Business & Economy
Immigrant Helps Businesses PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 15 February 2013 11:36

Once Impoverished U.S.S.R. Immigrant  Thrives through Stubborn Recession

4 Recession-Proof Tips from Rags-to-Riches CEO

Today, millions of Americans are suffering hardship due to the toughest economic downturn since the Great Depression 80 years ago. Unemployment remains critically high, near 8 percent, even though companies and the stock market are doing very well.

But the challenges Americans on Main Street continue to face pale in comparison to those endured by Daniel Milstein, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager from Kiev, Ukraine, during the last days of the USSR’s control of the Eastern Bloc.

“Everything was different; the food, the clothing and even the new English alphabet I was to learn, which has 26 letters instead of the 33 that I was used to,” says Milstein, author of “17 Cents and a Dream,” ( “My family was allowed to leave with only one suitcase and $75 each – plus I had 17 cents for the postage necessary to send a letter to my friend in Ukraine.”

Impoverished, confused, feeling like an outsider and unable to speak English, Milstein did what he knew best – hard work. He would start by studying relentlessly and picking up every shift he could at the local McDonalds. Eventually, he received his bachelor’s degree with Cum Laude honors in business management and Honorary Doctorate Degree from Cleary University. Dan Milstein became the founder and CEO of Gold Star Financial, the 42nd largest residential lender in the country.

Milstein and his company have continued to thrive throughout the recession, thanks in part to the lessons he learned as an immigrant. He offers these tips for making yourself recession-proof:

• Land of opportunity: Despite his disadvantage, Milstein was able to see the positives and the opportunities -- he was, after all, in America, where individual effort and initiative could be rewarded. Americans have the freedom to pursue a gamut of jobs; accepting those that require little skill may not pay well, but as long as you continue to educate yourself, they can be viewed as a steppingstone.

• Good, old-fashioned hard work: Like many of America’s previous generations, including those from the Great Depression, nothing was given to Milstein, who sometimes worked from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. at McDonalds as a teenager. Even though he’s on top of his company, “I still work harder than anyone else,” he says. He also makes sure he knows each of his employees and clients, and that they’re happy.

• Understanding the culture of your environment: Even while in Kiev, Milstein and his family were outsiders because of their Jewish heritage. There, he had to understand the culture and adapt, just as he did when he came to the United States. It can be challenging to recognize when cultural tendencies that you’ve grown up with clash with those in an adopted culture, but Milstein paid attention. When he realized that his brusque, Soviet way of doing business was turning off his U.S. customers, he worked on being warmer, friendlier, and a better listener.

• Listen to your elders: Milstein’s mother taught him to always work five times harder than everyone else because “being Jewish, it will always be an uphill battle.” His grandfather told him to guard his name and his reputation – “the only things you have in this world” and that he could become whatever he wanted, provided he was willing to work for it. As an adult, built found a mentor in an older business woman. One of the most valuable lessons she taught him was to “slow down and chew my food” – to take the time to enjoy life.

“Certain things can be taken away from you in your life – the recession has proved this true for many people,” Milstein says. “But there are also characteristics and personality traits that can be yours, unbroken by other people or shifting circumstances, for the rest of your life.”

About Daniel Milstein

Daniel Milstein came to the United States with a handful of change as a teenager and eventually founded Gold Star Financial, which in 2009 was listed as one of Inc. Magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing Companies. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Milstein endured an oppressive government in the U.S.S.R., religious persecution and life-and-death situations, including living in the fallout of Chernobyl, the deadliest nuclear meltdown in human history. He worked his way from scrubbing toilets at a McDonald’s restaurant to running one of the fastest growing financial firms in the United States.

5 Resolutions for Your Business in 2013 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 11:02
Top Priority for Those Currently Renting Office Space:
Seriously Consider Ownership

Almost on a daily basis, news reports detail the marketplace factors that can affect businesses large and small. No matter what the potentially game-changing info coming out of Washington, D.C., or China, though, there are winning strategies that not only endure but should be part of every workplace’s culture, says financial expert and small-business advocate Chris Hurn.

“With some merit, analysts are always reviewing contingencies that may change investments by businesses; most recently, the ‘fiscal cliff.’ But there are many ways to invest in your own business regardless of the economic climate,” says Hurn, author of “The Entrepreneur’s Secret to Creating Wealth: How the Smartest Business Owners Build Their Fortunes,” (

Hurn reviews the resolutions business owners and entrepreneurs should consider to make 2013 the most positively transformative year:

• Consider buying: After a business has survived three to six years and is stable, commercial property ownership is a natural next step with benefits that new entrepreneurs often overlook, says Hurn, who has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, BloombergBusinessWeek and other financial publications and TV news shows. Ownership is a path to more stability and long-term wealth, and the government program administered by the Small Business Administration – SBA 504 – offers long-term financing at below-market fixed rates.

• Self-investment: Often in business, one measure of strength reflects your strength of character, so invest in yourself! Identify business books that focus on areas you need to develop or lessons shared by successful business people you admire. Commit to reading at least one per month.

• Company culture: Your company’s culture has a lot to do with your success. Come up with three ideas that will improve your company’s culture and take action on them. Improved health, the most universal resolution, can have a profoundly positive impact on the workplace, from boosting morale to increasing productivity.

• Refresh/jumpstart marketing: Identify three new marketing initiatives that you can implement on a regular and ongoing basis. Start small and track which ideas seem to have teeth. Remember — repetition and consistency are keys here.

• Become an authority in your field: Research publications in your industry and pitch yourself as a media source. This can net you some free PR later in the year. The key is to focus on media outlets – become a familiar name so they can turn to you as a reliable source. You have to convince contacts that you know your stuff and that you’re available to comment when there’s news to report. If you simply don’t have time for this, consider investing in a reasonably-priced PR firm.

About Chris Hurn

Chris Hurn is CEO and co-founder of Mercantile Capital Corp. based in Orlando, Fla. MCC has earned numerous accolades and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, BloombergBusinessWeek, Inc. magazine, Forbes and SmartMoney, among others. Hurn has been a frequent guest on Fox Business News and PBS. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago with two magna cum laude bachelor’s degrees and earned his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute (formerly at the Wharton School of Business).  He is also the CEO, chairman and co-founder of an upscale men’s barbershop franchise called Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club.

Loebsack Helps Reintroduce Bipartisan Balanced Budget Amendment PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Joe Hand   
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 09:23

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack announced today that he has once again become an original cosponsor of a bipartisan balanced budget amendment.  The bipartisan legislation, H.J.Res. 24 authored by Rep. Jason Amash (R-MI-03), is similar to the measure Loebsack was among the first Democrats in the House to cosponsor last Congress.

“In a time when our economy continues to struggle and we face an unsustainable debt, it is more important than ever that we work toward reducing the deficit over the long run, while simultaneously working to rebuild our economy,” said Loebsack.  “I’ve long said that I’m willing to consider any serious, good faith proposal to reduce the deficit and get our economy back on track. That is why I have supported this bipartisan proposal in the past and am happy to back it once again because it puts less pressure on initiatives like unemployment and food stamps during an economic downturn when lower income and middle class folks need it the most.”

H.J.Res. 24 would balance the budget over the business cycle instead of every year in order to allow both spending and revenue policies to be more stable and predictable. It would balance yearly spending to the average annual revenues of the three years prior and allows additional spending for emergencies with two-thirds support from both Chambers of Congress. H.J.Res. 24 would balance the budget within ten years by phasing down the allowable deficit each year in a stable, predicable way that allows current needs to be met during the economic downturn.


QUAD CITIES Promotional Products Professional Achieves Industry Certification PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Jeff Justin   
Friday, 08 February 2013 16:06
IRVING, Tex., (February 4, 2013) – Sue Justin, of Your Name Here Specialties, Davenport,
Iowa, earned the certification of CAS administered by Promotional Products Association
International (PPAI;, not-for-profit association for more than 10,000 members of the
$16.5 billion promotional products industry.

The Certified Advertising Specialist (CAS), is one of the promotional products industry's premier
professional designations. Individuals with a CAS PPAI certification are seen as industry
leaders—those who have attained a higher standard of professional competence, knowledge
and experience. PPAI industry certification is acquired through a combination of: required
certification classes, demonstrated years of employment in the industry, education, industry
contributions and a successful demonstration of expertise. Certification is maintained through
continuing education to ensure current knowledge and leading-edge professional skills.

The Certified Advertising Specialist (CAS) certification requires 75 hours from a structured
industry approved curriculum, three years of experience in the promotional products industry
and a passing score on the CAS certification exam. The rigorous curriculum required includes
an overview of the promotional products industry, promotional programs, best practices/
supplier-distributor relations, advertising and marketing overview, product safety basics and
business ethics.

PPAI certification demonstrates a commitment to both business excellence and continual
professional growth. A relatively small percentage of professionals hold these certifications and
are known as the industry’s innovators and leaders. PPAI certification has been recognized as a
reliable indicator of professionalism and excellence in the promotional products industry.

About PPAI
Since 1903, Promotional Products Association International, a not-for-profit, has been the
standard setting international trade association for the promotional products industry. PPAI
offers education, tradeshows, business products and services, mentoring, technology and
legislative support to its members. Today, PPAI serves more than 10,000 global member
companies who lead the $16.5 billion dollar industry. The multi-billion-dollar industry includes
wearables, writing instruments, calendars, drinkware and many other items, usually imprinted
with a company’s name, logo or message. PPAI created and maintains the UPIC (Universal
Promotional Identification Code), the industry’s only free identification system and universal
company database. For information regarding PPAI or to learn more about the proven power
of promotional products (including research and case studies), visit the PPAI website at


Governor Quinn Strengthens Effort to Attract and Expand Illinois Manufacturers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Richard Martin   
Friday, 08 February 2013 15:59

Three Innovative Manufacturers Announce New Jobs in East Peoria, Colona and Chicago, Illinois

CHICAGO - February 7, 2013. As part of his commitment to drive small business growth, Governor Pat Quinn today announced new jobs at three small Illinois manufacturers. The governor is strengthening his effort to attract and expand manufacturing companies in Illinois by helping small businesses get access to capital to bridge the credit crunch and create jobs. Expansion of these businesses across Illinois today will create 75 new jobs.

The companies the governor visited today are: Vosges Haut-Chocolat in Chicago, freight firm Tennant Truck Lines Inc. in Colona and medical device maker Endotronix in Peoria.

“These high-potential companies are examples of the innovation and diversity that make up Illinois’ manufacturing landscape,” Governor Quinn said. “Small business means big business. As our state continues to recover from the great recession, we must always do all we can to boost economic growth and job creation."

Approximately three out of every four workers in Illinois are employed by a small business, according to state employment data. A small business is defined as companies that employ fewer than 500 workers. In total, there are about 271,000 small businesses in Illinois employing nearly 3.7 million workers.

The state provided the three companies with targeted investment packages, administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The packages included Advantage Illinois, a federal program that connects banks with Illinois residents to start new companies and expand existing businesses; Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) corporate income tax credits, which are based on job creation; and Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) job training funds that will help enhance the skills of their workforces.

Launched in 2011, Advantage Illinois is a five-year program that leverages $78 million in federal funding to attract almost $800 million in private sector investments. These investments allow businesses to bring innovative ideas and new products to market, and accelerate job creation and economic growth in Illinois.

Governor Quinn’s manufacturing jobs tour follows his State of the State address, in which he announced the Illinois Manufacturing Lab, an innovative, public-private approach to advanced manufacturing. The lab will serve as a hub for companies to learn the world’s most sophisticated tools and software, keeping Illinois at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing.

Under Governor Quinn's leadership, DCEO is identifying and aggressively courting companies such as Vosges, Tennant and Endotronix that are looking to expand their reach. The governor has made marketing Illinois' world-class attributes abroad part of his jobs agenda, from working with local businesses to increasing their access to global markets, to personally meeting with companies to recruit them to Illinois.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat (Chicago)

The Chicago-based chocolate maker purchased a former Whole Foods bakery building in Logan Square, and converted it into its new corporate headquarters, test kitchen and manufacturing plant. The building will eventually house a chocolate museum, a retail store and a gastropub. For the first time, Vosges will fulfill CEO Katrina Markoff's "bean to bar" mission to trace the origins of its chocolate and craft it directly from the source - the cacao bean.

Vosges will invest $3 million and create 35 jobs in Illinois. DCEO provided an Advantage Illinois Participation Loan, EDGE tax credits and ETIP training dollars worth a total of $1.7 million. In a participation loan, DCEO purchases a portion of the bank term loan at below market interest rate.

“The chocolate temple will be much more than a physical address, it will be the beating heart of our endeavors and a hub of creativity for all who care to venture with us,” Katrina Markoff, CEO and founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat said. “Working with the state, we will be able to move out of a leased facility and purchase a building that allows us to remain a home-grown Chicago business.”

Tennant Truck Lines Inc. (Colona)

The regional trucking firm built a 20,000 square foot outpost in Colona that will combine three existing facilities in the Quad Cities area. The expansion provides a modernized, central location for employees and positions the trucking firm to expand operations as the company grows. Tennant Truck Lines, founded in 1946, currently serves the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Midwest.

DCEO is providing Tennant Truck Lines with Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credits that is worth up to $1.1 million over 10 years. The trucking firm has committed to invest $2.1 million and create 30 jobs. In keeping with the terms of EDGE, if the company doesn’t meet its job creation targets and commitments, it will not be eligible for the tax credits.

“Tennant has grown the company from 75 employees in 2009 to over 200 employees in 2013,” said Aaron Tennant, CEO of the trucking company. “Tennant Truck Lines has been able to focus on a comprehensive investment in promoting professional truck driver image and respect at a state and nationwide level along with providing a solid footprint and service offering across the Mid-Atlantic.

Endotronix Inc. (East Peoria)

Endotronix is developing a sensor system for patients with congestive heart failure that prevents the need for hospitalization by allowing for critical medication adjustments by phone or office visit. The Advantage Illinois’ Invest Illinois Venture Fund (IIVF) is one of several investors providing funding for Endotronix to ramp up clinical trials to test the efficacy of the system. Central Illinois Angels is the lead investor.

IIVF is a new venture capital program that supports young, innovative companies in our state that demonstrate high growth potential. DCEO invested $400,000 to support the expansion. Endotronix agreed to create 10 jobs.

“IIVF's commitment to Endotronix was a tipping point for our company, allowing us to complete financing that funded our advanced engineering effort to overcome key technical challenges,” said Harry Rowland, CEO of Endotronix. “We are now on the cusp of tremendous growth and value creation, as our technology can improve the quality of life for patients suffering from congestive heart failure while reducing the overall costs of care. We would not be in this position today without the visionary support of IIVF and the state's leadership in supporting the development of early stage life science companies here in Illinois.”


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