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Report: Tractor Supply DC rolls ahead in Georgia

BY Ken Clark

Brentwood, Tenn.-based Tractor Supply Co. is moving ahead with a distribution center under construction in Bibb County, Ga., according to a report in the Macon Telegraph

The farm-and-ranch retailer has begun hiring 200 workers for its $50 million distribution center. The facility, measuring 650,000 sq. ft. and located at the I-75 Business Park, is expected to open by June and start shipping goods to stores by August.

Tractor Supply operates more than 1,150 stores in 45 states and plans to grow square footage by about 8% annually, according to a recent investor presentation.

 

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Deadline looms on state exchanges

BY SHRM online staff

After U.S. employers have taken care of the new health care benefit cost-reporting requirement for 2012 W-2s (due to employees in January 2013), their attention should turn to an upcoming deadline to notify employees about the availability of state health insurance exchanges.

Currently, March 1, 2013, is the mandated deadline for employers to notify employees about state-specific exchanges to be set up on their behalf by state governments or the federal government by 2014. Many expect that the exchange notification deadline will be extended, however, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) hasn’t yet released proposed regulations or indicated whether it will provide a model notice.

“No matter what deadline the DOL ultimately sets, employers need to be prepared to include this in their communication plans for 2013,” recommended Jennifer Benz, CEO of consultancy Benz Communications, in a news release.

Specifically, Benz noted that employers will be required to communicate three items of information, for which they can find the necessary language in section 1512 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA):

State exchange basics: This is a description of the state exchange, the services provided by the exchange and how to contact the exchange (website and customer service number). One wrinkle: not all states have decided how they’re going to comply (the National Conference of State Legislatures provides an up-to-date chart of state implementation efforts). Employers in multi-plan states will have an even more challenging time.

Individual plan value: This explains whether employees will receive at least 60 percent coverage of essential health benefits through employer-provided coverage, and whether employees may be eligible for a premium tax credit if they purchase a plan on the state exchange.

Tax implications: Because health insurance premiums under employer-sponsored coverage may be paid with pre-tax dollars, buying coverage through a state exchange may change an employee’s tax obligations. Employees using an exchange to purchase coverage may lose their employer’s tax-free contribution (if any) to their health coverage, also.

While the particulars of the state exchanges are still unknown, Benz is hopeful that there will be a simple, streamlined way to communicate the required notice to employees, and she suggested planning ahead to integrate the notice into an overall health benefits communications strategy.

“Communicate your 2014 position before the legalese does,” Benz advised. “Be sure to use language that fits the notice into your big picture approach to health care reform compliance. For many employers, this strategy is going to include high-deductible health plans and incentive-heavy wellness programs, two benefit strategies that require robust, thoughtful communications in their own right,” she noted in the news release. 

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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Builder confidence holds steady

BY Brae Canlen

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes was unchanged in January, remaining at a level of 47 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. This figure follows eight consecutive monthly gains. The index continues to hold at its highest level since April of 2006.

"Conditions in the housing market look much better now than at the beginning of 2012, and an increasing number of housing markets are showing signs of recovery, which should bode well for future home sales later this year," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "However, uncertainties stemming from last month’s fiscal cliff negotiations contributed to the pause in builder confidence and continuing discussions among policymakers related to spending cuts, and the future of the mortgage interest deduction could put a damper on housing demand in the coming months."

NAHB chief economist David Crowe said: "Builders’ sentiment remains very close to the index’s tipping point of 50, where an equal number of builders view conditions as good and poor, and fundamentals indicate continued momentum in housing this year. However, persistently tight mortgage credit conditions, difficulties in obtaining accurate appraisals and the ongoing stalemate in Washington over critical economic concerns continue to impede the housing recovery." 

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number more than 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

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