Forget Black Friday, think of Small Business Saturday and support your Main Street

by Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter)

November 27, 2015

Small business sign

© Support local business

This sign is making the rounds of the internet this year, pointing out that money spent in a small business pretty much stays in the community, in the pockets of local families, instead of being shipped out to some megacorp. There are studies that prove it; a look at Grand Rapids, Michigan found that “when West Michigan consumers choose a locally owned business over a non-local alternative, $73 of every $100 spent stays in the community. By contrast, only $43 of every $100 spent at a non-locally owned business remains in the community.”

Small business Saturday© Small Business Saturday

That’s why I have never been crazy about Buy Nothing Day (someone has to buy cheeseand coffee from my kids) and I am such a fan of Small Business Saturday. People need stuff and it is coming into holiday shopping season, but where you spend your money matters. As Michael Shuman wrote:

Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.

Stephanie Meeks of the National Trust for Historic Preservation notes:

When we invest in small businesses, we are investing in Main Streets – the places that give our towns and cities a unique sense of place. By celebrating Small Business Saturday and shopping at independent businesses, everyone can play a part in strengthening our economy and supporting revitalization on our Main Streets.

It’s the TreeHugger green thing to do as well, because it is key to building a walkable city. As Alex Steffen notes:

There is a direct relationship between the kinds of places we live, the transportation choices we have, and how much we drive. The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.

If we are going to ever get people out of their cars, we have to ensure that there are alternatives. Small business and Main Streets are the key to walkability and urbanity. And as Peter Calthorpe writes:

Urbanism is, in fact, our single most potent weapon against climate change, rising energy costs, and environmental degradation.

So really, where you shop and how you get there have serious implications. if Small Business Saturday feels too corporate, (It was founded and is supported by American Express) remember this campaign that came out of the Occupy movement: Reoccupy Main Street.

reoccupyReoccupy Main Street/CC BY 2.0

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10 Thanksgiving Facts You May Not Have Known

10 Thanksgiving Facts You May Not Have Known

By:

While you’re stuffing your face full of turkey this Thanksgiving, here’s 10 facts about the holiday that you may not even know!

  1. Thanksgiving was not an official National holiday in the U.S. until 1941
  2. In 2010, 42.2 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving
  3. An average of 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving
  4. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place in New York City in 1924
  5. The Detroit Lions have played a football game on Thanksgiving day every year since 1934, except between 1939 and 1944.
  6. President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed Thanksgiving day from the last Thursday in November to the 2nd Thursday in November to try to boost the economy by creating 2 extra weeks of Christmas shopping.  The change only lasted 3 years (1939, 1940 and 1941) before congress changed the date back.
  7. Since 1947, it’s been a tradition for every President of the United States to “pardon” a turkey on Thanksgiving.  The turkey gets to live the rest of it’s life on a farm.
  8. Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey the national bird of the U.S.
  9. Turkeys that lived near an Air Force test site died of heart attacks from the shock of  a jet that flew over at super sonic speeds
  10. The first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621 lasted for 3 days

Cities Adopting ‘Default To Green’

Indianapolis is one of several cities adopting 'default to green' policies. Its new bike-sharing program is just one of many sustainable development initiatives underway.
Indianapolis is one of several cities adopting ‘default to green’ policies. Its new bike-sharing program is just one of many sustainable development initiatives underway.

Cities are the 21st-century battleground for mankind’s adoption of sustainability. It is in cities and their surrounding urban areas where 54 percent of the world’s population live, including 270 million Americans.

Cities, rather than farms or factories, are now the largest driver of economic growth. Our top 20 metropolitan areas account for 52 percent of our national GDP. It is inside our cities where we convert most of our consumerism into garbage, emissions and excretions. Most of the pollution we breathe is either sourced inside a city or created to generate electricity for a city. Our daily lives are now tied to the ability of municipal infrastructure to withstand or repair the damaging impacts of storms made more intense by global warming.

The growing weight of human and environmental health impacts is forcing city governments to push aside the legislative luxury of debating whether climate change is real. The health impacts of mass-marketed food porn is forcing mayors and city councils into local actions that attempt to slow an unprecedented increase in obesity and diabetes. Innovation is now the imperative for city mayors, councils, staff and community leaders in search of best practices that will sustain their economies and the health of their citizens. Their combined quest is to enable a community and business environment where adopting green best practices is the default option rather than a “change-order” from the norm.

‘Default to green’

Gil Friend is the chief sustainability officer for the city of Palo Alto, California. He exemplifies how city staffs around the world are pushing innovation’s boundaries to discover, and adopt, sustainable solutions. Friend is leading a strategic assessment and stakeholder outreach to surface Palo Alto’s alternative paths for achieving an 80 percent reduction in emissions. It was from Friend that I first heard of the phrase “default to green.”

I had the opportunity to talk with Friend at the 2015 Sustainable Brands conference. The following short video is edited to highlight the many innovations achieved by Palo Alto, including:

  • 80 percent landfill diversion
  • Innovations by the city’s municipal utility to achieve carbon-neutral electricity supplies
  • The adoption of a new contracting criteria that makes choosing the green supply option the default selection, rather than a change-order, from normal procurement criteria.

Indianapolis

Default to green is not a “California thing.” It is now emerging as a global mega-trend in cities around the world. I saw it on the streets of Indianapolis while visiting this progressive town as the keynote speaker at its annual SustainIndy dinner, an annual event that attracts 500 attendees.

Indianapolis, like most cities, is in constant search of economic development that will generate quality jobs and taxes that can sustain the city’s economy and community services. Under Republican Mayor Greg Ballard’s leadership, the city has invested in sidewalks and hundreds of miles of bike paths that has successfully sparked residential development. The walkability and bike-ability of the city has made it a tourist destination.

Around town, I found conveniently located bike-sharing stands and plenty of riders pedaling to charming urban centers hosting an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops and theaters. Corporate America has discovered that Indianapolis’s investment in walkability and bike-ability has made it highly attractive to millennials. Cummins is building a new office building, and Eli Lilly is both a major employer and one of the 10 coolest places to work in Indianapolis. (If a town has a list of “cool” places to work then that is a sure sign it is attractive to the millennial generation.)

Cities pioneering 100 pecent renewable electricity

Aspen, Colorado, Burlington, Vermont, and Greensburg, Kansas, are now running their cities on 100 percent renewable energy. Austin, Texas, has set a target of sourcing the majority of its electricity from renewable energy in 10 years. That city just recently signed a 400-megawatt solar power contract for an unprecedented average price of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

While state utility commissions continue to move at a snail’s pace from their entanglement in 100 years of utility regulatory law, it is city governments that are proving that electrical service can be reliable, cost effective, zero emissions and the default-to-green choice.

21st-century trends shape sustainable development

Default to green is now emerging as a 21st-century best practice. Global manufacturing economies of scale in solar, batteries and smart building technologies are positioning zero net energy buildings as the least cost, and lowest emissions, solution to urban pollution. Autonomous electric vehicles will revolutionize how people move about a city while also dramatically reducing the emissions footprint of urban transportation.

It is our urban millennials that are breaking free from mass-marketed food porn by adopting “lose weight, have fun, live more” obesity and diabetes solutions for themselves and their parents.

It is in our cities where the pioneering 21st-century path away from consumerism’s emissions, excretions and waste is being paved with default-to-green innovations that will enhance human health and our economy.

Image credit: Bill Roth

At this architecture firm, the lunch table is the life of the party

Snøhetta working lunch

It this table for work or for lunch? Yes. (Photo: Snøhetta)

In most North American offices, the lunchroom, if there is one at all, is a windowless horror with a fridge and a microwave. According to MNN, only a third of Americans take a lunch break, and 65 percent of workers eat at their desks.

It’s a very different scene in Scandinavia; in fact, it’s law that there has to be a canteen, a place to have lunch. The Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta takes it to a whole new level. They build their office around the lunch table, which is a place to eat, a place to meet, and a place to work.

Danish Architecture CentrePictures at the exhibition in the Danish Architecture Centre. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

In August, I visited the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen, where Snøhetta built an exhibition about their office around a long photograph of their long table. Now Anthony Paletta writes about how it works for Metropolis, showing the photos taken for that exhibition. He writes in architectese:

Like an Italian piazza, the key to the lunchroom is the indeterminacy of its function and also the synergy it stimulates. The tables, depending on the hour, sprout varying topographies of models, renderings, charts, laptops, and foodstuffs. An orderly meal with uniform plates and cutlery punctuates the daily life of the Oslo tables; the American panoply of lunches spans a greater variety, from takeout to brown-bagged, and stretches across a longer span of hours.

Snøhetta lunchTable in Oslo, set for lunch. (Photo: Snøhetta)

Translated into English, that means they use the tables for lots of different functions, have a meal together in Oslo; but in America they eat lunch like Americans, grazing whatever and whenever out of feed bags. Which is a shame, because as Craig Dykers, principal and founder of Snøhetta notes, it’s important to develop relationships within an office: “A lot of architects talk about creating more socially inviting formulas, and yet most of their offices, the way they’re set up, they aren’t at all social.”

Snøhetta workingTable used for work. Don’t know what they do at lunchtime. (Photo: Snøhetta)

Architects’ offices are very much a reflection of the personalities of the architects running them, which was why mine was made out of old doors on cheap IKEA trestles and was a complete mess. That’s why I find this one so impressive and admirable, with so much space devoted to the table that serves so many functions but is primarily social, a place to get together. Because as Dykers notes, “If we don’t have a space like this to show them, how can we expect them to believe us?”

There is much to love about this, and much to learn from it. Above all, meals should be healthy, and meals should be enjoyed. This is very different from the tech companies that have food available all the time to encourage employees to never leave their desks. The phrase “turn the tables” comes from the medieval practice ofdining on what were essentially boards on trestles, which were then turned, or removed so that the room could serve other functions. Snøhetta has turned the table on the conventional office lunchroom in a way that should be a model for others.

America Recycles Day is Nov. 15: Pledge to Recycle!

ARD_IR_Logo_Green_Nov.-15

Thousands of creative recycling events are being planned for America Recycles Day <http://americarecyclesday.org>  (ARD), a Keep America Beautiful initiative, which takes place on and in the weeks leading up to Nov. 15. America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. In its 18th year, ARD educates people about the importance of recycling to our economy and environmental well-being, and helps to motivate occasional recyclers to become everyday recyclers.

A number of ARD special events are focusing on this year’s theme of “Bathrooms, Bags & Gadgets.” They include:

  • Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies and its Care to Recycle  <http://caretorecycle.com/> program are giving away 10,000 bathroom recycling bags this ARD. The objective is to provide a reminder to individuals about what bathroom items are recyclable.
  • CyclePoint® from SourceAmerica®, the 46-member nonprofit eRecycling network whose mission is to create jobs for people with disabilities, will be hosting 50 eRecycling events nationwide, including marquee events in Maryland, Michigan and Oklahoma.
  • More than 100 collection and educational events featuring plastic bag recycling are taking place during 2015 America Recycles Day.

“Bathrooms, Bags & Gadgets” shines a light on some of the everyday but not “top of mind” consumer products, which can and should be given another life through recycling. These include personal care items commonly found in the bathroom, such as haircare and mouthwash bottles; plastic bags and wraps used in packaging produce, paper towels, bathroom tissue or dry cleaning that can be recycled at grocery stores; and consumer electronics and gadgets, such as mobile phones, tablets, game consoles, TVs and more.

“There are so many consumer products beyond aluminum cans and plastic bottles that can be recycled and made into something new and useful, which is why this year’s theme is ‘Bathrooms, Bags and Gadgets,’” said Brenda Pulley, Keep America Beautiful’s senior vice president, recycling. “We also want to encourage people to participate in the ‘I Will Recycle’ online pledge sweepstakes, which is a fun and engaging way to commit to recycling this America Recycles Day.”

During ARD 2015, individuals are encouraged to take the “I Will Recycle” Pledge, which runs through Nov. 20. The “I Will Recycle” Sweepstakes will provide four people the chance to win an Apple Certified Refurbished iPad mini 3. Individuals are encouraged to demonstrate their recycling spirit and automatically be entered in the sweepstakes by posting a photo on Twitter at @KABTweet or @RecyclesDay or @KeepAmericaBeautiful on Instagram holding a recyclable product that they pledge to recycle with the hashtags #IWillRecycle and #Sweepstakes. Individuals must enable public viewing of Twitter and Instagram photos. Keep America Beautiful may share tagged social media posts with its fans and four individuals will be selected at random to win an Apple Certified Refurbished iPad mini 3. For more details on how to enter, read the Official Rules.

Keep America Beautiful, in partnership with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and other partners, will host a Congressional briefing for ARD on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The purpose of the briefing is to provide information to Members of Congress and staff about the state of recycling, the business of recycling, its many benefits, and the importance of engaging individuals to recycle.

Other featured ARD 2015 events include:

  • New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who is chair of the Council Sanitation Committee, will celebrate ARD on Saturday, Nov. 14, with an event at the Cooper Park Houses in Brooklyn. The 1:00 p.m. event is being conducted along with the New York City Housing Authority and the City of New York Department of Sanitation, with participation by Keep America Beautiful and GrowNYC.
  • In celebration of ARD, Mathy Stanislaus, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and EPA Region 4 Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney will announce preliminary results of the EPA’s analysis on job creation in the recycling sector as well as a discussion about the importance of recycling to the supply chain. This Nov. 16 event will occur at the Food Recovery Summit, a meeting bringing together industry leaders to discuss steps to achieve the announced goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030.
  • For the second year in Georgia, during the week of Nov. 9-15, K-12 school students in the state of Georgia are encouraged to read books that celebrate, educate, and encourage waste reduction activities through the Read for Recycle Georgia program.
  • America Recycles Day at SandBlast 2015 on Saturday, Nov. 14, in Holmes Beach, Florida, is a sand sculpture competition that helps raise awareness about recycling.

It’s not too late to register your ARD event at AmericaRecyclesDay.org. Local organizers can schedule events in their communities and gain access to valuable resources to plan, promote and host an ARD event.  Events can be scheduled any time during the fall, but should be held as close to Nov. 15 as possible.

Learn more about ARD at http://americarecyclesday.org where you can find a recycling event near you, register to host your own, or discover more information about how, when and where to recycle in your community. For more information, visit www.kab.org.

How To Dodge A Tax Hit When  Selling Rental Property

ap-home-sales-4_3
By Making The Right Move, Sellers Can
Sidestep The Capital Gains Tax

The life of a landlord certainly isn’t easy.

There are plumbing issues that eat into time and money. There are tenants who fail to pay the rent. There are broken leases and leaky roofs.

And the hassles don’t even end when the beleaguered landlord finally decides to sell the property. After the deal closes, the Internal Revenue Service is waiting in the wings to collect a capital gains tax on the profits from the sale.

“Depending on your situation that can definitely end up being a significant hit when tax time arrives,” says Dwight Kay, founder and CEO of Kay Properties and Investments (www.kpi1031.com).

But Kay says with the right planning those landlords – and anyone who sells commercial property – can sidestep paying the capital gains tax.

Here’s how: When they sell their property, they can invest the proceeds in what is referred to as “like-kind” property using Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. Essentially, they are exchanging one piece of commercial property for another, but hopefully one that better meets their needs, Kay says.

“A landlord who decides he’s tired of all the work he has to put in on his rental property could use the exchange to get an income-producing property where someone else is dealing with all the problems,” he says.

All types of commercial properties can be considered “like-kind,” including apartment buildings, vacant land, farmland, office buildings and warehouses among other properties.

One drawback is that the seller has just 45 days to identify what property they are going to exchange into. It’s not always easy to find 1031 exchanges quickly, but there’s also a solution to that, Kay says.

If the seller qualifies as an accredited investor, which is generally defined as an investor with a net worth of greater than $1 million dollars excluding their primary residence, the seller can potentially invest in Delaware Statutory Trust properties.  A Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) is a trust that lets investors buy an interest in commercial property, but managing the property is left to professional asset managers. Because Delaware Statutory Trust properties are pre-packaged for 1031 exchange investors, they provide a viable solution for those concerned about meeting that 45-day deadline.

Also, despite the name, the property doesn’t have to be in Delaware. Kay, for example, says his Los Angeles and New York City-based company works with clients and properties in all 50 states.  Kay goes on to say, “A Delaware Statutory Trust property could be a property that has a long term lease with Costco or Walgreens or it could be a 200 unit apartment community built in 2014 and located in Denver, Colorado.  Investors are able to invest as little as $100,000 into each DST thereby creating a diversified portfolio for there 1031 exchange.”

Kay says there a several potential benefits for investors. Here are just a few:

Eliminating the day-to-day headaches of property management. The Delaware Statutory Trust 1031 property provides a passive ownership structure, allowing the investor to enjoy retirement, grandkids, travel and leisure, as well as to focus on other things that they are more passionate about instead of property management.

Increased cash flow potential. Many investors are receiving a lower amount of cash flow on their current properties than they potentially could be, Kay says. That might be because their properties have under-market rents or multiple vacancies. It could be that they have raw or vacant land that is sitting idle. These Delaware Statutory Trust exchange properties provide an opportunity for investors to potentially increase their cash flow on their real estate holdings.

Portfolio diversification. Often times, 1031 investors are selling a property that comprises a substantial amount of their net worth. They want to reduce their potential risk and instead of buying one property they decide that investing into a diversified portfolio of Delaware State Trust properties is a better fit for their goals and objectives.

About Dwight Kay

Dwight Kay, founder and CEO of Kay Properties and Investments, LLC (KPI) (www.kpi1031.com), is a Series 7, 22 and 63 licensed, Registered Representative and Real Estate Professional.  His firm, Kay Properties and Investments, specializes in Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) brokerage and advisory services.  Kay Properties and Investments currently has offices in Los Angeles as well as in New York City and offers securities through Colorado Financial Service Corporation, Member FINRA/SIPC.  Kay Properties and Investments, LLC and Colorado Financial Service Corporation are separate entities.  OSJ Address: 304 Inverness Way S, Ste 355, Centennial, Colorado.

Debunking the myth that high rental ratios make it harder for owners to sell

Will a high number of rented units in your condo association make it difficult for you to sell? Nope. And here’s why…

There is a common myth that a high number of rented units in a condo building will make it harder for a unit owner to sell. This isn’t true as long as the buyer intends the occupy the unit. Condo sellers can confidently market their unit to prospective owner-occupants even if the existing ratio of rentals in the building is high. If the buyer is an investor, however, an existing ratio of more than 50% is likely to halt the sale.

But if you are a condo owner who wants to purchase an additional unit in your OWN building for investment purposes, you may be creating trouble for your neighbors who want to sell. That’s because if more than 10% of the units are owned by a single investor, it will be difficult for anyone to purchase a unit, whether they intend to live in it or not, without putting down a large cash payment.

Lauren Peddinghaus is the CEO and Co-Founder of CondoGrade. She is also the owner of Haus Financial Services, LLC and ChicagoCondoResource.com. Lauren has been solving condo financial problems for over 10 years. It’s her mission to educate condo owners about the true financial responsibilities of condo ownership.