Member News | May 16

Colonial Life white paper says small businesses can offer big benefits
Small employers can be competitive by offering voluntary benefits

Colonial_header_logoAlthough employees of small businesses share the same interests and concerns about their benefits and personal finances as employees in large companies, they’re less likely to have benefits. But small employers don’t have to settle for small benefits packages.  That’s the message of a white paper released today by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company.

The new research document, called “Small Business: Big Benefits,” explores some of the issues facing small business employers and employees regarding their workplace benefits such as the rising cost of insurance, health care reform and employee recruitment and retention. Using proprietary and industry research, the white paper focuses on companies with fewer than 100 employees.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy,” says Rich Williams, senior vice president, growth markets, at Colonial Life. “Our research shows the concerns of their employees aren’t that much different than larger firms when it comes to personal finances. Employees in companies of all sizes tend to worry about having enough savings to retire, to cover an emergency or to cover being out from work if they’re injured or sick. But small employers do have options when it comes to providing competitive benefits packages.”

An online survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees (full-time and/or part-time) conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Colonial Life[i] revealed the percentage of employees working at small businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) who are concerned about the following financial issues:

  • Not having enough savings to retire as planned: 50 percent
  • Not having enough savings to cover an emergency: 39 percent
  • Not having enough savings to cover a period of being unable to work due to an illness or injury: 39 percent
  • Losing their job: 33 percent
  • Not being able to afford medical costs not covered by their health insurance: 32 percent

“Small employers value their workers and want to provide good benefits that address their individual needs,” says Williams. “Yet today’s economy and a changing regulatory environment make them hesitant to add new benefits. Voluntary, employee-paid benefits give small businesses a way to offer a competitive benefits package without impacting their bottom line.”

In fact, employees in small businesses show considerable interest in purchasing additional insurance benefits if they had access to them through their employers. The Colonial Life poll1 noted employee interest in the following types of insurance plans:

  • Life insurance                                               49 percent
  • Short-term disability insurance                       46 percent
  • Critical illness  insurance                               40 percent
  • Accident insurance                                       40 percent
  • Cancer insurance                                         21 percent

Although small employers typically don’t have dedicated human resource personnel who can educate and manage their benefits enrollments, they do have options for these services. Small businesses can work with vendors that provide complimentary personal counseling sessions as part of their enrollment services to enhance their communication efforts.

“Small employers don’t have to settle for small benefits packages,” says Williams. “They can enjoy many of the same advantages as their larger counterparts. Voluntary benefits can be a tremendous asset to small businesses looking for a cost-effective way to compete in the marketplace,” says Williams.

Download a copy of the white paper at

Colonial Life names Cathy Brooks Volunteer of the Year
Annual award recognizes employee for significant contributions to community

Cathy Brooks head shotColonial Life & Accident Insurance Company has named Cathy Brooks winner of its Volunteer of the Year award.

The award was presented this week at Colonial Life’s national headquarters in Columbia. It is given annually to a Columbia-based employee of Colonial Life or an affiliate of its parent company, Unum, who exhibits excellence in volunteer activities in the community, has a positive outlook about volunteerism, is an inspiration to his or her co-workers and whose activities have had a definite effect on the quality of life in the community.

Brooks initiated and leads a program at Colonial Life that supports Operation Write Home by sending handmade greeting cards to deployed soldiers. The soldiers can then send these cards to their family and friends back home. Brooks teaches other employees how to make the cards during lunch-hour and after-work classes and organizes periodic Any Hero Mail drives. She also has taught card-making classes at several churches, an assisted living facility and a scrapbook store.

“I do it because it’s personal.” Brooks said. “When a troop picks out my card, he or she knows that I made it with my own hands. When someone at home receives a card, it’s so special to know their loved one touched it and wrote in it.”

Since 2011, South Carolina has ranked in the top 10 nationally in the amount of Any Hero Mail sent to deployed troops, largely due to the effort Brooks leads at Colonial Life. Last year, South Carolina ranked 6th with 2,016 pieces of Any Hero Mail, 1,605 of them from Colonial Life. Brooks donated more than 370 hours of her time to this project in 2013. To date, Operation Write Home has received 6,194 blank cards and pieces of Any Hero Mail from Brooks and her program.

Brooks also supports active soldiers and military veterans by participating in drives for the USO Lounge at Columbia Metropolitan Airport and Dorn V.A. Medical Center. Her numerous other volunteer activities include providing “care packages” for children at Carolina Children’s Home, participating in drives for Harvest Hope Food Bank, stuffing holiday stockings for the Salvation Army, and making silent auction gifts for Colonial Life’s annual campaign for United Way of the Midlands.

“Community service has always been an important part of our company’s culture,” said Marie McGehee, community relations manager at Colonial Life. “Our civic and charitable efforts are one way we live our mission to create lasting partnerships in the places where we live and work.”

Colonial Life donated $1,000 in Brooks’ honor to her charity of choice, Operation Write Home.

Colonial Life and its employees contributed more than $2 million to charitable organizations in 2013, while employees donated nearly 12,500 hours of service to the community.

Other nominees for this year’s Volunteer of the Year award included Lauren Chess, employee communications manager; Chris Mele, national telephone team account services representative; Jeanna Moffett, media relations manager; and Barbara Webb, service operations consultant.

About Colonial Life
Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company is a market leader in providing financial protection benefits through the workplace, including disability, life, accident, cancer, critical illness and supplemental health insurance. The company’s benefit services and education, innovative enrollment technology and personal service support more than 80,000 businesses and organizations, representing more than 3 million working Americans and their families. For more information visit or connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Young Promoted to Development Director for Children’s Hospital at Palmetto Health Foundation

PriscillaPalmetto Health Foundation is pleased to announce Priscilla Young has been promoted to Development Director for Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.

In her new role at Palmetto Health Foundation, Young will manage the Children’s Hospital Board, Festival of Trees, the signature fundraising event for Children’s Hospital and partner events for Children’s Hospital. She will continue to coordinate partner events for CAMP KEMO Programs, manage USC Dance Marathon as well as KEMOPALOOZA, the signature fundraising event for CAMP KEMO Programs of Children’s Hospital.

Palmetto Health Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, engages community partners to enhance health care for patients and families served by Palmetto Health. For more information, visit or call 803-434-7275.


The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council’s Board of Advisors

CRCIn celebration of 50 years of service to the Midlands, the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (CRC), a non-profit organization which serves to promote harmony, mutual respect and justice through dialogue, education, programs and partnerships, announces the appointment of ten Midlands leaders to its Board of Advisors.

Keller Barron | Community Activist
Lee Catoe | Special Asst. to the CEO, Columbia Chamber of Commerce
Michael Crapps | CEO and President, First Community Bank
Lincoln Jenkins III | Associate Judge Municipal Court
Dr. Milton Kimpson | Retired Community Leader
Sam McCuen | Communication Consultant, Agape Senior
Dr. Jasper Salmond | Retired Educator and Consultant w/ Wilbur Smith Associates
Kit Smith | Community Activist
Rev. Jesse Washington | Zion Chapel Baptist Church, Pastor
Mitch Willoughby | Attorney, Willoughby & Hoefer

CRC was created to be an important part of the fabric of the greater Columbia community”, said Henri Baskins, Executive Director of the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. “We are very thankful that these highly respected men and women agreed to lend their expertise and historical prospective of community engagement to help us accomplish our mission.   Their support and wise counsel will greatly benefit the Midlands community”.

About The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council
The Columbia Community Relations Council was formed in 1964 as a means of calming racial tensions in the Midlands.  Among its founders were Columbia Mayor Lester Bates, then City Councilman Hyman Rubin, Sr., businessman William Lyles, Sr., USC’s president, Thomas Jones, Attorney Lincoln C. Jenkins, to name a few. In 1965 the organization was incorporated as a not for profit entity.  In 1971 the name was changed to The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council.  Through the years it has become an organization known for advocating on behalf of all Midlands residents.


Elliott Davis Receives the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award

elliott-davis-logoElliott Davis was awarded the 2014 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award, the highest honor presented by the state in the arts, at a State House ceremony held May 8. The firm was one of 150 organizations nominated for the award in the business community category. Rick Davis, Managing Shareholder, was escorted to the podium to accept the award by Representative Phyllis Henderson and Senator Ross Turner.

“We believe it is a privilege and a responsibility to support the arts,” said Davis. “This has always been a priority for the firm and an inherent part of our corporate culture. The arts do more than just entertain – they inspire, challenge and educate us. We are proud to have a positive impact on an arts community that benefits all South Carolinians.”

Alan Ethridge, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC) in Greenville, South Carolina, describes Elliott Davis as a tremendous supporter of the arts. “The firm has been a generous corporate sponsor of the arts for many years. Since 2004, principals of the firm have been active members of the MAC Board of Directors, and three of these individuals served as Treasurer. Elliott Davis has also been a corporate participant in Campaign for the Arts, a workplace giving program for the MAC grants program, since its inception in 2002.”

Employees of Elliott Davis actively contribute, committing time and talent. The firm sponsors numerous arts organizations and contributes financially to support initiatives in the Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry. Last year, Elliott Davis dedicated 40 percent of its philanthropic budget to visual and performing arts organizations and programs throughout South Carolina.

“Elliott Davis has been a very generous corporate sponsor of events in Greenville, such as Artisphere and Greenville Open Studios,” said Ethridge. “However, the firm’s leadership and employees truly understand the importance of the arts to the vitality of the entire state, even in locations outside its footprint. Elliott Davis supports the arts throughout South Carolina, including the South Carolina Philharmonic in Columbia and the Greenwood-Lander Performing Arts Center.”

About Elliott Davis, LLC
Elliott Davis is one of the largest accounting, tax and consulting services firms in the southeast and ranks among the top 50 CPA firms in the U.S. With offices in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, the firm provides a wide range of accounting, tax, assurance and consulting solutions, concentrating on core industries, niche areas and emerging business sectors. Growing since 1925, Elliott Davis is a member of The Leading Edge Alliance, an international professional association of independently owned accounting firms.

Learn more at


New Office Investors, Owners Signal Continuing Recovery and Growth to the Columbia Office Market

downloadWith the first quarter coming to an end, there was increased activity in the office investor market as new investment/ownership groups look to acquire existing product in the Columbia office market. At the end of this quarter there were several significant properties that were under contract or recently closed to new investment groups entering the Columbia office market. These buildings include, but are not limited to, the 77 Office Building, the Stoneridge Office Complexes, and four buildings in the Synergy Office Park.

The majority of these buildings are all located in the suburban Columbia office markets. This activity confirms the expected shift in activity to the Columbia suburbs as the Central Business District market has tightened up over the past 18 months. Although there are still a substantial amount of good quality suburban office buildings with higher vacancies, the investor demand can be attributed to the Columbia office market being priced more competitively and offering higher returns to office investors than primary office markets in the Southeast and nationally.

Continuing the trend of the last two to three years, the CBD remained the strongest submarket within the office market. While activity in the 1st quarter was down compared to the absorption that took place in the latter parts of 2013 due to the repositioning of several financial institutions, there is an expectation that the CBD vacancy rates will continue to tighten through normal market absorption and the lack of any planned new buildings until the delivery of the Horizon II building at USC’s Innovista Campus in early 2017. We expect the downtown vacancy rates to continue to tighten directly older class C product being redeveloped for residential apartments with a mix of retail.  Given the potential incentives available now for buildings over 50 years old to receive Landmark status or other tax credit vehicles, we expect to see an increase in adaptive redevelopment projects.  An example of this is the historic renovation and mixed-use development of the ±120,000 SF 1310 Lady Street complex (formerly known as the Keenan Complex). The project is underway and the owners are in the process of converting approximately 40,000 square feet of former office space into high-end apartments.  The remaining 80,000 SF portion of the building will remain traditional office space and is already anchored by Merrill Lynch and a mix of other smaller tenants.   The owners recently signed their newest tenant for the office portion of the complex for the University of South Carolina’s Speech Pathology School which will begin occupying approximately 18,000 SF in May.

We anticipate the office leasing momentum to continue with increased activity and larger eminent transactions throughout 2014.  There are several large national credit tenants who are already in the Columbia market who have earmarked Columbia for continued growth and are in the process of finalizing leases in downtown and the Suburbs which could represent a positive 100,000 SF of absorption by the start of the 4th quarter.  With larger blocks of space becoming scarce in the CBD, we continue to project that growth will shift to the submarkets and vacancy rates will decline in all three of the largest submarkets (CBD, Northeast, St. Andrews).  Expectations will be that suburban Landlords will be offering favorable terms to continue to attract Tenants through the end of this year. As the vacancy starts to decrease due to pending transactions and normal market absorption, you will see most leasing concessions go away and rates begin to rise to mirror the positive rate growth in the CBD.

NAI Avant Represents Garden & Gun, LLC in the ±19,726 Square Foot Lease in the Historic Cigar Factory, Charleston, SC

IngleDavid Ingle, Senior Broker with NAI Avant’s Charleston office, recently represented the tenant, Garden & Gun, LLC in the leasing of ±19,726 square feet of office space in the Cigar Factory building in downtown Charleston. Located at the corner of East Bay and Columbus Streets, the Cigar Factory was acquired last month as a joint-venture with extensive mixed-use redevelopment plans underway. The space will serve as the headquarters for the Charleston-based Southern lifestyle magazine.

About NAI Avant NAI Avant’s commercial real estate business is one of the largest in the Southeast.  With over 65 professionals, the firm provides comprehensive brokerage, leasing, development, property and project management services.  For nearly three consecutive decades, the group has had more of its brokerage professionals recognized as top producers or recipients of the top awards than any other firm in South Carolina. As a member of the NAI Global Network, NAI Avant is affiliated with over 350 offices and 5,000 professionals in 55 countries across the globe. NAI Global is the largest independent commercial real estate service provider worldwide and a wholly owned subsidiary of C-III Capital Partners. NAI Avant’s Property and Project Management Group currently manages a multi-million square foot portfolio of properties across South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Through its Avant Healthcare Division, the firm provides comprehensive services to hospitals, clinics, and physician groups. NAI Avant, founded in 1966, is headquartered in Columbia, SC with an office in Charleston, SC. Find out more about NAI Avant and its services at Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.


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