Editor's Column - Mike Corbett

Editor Mike Corbett

It came in the  form of a press release:  FIRST FARMERS ANNOUNCES EMPLOYEE WAGE RAISE AND COMMUNITY INVESTMENT PROGRAM.

Businesses don’t usually announce employee raises in press releases so I opened it. Here’s a slightly edited version of its contents.

In response to the recently passed legislation affecting corporate tax, Gene Miles, President and CEO of First Farmers Bank & Trust recently announced a new corporate wage and community support program that commits to four points of emphasis.

  1. Raise the minimum hourly starting wage by $2.50 for all new FFBT employees.
  2. Provide a minimum year-end bonus of $750 annually to all full time FFBT employees.
  3. Invest a minimum of $250,000 annually to community development and support of local branch markets.
  4. Invest a minimum of $150,000 annually to FFBT employee development and education.

It goes on to say that this is a commitment to the bank’s community and people.

It’s not uncommon for businesses to designate funds for community and employee development but raising its minimum starting wage by $2.50?  You don’t see that every day.

So I reached out to First Farmers’ Communications and PR Director Tade Powell. Here’s his reply:

“The basis comes from our continued focus on supporting successful employees that understand and appreciate our corporate culture while being competitive enough to attract new talent in our markets.  The fiscal benefits of the corporate tax changes allow us to reallocate that revenue towards strengthening our team.”

So, it’s a reward for good employees and an effort to compete in the labor market. But, significantly, it’s also a direct response to the new federal tax law.

I find that encouraging because I know many people are skeptical that lowering business tax rates will lead to better outcomes for rank and file workers. Trickle down economics has always included an element of faith that businesses will reinvest that money in people. Here’s evidence of that very thing happening.

Since then I’ve heard of other businesses, including WalMart, making similar pronouncements.

A combination of a tight labor market, a willingness to invest in employee and community development, and favorable tax legislation are combining to provide a win-win for businesses and their people.

I have no idea how many workers make minimum wage at this bank, but the fact that its willing to voluntarily raise their pay as a direct response to federal tax legislation is a welcome development. It’s also a way for people to see a direct connection between federal legislation and Main Street economics. The cause and effect are crystal clear. I hope we hear more stories like this in the future.

See you around the county,