Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fargo-Based Security Bank & Trust Gives $1,000 or $500 Holiday Checks to Employees, Says 'Pay It Forward'

In previous years, Fargo, N.D.-based Security Bank & Trust has taken five percent of its company earnings, then divided it up at holiday time among employees. This year, employees are receiving those year-end bonuses -- plus $1,000 checks for full-time staffers, and $500 each for part-time employees. There's just one caveat: Use the gifts for people in need.

State Bank & Trust COO Michael Solberg said the payments are part of the bank's $502,000 "Pay It Forward" initiative. "Over the past years, we have been so blessed at State Bank & Trust," he said. "We wanted to put this money in the hands of our employees, who know where the needs are in their communities. Giving back is one of our core values, and we hope this project will have huge impact in our communities in 2008."

The privately owned bank employs 500-plus people at 13 locations in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. Employees were told not to use the money for themselves, their families, or families of other bank employees. They could choose an individual cause, pool their money for a larger project, or collaborate with donors outside the bank.

Each employee also received a digital video camera, and was asked to document their project and its impact by June 30, 2008. Employees can then keep their cameras or give them to someone else as a gift.

This year's surprise announcement was made over the weekend, at the bank's annual holiday party -- with special guest Caroline Hodge, a dead-ringer Oprah Winfrey impersonator [see above]. Replete with a stage designed to appear exactly like Winfrey's set, "Oprah" interviewed Solberg about the innovative give-back initiative prior to the bank's distribution of employees' bonus and gift checks.

This morning, Harry Smith, co-host of CBS' "The Early Show," interviewed Solberg and Jill Staffner, the State Bank & Trust employee who coordinated the holiday event. Click here to see CBS News' "Bank Spreads Holiday Cheer" video clip, which includes Smith's interview with Solberg and Staffner, plus footage from last Saturday's holiday party.

GoodBiz113's take: Once again, a highly ingenious and generous initiative sprouts from the small-business sector. Just imagine the impact that such an endeavor could make if, say, a leading money center bank like Wells Fargo and/or an electronics behemoth such as Best Buy did the same thing in all the communities in which they do business. Certainly the latter -- who, by the way, just announced a 52 percent rise in third-quarter profit -- at least has a few extra camcorders to deploy for a larger-scale project of this sort...

SOURCES: CBS News, State Bank & Trust [photo]

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Senate Passes First Funding Increase for Small-Business Programs in Seven Years

Today, Sen. John Kerry [D-Mass.] applauded the Senate’s passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, which provides more than $40 million in additional funding for key Small Business Administration [SBA] programs over last year’s funding. Each of the SBA’s core programs -- including Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and the Microloan program -- will receive an increase.

"For the first time since President Bush took office, small business programs will receive a real funding increase thanks to the Democratic leadership of this Congress," said Kerry, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

"Small businesses are the economic engine of America and create two thirds of all jobs, but the Bush administration has merely used them as photo ops and backdrops to promote big-business policies," Kerry noted. "Democrats have made clear our commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and to solidifying America’s future competitive edge by investing in small-business programs."

The 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act provides almost $569 million in funding for SBA programs. When funding for the disaster loan program and non-agency spending is excluded because it fluctuates each year, the SBA’s funding is increased by more than $40 million over the 2007 funding levels.

Specifically, the SBA’s core programs will receive:
* Small Business Development Centers: Up 9 percent [from $89 million to $97.1 million]
* Women’s Business Centers: Up 4 percent [from $12.5 million to $13 million]
* Microloan Technical Assistance Grants: Up 15 percent [from $13 million to $15 million]
* Microloans: Up 53 percent [from $1.3 million to $2 million in funds to leverage almost $20 million in loans -- up from $12.7 million last year]
* Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs: Up 50 percent [from $2 million to $3 million]
* 7[j] Management and Technical Assistance Program: Up 53 percent [from $1.5 million to $2.3 million]
* HUBZone Program: Up 5 percent [from $2 million to $2.1 million]
* Surety Bond Guarantee Program: Up 6 percent [from $2.8 million to $3 million]
* Loans and Venture Capital: The SBA will be able to leverage up to $28 billion in loans and venture capital deals through the 7[a], 504, and Small Business Investment Company [SBIC] programs.
SOURCE: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Eco-Friendly Recycline Wins $100,000 Grand Prize in’s 'Boost Your Business' Contest for Entrepreneurs

GoodBiz113 profilee Recycline Inc. ["Recycline-Stonyfield Partnership Milks Resources to Benefit the Environment, Consumers and Each Other"], an eco-friendly consumer-products company, is the grand prize winner of the "Boost Your Business" contest. Recycline received the award – a grand prize of $100,000 – during a reception at The Forbes Galleries in New York City on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007.

Recycline, based in Waltham, Mass., makes a range of consumer products, such as toothbrushes, razors, tableware and kitchenware from recycled and environmentally preferred materials that are also recyclable. Its Preserve® brand line is currently sold at retailers, such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's and Wal-Mart. The company encourages consumers to send their toothbrushes and razors back for recycling.

"This was a fantastic experience, and we greatly enjoyed getting to know the four other finalists," said Eric Hudson, Recycline's founder and president. "We’re grateful for the award and the support that our stakeholders and the community showed.

"We plan to use this award to forward our mission to satisfy people’s everyday needs with high-quality, stylish, and environmentally responsible products with our Preserve® brand line of personal-care products, tableware, and kitchenware. Recycline’s win is a testament to the growing tide of interest in products and services that respect and preserve the Earth’s precious resources."

Recycline Inc. persevered over nearly 1,000 other small businesses to win the contest, which was judged by Forbes editors, readers and business experts. Recycline was among the nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs from across the country that entered the contest when it launched in March 2007.

In the first phase of the contest, co-sponsored by HP, small-business owners submitted 500-word business plans; 20 semifinalists survived. In round two, users had the opportunity to review these plans and vote for their top five.

The five finalists who made it to the final stage were flown to New York City in October to give live presentations to an expert panel of judges. Their videotaped presentations were posted on for further reader voting. The runners-up are:
* [Detroit, Mich.] – Glenn Oliver
* Presidential Classroom [Alexandria, Va.] – Elizabeth Sherman
* Simply Divine Brownies, LLC [Brunswick, Maine] – Trina Beaulier
* [Marietta, Ga.] – John Drummond

"All the finalists deserve a big round of applause,” said Brett Nelson, entrepreneurs editor. “This contest was downright grueling – especially, the final round. We wish all of them continued success, and look forward to next year's 'Boost Your Business' contest.”

SOURCES:, Recycline Inc.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kerry, Snowe and Velázquez Praise SEC's Extension for Small-Biz Compliance With Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404

After nearly a year of urging from Senators John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Olympia J. Snowe [R-Maine], as well as Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez [D-N.Y.], today the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] agreed to provide small businesses with an additional one-year extension to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 [b] for the country’s smallest public companies.

In the wake of major corporate scandals, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 [H.R. 3763] was passed in an effort to prevent accounting fraud and rebuilt shareholder trust. However, some of its provisions -- most notably, Section 404 -- disproportionately impact smaller public companies.

These firms are currently facing increased regulatory and paperwork burdens, as well as higher costs from legal and auditing fees. As small companies operate on slimmer profit margins than do their larger counterparts, this represents a major expense. However, until today, the SEC had not acknowledged these added challenges.

Senate Small-Biz Committee Presses for More Time for SOX 404 Compliance
Earlier this year, Kerry and Snowe held a hearing focusing on the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley regulations on small businesses, and wrote three letters to the SEC seeking additional time for small firms to comply while preserving the intent of the 2002 law.

“It took too long and it required too much pressure, but it seems the SEC will finally provide small businesses a little extra time to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms,” said Sen. Kerry, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “Sen. Snowe and I strongly urged the SEC to take this action because smaller firms face higher costs to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. This will help ease the burden on small firms and help encourage more small businesses to become public companies – while still ensuring transparency and honest accounting.”

"I commend Chairman Cox [pictured] and the Securities and Exchange Commission for implementing this delay," said Sen. Snowe, ranking member on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "Doing so will give these small firms time to successfully meet Sarbanes-Oxley’s requirements and enable the SEC to fully consider the economic impacts on small, publicly traded companies."

Small firms worth less than $75 million face a higher burden than larger firms in complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. In 2006, restatements of financial results for large companies decreased by 20 percent, while restatements for the smaller firms increased by 42 percent, due to the disproportionately higher cost and time needed to comply.

"Small, public firms believe in strong, internal controls," Snowe noted. "Sen. Kerry and I will continue to vigilantly work to assure that Sarbanes-Oxley promotes corporate responsibility without driving small, public companies out of the U.S. stock market."

Click on the following links to read the letters Sens. Kerry and Snowe sent on Feb. 23, May 8 and June 6.

Velázquez Voices Her Praise of SEC's SOX 404-Related Postponement
During the past year, House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Velázquez has also made repeated calls to postpone enforcement of SOX 404 regulations.

“Today’s decision is a major victory for those small companies struggling to deal with the costs of SOX 404,” said Velázquez. “This delay will help reduce the regulatory burden on small firms, and will give the SEC adequate time to more thoroughly understand its impact and to make any necessary changes.

“I have repeatedly called on the SEC to provide a hard-dollar estimate on compliance costs for small firms, but these requests – until today’s hearing – fell on deaf ears. Without solid data, we cannot truly understand the possible effects these regulations will have on small public companies and on the economy.”

At the chairwoman’s recommendation, a coalition of small-business groups stepped in and performed their own analysis. The survey found that, although SOX 404 [b] is more than a year away, 66 percent of firms have already engaged an outside auditor. This figure is a major break with the SEC’s original estimate that companies would not incur significant costs until well into 2008.

Additionally, companies reported that SOX 404 [a] compliance costs will represent more than three percent of their net income. In light of this new information, the SEC will conduct their own research as to the effects of SOX 404 compliance on small firms.

“While this delay will help ease undue burdens on small firms, it is by no means the final stage of this fight,” Velázquez noted. “I will continue to press the SEC to collect this data in a timely manner, and make certain that everything is done to ensure that SOX 404 does not undermine the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.”

SOURCES: Library of Congress, U.S. House Small Business Committee, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dec. 1 Marks World AIDS Day; (PRODUCT) RED Hits $50 Million Contribution Milestone

Yesterday, just one day before marking World AIDS Day 2007, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced that contributions from (PRODUCT) RED partners -- including GoodBiz113 ad partners American Express, Apple and Motorola -- have reached over $50 million.

This cumulative total, achieved since (RED) was launched in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shriver, outstrips, by far, all previous private-sector contributions to the Global Fund, and creates a new benchmark for engaging business in the global fight against AIDS in Africa.

(PRODUCT) RED has become one of the largest consumer-based income-generating initiatives by the private sector for an international humanitarian cause. As the Fund looks to existing and new donors to help raise $6 billion to $8 billion annually to finance programs globally to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, (PRODUCT) RED has become a significant and promising new source of funds.

"(PRODUCT) RED has brought about a major change in the way the private sector contributes to global causes," said Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "We applaud Bono and Bobby Shriver for their vision in establishing the campaign, and thank (RED), its partners and the consumers who've chosen (RED) for their leadership. The contributions of (PRODUCT) RED partners have already enabled hundreds of thousands of people to benefit from AIDS treatment, prevention and care."

(RED) was created to deliver a sustainable flow of private-sector funds to the Global Fund, and to raise public awareness about the AIDS emergency in Africa. (RED) partners are Gap, Hallmark, Apple, Motorola, Emporio Armani, American Express and Converse.

The partner contributions from the sale of (PRODUCT) RED products are sent directly to the Global Fund to invest in HIV/AIDS programs in Africa. No overhead is taken out of the (RED) money, which means there is 100% throughput to the identified Global Fund grants.

(RED) funds are already at work as part of Global Fund grants in Rwanda, Swaziland and Ghana, funding programs with a primary focus on the health of women and children. (RED) funds will continue to be disbursed to these grants as soon as the next scheduled disbursement requests are received and approved by the Global Fund.

Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has become the dominant, multilateral financer of programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, providing well over 20 percent of all international finance against AIDS, and two-thirds of global financing for TB and malaria.

So far, programs supported by the Global Fund have averted 2 million deaths through providing AIDS treatment for 1.1 million people, tuberculosis treatment for 2.8 million people, and through the distribution of 30 million insecticide-treated bed nets for the prevention of malaria worldwide.

About the Global Fund
The Global Fund is a unique global public/private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector, and affected communities represents a new approach to international health financing.

The Global Fund works in close collaboration with other bilateral and multilateral organizations to supplement existing efforts dealing with the three diseases.

About (RED)™ and (PRODUCT) RED
(RED)'s primary objective is to engage the private sector in raising awareness and funds for the Global Fund, to help fight AIDS in Africa. Companies whose products take on the (PRODUCT) RED mark contribute a significant percentage of the sales or portion of the profits from that product to the Global Fund to finance AIDS programs in Africa, with an emphasis on the health of women and children.

Current partners are: American Express [U.K. only], Apple, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, Motorola and Hallmark. is the first media sponsor in the United Kingdom, and MTV Networks is the first media sponsor in the U.S. For more information, visit

Also, for World AIDS Day, The Killers turned their new Christmas single, "Don't Shoot Me Santa", (RED) -- with 100% of the proceeds to benefit the Global Fund, for investment in African AIDS programs. On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the single package -- including audio track and video -- arrives in stores. Click here to order from

SOURCES: Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, (PRODUCT) RED

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