When Julia Mueller learned her employer is going to give $1,000 bonuses to her and her co-workers this year, she had an immediate reaction: Tears.

“It means a lot to me. Things are a little tight,” said Mueller, 55, a staff accountant the last three years at First Communications in Fairlawn. The Mogadore resident said she recently divorced, is making payments on foot surgery from last year and also needs new tires for her SUV.

“It’s the only way I’m going to get tires. And I won’t have to keep paying for my surgery,” Mueller said.

Mueller and all other full-time employees of the telecommunications company will get $1,000 bonuses in April that the business says stem from recently enacted federal tax reform.

First Communications said lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent is allowing the company to better invest in employees, in product development and in the local community. The company offers data networking, cloud, voice and managed services throughout the Midwest.

The company will use the tax cuts to make a $3 million capital investment that will allow it to better compete against much larger companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Spectrum, said Mark Sollenberger, chief financial officer.

All of the money generated from the tax cut will go to employee bonuses and to capital improvements, Sollenberger said. First Communications needs to continually invest in its people and products to remain competitive, he said.

“Without the tax cut we would have had to limit ourselves on our new product initiates, but the tax cuts give us the operating room to make sure we have all the latest services our customers need to operate their businesses,” Sollenberger said.

First Communications has 83 Akron-area employees and more than 70 in the Chicago area.

“Being a small business the bonuses are a significant cost to the company,” Sollenberger said. “We have about 150 employees so the board had to give special approval due to the size of the expenditure.”

Other companies have also announced employee bonuses that are tied to the federal tax changes. Among the more widely known companies are Apple, AT&T, Walmart, Chipotle, CVS, Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase, Boeing, Lowes, Starbucks, U-Haul, Verizon and Disney.

Also locally, Orrville-based food company J.M. Smucker Co. said it will pay $1,000 bonuses to nearly 5,000 employees, plus make a $20 million payment to employee pensions and donate $1 million to charities.

Other First Communications employees said they’re happy to be getting extra money.

“It was a very pleasant surprise, to say the least,” said Craig Larkins, 37, a cost analyst who has been at the company 12 years. “It’s like being able to breathe a little bit better.”

Larkins said he is his family’s breadwinner, with his wife staying at home in Akron’s Firestone Park neighborhood with their two children ages 5 and 3.

“We own our home,” Larkins said. The $1,000 bonus likely will be used to pay off home improvements and other expenses, with some money going to other family needs and put into a rainy day fund, he said.

Steve Fishman, also a cost analyst at the company, said getting the bonus will be nice but probably not make a major difference in his life.

“It’s great to have it,” said the 62-year-old Cleveland resident, who also has worked at First Communications for 12 years. “It was kind of a surprise.”

He figures he will spend 10 percent of the bonus on something fun and invest the rest. Then again, he noted that his home water heater is 14 years old, saying “it should choke soon.”

Mueller, meanwhile, already has plans for any money left over from paying off her surgery bill and buying tires — she will host a party for her children and grandchildren.

“I will probably have a make-your-own pizza night,” she said.

Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.