Jarod Allerheiligen, managing partner of the Minneapolis office of Grant Thornton, commends a U.S. House bill expected to clear the Financial Services Committee with bipartisan support this year that's designed to make way for small, fast-growing public companies.

"Small initial public offerings have virtually disappeared," Allerheiligen noted. "From 1991 to 1997, about 80 percent of IPOs raised less than $50 million. Last year, a mere 16 percent of IPOs in the United States were of that size. While the increased costs of complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act [of 2002] are frequently cited, the true causes lie in the numerous regulatory changes ... intended to increase transparency [that] instead ruined the underlying structure of the market. The reality is that entrepreneurs no longer have as vibrant of an IPO market ...."

Among Minnesota's largest 100 public companies, many went public by initially raising less than $50 million, including Stratasys, SPS Commerce, American Medical Systems and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Rep. Erik Paulsen of Eden Prairie is a co-sponsor, with other Republicans and Democrats, of the Small Capital Formation Act of 2011. The bill would amend a key regulation in the Securities Act of 1933 that, essentially, would increase from $5 million to $50 million the amount that a small company could raise using a simpler, cheaper "offering circular" for review by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It opens up the so-called Regulation A exemption to a size that will allow companies to list on the NYSE and Nasdaq and to avail themselves of the "Blue Sky" exemption, avoiding costly state-by-state filings. It also allows issuers to gauge the viability of an offering by meeting with investors before incurring the significant costs of underwriting an offering.

Grant Thornton has been lobbying in favor of the bill.

TELECOMMUTING PAYS OFF

Telecommuting pays off for private employers and the public, according to a study by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. A state-sponsored program for metro-area employers -- eWorkPlace Minnesota -- delivered $9 in benefits for every $1 spent, the study found.

The state Transportation Department spent $3.2 million of about $133 million in federal highway money it won in late 2008 to establish a telecommuting initiative that helps companies offer employees the option of working from home or establish flexible work schedules to avoid rush hours.

"Telework ... solves a lot of different kinds of business, community and individual problems with one relatively inexpensive tool," said Adeel Lari of the Humphrey School. Lari said the state's $3.2 million investment will yield nearly $30 million over the next five years. And that doesn't count benefits such as productivity, environmental and quality of life gains.

More than 4,200 employees partook of eWorkPlace Minnesota. The 48 employers included Medtronic, Turck, Valspar, Hennepin County, Ecolab, Fairview Health Services and Aveda. More than three-fourths of employers said telework led to greater productivity.

"My commute is 80 miles round trip," said Mark Dietzsch, senior product manager at industrial automation firm Turck. "Working at home twice a week saves me a tank of gas and a lot of wear and tear on the car.

"I'm working at 6:30 a.m., so I'm actually able to get more done on a lot of those days."

Ecolab saw a 16 percent increase in the number of calls answered and a 10 percent hike in quick-call resolution, a preferred outcome from a group it let work from home.

Fairview Health Service saw a 50 percent decrease in overtime hours. The program has not been funded for the 2012-13 state budget.

Still, more than 90 percent of eWorkPlace Minnesota's participating employers said they plan to continue or expand their telework programs.

EWorkPlace Minnesota said last week that just a 1 percent increase in the total number of teleworkers in the state would mean at least 14,650 fewer commute trips each day and nearly 50 million fewer miles traveled per year, saving a couple million gallons of gas and related rush-hour congestion and pollution.

SHORT TAKES

Nan DeMars, the onetime executive assistant who built a business (Executary Services in Minneapolis) around writing about workplace ethics and placing high-level assistants, has written an engaging book that has gotten notice: "You've Got to be Kidding! How to Keep Your Job Without Losing Your Integrity."

"In user-friendly, example-studded language, 'You've Got to be Kidding!' brings a black-and-white clarity to the issues that so often confront today's employee," according to corporate trainer Marlene Carolselli.

The endorsements range from shark-savvy business luminary Harvey Mackay to Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent and whistleblower. For more information, see www.office-ethics.com