WAGUESPACK: Small Businesses Embrace Operating On The Edge

Many things run through your head when you are hanging off the side of a building in a driving rainstorm 308 feet off the ground.

This is exactly where I found myself recently while helping to promote adoption awareness and efforts to find homes for 300 deserving children currently in state custody. The event was called “Over the Edge for Adoption,” and it involved people like me volunteering to rappel down the side of Baton Rouge’s second tallest building. I was proud to participate for such a worthy cause and was inspired by some of the people I met at the event.

While hanging off the building, in complete trust of the people I met just moments earlier who had set up all of the equipment, I realized how much faith I had just put in complete strangers to keep me safe and get me back to the ground to my cheering sons and nervous wife. I had put everything I had on the line and was completely dependent on the actions of others to make my mission a success.

In many ways, this is probably similar to the feeling many of our small-business owners feel each and every day around our state.

This week is National Small Business Week, and since 1963, we annually highlight the value of our small-business owners and employees and recognize them as the backbone of this country’s economy. That reality is especially true in Louisiana.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses represent 97 percent of all Louisiana employers and employ more than 54 percent of the private-sector labor force. They employ more than 870,000 workers, with a majority of those jobs coming from companies with 20 to 449 employees.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, small businesses comprise more than 83 percent of Louisiana’s total exporters, which is almost 35 percent of all state exports. On average, these businesses export more than $2.7 million in exports per firm.

A few months ago, the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council released a report ranking Louisiana as the 21st best state for entrepreneurial-friendly policies and costs impacting small business. Some of the notable categories had Louisiana ranked fifth lowest for adjusted unemployment taxes and sixth lowest for percentage of personal income paid for state and local property taxes.

More recently, a Capital One Market Pulse Survey showed that nearly 40 percent of participating small-business owners reported they plan to hire new employees over the next six months. This is similar to the feedback we are hearing from our members at LABI of their hiring expectations for the next year.

We have a solid foundation of small businesses in Louisiana, and for the first time in the last few years, optimism for growth is starting to emerge. Our challenge is to encourage that growth and ward off unnecessary obstacles to success.

This session, we are taking the lead to oppose mandatory minimum wage increase bills in the Legislature that will stifle investment of these small businesses and restrict the availability of entry-level jobs. We are also opposing new mandates and causes of actions on small employers, protecting them against frivolous lawsuits, and improving the caliber of workforce they have to hire.

Additionally, our members are worried about the ever-increasing intrusion of the federal government into their lives. They are especially worried about how the implementation of Obamacare will impact their ability to protect their employees and invest in their business.

As a result, we put in place a small business resource portal on our website at www.labi.org to help them navigate through this minefield. We also have an employee benefits center online to help them provide quality benefits for their workers. More than 80 percent of our members are small businesses, and we make it a top priority to help them be as successful as possible.

We all should take this week to appreciate the small-business owners in our state and thank them for the courage, time, and commitment they make each and every day in the communities around this state.

Trust me, when you are hanging from the side of a building in a driving rainstorm, you can feel a little vulnerable and isolated at times. The key is to remember that it is all for a worthy cause and it will all work out with the appropriate support and assistance of others around you.

Our small-business owners need our support, assistance, and investment as well so that they can also accomplish their goal. Over the last several years, they have battled through a national recession and they continue to weather through a storm of federal regulations and mandates.

It is our duty to help them out. We had better not leave them hanging out to dry.

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