Zippo Nears 500-Millionth Lighter

Sparks will fly in Bradford on June 5th, when Zippo will produce its 500-millionth lighter.  “All manufactured right here in Bradford, Pennsylvania,” emphasizes Zippo President & CEO Greg Booth. 

The late George Blaisdell founded the company in 1932, and 80-years later Zippo lighters still carry his lifetime guarantee, “It works, or we fix it free.” 

Zippo Lighter

The 500-millionth Zippo lighter will look like this.

On June 5th the actual 500-millionth lighter will pass through a human chain of employees from the factory floor all the way to the nearby company museum, where it will be placed on permanent display. 

Booth says it will be a special day for the 600 plus employees who make the Zippo lighters, which are sold in 162-countries.  “Our employees work hard at it, our company works hard at it, and I’m just proud to be part of a company that can compete successfully – globally – and grow a business right here in Pennsylvania.” 

Zippo is currently experiencing a resurgence and just wrapped up the best quarter in the history of the company.  Booth tells Radio PA they’re up 30% in volume year-to-date. 

If a half-billion Zippo lighters were stacked on top of each other, the company says the tower would be the size of 14-Empire State Buildings. 

Collectors will be able to own a piece of Zippo history too.  About 60,000 lighters manufactured on June 5th will be marked with a special stamp to commemorate the milestone.  The two versions will sell for $50 and $100 dollars respectively.

Democrats, Republicans Both Talking Delaware Loophole

A group of House Democrats is displeased with the new Republican-led attempt to close the so-called Delaware Loophole, but the two sides appear to be getting closer in the process.  The Delaware Loophole essentially allows large, multi-state corporations to avoid paying Pennsylvania business taxes.    

Back in January, Republican Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at closing that loophole through the ‘expense add-back’ provision.  But Democratic Finance Chair Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne) calls it window dressing.  “The language is so broad and riddled with exceptions that it’s ineffective and meaningless in terms of closing the Delaware Loophole,” Mundy explained at a capitol news conference on Wednesday. 

Phyllis Mundy

State Rep. Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne)

Mundy still believes the best way to go about that is through a process called ‘combined reporting,’ but she recognizes the political will isn’t there, and now advocates what she calls a better version of the ‘expense add-back’ provision.  She contends the Reed bill would actually create a ‘loophole within a loophole’ by allowing companies to deduct expenses they deem to be for legitimate business purposes.  “Corporations would have little trouble finding a reason to claim a legitimate business purpose in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.” 

Rep. Reed sees the new developments as a positive step.  “I am just glad that Representative Mundy has finally come to the conclusion that there’s not support for combined reporting in Pennsylvania, and that an add-back provision is the better methodology of closing the Delaware Loophole, and that the revenue should be used for tax fairness across the board,” Reed tells Radio PA.   

Both lawmakers support plans that would use the newfound revenue to gradually lower the state’s corporate tax rate from 9.99% to 6.99% over the course of six years.

Reed says that unlike combined reporting, the add-back provision would target only the companies actually using the loophole.  He anticipates a House Finance Committee hearing to be scheduled on the topic later this month. 

Currently 35-states use either ‘combined reporting’ or ‘expense add-back’ as a way to promote business tax fairness.

Governor Corbett Heads Overseas This Month

As Pennsylvania’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities begin winding down, Governor Tom Corbett’s international trade mission will be ramping up.  Corbett is leading a trade mission to France and Germany, two of the state’s most important trade partners

“The goals are to establish a stronger tie with our trading partners that we already have that do business here in Pennsylvania from France and Germany, but also to look for more people to come over and do business here in Pennsylvania.” Corbett said on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program. 

Combined, French and German companies already employ 53,400 people in the Keystone State.  Corbett thinks they can entice more foreign companies to invest in Pennsylvania based on its cheap power supplies and strong workforce.  “We’re making ourselves much more business friendly than we were before,” he adds. 

Site Selection magazine has ranked Pennsylvania third in the nation with 453 new or expanded corporate facilities in 2011, according to a recent news release from the governor’s office.  That’s an increase of more than 100 projects from 2010. 

Corbett will be joined on the trade mission by a delegation of Pennsylvania business leaders.  The mission is being privately funded and organized by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation.

A Bipartisan Attempt at Business Tax Reform

Supporters say they’ve found a solid middle ground on business tax reform in Pennsylvania.  “You’ve got folks who support the tax cut side.  You’ve got folks who support only the Delaware Loophole side,” says House Republican Policy Chair Dave Reed (R-Indiana).  “But merging the two together may be the right equation to get the ball over the goal line.” 

The bill Reed’s pushing alongside Democrat Eugene DePasquale (D-York) would gradually lower the state’s corporate net income tax from 9.99% to 6.99%, over the course of six years.  It would also close the so-called Delaware Loophole with an “expense add-back” provision, which Reed says would target specific companies that are using the loophole with the sole purpose of avoiding paying their Pennsylvania taxes. 

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale

Rep. DePasquale says Pennsylvania’s high CNI is a black eye on the state, which is stifling job growth.  “I believe… that this will lead to actually more revenue in the future because you will have greater job growth.”  Both of the prime sponsors say their effort is aimed at creating a fair tax climate in the state.   

The “expense add-back” approach may be new to Pennsylvania, but supporters say it’s already used by 23 other states.  At an unrelated capitol news conference, Senate Democrats expressed their continued support through closing the Delaware Loophole through combined reporting.  “There is a way to transition to mandatory combined reporting in a way that would allow for revenue neutrality because we’d be expanding the base,” says Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna).

Women Business Owners Ready to Ride Out Stormy Economy

Women business owners appear ready to ride out the stormy economy according to the second phase of the first ever PNC Women Business Owners Outlook.  The   survey was done prior to the latest stock market swings and it shows most of the women business owners surveyed intend to grow their companies over the next two years. More than half rely on trying new ways of doing things to make business decisions.   

The outlook also finds financial success is not the primary motivator of women business owners. Beth Marcello, Director of Women’s Business Development for PNC Bank, says nearly half of those surveyed listed passion for their business. She says many women start their own business or buy a business because they’re passionate about the product or service they’re delivering to their marketplace.

Marcello says they know the environment for growth in the future will be different, so they’re trying new ideas they development themselves.  She says they look at it from an analytical standpoint, then apply their own intuition and gut feeling to make decisions that are going to grow the business and take them forward.

There are mixed views on the use of social media among women business owners. Marcello says half of those surveyed nationwide said they used it, but only about 39% of the women business owners in Pennsylvania said they use social media.  Marcello believes there are opportunities for growth that they can still mine.

The survey shows that a majority of Pennsylvania women business owners, 7 out of 10, want to grow their companies but many are hesitant to increase prices or take on risk due to rising costs and the slow economy. They tend to prefer a conservative or balanced approach to risk in making business decisions.

73% of women owners in Pennsylvania and 70% nationwide expect their suppliers to increase prices in the next six months. 48% in Pennsylvania, but only 34% nationwide, plan to pass these increases along to customers.