Small businesses are the job creators in our economy, and in Oregon represent nearly 98% of the employers. Small businesses create jobs and deliver essential goods and services in communities across Oregon and the country; they help to bolster development of local economies. Seen as some of the most trusted messengers in our society, small business owners are a critical link holding our communities together.
As real-life experts on the economy, and the challenges and opportunities of running a business, small business owners have important perspectives on how to shape public policies to support strong local economies. This report focuses on the experiences and views of Oregon small business owners as documented in a rolling survey conducted between June of 2013 and July of 2014. The survey evaluated small business owners’ experiences and views on the economy, taxes, access to credit, money in politics, banking, health care, retirement security, workplace benefits and immigration reform.
This report is based on a survey of 443 small business owners throughout Oregon. The majority of these “Main Street” businesses were in rural cities from Hood River to Joseph, from Astoria to Brookings, from Monmouth to Ashland and in the Bend/Redmond area. Business sizes vary from 1-100 employees, with the majority below 25 employees.
Key findings include:
THE ECONOMY, CAPITAL ACCESS & TAXES
- Oregon small business owners believe increasing consumer demand is what is needed most to create more jobs and get the economy back on track. Most small business owners report that more customers will help them to create more jobs, not lower taxes or fewer regulations.
- Small business owners across Oregon continue to face challenges with access to credit. Respondents reported they have been turned down for loans within the past year, decided to not seek bank loans due to being discouraged, and have had lines of credit called in. This has particularly impacted women business owners and business owners of color.
- Oregon small business owners believe big corporations should pay more taxes, and strongly support closing corporate tax loopholes. The majority of respondents said big corporations are paying less than their fair share of taxes. A strong majority sees closing corporate tax loopholes as an necessary revenue-raising opportunity, before making further budget cuts.
- Small business owners support local banking and public policy encouraging local lending, like partnership banks by a factor of 9 to 1. The vast majority of respondents support cities and counties moving public deposits out of Wall Street banks and depositing them in local community banks and credit unions.
JOB QUALITY, HEALTH CARE & WORKPLACE ISSUES
- A plurality of Oregon small business owners surveyed support a statewide sick leave standard for all employers. The business community is divided on a paid time off standard, but supporters see it as a public health issue, and the right thing to do. Support for a state-wide standard was even higher from women business owners.
- An increasing number of small business owners are offering insurance to their employees. There is still need for more information about the health care law, how it works for small businesses, and how to access small business tax credits for offering a health care plan.
- Small business owners in Oregon support further health care reforms to guarantee universal health coverage, beyond the Affordable Care Act. Many are in support of a “single payer” or Medicare for All type of system.
- Small business owners in Oregon call for more retirement saving options for their employees and their families. The majority support the concept of the state creating a pooled retirement savings option for all Oregonians. Women business owners reported an even higher level of support for such a plan.
- An increasingly strong majority of Oregon small businesses support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants. Respondents see the immigrant workforce as critical to the development, recovery and expansion of our economy.
POLITICAL SPENDING AND ELECTORAL REFORM
- Oregon small business owners are concerned about unlimited political spending in elections. Asked if the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision freeing corporations to spend unlimited money in elections was good, bad or had no impact for small businesses, a clear majority of respondents said it was bad for small businesses.
- Oregon small business owners support electoral reforms to limit the influence of money in politics. Many support a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and money is not speech, as well as other reforms to fund elections with small private donations and public matching funds rather than relying on wealthy donors and corporate money.
Leveling the playing field for small businesses must come in a variety of forms, with a particular attention to capital access for small business owners, especially for women and people of color. We must work together to find ways to support our communities, and the Main Street businesses that serve them. Increasing the ability for small businesses to grow and expand will allow them to create more jobs, and help to get the economy back on track. While access to capital plays a large role in investment in Main Street, increasing the buying power of customers is certainly a necessary piece of the puzzle.
Oregon small business owners are supportive of giving Oregon families a fair shot—real opportunities to succeed and prosper with policies like basic standards for paid sick days as well as safe, secure, and effective retirement savings vehicles for small business owners and their employees. Women small business owners and business owners of color are particularly supportive of these policies. There is a clear call from the small business community that it’s time to rethink the “business as usual” agendas promoted by big business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We need to move towards understanding the whole picture of how our businesses interact with the communities we serve.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon hopes lawmakers, the media and other decision makers will look closely at the results of this survey in planning public policy. We encourage them to listen and respond to the truevoices of Main Street.