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.
Main Street Leaders meet with Congresswoman Bonamici - Women and working family issues addressed in new State of Main Street report
Portland, OR - This morning, Main Street Alliance of Oregon leaders, Deborah Field, co-owner of Paperjam Press, and Sara Howe and Christy Cushing, co-owners of Howe Innovative Design, met with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici to release the new survey report, State of Main Street. This report challenges conventional perceptions of small business owners’ thoughts on key policy issues. It details responding business owners’ views on key issues facing Oregon and the nation.
Oregon small business owners are supportive of giving Oregon working 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 and special interest groups. We need to move towards understanding the whole picture of how our businesses interact with the communities we serve.
“Small businesses are a critical part of Oregon’s economy, especially in rural areas. Policies that support small businesses help create economic security and stability for working Oregonians. These policies include access to capital for those who want to start a new business, quality education, stable housing, and affordable health care,” Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said. “When families earn a living wage, can take paid leave, and do not struggle to pay for child care, they are more likely to succeed and thrive. The Main Street Alliance report recognizes that these policies are good for small businesses because they lead to healthier families, a stronger local work force, increased consumer spending, and ultimately a stronger local economy.”
“As we continue to recover from this recession, I am committed to helping small businesses remain competitive in today’s market,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “This report, issued by The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, clearly outlines some of the challenges that remain. While I’m concerned the benefits of our economic recovery aren’t being broadly felt, it’s encouraging to know Oregon’s small businesses feel as strongly as I do about the importance of affordable, quality healthcare, reforming our broken immigration system, and ensuring fair and equitable access to credit.”
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 true voices of Main Street.
What are Main Street Memos?
Main Street Memos are periodic opinion columns from Main Street Alliance of Oregon. Reproduction of Main Street Memos by the media and others is encouraged, provided the author(s) and Main Street Alliance of Oregon are credited as the source.
Main Street Memo- May 20, 2012:
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee for Small Business
By Gloria McMurtry, Jim Houser, Mark Kellenbeck, Jose Gonzalez and Rhonda Ealy
As we celebrate National Small Business Week (May 20-26) this year, we’d like to encourage our state and federal leaders to wake up and smell the coffee in regards to the real needs of small businesses in Oregon.
Our organization, the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, is currently surveying hundreds of small business owners in mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar businesses on “Main Streets” all across the state. And what we’re hearing is that there is a lot of anger on Main Street. But it’s not pointed in the direction you might expect.
When we ask local, independent business owners what they need to succeed, build their businesses, and create jobs, we don’t hear the tired talking points about cutting taxes and gutting regulations that big national business lobbies repeat over and over. Many more local small business owners say “more customers” is what they need to help get the economy back on track than say lower taxes or fewer rules. In fact, many state they’re proud to pay their taxes to support the schools, public safety, roads and other infrastructure necessary for business — and our communities — to succeed and prosper.
Where we hear the anger is when we ask Oregon small business owners about the taxes paid by big corporations. For, while these small businesses patriotically pay their fair share, they believe corporate America does not. Out of over 350 business owners we’ve surveyed so far, 8 of every 10 feel corporations are paying less than their fair share. And even more feel like we need to close corporate loopholes to increase revenues before making further budget cuts.
The Main Street Alliance, in partnership with Small Business Majority and the American Sustainable Business Council, recently commissioned a scientific national survey of 500 small businesses on the subject of taxes. In this survey, 90 percent of small businesses indicated they believe big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes that small businesses have to pay. And, 75 percent said their small business is harmed when loopholes allow big corporations to avoid taxes.
Beyond this resentment towards corporations for not paying their fair share of taxes, the Oregon small business owners we’ve been talking with are also angry about a fundamentally tilted playing field that threatens the very existence of small business in America. They talk of the monopolistic market power advantages enjoyed by the large chains and “big box” stores and the threat posed by big internet sellers who skirt state sales taxes.
But where their anger really focuses is on the vast political power wielded by corporate America, at the expense of the “Main Streets” of our nation. Again, a full 8 out of 10 Oregon small business owners feels that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, freeing corporations to spend unlimited sums of money in elections, is bad for small business. And three of every four of these small business owners would support a constitutional amendment declaring corporations are not people and money is not speech.
So we hope that, as we celebrate National Small Business Week this year, our elected officials wake up and smell the coffee.
Main Street USA is angry. Not angry about paying taxes. This is our responsibility as citizens and our means to contribute to the common good. But angry about the Wall Street giants that fly the American flag in front of their corporate headquarters but refuse to pay their fair share to support our nation – and perpetuate their competitive advantages by dominating our electoral system with out-of-control political spending.
Our legislators need to stand up for a level playing field for Main Street USA. They need to pass bills closing loopholes and making corporate America contribute its fair share. They need to address small business concerns about the trust-like powers of the large corporations. And they need to pass real campaign spending reforms – things like new disclosure rules, public financing of elections, and a constitutional amendment on Citizens United – to revive government that works for small businesses and our local communities, not corporate special interests.
Gloria McMurtry is the owner of Talking Drum Coffee House and Bookstore in Portland, Jim Houser is co-owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland. Mark Kellenbeck is co-owner of Brain Joy, LLC in Medford. Jose Gonzalez is president of Tu Casa Realty and partner in Hispanicpros.com in Salem. Rhonda Ealy is owner of Strictly Organic Coffee in Bend. They are leaders in the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, a statewide coalition of small businesses.
Last week marked National Small Business Week, and the Main Street Alliance took the opportunity to tell corporate lobbyists that they don’t represent small businesses in key the issue debates happening here in Oregon and nationally.
The week kicked off with a blog post from MSA-Oregon coalition director, Dan Lombardi, highlighting one of the fights small business owners are engaged in down in Salem at the State Capitol. Oregon is working on creating a health insurance exchange that will help reduce the burden on small business owners who provide health insurance, or give opportunities to those who can’t afford it. In the post, published on Blue Oregon, Dan called out insurance industry lobbyist who are working to weaken the exchange (you can read the full post here):
“At every step in the process this session, legislators have ignored concerns [of small business owners], and have capitulated to the insurance industry lobby to develop an exchange that continues to allow big health insurance companies to drive up premiums year after year.”
Later in the week, 11 small business owners from Portland, Salem, and Bend attended a small business roundtable with Governor John Kitzhaber and his staff to discuss pending legislation, and how it will impact small business owners and our communities. Business owners shared stories about the rising costs of health insurance, the lack of small business capital, and the need for meaningful reforms to energy tax credits. The concerns were well recieived by the Governor’s office. At the end of the meeting, the small business owners in attendance delivered MSA-Oregon’s 2011 legislative agenda and asked the Governor to stand with small business this session, not corporate lobbyists.
To wrap up National Small Business Week activities, MSA-Oregon co-chairs Jim Houser and Mark Kellenbeck submitted Op-Eds on state level issues to the Oregonian, and one on national issues to the Hill. Both had similar themes, and asked the key question of the week:
“Small businesses have spoken for and been ignored for far too long, and it’s time we fight back and change that. We are asking Gov. Kitzhaber and the Legislature to listen to the true economic drivers of Oregon’s economy — small businesses. We do the majority of hiring in this state, and because of that, our voice should be heard louder than any corporate lobbyist in the state Capitol. To this point in the session, we have been ignored. With National Small Business Week, the question must be asked: Who stands with small business, and who stands against? We hope our elected officials do the right thing for Oregon and stand with small business.”
Full text of the Op-Eds can be found here:
- May 21, 2011 – The Oregonian Op-Ed – “Corporations don’t speak for small business”
- May 20, 2011 – The Hill – “Who speaks for small business? Not big corporate interests”