Business Bulletin – July 14, 2020

In order to keep you informed on the evolving impact of COVID-19 on our local community, the Plano Chamber will be publishing updates on Mondays and Thursdays as the Business Bulletin. We will share the top news items that you need to read to stay up-to-date on important health, community, and business issues as they develop.

July 14, 2020

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  • Plano ISD released a draft plan for starting classes this fall.  The plan includes a number of new safety protocols, including face masks and health screenings.  While the district will be holding in-person instruction for those that choose to return, they will also offer a virtual option for students who do not.  Families have until July 16th to choose whether they will continue virtual learning or return to campuses.

Five Questions with Russel Dubree, Lifeblue

5 Questions with Russel Dubree of Lifeblue
by Kathy Marcum, Membership Development Manager

Lifeblue is a full service digital media company that moved their corporate HQ to Plano in early 2019.  As one of only four Certified B Corporations in the Dallas area, Lifeblue has made a commitment to themselves, their customers and the public to balance profits with purpose.  Russel Dubree, Chief Operating Officer of Lifeblue, took some time recently to speak with me about life at Lifeblue.

How is Lifeblue navigating the quarantine? Are you working from home?

We’ve been fortunate enough to navigate quarantine quite well given the nature of our work being already in a digital environment. We started working from home in early March and focused a lot of effort to maintain a lot of our culture and work processes and also adapt to the rapid change occurring with our clients. The only thing we couldn’t duplicate for folks was the cold brew coffee machine. It is sorely missed.

What has been the best and worst thing about working from home?

I think the best thing for us has been the fact that communication has actually increased in a lot of different ways. People are updating each other more on their goals, commitments, and what they are working on. The downside is that we are a highly collaborative and close knit culture that we believe enhances the quality of our work and while we have found different means to do this in a remote environment, it has proven more difficult than if we were in an office environment.

Culture is such a big part of your company’s story. How have you engaged your staff while working separately? 

Our team has done a great job adapting quickly to this. We’ve started Trivia Tuesdays during lunch, having virtual happy hours on Fridays, keeping track of and being consistent with our 1-1 meetings, and just reaching out to see how folks are doing. In addition we created a “task force team” called Team Compass of a few team members who are proactive in evaluating our needs and opportunities to better enhance our culture within the COVID crisis and beyond.

What did you want to be when you grew up and is that what you became?

Not to date myself, but I definitely did not intend to be a founder of a digital agency growing up as that wouldn’t have been a conceivable option. I think I started somewhere along the lines of paramedic following in the footsteps of my father, to a chef, and finally an Air Force pilot as I finished high school and on into college.

What is the first thing you plan to do once restrictions are fully lifted?

Tex-Mex takeout has been the biggest disappointment during quarantine, I look forward to sitting on a patio with a margarita and eating my heart out in chips and salsa. My wife wants to go to New York to see a Broadway show. I suppose we’ll have to do both.

Learn more about Lifeblue at their website.

Meet Our 2020 Summer Interns

The Plano Chamber of Commerce is proud to participate in the Plano Mayor’s Summer Internship Program. Thanks to the support of our partners, Cigna and FedEx Office, we will have the support of four summer interns from Plano ISD schools. Olivia McCoy will be working directly with our staff on special projects to support the Chamber and learn about the local business community.  Ananya Sridhar, Bethel Kim, and Keshav Vasanth will be working on a special research project for the Plano Chamber with the support of the team at FedEx Office. Please read on to learn more about these four outstanding local students.

Olivia McCoy – Plano East Senior High
My name is Olivia McCoy and I am a rising senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Plano East Senior High School. At PESH I play the flute in the band, participate in History Fair, am president of LASER (science fair club), am the treasurer of the Plano East Red Cross Chapter, and volunteer through the National Honor Society. As a firm believer in life-long learning and the importance of education, I am the event executive of a student-led nonprofit organization called SparkSTEM where I plan STEM-related events and projects to help students in underprivileged areas of North Texas access education. Some of my hobbies include running, reading, cooking, and trying new foods at local restaurants with my friends! One of the books I just recently finished is The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang (highly recommend), and in my spare time, I post pictures of dishes I cook, recipes, and mini-reviews for local cuisine on my food Instagram account. As an avid environmentalist, once in college, I hope to double major in International Relations and Environmental Science and pursue a career in environmental law in the future. I look forward to working with the Chamber of Commerce this summer and feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity!

Ananya Sridhar – Plano East Senior High
My name is Ananya Sridhar and I am a rising junior in the IB Program at Plano East Senior High School. I am an avid participant in our school’s Science Fair, NHS, Theater, and TedEd programs. Outside of school, I enjoy teaching taekwondo at my dojang, participating in creative problem solving challenges for Destination Imagination, and volunteering at the Dallas Museum of Art on their Teen Advisory Council. I am passionate about animal conservation and volunteer at the Dallas Zoo. I am very interested in science and history, and in the future, I hope to pursue a career in the medical field. For fun, I enjoy reading, watching Marvel movies, painting, and bullet journaling.

Bethel Kim – Plano West Senior High
 My name is Bethel Kim and I’m a rising senior at Plano West Senior High. Throughout the year you can find me playing violin in the orchestra hall, tutoring after school, attempting to practice my Spanish skills, or spending time with friends at my favorite boba shop. I’ve always loved storytelling and have found platforms to express this passion through a podcast I started with friends and a series of creative writing. In college, I plan to major in economics and continue to listen and tell stories with a possible minor in English. With this combined focus, I hope to further understand the economy, its impact on people, and find a way to bring more of its narrative to life. I consider myself to be the perfect ambivert who loves a day of trying new things and meeting new people as well as a night in reading and binge-watching my favorite shows.

Keshav Vasanth – Plano East Senior High
My name is Keshav Vasanth, and I am a rising junior at the IB World School at the Plano East Senior High School in Plano, Texas. Since I was 5, I have been part of the global nonprofit Destination Imagination program, building creative solutions to service learning challenges related to conservation, hurricane relief, pollution and more. I love how combining thoughtful, artistic design with innovative technology can impact societal needs. I hope to combine entrepreneurship, engineering, conservation and film in college and in my career. I enjoy inventing, performing magic, video production, long boarding, dance, and volunteering at the Dallas Zoo.

Stay tuned to hear more from our interns about their summer internship experience.

Business Bulletin – July 6, 2020

In order to keep you informed on the evolving impact of COVID-19 on our local community, the Plano Chamber will be publishing updates on Mondays and Thursdays as the Business Bulletin. We will share the top news items that you need to read to stay up-to-date on important health, community, and business issues as they develop.

July 6, 2020

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Business Bulletin – June 29, 2020

In order to keep you informed on the evolving impact of COVID-19 on our local community, the Plano Chamber will be publishing updates on Mondays and Thursdays as the Business Bulletin. We will share the top news items that you need to read to stay up-to-date on important health, community, and business issues as they develop.

June 29, 2020

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Business Bulletin – June 22, 2020

In order to keep you informed on the evolving impact of COVID-19 on our local community, the Plano Chamber will be publishing updates on Mondays and Thursdays as the Business Bulletin. We will share the top news items that you need to read to stay up-to-date on important health, community, and business issues as they develop.

June 22, 2020

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  • Governor Abbott held a press conference today to address the rapid rise in Coronavirus cases underway in Texas.  The Governor detailed the State’s actions to combat the spread, including surge response teams to hotspot areas and he heavily stressed the need for all Texans to wear protective face coverings when out in the public.  The Governor also stressed the need for Texans to adhere to the social distancing guidelines, stating that ‘closing down Texas again will be the last option.’

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Business Bulletin – June 18, 2020

In order to keep you informed on the evolving impact of COVID-19 on our local community, the Plano Chamber will be publishing updates on Mondays and Thursdays as the Business Bulletin. We will share the top news items that you need to read to stay up-to-date on important health, community, and business issues as they develop.

June 18, 2020

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  • Texas Education Commissioner Morath announced that schools can re-open in the fall. Guidelines for reopening during the coronavirus pandemic are expected to be released Tuesday, June 23rd.
  • Texas Workforce Commission will reinstate work search requirements for Unemployment Insurance beginning July 6th.
  • Runoffs for the Democratic candidate State Representative of District 67 will be held Tuesday, July 14th. Early voting begins Monday, June 29th and continues through Friday, July 10th. Today, Monday, June 15th is the last day to register to vote. Not sure if you’re registered? You can check on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

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Business Bulletin – June 11, 2020

In order to keep you informed on the evolving impact of COVID-19 on our local community, the Plano Chamber will be publishing updates on Mondays and Thursdays as the Business Bulletin. We will share the top news items that you need to read to stay up-to-date on important health, community, and business issues as they develop.

June 11, 2020

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  • Statewide sales tax revenues are falling and unemployment rates are rising. The economic impact from the pandemic is expected to create a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the state’s current two-year budget, according the Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.
  • Runoffs for the Democratic candidate State Representative of District 67 will be held Tuesday, July 14th. Early voting begins Monday, June 29th and continues through Friday, July 10th. If you are not already registered, Monday, June 15th is the last day to register to vote. Not sure if you’re registered? You can check on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

 

Five Questions with Sean Corrington, Furniture Marketing Group, Inc.

5 Questions with Sean Corrington of Furniture Marketing Group
by Kelle Marsalis, President & CEO

Recently I checked in on Sean Corrington, Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing with Furniture Marketing Group, located in Plano. Sean and I met several years ago when I worked closely with the owner of FMG on small business programs. It was clear from the start that FMG, and Sean, are fantastic community partners, employers, and members of the Plano Chamber. Read more of our conversation below to learn about the company, Sean, and his beautiful baby girls.

I’ve known FMG for a few years now, and have even utilized some of your great products in my office. What would you like readers to know about FMG and what you specialize in?

Furniture Marketing Group, Inc. (FMG) is a family of companies headquartered in Plano, TX. We have showrooms in both Texas & Oklahoma as well as client support centers spanning from the west to the east coast. FMG is a provider of interior furnishings for corporate environments of all sizes, government entities, and healthcare providers, as well as the education sector. “Interior furnishings” honestly doesn’t even begin to describe what we help our clients with in today’s world. We provide ergonomic work from home solutions, flexible architectural space division, technology solutions, and many other critical products our clients demand. Aside from a distributor of products, our teams lead client conversations with a consultative approach on product solutions given an organization objectives.  Doing this alongside great industry partners yields a concept in which FMG executes through completion. Long term support of our clients over the years is really what makes the difference.

FMG is a family-owned business. How has the company grown since its beginnings?

We are in our 39th year of business and fortunate to be one of the largest distributors for Haworth, which is a multibillion dollar furniture manufacturer based in Western Michigan. Our roots go deep with our supplier. Our founder, Cleon Almond, started FMG in 1981 and at that time, Haworth just like FMG, was a lot smaller. Haworth’s current Chairman Emeritus, Dick Haworth, and Cleon focused together on one key objective. Provide best in class products & customer service to our clients. Today FMG second generation CEO, Greg Almond, instills those same principles from his father, continuing to guide FMG forward.

What has been the biggest surprise you’ve learned about the furniture business in your 7 years with FMG and 20 years in the business?

The biggest surprise I’ve learned is the sophistication that goes into designing an office space. Twenty years ago, I thought office furniture was just a desk and a chair! Big picture discussions around analyzing the amount of real-estate for each employee as well as discussion about creating an atmosphere that supports a company’s core values and objectives are critical to the success of any project.  More important than ever, our organization must provide flexibility of a workspace that allows for changes and that has to be done with thoughtful up-front design. Sometimes I wish it was just a desk and a chair!

We are in the 12th week of the pandemic in the USA. Are you working from home? If so, what has been the biggest challenge?

FMG is a supplier to essential businesses so our offices have remained open. However, a majority of our employees are working from home as we finalize our own return to work strategy. I personally have worked from our office in International Business Park sometimes at least 3 or 4 days a week while working from home the others. Since mid-March, I have been one of 6 people in our 16,000 foot office so it has been very easy to practice physical distancing inside a space as such when no one is around! There are challenges to both scenarios. I miss the interaction in the office and do not have the luxury of walking up to an associate to have an ad-hoc conversation in which I might be able to get an answer immediately. With technology, I can still get the answer but it might take just a bit longer. I definitely miss the day to day in person collaboration. While working from home, that in itself has had a few challenges. My wife, Michelle, and I have twin daughters, Avery & Aubrey who are about to turn one year old and as you can imagine, the home office has a lot of things happening!

Ok, it all can’t be about business. You’ve been in Plano for a while, so tell us what is your favorite thing to do in Plano? 

Since moving to Plano three years ago, Michelle’s and my life has changed dramatically as you can imagine. We use to spend some late nights in the Shops at Legacy & Legacy West. We now spend a lot of our time at some of the great parks Plano has to offer and our latest favorite is Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. However, our favorite spot is at our home in Plano with our girls. Michelle, Avery, Aubrey, and I plan on spending many nights and weekends right in our own back yard swimming and grilling!


Learn more about Furniture Marketing Group, Inc. at their website.

Business Bulletin – June 8, 2020

In order to keep you informed on the evolving impact of COVID-19 on our local community, the Plano Chamber will be publishing updates on Mondays and Thursdays as the Business Bulletin. We will share the top news items that you need to read to stay up-to-date on important health, community, and business issues as they develop.

June 8, 2020

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  • The current economic downturn has been officially titled a recession by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Economic activity began to backslide in February as a result of the coronavirus and has only recently show positive signs of improvement with the jobs numbers released for May.  The report noted that it is still possible the recession could be short lived, with some forecasters indicating they expect economic output to begin growing again in the third quarter of 2020.
  • The White House is waiting to see if the next jobs report shows similar booming recovery before determining what the Phase 4 Coronavirus Relief package may include.  May’s job report was the single biggest month-to-month job gains ever for the U.S.  The Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls in May rose by 2.5 million and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%, shocking economists who anticipated that more than 8 million additional jobs had been shed.

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  • Governor Abbott announced on June 3rd that the State of Texas is entering Phase III of reopening, effective immediately.  Highlights include:
    • Virtually all businesses can increase capacity to 50%;
    • Restaurants can increase their table size from 6 to 10 people and increase capacity to 75% starting June 12;
    • Professional and college outdoor sports can increase to 50% capacity in their stadiums; and
    • Bars can increase capacity to 50% so long as customers remain seated.

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