December 21, 2014

OSHA could fine Kearney plant big for worker illness

A Kearney manufacturer faces a possible $7,000 fine for an incident this summer when a long-time employee suffered a heat-related illness that required hospitalization.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Eaton Corporation after the 53-year-old worker suffered acute kidney failure when the temperature inside the plant reached 101 degrees on July 11th.

The employee recovered after being hospitalized for more than 24 hours.

Eaton is an automotive parts manufacturer based in Ireland. The Kearney plant employs about 540 workers.

Brent Wiethorn, KXPN, contributed to this report.

Survey points to good job prospects in Nebraska in 2015

JobsFor people who are looking for a job, Nebraska should be a good place to find one in early 2015.

Karen Miller, a spokeswoman for Manpower Incorporated, says a survey of business leaders across the state by finds more than 20% plan to add to their workforces between January and March.

Miller says, “When taking a look and interviewing the businesses that participate in our survey, the exciting news is that about 70% of the employers surveyed said they’re going to maintain their current staff levels while another 21% are saying they’re going to increase staff levels.”

Those figures combined mean the first quarter of next year should be a good one for the state’s jobs outlook.

Miller says, “With 91% of businesses out there maintaining or increasing staff levels, it makes Nebraska a very solid place to find employment.”

While 21% of businesses surveyed in Nebraska plan to add to their staffs in the quarter ahead, about eight-percent plan to make cuts. When you subtract one from the other, you get what’s called the net employment outlook, which Miller says is very good for Nebraska.

Miller says, “Ultimately, the net employment outlook is a positive 13% for Q1, so if you’re needing a job, make sure you’re getting out there and knocking on some doors because the opportunties abound in Nebraska.”

The situation is much better than a year ago when the state’s first quarter net employment outlook was only at 8%.

Nebraska’s jobless rate is hovering around 3.5%, which is well below the national unemployment rate of almost 6%.


Nebraska toy maker in hunt for big award

TOTY_fbA toy maker that started out quietly in Elkhorn is making a big splash.

Fat Brain Toys is in the running for a prestigious honor.

“We have three products that are finalists for the Toy of the Year award,” Fat Brain Toys Marketing Director Matt Hansen tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KHUB. “And this is an award put on by the Toy Association and it’s kind of like winning the Super Bowl for toys.”

Hansen says the company is one of 520 that submitted nominations for Toy Industry Association award.

The company says its finalists include Squigz, a “suction construction” toy nominated for Specialty Toy of the Year; Peek-A-Doodle Doo, an early memory game nominated for Game of the Year; and pipSquigz, nominated for the Infant/Toddler Toy of the Year Award.

Fat Brain Toys will compete with the likes of Mattel, Hasbro, and LEGO.

Hansen says it’s quite an honor for a company that started only a dozen years ago.

“Started 12 years ago in the basement of Mark and Caren Carson, our founders. They couldn’t find any good toys for their kids,” Hansen explains.

Fat Brain Toys began as an online retailer with a location in Omaha and one in Overland Park, Kansas. The company sends out about a million catalogs a year.

Hansen says the final piece in the company’s development has come of late, with the enhancement of its product development side.

“That’s where these three toys that we’ve developed have really put us on the map in terms of our development,” Hansen says.

The company says the finalists were selected by nomination committees comprised of 10 to 15 experts knowledgeable of each respective category. The nomination committee members represent a cross-section of retail buyers, journalists, toy specialists, and professionals such as developmental psychologists and play therapists.

For more about the toy awards, click here.

Connie Green, KHUB, contributed to this report.

Sen. Fischer says EPA ozone proposal would harm economy (AUDIO)

Ozone-Page-Header[1]Sen. Deb Fischer says a new proposed regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency could drastically harm Nebraska’s economy.

Fisher objects to the EPA proposal to reduce allowable concentrations of ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to between 65-and-70.

She says it’s not a minor adjustment.

“It is startling what this does,” according to Fischer. “It is the most expensive regulation that has ever been proposed.”

The Obama Administration is considering an even lower threshold. The EPA has invited comments on a proposed to lower the standard to 60 parts per billion.

Fischer, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, contends the change would require manufacturers to install expensive equipment to control the ozone, or limit production, or buy “offsets.”

Fischer objects not only to the proposed regulation, but how the Obama Administration is handling it.

“This is something, once again, that we see come out through regulations without, I believe, the proper debate taking place and really looking at the consequences of these regulations,” Fischer says.

A similar proposal floated in 2011 was estimated to cost businesses and utilities $90 billion a year.

Click here for EPA Ozone maps.

Click here for National Association of Manufacturers take on proposed regulation.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Nebraska fined $725,000 in “patent troll” case

Attorney General Jon Bruning

Attorney General Jon Bruning

A loss in a battle against what Attorney General Jon Bruning called “patent trolls” will cost Nebraska $725,000.

Federal District Judge Joseph Battaillon levied the fine against Bruning after ruling against the Attorney General in a patent infringement case.

The attack against so-called patent trolls had been a high-profile pursuit of Attorney General. Bruning had even testified before a Senate committee in Washington about the dangers posed by patent trolls. Bruning testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance (Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation) in Washington, D.C. on the issue. Bruning called for a partnership between state and federal authorities to stem the tide of patent trolling nationwide.

As Bruning testified in Washington, his office was engaged in an on-going dispute with Texas law firm Farney Daniels, who Bruning had accused of representing patent trolls filing suspect claims against Nebraska businesses.

Bryan Farney of Farney Daniels released a statement to Nebraska Radio Network via email after Bruning’s office filed a cease and desist order against the firm, which stated in part, “While the Nebraska Attorney General may have concerns about the U.S. patent system and how it works, or with particular types of patent owners, we are confident that any fair investigation will conclude our firm has lawfully and honorably represented our clients in upholding their rights.”

Bruning proclaimed he wanted to run Farney Daniels out of Nebraska. The firm countered any fair investigation will conclude it has acted lawfully and honorably in upholding the rights of its clients.

The case began more than a year ago. The Attorney General’s office intervened when Activision TV, a Florida company that has changed its name to ActiveLight, sued Pinnacle Bank for the alleged infringement of a patent on remote-control electronic display system.

Activision TV amended a complaint it had filed against Pinnacle, adding the staff in the Attorney General’s office as defendants. The complaint contended Bruning had not substantiated his accusations against Activision and Farney Daniels, and that the use of “patent trolls” in reference to them disparaged them.

Pinnacle Bank and Activision TV settled their dispute privately.