Our favorite coworking space, The Candy Factory, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners has officially announced that they are teaming up to create a technology incubator in Lancaster City. The formal announcement can be seen in this Lancaster Online article: State-backed incubator for small, new tech businesses in Lancaster County to open March 29.

Last month, Brandon Harter and I attended a sneak preview headlined by Steve Fafel, Director of Business Development and Portfolio Manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP). He introduced BFTP’s role as a state-funded economic development group helping early-stage technology and technology-related companies in Pennsylvania. It does this by providing direct financial resources along with indirect resources like mentoring, facilitating connections, and professional support. Mr. Fafel emphasized that encouraging and helping these entrepreneurs is better for all residents of Lancaster County, as it helps combat issues such as an aging population leading to decreased tax revenue over time, and a population that, for the seventh year in a row, has seen more households leave Lancaster County than move in. Continue Reading The Candy Factory Teams up with Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Lancaster City

Photo credit: JCT(Loves)Streisand* on Visual hunt / CC BY-NDWhen you think of Barbra Streisand, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a career spanning six decades, including ten Grammy Awards, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, and more? The unique spelling of her first name? Is it her first album, titled (you guessed it!) The Barbra Streisand Album? Who could forget about her role in Meet the Fockers as Roz Focker. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is actually none of those things. And I’ll stop summarizing Barbra’s Wikipedia page now.

I would argue that no matter which of Barbra’s many talents you are most impressed with, as a business owner, the top association with Barbra Streisand should be the Streisand Effect. The Streisand Effect is “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” It stems from an incident where Barbra Streisand attempted to stop photographs of her house in Malibu, California, from being posted online, which unintentionally drew more attention to the photograph. You can read more about the Streisand Effect here.

Understanding the Streisand Effect is important when evaluating how to publicly respond to negative information about you or your business because it’s possible that taking certain actions could actually make the problem worse. It is inevitable that you will encounter conflict, whether it be with unhappy customers, competitors, disgruntled employees, or maybe you inadvertently get caught up in a conspiracy theory, such as Pizzagate. Negative information about your business may be posted online, or you could hear through the grapevine that so-and-so has been talking about you out in the community. Continue Reading What Would Barbra Do? A Business Lesson from Barbra Streisand

As an avid podcast listener, one of my favorite year-end activities is reading through the “best of” lists of the best podcasts and episodes of the year. Below are a few of my favorite lists of favorites (meta, right?) to get you started:

The Atlantic – The 50 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

IndieWire – The 50 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

My typical approach is to review the lists and their descriptions, then add episodes that sound interesting to a new playlist in my preferred podcast app, Overcast.

This year, I thought I’d share my own list of some of my favorite podcasts: Continue Reading My 2017 Podcast Picks

LNP recently wrote about the rapid rise in organic produce across Pennsylvania.  As it is with most other agricultural production, Lancaster County is leading the way in this increase.  The article says that the sale of certified organic products in Pennsylvania doubled in 2016.  Organic products accounted for $660 million, or about 9% of all agricultural products in Pennsylvania.  This is already a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s agriculture, and it will only continue to grow.  According to the LNP article one in every four organic operations in Pennsylvania is located in Lancaster County.

Part of the article focuses on Ebenezer Groceries in Ephrata and its owner, Jonah Dodd.  Ebenezer Groceries is a discount grocery store.  But Jonah has dedicated a large portion of his store to the sale of organic produce, even though organic produce costs a little more than his other items. Grocery stores like Whole Foods and Wegmans will soon be established in Lancaster County.  These stores have committed to featuring local produce, including certified organic produce.  It is telling that the demand for organic products comes from a wide range of shoppers, from more expensive stores like Whole Foods to discount stores like Ebenezer Groceries.  This tells me that the desire for organic produce, meat, eggs, dairy, etc., is not a passing fancy.  This demand is only going to increase, and Lancaster County farmers will continue to lead the way in this area.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

We have written a lot of articles about the countywide property tax reassessment covering the basics of residential and commercial assessment appeals and what the new assessed values will mean to property owners.  Now that most of the appeals have been processed, the county and each school district and municipality knows the total assessed value of property.  They will all set their tax millage rates before the end of the year.  All of this coming together will allow you to calculate your total property tax for 2018.

I had the opportunity to work with a few commercial property owners who decided to appeal their assessments.  In these cases, we were able to get the total assessed value of the properties cut almost in half.  This is going to save these particular landowners around $20,000 per year in property taxes.  Every case is different, and I cannot guarantee that anyone would be successful in a property tax appeal.  There were, however, major similarities in the properties that received big adjustments in their assessed value.  These were:

  1. There was something unusual about the property that the county did not take into consideration; and
  1. The property owners had a good appraisal report to support their appeal.

With both of these things present, a commercial property owner has a good chance at getting their assessment reduced.

So what happens if you decided not to pursue a property tax appeal this summer?  You are able to appeal your assessment every year.  There is a short window of time between when taxes are sent out and the tax appeal deadline of August 1.  This does not mean you have to wait until next summer to think about a tax assessment appeal.  If you believe that the assessment of your property is incorrect, we can help to evaluate and pursue an appeal.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real Estate, Land Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court and General Assembly have created new rules on the amount of net loss carryover (NLC) a corporation can deduct.  This is an interesting instance where the Pennsylvania General Assembly has drafted a law trying to predict the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in the Nextel Communications case.  The General Assembly correctly predicted the outcome of the case, and so the new NLC provisions will become part of the new law.

The question is how much of a corporation’s loss may be carried over from prior years as a deduction against taxable income.  At the time of the case, the Pennsylvania Revenue Code provided that a corporation could carry over losses as deductions equal to the greater of 12.5%  of the corporation’s taxable income or $3 million (now those limits are $5 million or 30% of net income).  This produced a result where corporations with less than $3 million in net income could deduct all of their losses up to that $3 million cap.  Corporations with net income over $3 million could only deduct 12.5% of their net operating loss. The effect is that many corporations with income under $3 million paid no corporate taxes, while bigger corporations paid quite a bit.  The Supreme Court’s decision stated that 98.8% of Pennsylvania corporations did not pay Pennsylvania corporate income tax.  The Court decided that this was unconstitutional, as a violation of the Uniformity Clause that requires all taxes on the same class of subjects to be uniform.  Continue Reading New Pending Rules for Corporate Net Loss Carryover Deductions in Pennsylvania

I recently wrote about a trend in Pennsylvania case law that has permitted short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and others, in otherwise residential neighborhoods. In each of these cases, a homeowner rented out their single-family residential dwelling to vacationers, the municipality claimed the short-term rental was a violation of the Zoning ordinance, and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court said that the short-term rentals were still residential uses, not hotels or tourist homes.  All of these cases said that if the municipality wanted to prohibit short-term vacation rentals, they needed to specifically and unquestionably prohibit that use.  Continue Reading How Can Associations Deal With Renters – Either Short Or Long Term?

I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 general membership meeting for the BIA of Lancaster County at the Inn at Leola Village.  The featured speaker for the event was Dr. Robert Dietz, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.  Dr. Dietz gave a detailed status report about the state of the building industry today, and some projections for the near future.  Most of Dr. Dietz’s discussion centered on one main theme:  there are not enough single family homes to meet today’s demand.  He spent time discussing why this is happening and the effects it could have over the next few years.  Continue Reading Notes from the 2017 Annual Building Industry Association County Meeting

The Central Penn Business Journal published an insert on Mergers and Acquisitions in 2017.  The tag line of this insert is one of the most important considerations for transitioning a family business:  “Timing is Everything.”  One of the articles, “When a Buyer is Knocking,” featured John Stoner, the head of the business consulting group at RKL.

The article makes the point that, for many companies, the value of the company is closely tied to the company’s founder.  This is especially true for family businesses.  If the founder of the business gets hit by a bus (or simply disappears to the Caribbean after winning the lottery), usually a lot of the value of that business disappears.  If you are looking to sell your business, you need to understand your value and how it effects a sale.

Because the founder creates much of the value of the family business, the timing of the sale has a profound effect on the sale price of the company.  For example, if the founder sells the company when he or she is ready to completely walk away from the business, then the business is losing one of its greatest assets.  In this case, the amount that someone else is willing to pay for the company is going to be reduced.  Continue Reading What If Someone Wants To Buy Your Business Before You Are Ready To Sell?

The Today show announced this week that Matt Lauer has been fired after nearly 24 years on the show following an allegation made by a colleague of “inappropriate sexual behavior.”  I won’t bother linking to any of the news stories as you’ve probably already seen quite a few on this subject.  What made this story more shocking was that Lauer’s termination came less than 48 hours after the allegation was made.  This swift reaction demonstrates how attitudes in the public arena regarding workplace misconduct are beginning to shift.  But power can be exploited at all levels, which is why it’s imperative that every business owner, large or small, is aware of the laws and their responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment.  An Associated Press article posted on Lancaster Online this morning discusses how Failing to address harassment allegations can cost employers.

This blog is the first in a series focusing on sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.  Follow up posts will look at what’s important from the employer’s view, the employee’s and that of the accused.  As we become more comfortable having open discussion about workplace conduct, employers and employees need to learn more about this problem.   A key starting point for this discussion is the understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment. Continue Reading Employers and Employees: Do You Understand the Law and Sexual Harassment?