Supporting the Small Businesses that Drive Our Economy

TOPICS: In the News

By Angie Craig for the Red Wing Republican Eagle

 

Nick and Amy Fox had a dream to start a small business in Hastings, their hometown. With some serious planning and research, a love for craft beer, hard work, and jobs that covered their health insurance, they launched Spiral Brewery. But what would they have done if they couldn't keep their employer-sponsored health insurance?

In Red Wing, Bill Hanisch started working at the local bakery when he was 15. He learned everything about the business and 11 years later, he bought it and has run Hanisch Bakery ever since. Bill was lucky. He found a passion in his life when he was 15 and now employs community members, including high school students who are learning real world jobs skills. But none of that would have been possible if Bill hadn't had access to the capital and loans it took to get his bakery off the ground.

Too many people cant start a new business because they have to stay at their current job to keep their health insurance. Too many entrepreneurs don't have access to the capital they need to start or grow their business. These problems are holding back economic growth here in Minnesota and across the country.

As I visit small businesses across Southeastern Minnesota, local business owners share similar concerns. They balance payroll with a trade war that impacts their sourcing and exports, while trying to keep up with rising healthcare costs. They struggle with access to capital and sub-par Internet service. Washington isn't listening to what Minnesota small businesses need. We deserve someone who listens. We deserve better.

I led the Human Resources department of a Minnesota healthcare manufacturer and was responsible for more than 16,000 jobs. I am now part-owner of a small startup in St. Paul. I know what it means to recruit and keep good employees while balancing the books and providing those workers the health insurance and benefits they deserve.

Small businesses employ roughly 1.2 million people across our state and account for tens of thousands of new jobs created every year. We need to support the individuals who accept the risk and invest the time, talent, and energy to start these small businesses.

But we need to do more to ensure we have a workforce ready to fill the jobs they're creating. We need to make healthcare more affordable and ensure entrepreneurs have the financing and infrastructure to support starting and growing their companies. Leaders in Washington are falling short on all four fronts.

First, companies want to offer employees benefits, but the cost of providing healthcare has become unsustainable for small business owners. Congress hasn't done enough to help. To stabilize the marketplace, we should reauthorize and make permanent a federal reinsurance program that does not shortchange other current programs. We should open up Medicare for a buy-in and rein in out-of-control costs in the pharmaceutical industry.

Second, while the states unemployment rate continues to fall, the number of job vacancies is on the rise. Today there are nearly 150,000 job openings in our state a record high. Coupled with the looming wave of baby boomer retirements, the threat is clear: we need to get serious about workforce development or lose our competitive edge.

Bill told me that prioritizing job and vocational skills training in our public schools would help small business owners like him find employees with the right skills to fill those good-paying open jobs, and match graduates with secure, good-paying jobs. These programs give students experience and training to work in bakeries, food factories, and other local small businesses.

Third, we should make it easier for people to start small businesses by increasing access to capital, loans, and technology. We can do that by streamlining regulations and taxes for companies with 20 or fewer employees and increasing tax deductions for start-up and healthcare costs.

Fourth, our state is in desperate need of massive infrastructure investments. We need a real commitment from the federal government to keep roads and bridges safe and address rail issues to improve our producers access to markets. But we cant stop there. Any infrastructure plan must include a plan to ensure small businesses and rural communities have access to the high-speed Internet necessary to conduct any type of business these days, from building software to selling t-shirts.

We need a representative in Congress who listens and responds to the concerns of our small businesses and entrepreneurs, like Amy and Nick in Hastings and Bill in Red Wing. These businesses are cornerstones of our community and make up Minnesota's economic engine.

Angie Craig is a Democrat running for Congress in Minnesota's Second District.

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