From the September 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

If you run a busy homebased business, it's not easy to keep up with what's going on in your community--let alone what other homebased entrepreneurs are doing across the country. To keep you up to date, we've assembled a collection of notable homebased business happenings.

The Winner Is . . .

Midwest MicroSystems, a homebased software development firm in Ainsworth, Nebraska, recently became the eighth Cornhusker-state small business ever to win a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The $55,000 SBIR grant will be used to explore the feasibility of creating a telework model in rural communities.

"People in the city can usually find a job, particularly in Nebraska, because unemployment is so low, but if you're living 30 to 40 miles from a town with a population of 2,000, you don't have that opportunity," says Jim Lowe, founder of Midwest MicroSystems, which began in 1993 with a ranch management software program. Lowe plans to create a database of rural people interested in telework and companies that may have jobs for them.

In The Zone

The cities of Minneapolis and Austin, Texas, recently revised their home business zoning codes. The nine-month review of codes in Austin started as a move to overhaul the entire zoning system, but as various factions got involved, it was decided to simply amend the definition of a home business and add a list of prohibited businesses. Minneapolis amended and expanded its zoning code to clarify the definition of a home business and set standards on how a homebased business should operate. In both cities, officials took action in response to what they saw as the changing nature of the American workplace, as well as to find ways to resolve complaints. For more information on either code change, call the city's zoning commission.

Learning Curve

The National Home-Based Virtual Center will offer its first Internet workshop this month. Offered by the Home-Based Business Project at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, in conjunction with Wisconsin Small Business Development Centers, this experimental course is targeted at people considering opening a day-care business and offers a five-part program to anyone who can access the Internet.

The workshop consists of offline workbook exercises and live online discussions. Participants develop a feasibility plan, evaluate their business suitability and determine whether there is a market for the service. For more information, call (608) 263-7794.

On The Books

National: Congressman Bob Weygand (D-RI) recently introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to modernize the home office tax deduction. Called the Home Office Equality Act of 1997, the proposed bill would allow administrative, operational or managerial tasks to qualify a home office as the principal place of business and would not require homebased business owners to meet with clients in their homes.

Weygand purposely introduced legislation that deals only with the deduction, unlike proposals introduced by Rep. James Talent (R-MO) and Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO). Weygand believes introducing the single-subject bill will strengthen its chance for passage. He estimates his bill trims $1.1 billion from federal tax coffers across five years, while the Bond and Talent proposals are projected to slice away $8.3 billion over five years.

Arizona: Governor Fife Symington has signed legislation regarding the status of independent contractors. The Employment Security: Independent Contractors law says that if the IRS determines an individual is not an employee (and not entitled to unemployment benefits), the state's Department of Employment Security (DES) can't retroactively say the opposite, particularly if DES officials have inspected wage records and did not require a designation change.

Contact Sources

Arizona State Senate, (602) 542-3171

Midwest MicroSystems, (800) 584-0040, jim@midwestmicro.com

Office of U.S. Congressman Bob Weygand, 507 Cannon House Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20515.