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Health insurance costs force some to get creative | Western Colorado


Last year, Lisa Mullen was combing through insurance plan options to offer her employees at Rocky Mountain Sanitation when she came to a realization.

“As a business, we have to find something else,” she said. “It’s so difficult.”

Mullen, who employs about 30 people at the Grand Junction garbage collection service, decided to abandon traditional health insurance plans and offer a health savings account with a high deductible, along with a membership at Appleton Clinics, a local concierge primary care practice where patients pay monthly fees.

Mullen said her insurance costs have risen 62% in the past five years and would have gone up an additional 21% if she had stuck with the same plan as last year.

“What other services go up 21% in a year?” she asked. “(My business) sure can’t.”

Insurance costs have left multiple Mesa County businesses scrambling to keep up with rising prices. Even as some rates have dropped this year, some small businesses have steered away from traditional insurance to offer alternative plans while local business leaders and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce are attempting to find ways to band together to bargain for better rates.

Rocky Mountain Sanitation used to pick up 100% of their employees’ premiums and the employee would pick up their dependents. But that also changed a few years back and employees now pay about 28% of their own premium. With the increases, Mullen said some employees have not been able to afford putting their spouse on the plan.

Over the past few years, she said the company has been paying more and receiving fewer benefits. Some of the plans she looked at had out-of-pocket maximums of $16,000. She ultimately settled on two HSA plans, one with a $4,500 deductible and another with a deductible between $7,000 and $8,000 that included the membership with Appleton Clinics.

Mullen estimates that 3% of the company’s budget is dedicated to health care and it paid about $17,000 per month last year.

“We want our employees to have good coverage,” she said. “Just figuring out what’s going to work and what we can afford and employees can afford is very difficult.”

Nina Anderson’s Express Pros temp agency also offers primary care coverage through Appleton Clinic memberships for her eight full-time employees, along with vision, life insurance and short-term disability. Employees have to purchase their own insurance plans for hospital stays or any catastrophic events, or get it through a spouse.

She said when she first opened and looked at insurance plans, she was hit by “sticker shock,” as one employee in her late 50s would cost the company more than $1,000 per month to insure.

“There’s no way I have the margins for that,” Anderson said.

By dropping traditional insurance, the company is able to pick up 100% of the costs for the health plan. She said her employees preferred this to a more comprehensive plan in which the workers were picking up more of the costs.

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Diane Schwenke feels Mullen’s and Anderson’s decision to go with concierge care is becoming more common with smaller businesses — less than 50 employees — that would not face a penalty by declining to offer health insurance to employees.

“Things have frankly gotten so bad that employers are just wondering if there is another way,” she said.

However, the emergence of more data, such as hospital prices, is bringing some hope of lower prices.

“There’s been some interesting developments in terms of data,” she said. “Employers are becoming more empowered in the process.”

The chamber is also beginning to work on an effort to bring small employers together as a group to potentially increase bargaining power with insurance companies and negotiate lower rates. In a recent survey conducted by the chamber, health care costs were at the top of the list of concerns among members.

“This is an opportunity for smaller employers,” Schwenke said. “We want to do it in a collaborative manner.”

Hilltop Community Resources CEO Mike Stahl sits on the chamber’s board of directors and will help lead the formation of a task force to help negotiate better rates.

Stahl said the board will research what is driving the costs of health care across the state and try to help the community as a whole, not just one business.

“The costs affect everybody,” he said. “It is really choking out any financial growth (for businesses).”

Stahl hopes there will be strength in numbers.

“I would clearly think the bargaining power would be much stronger,” he said.

Robert Smith, executive director of Colorado Business Group on Health, said the main issues to tackle are pharmacy costs and hospital prices. He noted that reducing hospital errors, which result in extra costs, would be a big step.

“You can absolutely get some of the highest and most reliable services in Colorado,” Smith said. “The catch is, the exact opposite is also true.”

Smith said he does see some hope with some new legislation in Colorado, particularly re-insurance, which is more or less insurance for insurance companies that is thought to lower rates. Addressing out-of-network bills and primary care will also help, he believes.

Health insurance costs for private-sector businesses rose steadily from 2008 through 2017, according to statistics from the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Average costs for a single premium rose from $4,303 in 2008 to $6,456 in 2017, an increase of about 50% over that span. The average family premium in that span went from $11,952 to $19,339, a rise of more than 60%.

Smith notes that the costs of health care have risen more than four times the cost of inflation over the past five years, which has impacted employees directly as companies ask workers to pick up a greater percentage of the premiums.

“Unfortunately, one of the strategies employers have had to employ is shifting more costs to employees,” he said. “That’s taking more money out of salaries.”

Monument Health, a health insurance provider that serves Mesa and Delta counties, is already seeing a reduction in premium rates because of some of this legislation, CEO Stephanie Motter says.

Motter said rates dropped 10% to 20%, depending on the product and she’s seen some smaller businesses return to the organization. She referred to small businesses as companies that employ fewer than 100 people.

“We have seen the very small employer groups coming back,” Motter said.

More than 200 businesses are using Monument Health to provide insurance for their employees in 2020, Motter said.

Monument Health is in its fifth year offering health plans, and while Motter says costs are still a big issue, she feels lower costs could be on the horizon.

“We’re very bullish that we can continue to see efficiencies and pass that on,” she said.


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Apple investors need its new iPhone to be a hit | Business


Happy Tuesday. A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.

Apple’s iPhone 11 probably won’t be revolutionary. But the company needs it to sell.

The company is expected to unveil its latest iPhone lineup at its headquarters in Cupertino later on Tuesday. The rub: None of these devices are expected to look radically different from those released last year, per my CNN Business colleague Samantha Kelly.

From Samantha: “At a time when some of its competitors are launching innovative but riskier concepts, such as Samsung’s foldable smartphone and its two 5G devices, Apple is expected to stay the course. That, too, may be risky. The iPhone business — still Apple’s single biggest moneymaker — has been lackluster at best of late.”

The backdrop: Apple’s core iPhone sales have declined for three consecutive quarters. For the three months ending in June, they dropped by nearly 12% compared to the previous year.

Despite this, shares have been resilient in 2019, rising more than 35%. But Apple’s stock price is still below its 2018 peak.

What’s happening: Demand is slowing as customers hold onto their smartphones for longer. Apple is also in a slump in China, once its most promising market. The bruising trade war between Washington and Beijing has been a big part of the problem.

The iPhone 11 lineup — which should include an iPhone 11 Pro and an iPhone 11 Pro Max — presents a crucial opportunity for Apple to reverse the trend. Roughly 60 million to 70 million consumers in China are due for an upgrade, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives points out.

Expect changes such as a faster processor and improved Face ID. But without any blockbuster design overhauls or flashy 5G phones, it may be difficult for Apple to grab customers’ attention. “Apple tends to perform well when it changes the design of the iPhone in a drastic way,” ABI Research analyst David McQueen told Samantha. “However, it cannot do this every year.”

Watch this space: Look for Apple also to use the massive event to highlight its growing services business. It needs Apple TV, the App Store and Apple Music to help cushion the drop-off in iPhone sales.

Calling more stimulus from Beijing

Another batch of weak data from China is a reminder that the country’s economy is not out of the woods just yet.

China’s producer price index — which measures the cost of goods sold to businesses, and is an important measure of corporate profitability — dropped 0.8% in August compared to one year ago, according to government statistics released Tuesday. That’s the index’s worst decline in three years.

Analysts said the drop points toward a broad slowdown in demand, according to my CNN Business colleague Laura He in Hong Kong. And it bolsters the expectation that China will ease monetary policy even more in the coming months.

“The authorities will not cease easing … until they see definitive signs that PPI rises are recovering,” Freya Beamish, chief Asia economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note.

China also released data this week that showed a sharp decline in exports, while imports stayed weak.

The scene: The country’s central bank has already taken some steps to support its economy. This includes its announcement last week that it would reduce the amount of cash banks have to keep in reserve. The government still has plenty of tools available, and it’s expected to use them.

Jack Ma has retired from Alibaba

If I had a fortune of nearly $40 billion, I’m not sure I would wait until my mid-50s to retire. But I’m not Jack Ma. China’s most famous entrepreneur and the country’s richest man has been preparing to hand over the reins at Alibaba for a year. He officially steps down as executive chairman on Tuesday, just as he turns 55.

After two decades building Alibaba into a $460 billion business, Ma is now pivoting full time to philanthropy, my CNN Business colleague Sherisse Pham in Hong Kong writes. A former English teacher, he’s expected to focus on education and gender equity.

Don’t expect Ma to be out of the picture entirely, Sherisse writes. He’s expected to continue to shape the company’s future through his lifetime membership with the Alibaba Partnership, a group of 36 people that can nominate a majority of the directors to the board. There’s also the matter of his 6.2% stake.

But by exiting the chairman role, Ma is leaving on a high — and at a time when China’s government is increasing restrictions on internet companies.

Up next

Apple’s iPhone 11 event kicks off at 1 pm ET. Consumers — and investors in the tech company — will definitely be tuning in.

  • The NFIB’s US small business optimism index for August posted at 6 am ET.
  • US job openings data for July arrives at 10 am ET.

Coming tomorrow: OPEC releases its monthly report, coming just after Saudi Arabia appointed a new oil minister.


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Are Trump’s Prime Medicaid Regulators Ignoring Main Issues? Insurance coverage Large’s Tense Assembly With a Senator Provides to Rising Concern.


ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of energy. Join ProPublica’s Large Story publication to obtain tales like this one in your inbox as quickly as they’re printed.

This story was co-published with The Dallas Morning Information.

The rating member of the Senate well being committee has complained for months concerning the Trump administration’s failure to look into Medicaid contractors which have reaped massive earnings whereas typically failing to supply essential affected person providers.

So final week, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., referred to as within the high boss of Centene, the nation’s largest Medicaid managed care firm. He needed to query the corporate about studies that its Texas subsidiary denied life-sustaining care to sick and disabled youngsters — in a single case, leaving a child in foster care to endure a catastrophic mind damage.

The assembly with longtime Centene CEO Michael Neidorff didn’t go properly, in line with Casey.

“I believed they’d attempt to persuade me that they have been going to do higher, however they didn’t appear all for that in any respect,” Casey informed ProPublica and The Dallas Morning Information in an interview. “I simply couldn’t imagine it.”

Casey mentioned the Centene official denied offering insufficient care and forged blame for failures on foster dad and mom and nurses.

Centene declined to make Neidorff out there for an interview and emailed a short assertion in response to questions concerning the assembly with Casey.

“Centene and its subsidiaries care deeply about each member we serve,” the e-mail learn. “We work tirelessly to make sure we offer the suitable stage of look after our members.”

Below Neidorff, Centene has grown from a tiny well being community within the Midwest right into a $60-billion-a-year well being care empire, backed virtually totally with taxpayer cash. The corporate cares for greater than 8.5 million Medicaid sufferers.

The corporate got here underneath criticism final yr after an eight-part investigation printed within the Morning Information examined whether or not Centene and different Medicaid managed care corporations have been skimping on care to bolster earnings. The sequence raised questions on Centene’s Texas subsidiary, Superior HealthPlan, and its dealing with of the case of D’ashon Morris, a Texas toddler who was born with extreme defects and was dwelling in a foster residence.

The sequence, titled “Ache & Revenue,” reported that D’ashon was denied 24/7 nursing care and suffered mind injury after a medical incident that occurred whereas he didn’t have his nurse round. (Learn the full story right here.)

The Morning Information reported that state well being officers had discovered the Centene subsidiary in violation of state and federal Medicaid guidelines and really useful the corporate face steep fines for what occurred to the kid. However high Texas well being officers by no means assessed these fines, the Morning Information reported.

D’ashon’s adoptive mom sued the Centene subsidiary in Texas state courtroom. That case is tied up within the Texas appeals courtroom, the place the Centene subsidiary has argued that the lawsuit must be dismissed as a result of D’ashon and his mom are stifling the corporate’s proper to free speech.

The Dallas Morning Information reported that D’ashon Morris, a Texas toddler, was denied 24/7 nursing care and suffered mind injury after a medical incident that occurred whereas he didn’t have his nurse round.
(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning Information)

Throughout hearings within the state Capitol, Superior representatives denied that the corporate’s refusal to supply 24/7 nursing was improper.

After his assembly with the Centene official, Casey despatched a strongly worded letter to Seema Verma, a former well being marketing consultant appointed by President Donald Trump to run the Facilities for Medicare and Medicaid Companies.

Within the letter, Casey referred to as Centene’s response to questions on D’ashon’s case “callous.”

He additionally requested Medicaid officers to dig additional into Centene’s enterprise practices and to supply documentation on any response to the Morning Information investigation.

“It’s one other indication that the regulatory strategy right here by the administration is, at greatest, suspect,” Casey mentioned.

A CMS spokesman mentioned that Texas officers have shared with the company an “motion plan they meant to take to handle the issues raised,” including that CMS is in common communication to make sure the state improves.

“CMS has obtained Sen. Casey’s letter and can reply to his workplace instantly,” spokesman Brian Leshak mentioned in an electronic mail.

Casey’s place as the highest Democrat on two Senate panels overseeing federal well being applications offers him the standing to lift questions concerning the Medicaid managed care system.

It’s commonplace for firm officers dealing with a federal audit or investigation to fulfill with members of Congress to handle issues, however it’s uncommon for such conferences to spill into public view.

Casey mentioned he despatched the letter to CMS due to what he referred to as Centene’s “chilly and scientific” protection of what occurred in D’ashon’s case. He mentioned it gave him concern about how the corporate cares for different sufferers — and what, if something, regulators are doing when issues go incorrect.

Final month, greater than a yr after the Morning Information story was printed, Centene officers supplied Casey’s workplace with a one-page rebuttal titled: “The Dallas Morning Information acquired it incorrect.”

The corporate’s explanations embrace that D’ashon’s foster mom was a educated nurse. However, because the Morning Information reported, she was on an permitted trip on the time of D’ashon’s damage, and he had been positioned in a unique foster residence.

The corporate additionally mentioned D’ashon’s foster mom ought to have restrained the child, however the Morning Information beforehand reported that Texas foster care officers confirmed restraints would have required a physician’s order, which she didn’t have.

“It was all blame shifting and pointing to different elements,” Casey mentioned of Centene’s letter.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaks throughout a information convention on defending Medicaid on the Capitol on April 30, 2019.
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Name)

Casey mentioned the assembly left him questioning why federal regulators weren’t doing extra.

“It’d even be worse than asleep on the wheel,” he mentioned of CMS underneath Verma’s watch.

“They could be awake on the wheel however selecting consciously to say, ‘We’re going the opposite path.’”

With out commenting on particular circumstances, the CMS spokesman mentioned the company routinely screens states and intervenes when obligatory.

Issues with this privatized Medicaid mannequin have grabbed headlines in different states, too. And advocates in these states mentioned they haven’t heard a lot from CMS, which they are saying is a shift from the Obama administration.

In Iowa, as an example, The Des Moines Register reported failures to supply care and chronicled sufferers who had been caught in that state’s damaged medical appeals system.

Rob Sand, Iowa’s state auditor, wrote to state officers in June that two giant managed care corporations had “considerably harmed” two paraplegic sufferers by refusing to supply providers they wanted.

Mary Nelle Trefz, of Iowa’s Youngster and Household Coverage Middle, mentioned she’s been shocked to listen to nothing about that from CMS.

“I don’t really feel, or can’t observe, or level to something, the place CMS has stepped in to supply that oversight and accountability,” she mentioned.

In March, California’s state auditor discovered that hundreds of thousands of kids in that state’s privatized Medicaid system weren’t being supplied providers that taxpayers had paid for. Auditor Elaine Howle blamed California well being officers’ “poor oversight of the managed care plans.”

Andy Schneider, a researcher at Georgetown’s Middle for Kids and Households, and a former high adviser to CMS underneath the Obama administration, mentioned these episodes come at an inconvenient time for the Trump administration, which is targeted on lowering regulation and creating extra eligibility hurdles like work necessities.

CMS has taken a hands-off strategy in contrast with the earlier administration, he mentioned.

“These are studies coming from respected media sources,” he mentioned. “They’re very regarding, they need to do with the operation of this system, they recommend that one thing is incorrect.”

Do you might have any recommendations on what’s taking place inside CMS? Ship them to david.mcswane@propublica.org.

Tom Benning is a reporter within the Washington bureau of the Dallas Morning Information.


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Construction projects ongoing in Enid | News


Construction was a key word in Enid throughout 2018.

It seemed everywhere we turned there was work being done somewhere, particularly on our streets. Other top stories included work finally beginning on the long-awaited downtown hotel; the statewide teacher walkout, which closed Enid Public Schools for two weeks; the changing retail face of our city; the demise of the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project; and the controversy surrounding a planned transitional housing facility for women.

The News & Eagle continues its look back at the big stories of 2018.

Road work ahead

Major construction projects were going on throughout the year along West Willow, the area around the intersection of Cleveland and Chestnut and the North Van Buren overpass. All of those forced drivers to seek alternate routes.

One, the widening of Willow from Cleveland to Oakwood started Feb. 13, 2017, and finally ended in August when BNSF Railway crews installed and tested new crossing equipment.

The project included widening the road to four lanes, and to constructing trails, sidewalk and storm drainage improvements.

The first phase involved work on Willow, from Cleveland to Nicholas Oaks, and the second phase involved work beginning 500 feet east of Oakwood and extending a little past Sleepy Hollow Drive.

Workers skipped to the fourth phase, ahead of the holiday season, which involved work between Woodlands Drive and Nicholas Oaks. Willow was temporarily reopened for the holiday season. In February, the portion between Woodlands Drive and Sleepy Hollow, was closed for completion of the project.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation was the contracting party on the project. The city of Enid was responsible for $2.5 million of the shared $4.2 million construction contract.

The work at Cleveland and Chestnut was ongoing at year’s end.

In August, work on the Cleveland Boulevard and Cleveland and Chestnut intersection project moved into the third phase.

Consisting of six phases, the project is expected to be completed 450 calendar days from when work began in May. City Manager Jerald Gilbert said the work is expected to be completed by the fall of 2019.

Through the project, Cleveland will be widened with two lanes both ways from Chestnut to one-half mile north, just south of the railroad crossing. At the intersection, the Cleveland portions of it will be improved to five lanes — with two north and southbound lanes and turn lanes. There will be a three-lane intersection on Chestnut, which will include a left turning bay.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation is funding part of the project — with its share at $2 million — while the city is covering $1.9 million. ODOT is managing and executing the project.

The other big project going on is replacement of the North Van Buren overpass over the BNSF Railway tracks.

A $10.9 million contract was awarded by ODOT in June to Bridges Inc. doing business as Scudder Bridge Co. of Newton, Kan. There’s a 15-month estimate for construction to be complete.

About 14,600 vehicles travel the bridge — which span more than seven train tracks — daily, on average. The structure was built in 1957 and has been ruled structurally deficient.

Fight for education

Enid Public Schools teachers joined educators from across the state in April lobbying at the Capitol for increased funding for education.

Enid students ended up missing two weeks of classes during the walkout. Other area schools were out for lesser periods of time.

In the end, lawmakers passed, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed, a revenue package that provided by average $6,100 raises for classroom teachers, as well as increases for support personnel. The measures also increased classroom funding by about $50 million. The breakdown was: $365 million for the teacher raise package; $52 million for support staff raises; $33 million for textbooks; and $17 million to be added to the funding formula.

Many current or former teachers also filed to run for offices, but results were mixed following the November general election. At least 19 current or former educators won seats in the Legislature, but two sitting lawmakers who were former educators lost.

Going up

Construction finally started on the long-awaited downtown hotel.

The Best Western GLō hotel will have 96 rooms and four floors.

The city of Enid has pursued a downtown hotel since 2011, when developer LodgeWell LLC was selected. The developer was unsuccessful in attaining financing for the project.

Then, Peachtree Hotel Group II LLC was selected, but around December 2015, when the price of oil dropped, the developer started getting nervous about the Enid market and the project stalled again.

Finally, the city began working with Aston Management in June 2016. Enid Economic Development Authority entered into a master development agreement on Feb. 23, 2017, with the hotel developer, ENIDBWP LLC — which is Aston Management and Dr. Atul Patel — for the construction of a Best Western GLō hotel. Patel previously has built a couple of hotels in Enid and others in Chickasha and in Oklahoma City.

The city of Enid has pursued a downtown hotel since 2011, when developer LodgeWell LLC was selected. The developer was unsuccessful in attaining financing for the project.

When the contract with LodgeWell expired, Peachtree Hotel Group II LLC was selected. Around December 2015, when the price of oil dropped, the developer started getting nervous about the Enid market, said Brent Kisling, Enid Regional Development Alliance director. The city of Enid began working with Aston Management in June 2016. Patel previously said he has built a couple of hotels in Enid and others in Chickasha and in Oklahoma City.

City Manager Jerald Gilbert said it is expected the hotel will open sometime in the May to July timeframe in 2019.

Wind Catcher fails

Public Service Company of Oklahoma in July announced the cancellation of the controversial Wind Catcher Energy Connection project.

The decision came after the Public Utility Commission of Texas’s decision to deny approval of the project. Previously, Wind Catcher received approvals by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Louisiana Public Service Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Oklahoma Corporation Commission never ruled on the project.

Wind Catcher Energy Connection was a joint effort between Southwestern Electric Power Co. and PSO, and would have been a $4.5 billion project that involved building a wind farm in Oklahoma, a 350-mile power line through Northwest Oklahoma and two substations. SWEPCO would have owned 70 percent of the project, and PSO the other 30 percent.

The wind farm was to be built on 300,000 acres in Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle include about 800 2.5 MW wind turbines. A power line was set to stretch from there to Tulsa, bringing 2,000 megawatts of energy to customers in eastern and southwest Oklahoma, in addition to parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. PSO’s share of the project investment would have been $1.36 billion.

A number of leaders in Northwest Oklahoma had expressed support for the project, while other leaders and numerous landowners set to have their properties impacted by the power line have voiced concern and opposition.

PSO took some action against landowners against the project in May. Letters from a law firm representing the company were sent to about two dozen landowners who had refused access to their property for environmental surveys. According to those receiving the letters, PSO threatened to file injunctions if landowners didn’t allow officials on their properties to do the environmental surveys.

Rezoning controversy

A plan by Forgotten Ministries to have the city of Enid rezone property for transition housing for women ran into a legal roadblock in early December when several property owners filed suit against the city over its handling of the project at 301 E. Iowa.

Plaintiffs listed in the case are Valentin Alatorre and Barbara Finley, and the causes of action for the lawsuit include “Injunctive Relief, violation of the fourteenth amendment, substantive and procedural due process, violation of the First Amendment to United States Constitution Establishment Clause, and failure to comply with the laws of the State of Oklahoma,” according to the lawsuit filed in Garfield County District Court on Nov. 30.

Alatorre and Finley are property owners and Enid residents. Alatorre’s property abuts within 30 feet of 301 E. Iowa, while Finley’s is within a quarter mile of the rezoned property, according to the lawsuit. Attorney Ronald “Skip” Kelly is representing the pair, and all three previously spoke at Enid City Commission and Metropolitan Area Planning Commission meetings against the rezoning.

The rezoning request — from R-2 Residential Single Family District to R-7 Residential Multi-Family District — made by Forgotten Ministries involves property at 301 E. Iowa, on the southeast corner of 3rd and Iowa. It allows for a transitional living center with a maximum density of 12 people. The zoning surrounding the area is R-2 to the east, north and south, and R-4 to the west, according to the city.

City commissioners on Nov. 6 approved the rezoning request in a 5-2 vote after MAPC recommended approval of the request in its mid-October meeting in a 6-1 vote. Originally, the rezoning was approved by city commissioners in September, but the decision was rendered “null and void” after city officials realized they failed to properly provide notice in a newspaper.

Business changes

Enid saw quite a few changes in its business landscape during 2018.

Two longtime establishments, Kmart and Western Sizzlin’, closed this year.

Kmart, a fixture for many years at the corner of Garriott and Oakwood, closed earlier this year. Sears Holding, which operates Sears and Kmart, made the move as the company continues to struggle financially.

Western Sizzlin’ closed in late December after 37 years. Owner Steve Harris is retiring, and he sold the building to Swadley’s World Famous Bar-B-Q, which will open after renovating the building in the spring. Western Sizzlin opened its doors on West Garriott on Dec. 15, 1981.

Several other businesses announced plans to open in Enid or did open in 2018.

Casey’s General Store opened at the intersection of Oakwood and Randolph.

Brady Sidwell and Justin Blasier plan to open Enid Brewing Company on the northwest corner of the Independence and Maine intersection, in downtown Enid. Sidwell is originally from Goltry, where he lived on a farm. He returned to the area a couple of years ago and has a number of businesses, including Enterprise Grain Co. and a malt business. Blasier, an Enid native, is a home brewer.

Chloe Fuksa opened Putnam Six bookstore in Sunset Plaza. The store will offer new books, and there will be a strong emphasis on books for children. Fuksa has plans to expand selection over time, based on taste and demand from the community, but for now is sticking mostly to best sellers, prizewinners and buzz generating must-reads.

Discount Tire is under construction at 5125 W. Garriott, west of the ALDI grocery store, and will open in March. The 7,000-square-foot building will feature six service bays and a 1,300-square-foot showroom.

Finer Physiques has operated in Enid for more than two decades but moved in March to the former Palace Bingo building, a 22,000-square-foot facility at 2101 N. Van Buren.

The wellness center includes workout equipment in the gym, as well as staff to help with health screenings. Healthful snacks and meals are also available on-site at Finer Cuisine, a restaurant independently owned and operated by a pair of nutrition-conscious chefs.

ALDI grocery store at 5001 W. Garriott closed in the summer and re-opened in July after a major expansion. It features more fresh items, including more larger produce, dairy and bakery sections.


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