Business & Economy
Governor Quinn Announces Historic Workers’ Compensation Rate Reductions PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 12:35

Savings from 2011 Reforms Expected to Save $450 Million for Businesses Across Illinois

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has filed a request for lower workers compensation rates, recommending a 5.5 percent drop in the advisory rate for 2015. This decrease will bring the total rate reduction since historic reforms championed by the Governor were enacted in 2011 to more than 18 percent, saving Illinois’ employers more than $450 million.

Today's announcement is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to strengthen Illinois’ business climate, drive economic growth and ensure that all workers are treated fairly and receive the compensation they deserve.

“We've been getting the job done on workers’ compensation reform and now that reform is generating hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends for Illinois businesses and workers,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois is making a comeback and historic reforms like these will keep it going strong, driving our economy forward and creating jobs in every corner of our state.”

State officials at the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) estimate the latest proposed reduction in workers’ compensation advisory and loss cost rates could result in overall reduction in premiums of up to $143 million in 2015, with the total savings since the reforms were enacted of $458 million. This estimate is based on the credit rating organization A.M. Best’s calculations as they reviewed 2011 premiums. Individual rates for businesses may vary based on claims experience, payroll and other factors.

The NCCI advisory rates determine the premiums businesses pay for workers’ compensation insurance. DOI actuaries must confirm the calculations submitted by NCCI, a process that typically takes about 60 days.

“We’re pleased that the NCCI has proposed a rate reduction in Illinois for the third straight year,” DOI Director Andrew Boron said. “The lower rate will deliver significant savings for Illinois employers. This rate review process will ensure the state has a responsible advisory rate that supports business growth and protects workers.”

Upon taking office in 2009, Governor Quinn made it a priority to reform workers’ compensation and to work with business owners and legislators on legislation to make it easier to do business in Illinois. He launched a working group on the issue, proposed legislation and worked with the General Assembly to enact historic reform that is allowing businesses to save hundreds of millions of dollars, driving economic growth throughout the state.

A steady and significant decline in the advisory rate for workers compensation insurance in Illinois shows that these reforms are working. The advisory rate dropped 3.8 percent in 2013, 4.5 percent in 2014 and will have dropped an additional 5.5 percent for 2015. The downward trend reflects actuaries’ observations that the reform of workers’ compensation in Illinois reduced costs.

“NCCI’s reduction of its advisory rates for Illinois workers’ compensation provides objective proof that demonstrates that workers compensation costs have been reduced in Illinois,” Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Chairman Michael Latz said. “Actuaries are very careful – and before they recommend that insurance companies reduce their rates – they must first have confirmed data showing reduced costs.”

With the implementation of the proposed rate reduction, the advisory rate level will have dropped 18.1 percent below the advisory rate level prior to the 2011 workers’ compensation reform legislation. This will be the fourth rate reduction in five years since the reforms were enacted. Individual companies may experience rate changes at different levels.

If DOI accepts the filing, to be effective Jan. 1, 2015, employers should contact their insurance agent prior to their 2015 renewal date to determine the impact on their premium.


4 Smart Investments Beyond the Stock Market PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 14:43
With Speculations About an Impending Downturn,
Investment Entrepreneurs Suggest Options

As major stock market indexes continue to climb, so too are concerns on the “fear market” – VIX, the CBOE S&P 500 Options Volatility Index, says entrepreneur Dean Anastos.

“Advances in the market have been relatively thin in volume, and the declines have been heavier; in general, there seems to be too much complacency among investors, and there are hints here and there that the market is not as bullish as many have supposed,” says Anastos, who specializes in real estate, computer programming and trading data communications equipment.

“Now may be a really good time to look elsewhere for smart investments,” says his business partner Ricky Brava.

Anastos and Brava review some of those options.

•  Real estate is still growing. No area was hit harder by the recession than real estate. Since then, however, the getting has been good for prospective buyers looking for a profit, yet many remain gun shy due to the hard lessons of 2008-09. Meanwhile, the housing recovery continues as prices are getting back to where they once were. In many markets, buying is still cheaper than renting, “although this is not true everywhere,” Anastos says. “Ultimately, it depends on the area, the loan and how long you may be looking to live on the property – or, if you want to rent a property out, which continues to be very lucrative today.”

•  Banks have plenty of distressed debt; consider a deal. ( “We buy distressed debt bank portfolios that aren’t generating cash for the bank and work with the families in the homes to refinance at affordable rates,” says Brava, senior partner at Apollo Financial Group, founded by Anastos, who adds, “If we can’t work it out with the owner, the property gets a second chance, rather than sitting vacant, when we sell the loans as non-performing first or second lien bank notes.”

Conduct a thorough title search of the property to reveal any liens. Check with the county to ascertain what, if any, outstanding property taxes are due. Contact a local real estate agent to get an estimation on the property and its as-is resale value.

•  Keep in mind tax-advantaged investments. Tax-advantaged investments can include real estate partnerships, oil and gas partnerships and suitability, which refers to how appropriate an investment may or may not be to an investor. Two of the most common types of real estate partnerships, for example, are low-income housing and historic rehabilitation. The federal government grants tax credits to those who construct or rehabilitate low-income housing or who invest in the rehabilitation or preservation of historic structures.

•  Pay attention to possible changes to Roth IRAs – still a good option, so far. This is still a good investment option for retirement, even though significant changes have been proposed by the White House. Your allotted money goes into a Roth after it’s already been taxed, but earnings aren’t taxed. Unlike traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, Roth owners currently don’t have to take annual distributions after turning 70½ — which means the money has even more years to grow if the owner doesn’t need it. And once the Roth owner dies, the beneficiary inherits the money tax-free. President Obama says this isn’t what was intended in a Roth and wants to change this advantage, yet his proposal continues to face mass opposition and many think it won’t pass.

About Dean Anastos and Ricky Brava

Dean Anastos is the founder of Apollo Financial Group, (, and Ricky Brava is senior partner. Anastos is an entrepreneur with a background in real estate, computer programming and trading data communications equipment. Brava specializes in education, marketing and new business development, with an expertise in data-driven, long-term strategic planning. Both men have a strong interest in business opportunities that help resolve societal problems.

Governor Quinn's Statement on the Unpatriotic Corporate Tax Inversion Loophole PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Monday, 28 July 2014 13:30

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today issued the following statement in favor of legislation supported by President Barack Obama to close the corporate tax inversion loophole:

"Big corporations should not be allowed to exploit the tax code to avoid paying their fair share. Members of the House and Senate supporting closure of this loophole are right – corporations should not be allowed to shirk their own responsibilities while passing on the burden to everyday taxpayers.

"These corporations benefit from America's world-class infrastructure, education system, skilled workforce and competitive economy – not to mention U.S. customers. Yet they’re looking to renounce their citizenship and shortchange America and the everyday people who helped them grow and thrive.

"I urge Congress to take swift action on the President’s proposal to end this abuse and close this unpatriotic loophole. It's the right thing to do."


West Music Honored With Two National Awards: NAMM Top 100 Dealer and Steinway & Sons Dealer of the Year Award PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Kelly Goerdt   
Friday, 25 July 2014 09:55

Coralville, IA - July 24, 2014 – West Music Company, with headquarters in Coralville, Iowa has been honored with two national awards, a Top 100 Dealer award by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) as well as the Steinway Dealer of the Year award in June 2014.

Top 100 Dealer

The Top 100 Dealer Awards bring together the best NAMM retail members across the country, recognizing best practices and rewarding the most effective campaigns. The retail music product stores that receive the distinction of being a "Top 100 Dealer" are judged by a panel of industry experts on criteria including:

  • Showing a clear understanding that the success of a retail store is directly related to customer satisfaction.

  • Providing a retail experience worth returning for and recommending others to.

  • Designing a floor plan, merchandising and marketing that encourages repeat sales.

  • Preparing for future success with sound planning, marketing and training initiatives.

  • Using the web and social media in engaging, effective ways

Recognition of Top 100 Dealers as well as the awards ceremony for the "Best Of" Awards took place this past week at the Summer NAMM Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Steinway Dealer of the Year

West Music received the Steinway Dealer of the Year award in June 2014 at a special awards ceremony in New York, New York. West Music is the exclusive dealer of Steinway, Boston, and Essex pianos in the state of Iowa. The Steinway Dealer of the Year Award recognizes outstanding performance in such areas as Steinway concert-and-artist programs, product knowledge, and customer service. This is West Music's fifth time to receive the "Dealer of the Year" award.

"It is an honor for West Music to receive this award as it is a recognition of all of the hard work our associates put in to supporting a truly excellent family of brands," said Robin Walenta, president of West Music. "The Dealer of the Year award exemplifies our commitment to providing support and developing our customers and the products they are searching for each and every day of the year."

For more information about West Music and their expansive piano services, please visit

About NAMM
The National Association of Music Merchants, commonly called NAMM in reference to the organization's popular NAMM trade shows, is the not-for-profit association that strengthens the $17 billion global musical instruments and products industry, while promoting the pleasures and benefits of making music. NAMM's activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of more than 9,000 member companies in 87 countries around the world. For more information about NAMM, interested parties can visit or call 800-767-NAMM (6266).

About Steinway and Sons Piano Company

Since 1853, Steinway pianos have been handmade to last for generations. A treasured possession that grows in value over the course of time, Steinway is the choice of 99% of concert artists, and it is, quite simply, the standard by which all other pianos are compared. Details about Steinway & Sons may be obtained by calling (800) 366-1853 or by visiting

About West Music Company

Founded in 1941, West Music continues to fulfill its mission of creating musical communities by providing knowledge, products, and services people need to experience the power of making music! West Music specializes in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offers music instruction, repair and music therapy services. West Music has eight retail locations in Iowa and western Illinois including two new locations with their recent merger with Kephart’s Music Center. For more information, visit West Music’s website at or call 1-800-373-2000.

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Five Years Since Last Minimum Wage Increase, Braley Fights to Give 300,000 Iowans a Raise PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Braley for Iowa   
Friday, 25 July 2014 09:37
Braley fighting to raise minimum wage to $10.10/hr & restore its purchasing power

Des Moines, IA – To mark the five-year anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase, Bruce Braley today reiterated his call for an overdue increase to the minimum wage that would provide 300,000 Iowans with a raise.

While obstructionists in Washington and Iowa and oil billionaires like the Koch brothers are actively working to oppose a minimum wage increase, Braley has been a leader in fighting to increase the minimum wage to $10.10/hr to help lift thousands of Iowa working families out of poverty and strengthen Iowa’s economy.  

"No one in Iowa should work a full-time job and live near or below the poverty line," Bruce Braley said. “But five years after the last minimum wage increase, the minimum wage buys less and less for Iowa’s workers. I refuse to allow partisan obstructionism in Washington and Iowa to keep our families at poverty-level wages while we provide tax breaks to oil billionaires.  Instead, I am committed to raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, strengthening our economy, and providing a pay raise to 300,000 Iowans because I believe all Iowans deserve a fair wage for a hard day’s work.”

Braley is a sponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act that would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10/hr and then tie future increases to inflation. According to a Des Moines Register poll, 65% of Iowans believe the minimum wage should be increased.

Since reaching its peak in 1968 at $10.69 an hour (in 2013 dollars), the minimum wage’s purchasing power has steadily declined and left working Iowans struggling to support their families. Today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr means an Iowan working 40 hours a week would make just $15,000 a year.  

report from Progress Iowa earlier this year found that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10/hr would infuse more than $270 million into Iowa’s economy.

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