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Small Business and Retail — Software May Help Level Online Playing Field

OSHA Carpal Tunnel

Plan Criticized By

Small Biz Advocates

One company is looking to make the Internet the ideal workplace for small business, allowing employees to collaborate, communicate and conduct business at anytime from anywhere, using the ‘Net as their worldwide network.

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This applies especially to small businesses with collaboration needs, multiple offices, mobile workers, telecommuters and dispersed workgroups.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based HotOffice Technologies, Inc. aims to increase productivity on the Internet for small businesses and teams. Its software levels the playing field for small business and empowers them with technologies previously affordable only for big business, said Stephanie Dammert, spokeswoman for HotOffice.

HotOffice is a Web-based virtual office with a most comprehensive suite of office tools. Unlike similar applications, HotOffice offers users a choice between a free version , with advertising support , or a nominal monthly subscription, Dammert said.

Small businesses can use HotOffice to communicate and collaborate anytime, anywhere , from an airport kiosk, cyber-cafe, a client’s office or their mother-in-law’s PC. The only thing needed to get into the online office is a PC with Internet access, she said.

This allows outsourced projects to be run smoothly and efficiently, even if the team members are on opposite sides of the globe. Companies can save time and money by being able to work more closely on projects internally and with clients, Dammert said.

HotOffice also gives small-business employers an edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees by allowing them to offer flexible work options like telecommuting. Telecommuters as well as employees in distant cities have an easy, free way to share documents, manage group calendars, hold online meetings and do other activities traditionally centered on the office, she said.

HotOffice Technologies, Inc. was founded in February 1995. The firm is funded in part by Intel Corp., Staples, Inc., and TBG Information Investors, a partnership of Blumenstein/Thorne Information Partners and GS Capital Partners II, an affiliate of the Goldman Sachs Group.

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Carpal Tunnel Law A Pain In The Neck? The Small Business Survival Committee praised the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives for its recent vote to block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed ergonomics regulations.

Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for the Washington D.C.-based small advocacy group, noted OSHA’s ergonomics rules were far reaching, but vague. Businesses and consumers would face higher costs as people struggled to meet the guidelines, he said.

“All imaginable disorders possibly caused by repetitive motions , walking, sitting, climbing, lifting, typing, tightening, etc. ,could be open to abuse. Unsavory union bosses certainly would capitalize on such regulations,” he said.

Keating noted companies would be required to institute a comprehensive ergonomics program, including setting up an ergonomics point person, providing information regarding risks and symptoms, tracking progress in dealing with this issue, and setting up means for reporting problems , all this for receiving so much as one ergonomics complaint, he said.

In addition, the business would be required to provide a prompt response, evaluation of the possible injury and follow-up health care, if needed. If workers get time off, they would receive 90 percent pay and 100 percent benefits, and any workers shifted to lighter duty would get 100 percent pay and benefits, Keating said.

“The Republican-led House of Representatives deserves high praise for voting to block this misguided regulatory overreach by OSHA. One can only hope that the U.S. Senate and President Clinton also will see the wisdom of stopping these costly regulations,” he said.

Inherit The Wind: A San Diego-based company is building a 24-megawatt power plant in Oregon , powered by wind.

SeaWest WindPower, Inc. announced June 9 it is developing the wind power project in Gilliam County, Ore. Project completion is scheduled for the latter half of 2001.

The Bonneville Power Administration will conduct an environmental review of the project, and is considering a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement for all of the project’s output, said Dave Roberts, spokesman for SeaWest.

The project is SeaWest’s pilot development for environmentally friendly power in the Pacific Northwest, said Jan C. Paulin, president and chief executive officer for SeaWest.

“We are extremely optimistic about the opportunity for wind power in the Pacific Northwest,” Paulin said. “The Gilliam project is representative of SeaWest’s strategy to develop low-impact projects which are benign to surrounding land-use, environmental and avian issues.”

Rachel Shimshak, director of the Renewable Northwest Project, agreed.

“RNP is pleased about SeaWest’s participation in wind energy development in the Pacific Northwest. SeaWest has a positive track record of developing projects that are environmentally responsible. This project can help meet the growing demand for wind power in the region,” she said.

SeaWest has identified and acquired several sites in the Pacific Northwest, with the goal of developing as much as 500 megawatts of renewable energy projects in Oregon and Washington. In total, these sites will produce enough energy to serve 150,000 to 200,000 homes in the Pacific Northwest, while ensuring environmental preservation and sustainable development, Roberts said.

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