Ohio & Pennsylvania
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Ohio and Pennsylvania entrepreneurs who are customers of Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company, Toledo Edison or Penn Power can obtain a variety of discounted services and products through the FirstEnergy Advantage program.
Enrollment in the program, the first of its kind in the United States, is free for customers. Among the discounted products and services available are business insurance, health benefits, fuel, overnight delivery, personal computers and office supplies.
For more information on the program, call (800)465-3380 or visit FirstEnergy's Web site at http://www.feadvantage.com.
Wanted: urban minority-owned businesses
Entrepreneurs who already operate a business or plan to start a company in a low-income urban area in Massachusetts can apply for loans of $20,000 to $100,000 from the Urban Initiative Fund.
The program is for companies in any industry that have less than $500,000 in annual sales and are at least 51 percent ethnic minority-owned. Principals in start-up firms must demonstrate industry knowledge and the management experience to make their businesses successful. Businesses that have credit issues are eligible if they are in the process of resolving their difficulties.
In addition to providing loans, the Urban Initiative Fund offers to help entrepreneurs by paying part of the cost of up to $5,000 of technical services such as consulting and accounting.
Supplement your health-care insurer's information resources.
Employers who want to offer workers more health-care information than their insurers provide can subscribe to the Mayo Clinic Healthquest Online. This Web site includes everything from an "advice nurse," where users can look up symptoms and get information on treating more than 150 common ailments, to a personal score card, where users can input information to determine what health problems they may be at risk for.
Those seeking to change bad habits can set up a health-management plan, which includes progress reports, rewards and encouragement. Also featured are simple, nutritious recipes.
Finally, employers can customize Healthquest's home page to give employees company news about health and benefits programs.
The cost of a monthly subscription to Healthquest Online varies depending on company size. The minimum fee is $995 for fewer than 100 employees. For more information or to subscribe, call (800)430-9699 or visit http://www.mhqprodinfo.org.
Keeping your employees off drugs--the resources you need to do it right
If you think employee drug abuse doesn't impact your business, think again. According to Ontrack Program Resources Inc., a nonprofit community-aid organization, nearly 60 percent of U.S. workers using drugs are employed by small businesses, and during the past year, one in four employees between ages 18 and 35 used illicit drugs. The results: higher workers' comp premiums and unemployment insurance rates as well as reduced productivity.
Using these and other facts, Ontrack has developed a drug-free workplace program to help small businesses in California. Ontrack targets firms with up to 50 employees but will also work with selected larger companies. Among the help offered is guidance for developing a workplace drug policy, training for supervisors and managers, creation of employee-awareness programs and information on where to refer workers.
Assistance is provided free via phone, fax, on-site consulting and through the company's Web site, which offers downloadable templates. For more information, call (888) 900-4288 or visit http://www.ontrackatwork.net.