October 24, 2014

A lighter hand leads to more participation in wellness programs (AUDIO)

Methods have changed and it seems more employees and school children are participating in wellness programs.

More and more businesses offer wellness programs, help with exercise and diet, to improve employee health and reduce insurance costs.

Tara Smydra runs the program for Norfolk Iron and Metal Company and says a change in tactic increased employee participation.

“We really don’t have a lot of resistance, which is great,” according to Smydra. “When we pushed, we did have some resistance, but now that we’re opening it up and allowing them, we don’t have it.”

Smydra admits that the company’s enthusiasm for the program went a bit too far at first. Success spurred Norfolk Iron to push too hard. When the company ease up, participation went up.

The company began explaining the benefits, both physically and fiscally, to employees. Employees who saw great results sold the program to fellow workers. The company gathered focus groups and asked what programs would better motivate employees.

Even school children need encouragement to exercise, a fact that catches Betty Seim at Grand Island Central Catholic School a bit off-guard, admitting it seems odd to have to encourage kids to play.

“It does, having grown up in my generation,” Seims says. “We played outside for hours upon end and watched TV a little.”

Seims says the sedentary lifestyle of schoolchildren these days, with televisions, computers, video games, and cell phones at the ready, has led to a rise in obesity. She says the school has had success when it attempts to moderate, not eliminate, screen time while it increases activity.

Both Norfolk Iron and Central Catholic were 2014 recipients of the Governor’s Wellness Award.

Nebraska businesses can apply for the Governor’s Wellness Award online at nebraska.gov/wellness. The award program is a partnership of the Office of the Governor, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and WorkWell/Nebraska Safety Council. The Nebraska Worksite Wellness Toolkit can be found at worksitewellness.ne.gov.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

TransCanada denies Energy East is alternative to Keystone XL

A TransCanada executive denies an ambitious new project by the company is being undertaken as an alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Approval of Keystone XL has been delayed for years. TransCanada now awaits a decision on its route through Nebraska from the state Supreme Court.

Vice President for the Keystone Pipeline Project, Corey Goulet, says the proposed 3,000 mile oil pipeline, dubbed Energy East, that would span Canada is not a replacement for Keystone XL.

“We’ve received commitments from different customers to ship on each of these pipelines,” Goulet tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Some have suggested that TransCanada proposed the cross-Canadian pipeline after being rebuffed for years by the United States in building the northern portion of Keystone XL.

Goulet says if there is an alternative to transporting oil through Keystone XL, Energy East isn’t it.

“Well, certainly, we’ve seen one of the alternatives to Keystone and that’s that our customers, the oil producers, are shipping more crude by rail,” according to Goulet. “That’s increased dramatically, both in Canada as well in the U.S., the last couple of years as everyone knows.”

Goulet says oil will be shipped, one way or another; both crude from oil sands in western Canada and from the Bakken oil fields in the Dakotas. He says the most efficient, least disruptive, and most environmentally friendly way to ship it is through pipelines.

And Goulet claims the oil sands of western Canada won’t go away even if Keystone XL never receives approval.

“Certainly that oil will be produced and the producers will continue to develop their projects that they have for the oil sands and they will find a way to get that product to market.”



Stock Market showing signs of recovery Friday

After six straight days of losses the Stock Market is showing signs of recovery Friday.   Darrell Bryant is the owner of D. Bryant Retirement Strategies in Omaha and says what we experienced this week was a correction. Most of the indexes dropped 8% to 12%.

Bryant says, “This is not a full fledge bear market. That would require a loss of 20% over six months or more but there are some global fears. The dollar is really strong and a lot of people don’t realize that makes for great vacationing. You can buy a bunch of stuff in Russia right now with the dollar but it makes our stuff a bit more expensive here.”

He says if this does turn into a bear market that will have an impact on those considering retirement right now.

This is a case of never putting all your eggs in one basket. Bryant says everything will make money over time – the question is what time.

Broken Bow to host workshops for wanna-be homeowners

First-time homebuyers in central Nebraska who need to learn about things like mortgages, escrow and balloon payments might consider a special course being offered in Broken Bow.

Melissa Krysl, spokeswoman for the Central Nebraska Housing Developers, says they’ll be hosting two workshops that offer a thorough overview for those looking to buy a house.

“We take them step-by-step through the home buying process,” Krysl says. “Everything from making a decision about purchasing a home to looking at different houses, getting a mortgage loan, closing on the loan and maintaining the home once its theirs.”

Krysl says folks who don’t have a lot of money to put down on a home might find the course of particular benefit.

“There are certain downpayment assistance programs, certain loans that require that they take a class like this,” Krysl says. “This is a certified class and it meets those requirements for a lot of downpayment programs.”

The workshops will be held this Thursday and next Thursday (October 16th and 23rd) from 6-to-10 PM at the Mid-Plains Community College Broken Bow Campus. Pre-registration is required with a $50 fee to cover books and materials.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


State sponsored internship program keeps growing

A special state program to encourage college students to accept internships at Nebraska businesses keeps growing.

The Nebraska Internship Program has reached 750 active participants.

Reinke Manufacturing CEO Chris Roth says the program has proven valuable for his operation in the southern Nebraska city of Deshler.

“We had four interns last year working for us through that program,” Roth says. “It gives us an opportunity to evaluate the students. It gives them the opportunity to evaluate us.”

The program which began in 2011 provides $1.5 million in state funding to be matched by the private sector to fund paid internships.

According to the governor’s office half of the college students who participated in the program went to work for the company with which they interned.

Gov. Dave Heineman says the program works both to provide college students with experience and to help businesses fill their workforce needs.

“What the employer sees; they have the opportunity for the internship time, two or three months, to observe what kind of good worker they are and if they’re doing a really good job, they’re going to remember it. They’ve already gotten a proven workforce,” according to Heineman. “So, the employers that I’ve talked to have been very satisfied with that program and we’re going to continue to try to expand it.”

The Nebraska Internship Program was part of Heineman’s economic package approved by the Unicameral in 2011.

According to the governor’s office, over the last three years, 402 companies have participated in the program; 5,301 students have registered online with the program; and 36% of interns participating in the grant program have worked at companies located in rural Nebraska.

The program kicked off in June of 2011 with nearly 80 Nebraska businesses applying for funding through Intern Nebraska. Initially, 45 businesses won approval to participate.

Students interested can apply on online by clicking here. The website also contains other job search tips, such as how to build a resume and how to react during a job interview.

For more on the program, go to InternNE.com.