Tony Russo, owner of Russo's Books in Bakersfield, Calif.
• Cut taxes for everyone
• Tax Internet sales so brick-and-mortar stores will get more business and be able to provide more jobs for Americans
• Drill in America to create American jobs, keep money in America and provide taxes for our government
• Cut government red tape for businesses
• Stop the flow of undocumented immigrants and put more Americans back to work
• Spend more time working to provide jobs.
• Get rid of the loopholes so large corporations can pay their fare share of taxes
Tom Boesen, owner of Boesen Flowers, a chain of retail flower shops, Des Moines
It was when gas prices started moving above $4 a gallon that Boesen noticed people “just watching their pocketbooks a bit more,” buying mainly the basics and just a few luxury items such as flowers. Fuel costs really hurt Boesen, since his business depends heavily on deliveries. Add increasing health insurance costs, taxes and a new health-care law no one seems to understand, but seems to place more of a financial burden on small business, and, Boesen said: “We’ve got everything stacked against us” as a small business. “I don’t think the president can fix all of these things, but just fix one of them.”
Rick Snow, owner of Maine Indoor Karting, Scarborough, Maine
Snow’s health care costs for his family and three employees spiked 56% in the past year alone. “It’s beyond unaffordable,” he said. “How does a small business budget an annual increase in the 50%-60% range in any given plan? You can’t do that and stay in business.” The first thing many families cut back on during tough times is entertainment, forcing Snow to slash his prices just to keep customers. He’s seen a 30% drop in gross profit in the past three years and had to cut workers’ hours. Snow says his interest rates jumped 15% after the recent credit card bill passed--a big problem since many small businesses use their credit cards to buy essential products to keep their doors open.
“The uncertainty of taxes, regulations and demands from our [health-care] providers is causing us all to not want to invest in expansion but to keep everything close to the vest and wait for consumer confidence to improve.”
Gary Desilets, owner of Deckscapes of Virginia and The Desilets Group, Inc.
• Develop “real jobs that pay real wages” to inject more dollars into the marketplace; energy exploration and recovery would be a good place to start.
• Drastically reduce the federal deficit. “Our children's future is being mortgaged. The disposable income that is used to purchase services from Deckscapes of Virginia today will not be there tomorrow.”
• Cut the size of government
• Cut the tax burden on the individual and business. “There are large sums of funds sitting on the sidelines because, in part, of inequitable tax policies. Liberate these funds and the economy will grow and so will my business.”
• Repeal “Obama Care”
• Enact tort reform
• Apply individual credit standards to businesses so they’re not subject to lower credit scores or lines of credit brought about by models or forecasts; just because an industry may be entering a slower cycle doesn’t mean all the businesses in it are.
Bob Rau, owner of BBL Company, a steel pipe wholesale distributor, Kulpsville, Pa
Rau has been through seven recessions during his career, but none as bad as the current one.
“The good news is I survived them all, but this is the only one I remember the banks are involved as extensively as they are and no one has any complete confidence at all about what’s coming out of the government.”
• Boost capital infusions to small business. “A lot of the banks have the money but based on the credit restrictions that the federal government is putting on them, they basically can’t put the money out.”
• Pass long-term tax laws. “When you’re trying to do a long-term plan, which is a minimum of a five- to 10-year plan, you can’t base any theory on a two-year tax plan.”
• Get rid of the 1099 provision of the health-care overhaul, which requires companies to report to the IRS payments of more than $600 to any vendor.
• Reform health care. Rau says the current law would fine him $2,000 if he doesn’t provide health care to his employees, but it costs him $16,000 a year per each employee covered. “Are you trying to decrease the people on health insurance or are you trying to increase it? …Are these people in orbit? Do they have any idea what’s going on?”
Marshall P. Gavin, owner of b. dazzle, inc., a wholesale distributor of adult and children's toys, games, puzzles and brain teasers. Redondo Beach, Calif
• Eliminate the capital gains tax, which would encourage business investment and stimulate jobs growth and consumer spending.
• Lower gas prices, higher fuel costs means fewer trade shows for b. dazzle to attend, which means fewer business contacts and sales.
• Pay down the national debt
• Reduce and streamline government regulations and red tape to start shovel- ready projects. “We need to make regulations enhance the outcome, not serve as an obstacle to the outcome.”
• Make it easier for oil companies to explore or drill for oil here in the United States so they don’t go elsewhere.
• Commit to a balanced budget by sizable cuts in government spending (by trillions, not billions) to give banks confidence to lend money.
Scott Sklar, president of The Stella Group, Ltd., a marketing and foreign policy firm for the clean distributed energy industries, Washington, D.C.
“My advice to the economic team is that they are mired in such ‘big think’ that they aren't focusing on the building blocks of the economy: small business. The rhetoric is there, but you have to follow up with real, practical approaches that have widespread and effective impact.”
• Create accessible portals to the various information, technical assistance and lending programs so small businesses can become more efficient in real time
• Force the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Treasury Department programs to encourage small businesses to substantially reduce their energy and water costs; lower energy and water costs mean those funds flow into the economy for more office supplies, printing, etc… by making it easier to access and leverage these existing programs more quickly and dynamically.
Marco Vico, owner of Café Vico, an Italian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla
Since 1997, Vico’s restaurant has grown from 28 seats to 160 seats. Up until 2004, growth was “tremendous,” thanks to the booming economy and population growth in Fort Lauderdale. But in the past few years, the Brazilian immigrant says, “people are afraid to go out and spend – they face uncertainty about what’s going to happen.” Vico spends his days and nights talking to diners – many of whom are businesses owners - and the consensus is: The uncertainty over the budget and health care, in particular, has people worried.
“If I could say something to the president, I think they should be more specific in the plans that he has … because [small businesses] are the ones that drive this economy.”
Carefully studying every tax proposal, because there are too many ways small businesses can be hurt by bad tax law.
• Pass immigration reform so immigrants have a pathway to legalization and can pay taxes, putting more money into the economy. “Many, many illegal people are just getting the money out and not helping the government.”
Valerie Manley, owner Shear Cut hair salon, Ballston Lake, N.Y.
According to Manley, she is being forced to relocate her salon out of a mall she has been operating in for 16 years after the developer took over the space to build a big-box store.
• Make sure the president – no matter who he (or she) is – knows how dire the situation is for small businesses. “I wish I could have been able to reach him and let him know two years ago that three thriving businesses have been totally devastated by the greed of big business and a greedy landlord. [We’ve] had to use the equity in our home to finance the new space. On top of that, I am being forced to take a space three times the size of my space I have now or leave.”
• Free up capital for small business. “We all read that there is money for small business. Not true. So the first thing I would say is to actually have money out there to loan to businesses that have excellent credit.”
• Tax companies that go overseas to employ workers; give companies incentives to stay in the U.S.
Small business from across the country sound off on what they need from the president and lawmakers to help get the economy growing. By Liza Porteus Viana