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Small business owners pessimistic

BY Brae Canlen

Small business owners as a group are now the most pessimistic they have been since the third quarter of 2010, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. The index fell 28 points to negative 11 in the post-election survey conducted Nov. 12 to 16, 2012. Key drivers of this decline include business owners’ concerns about their future financial situation, cash flow, capital spending and hiring over the next 12 months.

“This is an eye-opening drop in optimism and shows the level of caution that exists among small business owners today,” said Marc Bernstein, head of Small Business for Wells Fargo. “Business owners who navigated through the Great Recession now face more uncharted territory created by ongoing uncertainty in Washington. These owners know that potential federal government spending cuts and tax changes can create a ripple effect, hitting the pocketbooks of consumers and reducing spending that could hit small businesses hard.” 

Wells Fargo, together with Gallup, surveys small business owners quarterly across the nation to gauge their perceptions of their present situation (past 12 months) and future expectations (next 12 months) in six key areas: financial situation, cash flow, revenues, capital spending allocation, hiring and credit availability.

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OSHA cites c-store in fatal workplace violence incident

BY Roy Maurer

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Dallas-based TMT Inc. with four serious safety violations of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act’s general duty clause following an aggravated robbery that resulted in the death of an employee at the company’s Whip-In convenience store in Garland, Texas.

OSHA announced the violations Nov. 19, 2012, in connection with the May 2012 death of the store clerk, who was alone at the time. She was robbed and set on fire and later died from her injuries.

“Handling money, working alone and standing behind open counters leaves employees vulnerable to violent crimes,” said Stephen Boyd, OSHA’s Dallas area director, in a media statement. “If the employer had conducted an analysis to identify risk for violence, implemented appropriate control measures and provided training to ensure awareness of potential violence, it is possible that this tragic loss of life could have been avoided.”

OSHA’s Dallas area office opened an investigation at the Garland store, as well as the company’s three other stores in Dallas and Mesquite, and found that workers at those locations were exposed to the same or similar workplace violence hazards.

Each store was cited with violating the OSH Act’s “general duty clause” for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause serious injury or death. The proposed penalties totaled $19,600.

OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening and disruptive behavior that occurs at a worksite.

Information on preventing workplace violence is available at osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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 SHRM. 

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Elbow Lake gets new hardware store

BY Brae Canlen

Elbow Lake, Minn., will soon have a new hardware store called Monahan’s Hardware, according to an article in the Ferguson Falls Journal. Sue and Bob Kulbeik will soon open their fourth location on the same site where Sue’s great-grandfather operated a hardware store in Elbow Lake in the 1890s.

In 2002, the Kulbeiks got into the hardware retailing business when they bought Hardware Hank in Ashby, Minn., with other family members. Then they added a location in Milbank, S.D. A short-time later, Ortonville Economic Development Committee members asked the couple to consider opening a hardware store in Ortonville, which they did.

A visit to Ortonville from the Grant County Economic Development Committee resulted in a similar invitation for Elbow Lake, whose hardware store had closed. A local redevelopment committee lobbied contractors for the new Elbow Lake Hospital to purchase supplies from the new business.

Although the store in not officially open yet, the Kulbeiks told the newspaper they have been letting customers in to make purchases.

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