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Valparaiso-based Family Express, which has 70 convenience stores across Indiana and is in the process of building 10 more, is bumping its starting wage to $11 an hour.

The 43-year-old convenience store chain is raising entry-level pay by $1 an hour, after pre-empting national retailers like Walmart with above-market starting wages in April 2015. Family Express said it was boosting pay because of the tax cuts that reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and as a bid to recruit quality employees and reduce turnover.

“We feel obligated to pass on a significant portion of the tax savings to our staff," Family Express President and CEO Gus Olympidis said. "Our employees are the ones that exemplify the unique brand promise that we extend to our valued customers day after day. The tax package is permanent, so instead of a one-time bonus, the pay adjustment will be permanent.”

Olympidis said he wasn't sure of the exact numbers, but believed about 150 of Family Express's 800 employees would get a raise.

At $11 an hour, a full-time employee working 40 hours a week would make about $22,900 a year.

Family Express touts its compensation packages for employees, including starting pay of $50,000 a year for managers, health care benefits, fitness services and 401(k)s with matching employer contributions. Company officials said its You Matter! initiative, which boosted starting pay to $10 an hour in 2015, reduced turnover by 10 percent in the first year of implementation.

"Also note that our workforce is mostly full time with benefits," Olympidis said. "Some retailers are transitioning quietly to part time to avoid benefits and related costs."

Companies also face pressures to raise wages because of a tight labor market that's evidenced by all the fast-food restaurants that now have "help wanted" signs out. Indiana's unemployment rate now stands at 3.4 percent, making it difficult for some companies to find employees.

1st Source Bank, First Financial Bank, Fifth Third, PNC, First Midwest also all recently have increased pay in Northwest Indiana, citing the tax cuts.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.