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Authors Posts by Amy Scalia

Amy Scalia

Amy Scalia
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Publisher & CEO - Amy Scalia, a Cincinnati native, is the editor in chief and publisher of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at ascalia@cincychic.com. From growing up in the cornfields of Harrison and getting a Mass Communications B.A. degree in the bubble of Oxford, to living on the NKY side of the river in Newport and then Ft. Thomas, Amy Scalia has embraced Cincinnati with her presence. Her major life accomplishments include: being a mom of two girls and a boy, a 2010 "40 Under 40" recipient from the Cincinnati Business Courier, winning the "Best New Product/Service of the Year" Award from the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and a national Web-writing award from ASHPE in 2007, a national feature writing award from ASBPE in 2006, and running three Flying Pig Marathons.

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Learn about the Workforce Innovation Center that now offers more than 120 inclusive best practices, policies, and partnerships to support companies’ unique workforce and talent needs.

 

It’s no secret that businesses are facing unprecedented challenges in the current economy. People are also struggling. With poverty and disparities, especially along lines of race, it’s holding our community back. That’s where the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s  Workforce Innovation Center can help. 

Through a newly unveiled three-tired service offering the Workforce Innovation Center helps by providing:

  • assessment services to help companies identify issue areas
  • more than 120 practice and policy recommendations and partnerships to customize solutions for companies
  • evaluating and recognizing companies through a formal process, which is in development

Workforce Innovation Center Executive Director Audrey Treasure says the concept is led by the idea of “inclusive capitalism,” which aims to make capitalism benefit employees, communities, and shareholders with the positive results. 

“Business was designed to be in the best interest of their stakeholders, meaning the employees, employers and community as a whole,” explains Treasure. “We aim to return to this idea that a business invests in their people as part of their long-term talent play for all. It doesn’t have to be about how fast you can turn a profit. It’s about building a strong community. We’re beating our drum that this is how we want businesses run in Cincinnati.”

Treasure says plans to launch the Workforce Innovation Center has long been in the works, but COVID-19 made the need for its services even more apparent. “COVID-19 forced us to make this more available to more companies. That’s why we broke it down into three service offerings, you can choose one, or two or three of those so we can help you reach your goals,” she explains. “The pandemic also made it more apparent that people live in financially precarious positions, which is really troubling. We want employers to be part of the solution.”

The Workforce Innovation Center takes a direct approach of consulting with companies to understand what is happening within their workforce. Through an assessment process of a company’s identified challenges, policies, and employee experience, the Center proposes solutions that can improve the business’ operations and can also help address challenges that employees might be experiencing. “A company may have a tardiness policy that is overly punitive and results in a high turnover rate of employees that could otherwise be successful,” explains Treasure. “The Center can then support an employer in implementing practice changes in order to achieve its desired outcomes and improve its bottom line.”

Not only does the Center offer this support, but it also serves as a hub between businesses and the workforce ecosystem that exists in this region. “These social solutions organizations excel at removing barriers for people who are looking to advance their lives through work and can bring companies new sources of talent that employers may not have previously considered,” she says. “There’s also been a real increase in focus on racial disparities. Companies come to us asking how we can help them bridge the gap. They want to be intentional about how they improve policies and practices, as part of their business strategy and we’re there to help.”

Treasure says they help local businesses large and small through the Center, the smallest currently having 14 employees and the largest having thousands.

Liza Smitherman, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Jostin Construction, Inc.  

“We see an opportunity for companies to drive changes within their business to improve company operational and financial performance and support their employees,” says Treasure. “We can give businesses – regardless of size – tools and measurements to tell them how they’re doing. We think if we can do this company by company, this will have a transformational effect on the community as a whole.”

The Workforce Innovation Center was established by business leaders who wanted to make the reduction of poverty in the region a priority. Liza Smitherman, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Jostin Construction, Inc.  sat on the advisory board of the Workforce Innovation Center prior to launch, and also recently brought Jostin Construction on board to utilize all three service levels.

“They made it easy to share and acknowledge that there are opportunities for improvement so they can then help. It’s so important to know where our employees fit, center their voices, so we can hear from our stakeholders, our assets our employees,” Smitherman explains. “A good business that wants to have good jobs needs to hear from their people. The center helps our employees give comprehensive feedback, while also getting an objective review of that feedback, benchmarked by industry standards and best practices to let us know how we’re doing and areas of needed growth.”

Smitherman says she feels extremely thankful to have access to the Center’s services in Cincinnati. “We are in Ohio, so we’re more conservative about how we look at things,” she adds. “I give credit to the Chamber in particular who pull together a very diverse group of voices that then help move this needle forward. There’s some empowerment felt that my voice can be heard as much as a big business that’s been around for 20-30 years.” 

This business-focused resource is part of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Through this, the Workforce Innovation Center is able to offer support to companies while helping them solve challenges and find new sources of talent, consider new ways of doing business to support their success, and engage companies in the process of increasing economic mobility for those in poverty. 

To learn more about the Workforce Innovation Center, visit https://workforceinnovationcenter.com. You can check out more using the Cincy Chamber’s presence on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook and the Center’s new LinkedIn page. You can also watch and share these short videos focused on the Center’s approach for businesses and how it will impact the community as a whole.

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See how you can easily and quickly switch to a tech career -- at no cost to you -- through a registered apprenticeship with technical training and paid, on-the-job experience.

Where you’re headed, not where you’ve been. That’s the focus for Apprenti Cincinnati, a registered apprenticeship program designed to recruit and train professionals — based on their aptitude, not their background — helping to fill Greater Cincinnati’s shortage of skilled tech talent.

“We take individuals that have different backgrounds and help move them into careers in technology,” says Apprenti Cincinnati director, Christina Misali. “In about a year and a half, you can completely switch careers and take on no tuition debt in the process.”

Apprenti Cincinnati was brought to the region through the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the CIO Roundtable. Thanks to a generous investment by JPMorgan Chase and support from the Duke Energy Foundation, they’re leading this tech talent collaborative designed to expand and diversify the region’s IT workforce. Since the program launched in February 2019, Apprenti Cincinnati has placed 46 talented professionals into a variety of IT roles.

Maria Konerman is one of those professionals. “I was working in non-profit management. I started to realize it wasn’t a good fit for me,” recalls Konerman, now an Associate Application Analyst/Developer at Great American Insurance Group. “I just had this nagging voice that I wanted to pursue a career in IT.” 

At first, Konerman says, thinking about a career change, the education costs and starting from scratch in a new field seemed too daunting. That is, until Apprenti Cincinnati made her dream a reality. “I could not be more grateful to have this opportunity. It’s changed my life and I’ll always be profoundly grateful,” she says. “Sometimes I wake up and get on my computer to do my development work and I can’t believe it. I’m like ‘How did I even get here?'”

Konerman, like many other candidates and apprentices like her, got there through Apprenti Cincinnati’s non-traditional solution to drive more tech talent in and to the Cincinnati region. Apprenti was launched by the Washington Technology Industry Association, headquartered out of Seattle, in 2016. It now has multiple locations across the country with more than 1,000 apprentices placed in a variety of tech roles.

To get started, candidates take the aptitude assessment to measure math, soft skills and critical thinking abilities. Then, there’s a multi-level screening process. “The entire process can be 3-5 weeks. Some, we talk to over a six month period,” says Misali. “It depends on where our employers are in their hiring process and where the candidates are in their career journey. We meet people where they are.” 

After interviewing with an employer, the apprentices participate in certified technical training ranging from 10-15 weeks through one of several local training partners: Cincinnati State, Tech Elevator, MAX Technical Training, Per Scholas, Kable Academy and the University of Cincinnati.

After training, they start work with their hiring partner – local employers, such as Kroger Technology, Procter & Gamble, CVG and Great American Insurance Group. Employers pay for the technical training and continue to educate their apprentices through paid on-the-job training for one year. Roles currently offered include: software developers, IT business analysts, network security professionals, IT support admins, cloud specialists, cybersecurity analyst and more.

Local employers are eager to fill their tech positions, Misali says. In fact, more than 37,950 IT roles were posted in the Cincinnati Region in 2019. Apprenti Cincinnati works with companies large and small to fill open positions with tech-interested individuals, regardless of educational or professional background. 

Recent events have only accelerated this need. “We’re depending even more on tech for everything. People are finding themselves unemployed or they’re thinking about what really matters to them and reconsidering career choices,” Misali says. “We help companies lean in to meet demands of un- and underemployed professionals, and we help candidates who have more than ever on their plates step toward a new career.”

According to Misali, 46 percent of Apprenti Cincinnati apprentices were unemployed for less than 27 weeks prior to starting the program. “That leads to a municipal investment for the region as the average salary post-graduation in our area is $50-70k,” she adds, “Some people are seeing over 100 percent increase in earnings. And we have 100 percent retention to date for our region.”

Apprenti Cincinnati also helps to diversify employer’s candidate pipeline. “Women, minorities and veterans are a focus for this program. We’ve placed apprentices from age 18-49. Our inaugural class was 55% women,” Misali explains. “Given everything going on in the world right now, especially with recent racial injustices, employers can partner with Apprenti to increase diversity within their tech teams. This is a community. This has always been about offering support.”

Apprenti Cincinnati is for the broadest range of candidates possible – no IT experience is required, just interest, aptitude, and work ethic. To learn more, or register, visit apprenticareers.org.

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Hearing about tax abatements, but have questions? Read on as we chat with a local mortgage expert to get answers.

For most homeowners, property taxes are a major expense. While property tax rates vary depending on where you live, they typically average between 1-3% of the home’s value each year. “Many people don’t realize that this recurring expense doesn’t go away when you pay off the mortgage,” says Ron Erdmann, Branch Manager of the Guaranteed Rate Cincinnati office. “Property tax is a perpetual cost of home ownership. That is, unless you have a tax abatement.” 

What is a Tax Abatement?

A tax abatement is a government tax incentive program that can reduce or eliminate your property tax rate for a certain period of time. Abatement durations vary, from a few years to more than a decade. Here’s a good overview of Cincinnati tax abatements — https://buildcollective.com/tax-abatement/ — and a more recent update on how those policies may change soon: https://buildcollective.com/tax-abatement-2020/

According to Erdmann, the purpose of these programs is to incentivize desired actions, such as more eco-friendly building practices (i.e., LEED certification) or to attract more buyers to a developing area. “For example,” he adds, “the new HOMEARAMA Walworth Junction development near downtown has homes that are Target LEED Gold certified, which makes them eligible for 15-year tax abatement.” Some cities offer tax abatements citywide, while others only offer them in designated areas. Some cities limit these programs to low-to-middle-income property owners, but many programs have no income restrictions.

Not Just for New Construction

Tax abatement programs reduce or eliminate the amount of property tax owners pay on new construction with LEED certification, but also for rehabilitation and/or major improvements. “It doesn’t have to be new construction. If you rehab an old house, you’re only taxed on the pre-renovation price,” Erdmann explains. “Norwood has a program like this, and Blue Ash has a version of it. Other areas and cities are starting to jump on it.”

You can buy a property that already has an abatement, or you can purchase an eligible property, make the required improvements, and apply for the abatement yourself. The first option is considerably easier, Erdmann says, because it means someone else endured the construction and all you have to do is move in, but both are possible.

This doesn’t completely eliminate your property tax bill, though. “You’ll still have to pay taxes on the value of the property before it was improved,” Erdmann says. “But the savings can be substantial.”

More Home for the Value

These tax abatement programs can bring buyers significant savings. Erdmann says it also allows buyers to get more home for the same price, or improve their chances of qualifying for a mortgage by putting a home’s total monthly payment within reach. Plus, he adds, property tax abatement can improve a home’s resale value for as long as the abatement is in effect.

“Within the city of Cincinnati limits — Hyde Park, Mt Lookout, Madisonville, etc. — property taxes are the same: 2.576%. If you go out and by a $750,000 house, property taxes will be $1,610 a month if it’s not tax abated,” Erdmann explains. “If you go out and find a house that’s $1M but tax abated because it’s LEED gold certified, that means you’re taxed on only $440,000 which makes your property taxes only $944 a month.”

To learn more about mortgage and tax abatement options, contact Ron Erdmann, NMLS 728342, Branch Manager and SVP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate, or visit https://www.rate.com/loan-expert/ronerdmann. You can also contact him via email at ron.erdmann@rate.com or call (513) 609-4484. 

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Considering a refi to save on your mortgage, but have questions? Read on as we chat with our local mortgage expert to get answers.

 With interest rates at record lows, millions of homeowners are now finding themselves considering a refinance. And if mortgage rates continue to decline, even more homeowners will have a chance to save on their current mortgage by refinancing into a lower rate. 

There are many questions and misconceptions when it comes to refinancing, so we tapped the expertise of Cincinnati-based Ron Erdmann at Guaranteed Rate for some mortgage refi myth busting.

Myth 1: Closing Costs are Expensive

Depending on the amount of your loan, the value of your property, and your lender, you may not have to pay any closing costs out of pocket. “There are alternatives not everyone is aware of,” Erdmann says. “One option is to roll your closing costs into your new mortgage loan, which you can then pay off through your monthly payments. Some lenders can waive fees like lender’s title insurance and the appraisal fee, which will result in immediate savings. Other options come with substantial credits off of closing fees, which can also result in an immediate benefit. You’ll want to talk with a highly recommended mortgage lender about these options.”

Myth 2: I Shouldn’t Refinance Because I Might be Moving Soon

Possibly moving or selling sometime soon? Erdmann says that’s not a problem either. “Many people think it’ll take three years to break even with the cost of a refinance,” he explains, “but I find that many of the clients that I talk with will recoup the fees in well under a year. So even if someone decides to move a year from now, they will still have savings. If someone is looking to move in the foreseeable future, then it’s even more important to talk with a trusted mortgage professional because we can offer solutions and can help the client plan for the move. Clients don’t always think about key questions like, ‘How will refinancing now affect my ability to buy the next house?’”

Myth 3: If I Refinance, I’m Just Adding More Years onto my Mortgage

If you’re concerned that a refinance will push back your payment timeline, Erdmann says that’s not the case. “If you took out a 30 year loan three years ago, you don’t have to do a new 30 year loan. You can do a 27 year loan or a 20 year loan or a 15 year loan. If you are worried about increasing your payment, then you can always do a new 30 year loan but make extra payments. The net effect is that you will have a lower required payment, but you will still have substantial interest savings that you can use to prepay your loan even faster than you would otherwise.

Myth 4: You Can Only Refinance Your Mortgage Once

Erdmann says there’s no limit to how many times you can refinance your mortgage. “Average 30 year fixed rates in Dec 2018 were 4.9%. When average rates dropped 0.5%, then we refinanced clients with minimal fees that resulted in immediate savings,” he explains. “When rates dropped another 0.5%, then we refinanced a lot of our clients again. There is no downside to refinancing as long as you’re doing an accurate cost vs savings analysis.”  

For example, if a client has a $400k loan, and if they save 0.75% per year in rate, then they are saving $3,000 the first year in mortgage interest. “If it only costs $2,000 to refinance, then the refinance was a ‘win’ as long as they had the loan for at least eight months,” Erdmann says.

Myth 5: I’ll Have to Sign Paperwork In-Person

With many people taking extra precautions due to COVID and limiting contact to only essential activities, they may feel uncomfortable coming to an office to sign closing documents to refinance their mortgage. Erdmann says new technology protocols allow for a fully electronic way to sign documents. 

To learn more about Ron Erdmann, NMLS 728342, Branch Manager and SVP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate, visit https://www.rate.com/loan-expert/ronerdmann You can also contact him via email at ron.erdmann@rate.com or call (513) 609-4484. 

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With All Souls Day coming up Nov. 2, we wanted to share some fashionable ways to remember loved ones after they’ve passed.

Cremation Bracelets
Was your loved one cremated? Keep them close to your heart every day with cremation bracelets for ashes. You can also make a necklace with keepsake pendant for ashes. These come in a variety of styles and materials that allow you to include a small pinch of cremains, burial soil, or other memorial item inside the jewelry to keep with you always. Some designs and materials also allow for personalized engraving.

Memorial Flower Jewelry
Have fresh flowers from a recent service, or dried flowers stashed away from one long past? Several custom jewelry designers and vendors on Etsy will make memorial flower jewelry for you to treasure for years to come.

To make these, you typically need about 1/4 of a rose OR equivalent if you prefer to use other types of flowers or leaves, to make one bracelet or necklace. For a rosary, you’ll need one full rose or equivalent if you prefer to use other types of flowers or leaves. To create a ring, only about one petal – or a petal from each flower if there are multiple types that can be mixed together once dried and crushed. Two petals are needed for earrings.

Remembrance Accessories
Cincinnati-based jewelry designer FENNO FASHION makes memorial flower jewelry as well as several other types of accessories, like keychains. Does it matter if the flowers are fresh or dried? Typically, the drier the better, so if you have fresh flowers, ask first. Most designers will have techniques and equipment that can dry the petals while still maintaining the vibrancy no matter the type of flower.

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See how the co-owner and doctor behind Performance Health Chiropractic + Acupuncture sought the help of a local life coach to double client traffic to her new business.

Dr. Kristen Wood, co-owner of Performance Health Chiropractic + Acupuncture, opened her own client-centric chiropractic practice last year in West Chester.  
Dr. Wood, co-owner of Performance Health Chiropractic + Acupuncture
The practice offers a unique blend of services, ranging from traditional chiropractic care and massage to acupuncture, dry needling and cupping.
 
“I knew the medical side of the business but not the behind-the-scenes side, the marketing, business strategy, goal setting,” she recalls. “Luckily, I met my life coach Melissa Kirkpatrick with Find Your Own DRIVE right before I launched the business and it’s made a huge difference.” 
 
Dr. Wood says she first worked with Kirkpatrick through a group coaching session. “I wanted to test out what it was like to be coached, learn from others in the group, and see if it made a difference,” says Dr Wood. “Turns our, it made an immediate difference and I knew after the group coaching I needed more, so I hired her for one-on-one coaching.” 
 
Dr. Wood says Kirkpatrick helps her with stepping back from the everyday grind to see the big picture, set goals and the steps to reach them. “For me, it’s the accountability,” she adds. “Normally, I wouldn’t be setting these goals — they would just be vague ‘one day I want to do’ kinds of goals, but Melissa makes me get specific on what, when and how, and then checks back with me every week on the progress. It keeps me very focused and motivated.” 
 
So motivated, in fact, Dr. Woods says her business has more than doubled – almost tripled – since working with Kirkpatrick. “It’s unbelievable, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” Dr. Woods says. “I highly recommend Melissa to anyone wanting to get clear on their vision and goals and actually accomplish them.” 

To learn more about Performance Health Chiropractic + Acupuncture, visit https://www.performancehealthcincy.com. To learn more about Kirkpatrick and Find Your Own DRIVE, visit www.findyourowndrive.com/contact.

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See how one local woman turned her passions into a profession that gives her the time and financial flexibility she and her family needs — especially now. 

Four years ago, as a special educator, Emily McNamara thought her lack of energy and poor sleep was just part of the job. A friend recommended using Shaklee products to help her feel better, so she did.  Little did she know, that would be a life changing decision in more ways than one. 

“When I took care of myself and got consistent, I was able to give more of myself to the things that were important to me — my family, my students, my friends, and my coworkers,” McNamara explains. “This made me even more passionate about my health and wellness journey. As a teacher, my professional passion has always been educating. I realized I could merge those two worlds by becoming a Shaklee distributor.”

Emily McNamara

At first, she started small, with just the goal of getting her own product paid for. “I immediately knew I wanted it to be more than that. I was enjoying it so much and it was growing quickly because it was truly helping people,” she explains. “I had aspirations of running a full-blown health and wellness coaching business ‘one day,’ but I didn’t know how to get there. Then I met Melissa Kirkpatrick and everything changed.” 

Kirkpatrick is the life coach, author and founder of Find Your Own DRIVE. She began coaching McNamara to get clarity on her goals, discuss strategy, and set weekly meetings to stay accountable to the progress. “Before I knew it, I was in a position where I not only launched that health and wellness company of my dreams, but I was now in a position where I could replace and exceed my teaching salary with it,” she says. “I took the leap, put in my notice, and my business is thriving more than ever.”

McNamara put these plans in place shortly before the pandemic began. “Especially now with COVID, I’m so happy I made this decision to make my health, family and passion for wellness education a top priority,” she says. “I’m literally living my dream life and I wouldn’t be here without the guidance, focus and accountability that my weekly coaching sessions with Melissa gives me.”

To learn more about McNamara, visit https://bit.ly/healthyVIP. To learn more about Kirkpatrick and Find Your Own DRIVE, visit www.findyourowndrive.com/contact.

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