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In an ever-changing business world, it is important to maintain a source of factual information on a timely basis. The Employers Association is a not-for-profit Charlotte organization that serves as a unique source for human resources and training services targeted to keeping area member business owners, managers and executives abreast of current developments and concerns in the human resources arena.
Founded in 1958, the Association maintains a broad-based membership of over 700 companies from all industries in the greater Charlotte region. As a member-driven organization, it strives to “Build a Better Business Climate” by providing services to management that help companies create and maintain positive and productive employer/employee relationships.
The Employers Association is one of over 70 non-profit HR associations around the country providing HR services to their regional memberships, and through the Employer Association Group (EAG), sharing information with the other members of the EAG. Members of the Association who need national data from different geographical areas have this access through reciprocity arrangements with these other organizations. The EAG, under the auspices of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), has its offices in Washington, D.C., and monitors closely the actions of the federal government on matters affecting employers. It generally makes survey information available to EAG members for no cost or low cost in exchange for member participation in the surveys.
The Employers Association offers its members various services including: a monthly newsletter, The Management Report, informing members on new legislation and trends affecting human resources, a comprehensive Web site, www.employersassoc.com , management and computer training, and a human resources advice hotline. In particular, The Employers Association, conducts the most comprehensive local benchmark surveys in the region for wages, salaries, policies, practices and benefits.
Below is a selection of items from their most recent online reports as well as their 2001 Benefits Survey:
NC Unemployment Tax Rate Likely to Double. On March 8, Congress approved $8 billion in funds to bolster lagging state unemployment trust funds. Although North Carolina received $247 million in federal assistance, it probably won?t be enough to prevent the state unemployment tax rate imposed on employers from doubling next year. The federal money raised the balance of the state fund to approximately $609 million. State law requires the tax rate be doubled if the trust fund falls below $800 million on August 1 of any year.
North Carolina paid out a record $136 million in January 2002. As the state continues to struggle with the loss of jobs, particularly in manufacturing and textile industries, the fund is not likely to reach the $800 million threshold by August 2002.
Today, the tax rate paid by North Carolina employers is 1.2 percent of the first $15,500 in wages paid to an employee. The impact of the potential rate increase to 2.4 percent for an employer with 10 employees earning at least the base amount is a tax payment of $3,720 instead of $1,860. In addition to the financial costs for current employers, the increase may also have a negative impact on the state?s ability to compete for new industry and jobs at a time when the need for additional employers is critical. [The Charlotte Observer]
Can Employees Collect Unemployment? Member companies that require a mandatory temporary shutdown week may wonder whether or not employees would be eligible to collect unemployment during this time. Many organizations in textiles and related industries have made it a regular practice to shut down their operation the weeks of July 4th and December 25th. The North Carolina Employment SecurityAct permits employers to designate up to two weeks per calendar year as vacation weeks. The Employment Security Commission does not consider employees as “available for work” during these periods. Thus the employees are not eligible to collect unemployment, even if the vacation period is without pay. Employers must give employees reasonable notice and specify the shutdowns as vacation weeks.
Vacation Shutdowns. South Carolina employers should be aware that vacation shutdowns may be treated differently by the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. Employers that schedule shut downs should clearly communicate their policy to employees in writing. (www.scecs.org)
Youth Employment and Driving Restrictions. Employers considering hiring young employees for summer jobs need to be aware of federal restrictions on teenage driving while on the job. Sixteen-year-old employees are now completely prohibited from driving on public roads while working. Seventeen-year-olds may only drive under specific conditions. The Teen Drive for Employment Act amended the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and became effective October 31, 1998.
The regulations provide several guidelines for seventeen-year-old drivers. They require that driving be only occasional and incidental to the job. This means no more than one-third of the youth?s work time in any workday and no more than 20 percent of the youth?s work time in any workweek may be spent driving. They may only take two trips away from the job site in a single day to deliver goods and no more than two trips per day to transport passengers other than employees.
The Department of Labor has published information to help employers make sure teens work safely. For more details, see the Department of Labor web site at www.dol.gov HR Manager?s Legal Reporter).
Other topics that may be of interest in the online reports include:? Will you be ready when a friendly Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) inspector knocks on your door?
Bipolar Disorder is a physical illness, court rules, forcing companies to take a hard look at the mental illness vs. physical illness provisions in their medical plans.
Employers of younger people for summer jobs are also subject to state employment laws. NC/SC Youth Employment laws regulate youth employment and especially hours of work.
The above information was provided by The Employers Association. For more information regarding these laws and regulations call Laura Hampton at The Employers Association at 704-522-8011.
Her genuine enthusiasm for
Already an active and influential research facility, UNC Charlotte designed the Charlotte Research Institute (formerly the Charlotte Institute for Technology Innovation) ?to accelerate growth of research programs at UNC Charlotte in focused areas,? explains the university?s Chancellor James Woodward. ?These concentrations create opportunity for economic growth in
Clayton is charged with leading the endeavor to promote and obtain community support for concentrated research efforts in three key areas of technology ? precision metrology, optoelectronics and optical communications, and eBusiness technology. The Institute is fueled by a $10 million grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, as well as support by business partners. It is a result of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce 1998 initiative, Advantage Carolina, developed to help
According to Clayton, UNC Charlotte has great potential to build on its strengths in the areas of research and development activity and is poised to become a household name in research excellence. The institution will work to attract research funding, help coordinate interdisciplinary and collaborative research projects, and serve as a resource for local businesses.
?I am familiar with many universities and feel that UNC Charlotte is unique in that there is a real sense of community, a sense of working together to get something done,? she explains, describing her job as ?a combination of the most enjoyable aspects of every job I?ve had.?
Since taking the position nine months ago, Clayton has been at work assessing and building the infrastructure of the program, as well as establishing ties with local, state and government organizations. ?The faculty here has extraordinary talent and I couldn?t ask for better leadership from Chancellor James Woodward and interim Provost Wayne Walcott. In addition, many of my colleagues have offered advice and assistance. These have helped to create a very efficient and effective operation.?
Additionally, Clayton has already collaborated with the
Clayton was recruited from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) (U.S. Department of Energy) where she was the manager of operations for the Office of Technology Transfer. Her experiences in four unique cultures ? universities, a start-up company, a large corporation and a federal laboratory ? have proved valuable in building and leading successful teams, yielding impressive results.
For example, as assistant director of the Electron Microscopy Laboratory at the
At ANL, Clayton managed an aggressive program to transfer Argonne?s technology to the private sector. She also served as program manager of the Office of Science, Laboratory Technology Research Program at ANL, where she planned technical program activities funded by the U.S. Department of Energy?s Office of Science. During her tenure, Clayton garnered $79 million in collaborative research funding, as well as positioned ANL as a leader ($21 million) in the American Textile Partnership, a $100 million federally supported initiative; instituted the Technical Services Program with the North Business and Industrial Council, a leading economic development organization; served as energy research chair in the Federal Laboratory?s Small Business Initiative; and introduced the concept of a multi-laboratory national database at ANL, which was instituted in March 1995.
?My life has been dedicated to collaborative efforts,? says Clayton. ?I feel fortunate to have had experience in many professional environments, which gives me a unique perspective on how several oftentimes disparate groups can work together.? During her career she has developed a strong network, which in the research business, is as important as it is to conventional industry. It?s still all about ?Who you know.? This network, she says, has already helped her begin to organize specific programs, such as student exchange and faculty exchange programs within the Institute, as well as provide useful contacts to help her identify viable research funding.
Establishing a New Level of Research
?The findings of the Kaiser and McKinsey studies made it obvious that UNC Charlotte?s achievement of top-level research status is essential for continued growth in our region,? says Russell M. Robinson II, senior partner with Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, innovative technology initiative ?champion? for Advantage Carolina, and board member of the Charlotte Research Institute.
The opening of the Charlotte Research Institute and its activities reaffirms the university?s 2000 classification upgrade to ?Research Intensive University? by The Carnegie Foundation, an organization that ranks and classifies institutions according to their degree-granting activity. The ?Intensive University? classification is granted based on a school?s awarding of at least 10 doctoral degrees per year across three or more disciplines, or at least 20 doctoral degrees per year overall. UNC Charlotte?s goal is to achieve the highest classification level, ?Research Extensive University,? in which it must award 50 or more doctoral degrees per year across at least 15 disciplines.
?The enhanced activities of the Research Institute will attract additional students in more disciplines giving a basis for more doctoral program offerings,? says Robinson. This past November, 11 Ph.D. students and seven master?s students were admitted to the Optical Science and Engineering Ph.D. program and seven students were accepted at the master?s level for the Applied Physics program. ?These degree offerings are obviously filling a need and are enhancing the university?s research programs, which, in turn, makes them more attractive for state and federal support,? explains Clayton.
This level of research will not only provide innovative solutions and products to industry, but will also develop a new generation of skilled technology professionals who will be attractive to potential companies looking to expand into the region, points out Robinson. ?We need to be able to offer an educated work force to companies, since filling jobs with skilled workers is a key consideration for them when deciding where to locate their companies,? he says.
UNC Charlotte’s strategy for building its research potential involves enhancing the assets it has, specifically the areas of precision metrology, optoelectronics and optical communications, and eBusiness technology. Funded as part of a $190,000,000 general obligation bond issue by a $92 million referendum bond, a 100-acre site located along U.S. 29/North Tryon Street is being developed to build three facilities to house laboratories and work space for the study and research of Science and Technology, Engineering and applied optics and physics. In addition, part of the Institute campus will be dedicated to companies who wish to establish R&D operations to be in close proximity to the Charlotte Research Institute.
Three Centers Key to Institute Success
Subatomic measuring machines, secure Internet-connected handheld devices, ?smart? houses, voice and iris recognition. These sound rather futuristic, but the technology is already here and is fueled by research within the three centers of the Charlotte Research Institute.
Center for Precision Metrology ? Dr. Robert Hocken, Director
Developed in the late ?80s, the Center for Precision Metrology is the oldest and best known nationally of the Charlotte Research Institute?s three primary research areas. It is a National Science Foundation Center with an annual research budget exceeding $1.5 million. Precision metrology faculty and students measure or develop manufacturing processes for items as small as an Intel computer chip and as large as parts for a Boeing aircraft. The center works with 10 corporate affiliates who fund core research and also contract for proprietary projects. Affiliate members include companies such as Intel, Boeing, Caterpillar, National Institute for Standards and Technology and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications ? Dr. Michael Fiddy, Director
Although courses in optics have been offered at UNC Charlotte since the late 1970s, the Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications was launched just last year. Faculty in seven different departments ? chemistry, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, physics and optical science, and software and information systems ? are engaged in optics research that generates nearly $3 million annually in external funding.
The state of North Carolina, at the request of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, has committed $250,000 a year to UNC Charlotte for research in optoelectronics.
To broaden UNC Charlotte?s and Western Carolina University?s optoelectronics programs, the two universities formed a partnership in November 2001. Additionally, last June the two universities and Clemson University, with the pledge of federal assistance, formed the Carolinas MicroOptics Triangle to make the corridor between upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina attractive to major industries that manufacture optoelectronic and photonic components.
Since 1995, UNC Charlotte optoelectronics researchers have licensed 15 products for industry and created four spin-off companies. Since 1997, they have disclosed 18 inventions.
eBusiness Technology Institute ? Olin Broadway, Director
UNC Charlotte?s eBusiness Institute is the youngest center, established only in May 2002. Committing $1 million each over four years as charter partners, Bank of America and Wachovia Bank have contracted with the university to address new business solutions across a variety of applications. Special emphasis is being placed on data security, privacy and cryptography. Drawing upon the resources of the colleges of Information Technology and Business Administration, the institute will examine ways to make e-business more efficient, consumer friendly, innovative and secure.
Increasing Visibility through Marketing
Clayton admits that at this point, the activity already underway at UNC Charlotte often goes unnoticed. Her plan is to change all that. ?We are planning a targeted marketing campaign that will bring our name and research acumen to the forefront,? she says. Initial efforts include inviting the business community to seminars and programs and addressing the needs of small business through collaboration with the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Small Business Technology Transfer program of the Small Business Technology Development Center.
Short-term goals Clayton shares include the continuation of a visiting scholars program, the creation of a distinguished visiting faculty summer program, the establishment of a post-doctoral fellowship program and initiation of a Federal Laboratory student summer program where UNC Charlotte undergraduate and master?s degree students would work with scientists at Argonne Laboratory during the summer break.
?Anytime you have a community event mixing corporate, academic, and government research leaders, an opportunity for networking and identifying collaborative opportunities is presented,? affirms Clayton.