Early retirees from Target learned this fall that they’re losing the company-subsidized health care insurance Target had offered until they are 65, when they qualify for government-underwritten Medicare or Medicaid.

One Twin Cities retiree, who left Target several years ago said he already was paying about $300 more per month for health insurance than active employees and he doesn’t like the rules changing in the middle of the game, or before he turns 65.

In a letter to affected employees from “Target Pay & Benefits,” the company said it’s phasing out the early-retiree plan effective next April because there are more economical alternatives through Obamacare.

Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, insurers can no longer refuse to underwrite people with preexisting medical conditions.

The Target situation includes fewer than 1,000 employees, although the company refused to specify how many.

Target CFO Cathy Smith said on a third-quarter conference call with analysts last week: “During the quarter, we benefited from the planned discontinuation of an outdated, little-used retiree medical plan.’’

And the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that its selling, general and administrative expense rate dropped from 21.1 percent in the third quarter of 2014 to 20.7 percent last quarter “reflecting the discontinuation of an outdated retiree medical plan and continued expense discipline across the organization.”

Target management has been trying to impress Wall Street and investors with expense cutting, including thousands of jobs over the last couple of years, while it grows revenue. And it is not the first company to drop or hike prices for retiree health care.

Kramarczuk’s was once an “immigrant” business

Nick Kramarczuk, grandson of the Ukranian couple who founded the namesake meat market and restaurant on East Hennepin Avenue in 1954, knows something about immigrant businesses.

Kramarczuk, 32, who started helping out at the family business when he was 12, visited Edison High School last week to talk to Shirley Poelstra’s class about small businesses during Junior Achievement Entrepreneurship Week. Poelstra has sent a few of her J.A. business teams from Edison to the national competition. Those teams, like the school, are disproportionately working-poor kids of color and immigrants.

Working menial jobs for his dad, Orest, the current owner, taught him the value of hard, unglamorous work, Nick Kramarczuk told the students.

He went to college to purse a degree in marine geology and was working for a Florida engineering firm when he decided to rejoin the family business several years ago.

Kramarczuk, who greets customers, makes sausage, clears tables, gets involved in business decisions and more, discussed the joys and pitfalls of a family-owned small business, and the history of the iconic Nordeast destination.

“Are you hiring?” asked one of the students.

In fact, Kramarczuk’s, which employs 45 full-time and 5 part-time employees, probably will add a few workers over the upcoming holidays.

“I was struck by the diversity of the students and that they were so attentive,” said Kramarczuk. “I live right down the street from Edison, but I haven’t been in a high school for 20 years. I really appreciate our Minneapolis diversity.”

And those kids are the future customers and employees at their own businesses and Kramarczuk’s.

Fewer oil trains through downtown Minneapolis

BNSF Railway is sending fewer Bakken oil trains through west metro suburbs and downtown Minneapolis.

About two to eight oil trains pass through there each week, according to a BNSF report to the Minnesota Public Safety Department. Western suburbs and downtown Minneapolis had been seeing 11 to 23 weekly oil trains, each carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude oil.

Now, more oil trains are running on the usual BNSF route through Moorhead, St. Cloud, Anoka and northeast Minneapolis. Oil trains then pass through St. Paul, along the Mississippi River and into Wisconsin, heading east.

BNSF shifted routes during $326 million in upgrades to its Minnesota system. Since July, more oil trains have gone from Moorhead to Willmar to Minneapolis on tracks that also pass Target Field.

BNSF said it always intended to shift traffic back to the Moorhead-St. Cloud-Minneapolis route as construction wound down for winter. Downtown oil traffic still isn’t back to the previous level of zero to three trains per week, however.


Broin returns as CEO of ethanol maker Poet Inc.

The founder of ethanol producer Poet Inc. is back in the job of chief executive.

Jeff Broin, whose experiments with ethanol production began on his family’s Wanamingo, Minn., farm in the early 1980s, had led the company during years of rapid growth until 2012, when he became Poet’s executive chairman.

Since then, Broin said he has worked on industry issues, set up a foundation and supported Third World causes, but was drawn back to the CEO job because “my heart has always been in this company,” according to a company statement. Jeff Lautt, who has been CEO, will manage day-to-day operations as president and chief operating officer.

Poet, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., operates 28 ethanol plants, most of them partly owned by farmers, including four in Minnesota.


Sales exec Konrath joins St. Kate’s

Jill Konrath, a veteran sales strategist, consultant and author, has been appointed the first sales executive in residence at the Center for Sales Innovation at St. Catherine University. The center’s sales degree programs are offered within the business school at St. Kate’s. Konrath expects to enhance the sales curriculum, expand corporate sponsorships and help develop a corporate advisory board.