Tennessee Examples of Tax Reform Good News

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Posted by John Kartch on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019, 10:20 AM PERMALINK

Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted by congressional Republicans and President Trump, 90 percent of American wage earners have higher take-home pay. And employers of all sizes are hiring, raising pay, increasing benefits, upgrading equipment and expanding operations.

Below are several examples of tax reform good news in Tennessee. (Additions to this list can be sent to jkartch@atr.org).

Excel Boat Company (Ridgely, Tennessee) - Opening a new manufacturing plant:

“In Lake County, Excel Boat Company announced they will be opening a manufacturing plant that will bring 200 good-paying jobs and a total economic development investment of $9 million.” - May 8, 2018, Rep. David Kustoff statement on House floor

Tractor Supply (Franklin, Tennessee) - Increased wages at stores and distribution centers, invest in new stores, share repurchases:

Tractor Supply's CEO Greg Sandfort underscored the need to pay workers competitively in a January conference call and said the Brentwood-based company will advance wages at stores and distribution centers as a result of the new tax law. The company employs 1,200 in Middle Tennessee.

"Given some of the tax advantages that we have, we're going to stay not only very competitive on wages, but in many cases, we're going to be probably the person maybe leading up in the wages because we need to make sure we've got the best people, period," Sandfort said.

Tractor Supply, which had an income tax expense of $250 million in 2017, also plans to invest in new stores and online sales, and return money to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends. The company did not elaborate on how much will be allocated to those investments or the size of the wage increases. - July 29, 2018, Tennessean article excerpt

Ole Smoky Distillery (Gatlinburg, Tennessee) - bonuses for non-senior management employees, purchasing new equipment, opening a new distillery, hiring new employees:

“We are very supportive of the new tax programs, as they are providing an opportunity for us to further invest in our team and business activities,” said Robert Hall, CEO of Ole Smoky Distillery. “We greatly value all our very talented employees, and are always striving to do what is best for them and the surrounding community. We will be using some of our tax savings to reward many of these hardworking individuals, as well as increasing our investment in new business endeavors. We couldn’t think of a better day to make this announcement.”

The moonshine distillery will be using some of the tax cut savings to provide bonuses for all employees below senior management, proportional to their tenure with the company. Additionally, because of its rapid business growth, the company has created many more jobs, particularly in East Tennessee, and plans to continue that growth by investing further in its Sevier County distilleries and expanding its footprint to Nashville, where it plans to open a 4th distillery and retail/entertainment location in the fall. New equipment has already been installed at the company’s largest distillery, the Holler, in order to expand production capacity. More equipment is on order for its Pittman Center bottling facility to continue the capacity expansion of that facility. - April 17, 2018, Ole Smoky Distillery press release excerpt

Sugarlands Distilling Company (Gatlinburg, Tennessee) – The Craft Beverage Modernization Act – a key part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – helped Sugarlands Distilling Company plan a new 42,000 square foot distillery and barrel house. Sugarland is also investing $2 million in new equipment:

“We’re a small distillery, and this is a huge risk, one that we couldn’t have taken without the Craft Beverage Modernization Act. That’s given us the capital and the confidence that we needed to make a big bet on the future of our company. This month, we are breaking ground on a 42,000 square foot distillery and barrel house. We’re purchasing over $2 million worth of equipment, including one of the biggest pot stills Vendome has ever made. Each year, we’ll be buying almost $3 million pounds of corn and rye, and thousands of handcrafted American Oak barrels to produce our Tennessee whiskey.” -- Ned Vickers, President and CEO of Sugarlands Distilling Company

Sugarlands has a wonderful new video telling the story of the expansion. Here is an excerpt from the video:

“Our business is our passion. But just like every other business, we have our share of challenges. The Craft Beverage Modernization Act has allowed us to plan expansion, buy new equipment, create more jobs, and introduce ourselves to people in new neighborhoods. It means we can continue making an impact felt by all of our families, partners, and friends, for years to come.”

Sugarlands Distilling Company is a maker of many fine moonshines available online or in person in Gatlinburg.

Old Forge Distillery (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee) -- The company said that they plan on using the savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to upgrade equipment and add more employees.

Kris Tatum, president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild and partner/general manager at Old Forge Distillery in Pigeon Forge, said members of the guild are “ecstatic” to save money on taxes and reinvest in their businesses. He said the East Tennessee distillery he manages plans to use the savings to upgrade equipment and potentially add another staff member to help with a new line of spirits. 

“This benefits everyone in the industry. That’s what I think is huge,” Tatum said. “Often tax breaks go to either the big guys or the little guys, but not everybody at one time.” -- February 19, 2018 USA Today article

Ozark Motor Lines (Memphis, Tennessee) – New driver per diem program:

Ozark Motor Lines and Whiteline Express have announced new pay packages for drivers.

Ozark, a family-owned ground transportation services company based in Memphis, Tennessee, said effective June 1 experienced over-the-road and regional drivers will receive 2 cents per mile increase while driving teams will receive an additional 1 cent per mile.

Also, Ozark Motor Lines is rolling out its first-ever driver per diem program to benefit drivers in response to tax law changes that went into effect earlier this year.

“It’s always great to be able to raise pay for our hard-working professional drivers,” said Patrick Landreth, vice president of human resources and safety. “These truck drivers have such an important job, Ozark makes it a priority to reward them for it.” – April 30, 2018 TheTrucker.com article excerpt

HCA Healthcare (Nashville, Tennessee) - New investments in facilities, expansion and technology development, increased employee training programs, employee education benefits, and increased family leave :

For HCA in Nashville, the tax cut means a nearly 30 percent increase, or $2.3 billion more, in capital spending during the next three years that will go to facility improvements, new facilities and greater technology. The company expects the spending to drive growth and add jobs, CEO Milton Johnson said in a conference call this year.

Along with initiating a 35 cent quarterly dividend to reward shareholders, HCA also announced a $300 million investment in the workforce that will go to education programs for nurses and caregivers, tuition reimbursements and scholarships for employees and greater family leave.

"We believe these programs will help improve patient experience and create more career opportunities for our employees," Johnson said in the call. - July 29, 2018, Tennessean article excerpt

Eastman Chemical (Kingsport, Tennessee) - Investing in innovation programs, increased capital expenditures to expand manufacturing:

Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical said it was investing savings in research and development, innovation programs and capital projects to expand manufacturing. - June 29, 2018, Tennessean article excerpt

Dong-A Hwa Sung (Martin, Tennessee) - Building new manufacturing facility with 220 jobs:

“Additionally, in my district, a South Korean manufacturer announced a $13 million investment in Martin, Tennessee, and 220 job opportunities at the company’s first United States-based location.” - May 8, 2018, Rep. David Kustoff statement on House floor

Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee) – $500 bonuses to employees:

As Uncle Sam takes his cut today on those still filing their 2017 taxes, nearly 1,200 employees of Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., are getting a tax-induced bonus today based upon cuts in the 2018 tax rate for the amusement park near the Great Smoky Mountains.

Dollywood hosts who worked at least 1,000 hours last year and are still employed with the amusement park are each getting $500 checks today, thanks to the recent federal tax cuts.

"Dollywood strives to be a great place to work for great people," Dollywood President Craig Ross said in a statement announcing the first-of-the-kind employee bonuses. "We're grateful for the memories our Hosts create for our Guests by working hard every day, and this bonus is just one way we plan to share our appreciation throughout the year." – April 17 2018, Times Free Press article excerpt

TCW Inc. (Nashville, Tennessee) - Purchasing new equipment, increasing wages, growing health insurance plans:

So the fact that we were able to depreciate that equipment we had $1.2 million reduction in our tax bill…we took that 1.2 and invested in wages for our drivers about $3,000 per driver per year that they got as a result of that.

“We also put another $500,000 into our health insurance plans. We took on more of the cost of health insurance. We had the confidence to be able to do that because of these changes that are taking place and because of the economy trucking is booming right now — we have a lot of demand.

“We also invested $20 million in additional equipment so trucks and trailers and chassis…We had a driver that was actually up here last week that said that, you know, this is about $2,300 a year tax savings.But forget the $3,000 raise that he got. $2,300 tax savings in his pocket. What he plans to do that is to save that and take his family on a vacation that he wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise without that.” - April 17, 2018 Tax Talk Roundtable, Dave Manning, President of TCW Inc.

Chattanooga Gas Company (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – The utility will pass along tax cut savings to customers:

During the Conference, the Commissioners voted unanimously to require Atmos Energy Corporation ("Atmos Energy"), Chattanooga Gas Company ("Chattanooga Gas"), Kingsport Power Company d/b/a AEP Appalachian Power ("Kingsport Power"), Piedmont Natural Gas Company ("Piedmont Natural Gas"), and Tennessee American Water Company ("Tennessee American Water"), to immediately apply deferred accounting treatment, specifically described herein, with respect to the impact of the lowering of the federal corporate income tax rate and to require the named public utilities to provide to the Commission no later than March 31, 2018, the amounts deferred and a proposal to reduce rates or otherwise make adjustments to account for the tax benefits resulting from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Pub. L. No. 115-97 ("2017 Tax Act"). – February 6, 2018, Tennessee Public Utility Commission Report excerpt

Piedmont Natural Gas Company (Nashville, Tennessee) - The utility will pass along tax cut savings to customers:

During the Conference, the Commissioners voted unanimously to require Atmos Energy Corporation ("Atmos Energy"), Chattanooga Gas Company ("Chattanooga Gas"), Kingsport Power Company d/b/a AEP Appalachian Power ("Kingsport Power"), Piedmont Natural Gas Company ("Piedmont Natural Gas"), and Tennessee American Water Company ("Tennessee American Water"), to immediately apply deferred accounting treatment, specifically described herein, with respect to the impact of the lowering of the federal corporate income tax rate and to require the named public utilities to provide to the Commission no later than March 31, 2018, the amounts deferred and a proposal to reduce rates or otherwise make adjustments to account for the tax benefits resulting from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Pub. L. No. 115-97 ("2017 Tax Act"). – February 6, 2018, Tennessee Public Utility Commission Report excerpt

Tennessee American Water Company (Chattanooga, Tennessee) - Decreased their water billing rate by more than 3% because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“State regulators Monday approved rate changes by the Tennessee American Water Co., which should cut the typical water bill by more than 3% and save the average residential water customer in Chattanooga about 84 cents a month, effective immediately. 

The Tennessee Public Utility Commission Monday voted to pass through the Chattanooga water utility's tax savings for the next three years through a 6.6% base rate reduction, which would reduce the average bill for a typical water customer using 4,154 gallons of water a month by $1.43 a month. At the same time, the state regulatory board approved the proposed capital cost recovery plan by Tennessee-American that calls for about a 2.6% increase, or 59 cents more a month, to the same average water bill.” -- August 12, 2019 Chattanooga Times Free Press article

McKee Foods (Collegedale, Tennessee)Up to $1,000 bonuses:

McKee Foods employees came to work Tuesday, April 3, expecting a routine day baking and packaging products such as Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes, Donut Sticks and Honeybuns, and were surprised with an unexpected $1,000 cash award for full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees. 

“The recent federal tax legislation will provide benefits to the company and will allow us to invest back into the business," said Mike McKee, president and CEO. "The first thing we thought about was investing in our employees."

The announcement and disbursements of checks coincided with the company’s routine, yearly Spring Report Meetings, where all employees are invited to hear an update on the company from leadership. Attendance is optional and on-the-clock.

“We decided to keep this a tightly-guarded secret to make it more fun and impactful,” said Debbie McKee-Fowler, executive vice president. “Except for our September Profit-Sharing Meetings, this is about the most fun I’ve had at work in my entire career.” Ms. McKee-Fowler and other members of the McKee family helped pass out checks. Some employees were puzzled when members of the Payroll Department showed up to help pass out T-shirts, but in general the secret was well-kept and well-guarded, said officials.

McKee Foods employees received a one-time lump some cash award of $1,000 for all full-time, regular employees; $500 for all part-time, regular employees; and, $250 for all spare, limited, and provisional employees, who were employed on or before Friday, March 23.

Employees were very happy with the surprise. Comments ranged from, “I had some unexpected things happen last week that had me strapped; this will help a lot.” To simply, “Thank you.”– April 12, 2018 Chattanoogan.com news article excerpt

Advance Financial (Nashville, Tennessee) – increase in 401(k) match; increase in profit sharing; increase in charitable donations:

“Because we believed the new administration was committed to doing what it takes to get America’s economy back on track, we are already ahead of the curve this year in terms of capital investments. We dramatically sped up our plans to open new locations – we’re opening the 85th one this morning in Jackson – and hire more employees – we are bringing on 100 new people in January. We have also exponentially expanded our reach outside of Tennessee. In 2017, for the first time, we began offering our services outside the state via the Internet and today we are in 10 states other than Tennessee.“ – Tina Hodges, CEO and chief experience officer for Advance Financial, in a Jan. 5, 2018 Advance Financial press release

FedEx (Memphis, Tennessee) – commits more than $3.2 billion in wage increases, bonuses, pension funding due to the recent tax cuts. Pay raises, bonus increases, pension plan increases, and at least $1.5 billion in capital expenditures:

“FedEx Corporation is announcing three major programs today following the recently enacted U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

  • Over $200 million in increased compensation, about two-thirds of which will go to hourly team members by advancing 2018 annual pay increases by six months to April 1st from the normal October date. The remainder will fund increases in performance- based incentive plans for salaried personnel.
  • A voluntary contribution of $1.5 billion to the FedEx pension plan to ensure it remains one of the best funded retirement programs in the country.
  • Investing $1.5 billion to significantly expand the FedEx Express Indianapolis hub over the next seven years. The Memphis SuperHub will also be modernized and enlarged in a major program the details of which will be announced later this spring.

FedEx believes the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will likely increase GDP and investment in the United States.

The company has made no change to its fiscal 2018 earnings or capital expenditure guidance as issued on December 19, 2017 as a result of these actions.” – Jan. 26 2018, FedEx press release

First Horizon National Corp. (Memphis, Tennessee) – $1,000 bonuses to 4,000 employees:

“And as a result of this outstanding performance and because of recent tax reform efforts that we believe will benefit First Horizon, we are happy to offer bonuses to our people who work hard every day to maintain First Horizon’s reputation as one of the best companies to work for and one of the most trusted banks in the country.” – First Horizon National Corp. press release

Spectrum Adhesives, Inc. (Memphis, Tennessee) -- $500 tax reform bonuses for employees.

Unum (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – base wage raise to $15 a hour, creation of paid parental leave, additional $1 million in charitable contributions:

“On the heels of announcing record financial results for 2017, Unum (NYSE: UNM) today said, in addition to the existing all-employee annual bonus program, it is investing in its people and communities with a new paid parental leave benefit for both mothers and fathers in the U.S.; enhancements to the compensation program so that all U.S. employees earn at least $15 an hour; and an additional $1 million in charitable contributions this year in support of the communities where Unum employees live and work.” – Feb. 1 2018, Unum press release excerpt  

Home Depot -- 39 locations in Tennessee, bonuses for all hourly employees, up to $1,000.

Lowe's -- 8,000 employees at 60 stores and three distribution centers in Tennessee. Employees will receive bonuses of up to $1,000 based on length of service; expanded benefits and maternity/parental leave; $5,000 of adoption assistance.

Apple (Apple store locations in Nashville, Knoxville, Franklin, Germantown) -- $2,500 employee bonuses in the form of restricted stock units; Nationwide, $30 billion in additional capital expenditures over five years; 20,000 new employees will be hired; increased support of coding education and science, technology, engineering, arts, and math; increased support for U.S. manufacturing.

AT&T -- $1,000 bonuses to 5,520 Tennessee employees; Nationwide, $1 billion increase in capital expenditures:

Today, Congress approved legislation representing the first comprehensive tax reform in a generation. The President is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.

Once tax reform is signed into law, AT&T* plans to invest an additional $1 billion in the United States in 2018 and pay a special $1,000 bonus to more than 200,000 AT&T U.S. employees — all union-represented, non-management and front-line managers. If the President signs the bill before Christmas, employees will receive the bonus over the holidays.

“Congress, working closely with the President, took a monumental step to bring taxes paid by U.S. businesses in line with the rest of the industrialized world,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. “This tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs. In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees.”

Since 2012, AT&T has invested more in the United States than any other public company. Every $1 billion in capital invested in the telecom industry creates about 7,000 jobs for American workers, research shows. -- Dec. 20, 2017 AT&T Inc. press release

Bank of America (Multiple locations in Tennessee) -- Tennessee-based employees of Bank of America will receive $1,000 bonuses.

Cintas Corporation (Multiple locations in Tennessee) -- $1,000 bonuses for employees of at least a year, $500 bonuses for employees of less than a year.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (Multiple locations in Tennessee) – Bonuses ranging from $250 to $1,000; increased employee benefits; nationally, $50 million investment in existing restaurants.

Comcast (Multiple locations in Tennessee) -- $1,000 bonuses. Nationally, at least $50 billion investment in infrastructure in next five years.

Ryder -- (Sixteen locations in Tennessee) – Tax reform bonuses for employees.

Starbucks Coffee Company (180 locations in Tennessee) – $500 stock grants for all  retail employees, $2,000 stock grants for store managers, and varying plan and support center employee stock grants. Nationally, 8,000 new retail jobs; an additional wage increase this year, totaling approximately $120 million in wage increases, increased sick time benefits and parental leave. 

U-Haul (Multiple locations in Tennessee) – $1,200 bonuses for full-time employees, $500 for part-time employees.

Walmart – Tennesseans at 139 Walmart locations received tax reform bonuses, wage increases, and expanded maternity and parental leave. Walmart employees who adopt children will be given $5,000 to help cover expenses.​

McDonald’s (390+ locations in Tennessee) – Increased tuition investments which will provide educational program access for 400,000 U.S. employees. $2,500 per year (up from $700) for crew working 15 hours a week, $3,000 (up from $1,050) for managers, and more:

McDonald’s Corporation today announced it will allocate $150 million over five years to its global Archways to Opportunity education program. This investment will provide almost 400,000 U.S. restaurant employees with accessibility to the program as the company will also lower eligibility requirements from nine months to 90 days of employment and drop weekly shift minimums from 20 hours to 15 hours. Additionally, McDonald’s will also extend some education benefits to restaurant employees’ family members. These enhancements underscore McDonald’s and its independent franchisees’ commitment to providing jobs that fit around the lives of restaurant employees so they may pursue their education and career ambitions.

The Archways to Opportunity program provides eligible U.S. employees an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education advising services and learn English as a second language.  

“Our commitment to education reinforces our ongoing support of the people who play a crucial role in our journey to build a better McDonald’s,” said Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s President and CEO. “By offering restaurant employees more opportunities to further their education and pursue their career aspirations, we are helping them find their full potential, whether that’s at McDonald’s or elsewhere.”

Accelerated by changes in the U.S. tax law, McDonald’s increased investment in the Archways to Opportunity Program includes:

    • Increased Tuition Investment:
      • Crew: Eligible crew will have access to $2,500/year, up from $700/year.
      • Managers: Eligible Managers will have access to $3,000/year, up from $1,050.
      • Participants have a choice for how they apply this funding – whether it be to a community college, four year university or trade school. There is no lifetime cap on tuition assistance – restaurant employees will be able to pursue their education and career passions at their own pace. The new tuition assistance is effective May 1, 2018 and retroactive to January 1, 2018.
    • Lowered Eligibility Requirements: Increase access to the program by lowering eligibility requirements from nine months to 90 days of employment. In addition, dropping from 20 hours minimum to 15 hours minimum (roughly two full time shifts) per week to enable restaurant employees more time to focus on studies.
    • Extended Services to Families: Extension of Career Online High School and College Advisory services to restaurant employees’ family members through existing educational partners Cengage and Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL).
    • Additional Resources: Career exploration resources for eligible restaurant employees to be available later this year.
    • Creation of an International Education Fund: Grants to provide local initiatives and incentives in global markets to further education advancement programs.
       

“Since its inception, Archways to Opportunity was meant to match the ambition and drive of restaurant crew with the means and network to help them find success on their own terms,” said David Fairhurst, McDonald’s Chief People Officer. “By tripling tuition assistance, adding education benefits for family members and lowering eligibility requirements to the equivalent of a summer job, we are sending a signal that if you come work at your local McDonald’s, we’ll invest in your future.”

After launching in the U.S. in 2015, Archways to Opportunity has increased access to education for over 24,000 people and awarded over $21 million in high school and college tuition assistance. Graduates have received college degrees in Business Administration, Human Resources, Communications, Accounting, Microbiology and more. – March 29, 2018 McDonald’s Corporation press release excerpt 

Wells Fargo – 18 locations in Tennessee; raised base wage from $13.50 to $15.00 per hour; Nationally, $400 million in charitable donations for 2018; $100 million increased capital investment over the next three years.

Note: If you know of other Tennessee examples, please email John Kartch at jkartch@atr.org

The running nationwide list of companies can be found at www.atr.org/list

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