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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 8 months ago

Raises, bonuses flow at beverage firm

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Outspoken CEO relishes tax break and move toward 'good government.'
by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

Employees at Lakewood Ranch-based Gold Coast Eagle Distributing are already seeing the effects of federal tax reform.

John Saputo, owner of the Anheuser-Busch distributor, says his warehouse employees received a $1 an hour raise as a direct result of the savings his company will get from the corporate rate deduction. In dollars, that means employees will go from making $9 to $12 an hour to $10 to $13 an hour. Saputo is also working on a raise for delivery drivers that will equal $1 an hour or more.

Also, commissioned employees at Gold Coast Eagle have a new incentive in place to make an extra $100 to $1,000 a month if they meet certain sales and distribution goals. It's another positive change at the company that stems from the tax plan, Saputo says.

“Finally, we got a break here,” he says. The tax reform, Saputo says, allows the company to “take care of the people who have been doing a good job for the company.”

Saputo is so happy with reform act, he recently hung a banner in the warehouse that tells employees to thank their Republican Congress and President Trump for the raises. The company “could not afford to do this without a tax break from them,” Saputo says in an interview.

Gold Coast Eagle, with $164.6 million in revenue in 2016, will implement other changes because of the tax plan, too.

Saputo, for example, says he normally buys four to five new vehicles a quarter. After tax reform, he looked at his fleet and saw he had 30 vehicles that should be replaced. He says he now plans to replace all the vehicles this quarter because he can deduct the equipment expenses.

Saputo also plans to purchase a new fleet of forklifts, and he already purchased software that allows the company to more efficiently load trucks. He ordered the software, he says, because he knew the tax plan was coming and he could write it off in a year.

When he announced the changes and wage increases to employees, he says he explained the politics behind the tax plan. That's what he encourages other executives to do, too. Saputo says, “Tell them that good government means more money for them.”  

Manufacturing: Industry enjoys renewed confidence

Optimism. That's what Peter Straw, executive director of the Sarasota-Manatee Manufacturers Association, sees in the business sector from federal tax reform.

For manufacturers, he says, reform will allow companies to invest in plants, hire new employees and explore new product lines. “It's a win for any business,” he says, “and it's a win for equipment- and investment-heavy operations like manufacturers.”

The decrease in the corporate tax rate, he says, will also help U.S. manufacturers compete better on the global playing field.

Straw recently spoke to several members of the association, and he says company owners also expressed their optimism on tax reform. None of them, he says, voiced any worries about the new tax code.

Personally, Straw says, he would have liked to see more relief in the plan for wage earners in the middle-income brackets. But he recognizes compromises must be made to get legislation enacted. “Manufacturers and all businesses would like government to remember it's not their money, it's our money,” Straw says. “We're just asking them to take a little less of what's ours.”

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