy and security coverage, also known as cyber liability.
  • Personal home and auto policy.
  • Umbrella coverage.

Where do some business owners fall short on essential protection?

A business may fall short in identifying risks when its risk management measures are reactive and not proactive. It’s important that a business aligns itself with an insurance agent who takes a proactive approach to mitigating your risk. Meeting with your agent on a quarterly or semi-annual basis will help to identify exposures that could potentially cost a business everything.

In addition, a proactive approach to minimizing risks in the workplace may help to lower your insurance premiums by preventing future claims.

How much does the size and type of business impact what insurance is necessary?

Risks increase substantially as a business grows, as more employees are hired and as more services are rendered or products sold. While a crossbow manufacturer will certainly have different needs and risks than a website designer, having the right protection is equally important.

Creating a new revenue channel, opening a new location or making any significant change to how your business normally runs should be reviewed with your insurance agent. Major changes like these can lead to gaps in your insurance coverage, leaving a business exposed.

Business owners put a lot of time and energy into growing their business and providing for employees and their families. That’s why it is so important they make sure their business is properly protected.

Tim Able is a client advisor at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. Reach him at (330) 294-1363 or table@seibertkeck.com.

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by SeibertKeck

With the health insurance marketplace opening next month, the market is expected to be flooded with consumers trying to find a plan that works best for them and their budgets.

“The fact is people who have not previously had access to health insurance may be in shopping mode come Oct. 1 when the health insurance marketplace opens,” says Marty Hauser, CEO of SummaCare, Inc. “Our job as health insurers is to ensure employers and other consumers have access to the most accurate information available to them when it comes to choosing a carrier and a plan both on and off the marketplace.”

Smart Business spoke with Hauser about ways employers can assist employees shopping and applying for 2014 health insurance coverage on and off the marketplace.

What should employers that currently offer health insurance to their employees do when the marketplace opens?

Regardless of the company size, employers should communicate to employees if they will be offering employer-sponsored coverage next year and what type will be offered. Having this information will likely impact their employees’ decision on whether or not to shop for an individual plan on or off the marketplace.  

Are companies required to offer insurance to their employees in 2014?

While there are tax incentives for small group employers — those with two to 24 employees — to offer their employees health insurance benefits next year, it’s not required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

Large group employers — those with 51 or more employees — however, are required to offer health insurance next year, but the penalty for not offering coverage has been delayed until 2015.

What can employers do if they are not offering insurance to employees next year?

If an employer chooses not to offer employer-sponsored coverage next year, they may want to consider a defined contribution health plan approach in which the employer decides how much to contribute to an employee’s health care expenses and the employees purchase health insurance on their own. Coverage can be purchased through the health insurance marketplace, direct from a health insurance company or through an individual insurance agent. Individuals can begin shopping Oct. 1 for plans effective Jan. 1, 2014.

How can employers not offering insurance help their employees get assistance in purchasing a health insurance policy?

Employers’ options include gathering and sharing information from their current insurer to share with employees, putting their employees in contact with a health insurance broker or making them aware of help offered by certified application counselors (CAC) and navigators. 

It’s also important to remember that employers are required to notify their employees of the availability of the health insurance marketplace by Oct. 1. 

What are CACs and Navigators?

CACs and navigators can assist individuals interested in enrolling through the marketplace, as both are trained to help with the application and enrollment process. Navigators receive grants for helping individuals and small employers shop and enroll in a health insurance plan, and they will conduct public education about the availability of qualified health plans, among other responsibilities. Navigators are held to detailed conflict of interest standards and eligibility requirements.

CACs are unpaid volunteers who typically work through organizations such as community health centers, social service organizations and hospitals. CACs are not subject to the same standards as navigators, but can still assist individuals. 

Where can employers go to learn more?

Health insurers and/or insurance brokers can help guide employers in learning more about their insurance options for 2014 and beyond. In addition, information about the health insurance marketplace and other provisions and mandates under the ACA may be available through your insurer’s website. For additional information, visit www.healthcare.gov.

Marty Hauser is CEO of SummaCare, Inc. Reach him at hauserm@summacare.com.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by SummaCare, Inc.





Enforcement of the employer mandate has been delayed until 2015, along with the annual limit on out-of-pocket costs a patient pays above what insurance covers, but the rest of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is still scheduled to proceed as planned — although it’s uncertain whether that schedule will be kept.

“Right now there’s been two official delays announced. In theory, all other elements of the PPACA are coming into play. But this is so fluid and volatile that we could see the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announce that the federal exchange is not ready,” says William F. Hutter, CEO of Sequent.

Open enrollment for the health insurance exchanges, aka marketplace, is set to start on Oct. 1 and continue through March.

“They’re trying to build awareness through a marketing campaign but aren’t sure what to do because they haven’t seen how it is going to work,” Hutter says.

Smart Business spoke to Hutter about the upcoming timetable for PPACA implementation and what to expect regarding scheduled deadlines.

What do these delays mean to the implementation of the PPACA?

Pieces of the PPACA are already in place. The Medicare tax is increasing, the decline in flexible spending dollars have come into play, and the underwriting criteria for carriers is going to change how they underwrite and create similarities in pricing models because plans have to be pretty consistent. The age compression standard — rates can only be three times as much because of age — has been set.

Additional taxes also have kicked in, including the Patient Centered Outcome Institute fee. Employer requirements to notify employees have increased, as well.

Major changes are occurring; no one knows how they are going to pull it off. There are so many variables at this time that no one can predict what’s going to happen.

There’s also the question of whether the exchanges will be ready to go on Oct. 1. As of now, only one is ready — California. There’s also Massachusetts, if you consider that an exchange. The HHS has been quiet following a flurry of releases months ago. Something was leaked that the federal exchange might not be ready and since then there’s been no information, which means they might push it close to the deadline.

Meanwhile, companies are left to fend the best they can in anticipation of open enrollment starting.

Are repeal or defunding possibilities?

The repeal votes are all pomp and circumstance. Defunding is possible, but unlikely. The real problem is that no one can figure out how to make the PPACA work. That includes insurance agents and carriers, enforcement entities and employers.

What difference does delaying the employer mandate a year make?

All it means is that employers don’t have to worry about fines or penalties for a year. We’re recommending that companies proceed based on what they think is the best course of action. Companies need to design solutions to fix some of the exposures of the PPACA; it doesn’t matter what type of business you have, what makes a difference is your financial wherewithal. It’s a matter of coming up with a basic solution to address PPACA requirements and deciding how much you want to spend — like getting a combo meal and choosing between small, medium and large. That decision will be based on factors such as company culture and environment.

One emerging tactic is to seek early renewal of plans because of the uncertainty surrounding the PPACA. If you can get your carrier to renew starting Dec. 1, 2013, then you don’t have to worry about the PPACA and its impact until December 2014.

Right now, there’s no breathing room for companies. What happens if you anticipate that the federal exchange will be ready and the HHS announces on Sept. 10 that it will be delayed? Then there are all of the challenges associated with technology, billing and verification of wages. There’s going to be a whole new system that will handle protected health information, is it going to be secure? 

There are so many things to be considered; it makes sense to try to schedule your plan year to avoid the inevitability of the PPACA until there is more certainty.

William F. Hutter is CEO at Sequent. Reach him at (888) 456-3627 or bhutter@sequent.biz.

Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent




Monday, 02 September 2013 15:33

How to utilize federal, state and global R&D credits

Written by

Business research incentives come in so many forms across various jurisdictions that they apply to more companies than you think. Although the bulk are used in manufacturing, consumer products, biotech or pharmaceuticals, they are available to anyone developing or creating something, whether a product, process, technique, software, new technology or a new application of an existing technology. 

“A lot of people are aware that these incentives exist, but often they don’t make the leap that it applies to their company,” says Trisha Squires, director of tax at SS&G’s Chicago River North office.

A company could make nuts and bolts for 100 years using similar equipment, but if it has improved its cost margins by changing development, it could still qualify for certain research incentives, she says.

Smart Business spoke with Squires about how to ensure your company’s research and development (R&D) qualifies for available incentives.

What research incentives are available?

It’s typically a tax savings — either a credit or a deduction. Sometimes, it’s a refundable credit, so you don’t have to pay taxes in that jurisdiction. Certain global or state incentives are super deductions where, for example, you get 150 percent of the cost. You also might get tax abatements.

The federal research credit is essentially 6.5 cents on the dollar, depending on the method of calculation. You are rewarded for increasing the amount spent on R&D at a greater rate than you are for increasing your gross receipts. The credit expires and is reinstated so often that companies don’t pay attention.

The IRS spends a lot of time fighting these credits with an array of qualifications and substantiation arguments. Evidencing what you’re doing with R&D is extremely important. You must spell out the new functionality or improvements. This typically is not documented for any other reason. You have to look at the credit, and then align your facts and documentation to match the requirements. 

How do state and global credits work?

State and local incentives vary. They can be as easy as in South Carolina, which is 5 percent of qualified research expenses, or as complex as California, which has its own formula. Ohio’s tax credit for research and experimentation expenses was extended through 2013. The majority of businesses figure out their federal credit, then state. 

Globally, research incentives are less reactive. Canada has similar qualifications to the U.S., but it qualifies projects and dollars prior to the filing of returns. Europe is very friendly to R&D. In the Asia-Pacific region, companies often have tax abatements and incentives may not apply. 

Has anything recently changed in this arena?

In 2005, the IRS came out with its Tier 1 Program as an attempt to bring consistency in application to normally contentious areas, such as the R&D credit and transfer pricing. However, the initiative required more documentation and accounting on a project-by-project basis. Creating a nexus between the activity and the dollar spent on that activity was very onerous. 

The IRS got rid of the program at the end of 2012, but how it thinks about the credit and what’s required hasn’t changed.

What’s your advice for business owners?

Most companies and their people are very comfortable gathering the dollars that qualify. It’s gathering the qualitative documentation — the text that describes why they qualify for the credit — where companies fall short. These are details about who was working on the project, what their role was and what kinds of experimentation were involved. The tax department, engineering group or both have to put this documentation together, and many are not getting enough substantiation. 

You may need outside help with this, especially if it’s new to you. If your tax year is still open, you can go back three years to claim prior credits. When an adviser gathers data for one year versus four, it’s not that significantly different, so you could be looking at some worthwhile savings. 

The credits and other R&D incentives are vast and can provide substantial savings that affect your bottom line. It’s also likely that your competitors are taking them.

Trisha Squires is director of Tax at the Chicago office of SS&G. Reach her at (312) 863-2300 or TSquires@SSandg.com.

Insights Accounting & Consulting is brought to you by SS&G





During a merger and acquisition (M&A), both the buyer’s and seller’s retirement plans have ramifications on the deal and its aftermath.

“Make sure you get the right people involved in advance of any acquisition, whether you’re a buyer or seller,” says Don Dalessandro, QPA, QKA, Vice President of Finance at Tegrit Group. “It can be difficult because some people are not privy to this information, but if the CEO, CFO and others doing the deal don’t understand the plan, they should involve somebody that does before it comes back to haunt them.”

Smart Business spoke with Dalessandro about handling retirement plans in an M&A.

Why involve a plan administrator early in the M&A process?

A plan administrator can help with the financial and fiduciary due diligence, laying out the costs and liabilities associated with both retirement plans and how they match up. For example, if your company provides a 4 percent match, but the seller only gives a 1 percent match, you may need to calculate the extra cost of bringing newly acquired employees into the plan.

Retirement plans also have notification requirements. If a buyer or seller plans to merge or terminate a plan, it must follow Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulations. Examples are 30-day participant notifications prior to certain plan changes or a ‘blackout’ period where participant access to plan features may be curtailed. Also, if you terminate a plan, all participants must be 100 percent vested in all plan accounts, which could be an additional cost.

As a buyer, what else should be considered?

Think about whether it’s going to be a stock or asset purchase. If it’s a stock purchase and you absorb the selling company’s plan, you take on many of the risks and liabilities from previous years. In many cases, the buyer may request that the seller terminate its plan prior to the sale. This takes time and coordination, and may adversely impact participants’ retirement goals — as much of the plan participants’ money may be spent or used for other purposes.

With an asset purchase, even though you are not taking on liabilities, you still must consider the companies’ cultures and how to best integrate by comparing plan provisions, such as eligibility, matching contributions, vesting, etc. Whether you merge plans or not, you will likely change certain provisions of your plan as your company is growing and changing as a result of the acquisition.

You will want to understand who the decision-makers are, such as trustees, plan administrator, custodian, record keeper and others who may be making fiduciary decisions. Making a change to the decision-makers may require committee resolutions and amendments, which may be beneficial prior to the acquisition.

How should due diligence be conducted?

As a buyer, make sure the seller has administrated the plan according to ERISA regulations. Ask for prior Form 5500s. Companies with 100 or more plan participants are generally required to have audited financial information as part of the Form 5500 filing. Also, ensure that timely contributions have been made. There is appropriate fiduciary liability bonding, and an investment or retirement committee with meetings and written minutes. The company should be following proper procedures and policies, and all documents are in compliance and signed.

A possible deal breaker is an underfunded defined benefit plan, which promises to pay certain monthly benefits. If the liabilities are too high, it becomes difficult to terminate the plan. Additionally, it may require that you continue to fund and contribute to the plan, which can be expensive going forward.

After the sale, what’s critical to know?

In addition to following ERISA, if you maintain two separate plans by the last day of the plan year following the year in which the two companies merged, a coverage test runs on both.

If the plans have different matching structures, eligibility rules or provisions, they must meet the ‘benefits, rights and features’ test as a single entity. This ensures you don’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. Many people forget, and then two years later realize they never did the testing. Like many of these decisions, it takes careful planning.

Don Dalessandro, QPA, QKA, is Vice President, Finance at Tegrit Group. Reach him at (330) 983-0527 or don.dalessandro@tegritgroup.com.

Insights Retirement Planning Services is brought to you by Tegrit Group