A group of small business owners and advocates shared with us their expectations for the State of the Union, and while their ideas of an effective message varied considerably from one respondent to the next, most agreed that small firms are currently looking for one thing above all else: a remedy for uncertainty.
“Especially for small businesses, the threat of new taxes and changing regulations goes right to their bottom line,” Dan Danner, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in an interview. “So when the cost of doing business is a moving target, it’s hard to with confidence make any sort of major investment like purchasing new equipment or hiring new people.”
Small business owners across the country echoed the same point, several noting that they are as concerned with the prolonged lack of clarity as they are which particular rules and regulations are coming down the pipeline. By and large, they expressed hope that the president will help them gain their footing by nailing down some specific policy, legislative and regulatory objectives.
That said, many employers were quick to pinpoint a handful of moves they think the president should outline in his speech, including a tax reform plan and a change of heart of the health care reform law, though all acknowledged that the latter was a longer-than-long shot possibility.
Mike Mitternight, president of Factory Service Agency, a general contracting firm in Metairie, La., argued that “an announcement of the suspension of the health care bill would send growth tremors through the entire business community” by signaling less government spending and alleviating a major financial burden on employers. More realistically, though, he would like to hear the president propose a revised tax code that makes life simpler for small business owners. Steve Caldeira, chief executive of the International Franchise Association, made that same plea in a letter to the president, noting that franchises could grow faster than their projected 2 percent growth rate this year if the government offered long-term certainty surrounding tax reform.
Michael Gilman, owner of hair product retailer Grooming Lounge, brought up another common concern small business owners hope to have addressed on Tuesday — access to capital. His Washington-based company plans to launch new products and open new locations in the coming months, but those plans hinge on his ability to secure funding.
“I’m hoping the president lays out his thoughts on loosening up the credit markets via making it easier for businesses like ours to ramp up, hire and retain great employees,” Gilman said. “Our two cents are that this could be done by extending tax breaks for employers and employees, making it possible for companies and employees to succeed and actually put some money away.”