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Commentary: Small business provides economic engine to local communities

Commentary: Small business provides economic engine to local communities
August 17
02:30 2017

By Algenon Cash, guest columnist

Recently a family owned real estate management company in Greensboro reminded me of how much compassion small business owners have for their staff.  A key employee became ill and needed an extended leave of absence.  The owner ignored the inconvenience this would bring to daily operations and decided to compensate the employee as if they were working full time.

I was talking with a husband and wife team that owns a construction company in Winston-Salem and they shared a special story with me.  They hired a friend who was having problems locating a job because of a criminal background.  Their kindness will change the life of their friend through inspired confidence.

These stories draw stark contrast to recent headlines about the possibility of major retailers shutting down stores as part of an ongoing effort to cut expenses, or manufacturers who routinely move jobs offshore once the business environment shifts.

I recall when desktop computer sales dropped and Dell cut 8,500 jobs in response to the softening demand, which included 900 jobs from closing a local plant.  Dell received several millions of dollars in upfront local and state incentives.

I live in Forsyth County and I own a small business, but I supported the use of incentives to attract Dell, because I felt the company would play a major role in helping the Triad community transition from the declining furniture, tobacco, and textile industries.  I applaud our local and state officials for using the creative power of tax incentives to grow the local economic base through job creation.

However, with the closing of major companies such as Dell locally or the relocation of once hometown favorites such as R.J. Reynolds (now known as British American Tobacco), our local and state elected officials must not forget small business owners. 

Elected leaders need to be open-minded about lending a helping hand to all businesses, large and small.  We must be proactive in helping our smaller companies to combat the challenge of rising health insurance costs, unfavorable tax policy and the need for skilled employees.

Small business generates 70 percent of the net employment that is created in the United States.  The top providers of employment in this country are firms with less than 10 employees.  These business owners rarely “lay off” employees or shut down operations.  Routinely, small business owners will make the decision to cut their own salary before firing employees, because their passion for purpose and community trump the desire to grow shareholder profits.

The cost of health insurance is rising at a double-digit rate, but instead of cutting benefits, our small businesses absorb the additional cost to assure that employees and their families have the necessary protection.  Small business owners acknowledge the best way to create a successful company is to promote the well-being of employees.

In spite of a national economy that is unstable and uncertain, our small business owners continue to grow their companies, create jobs, and contribute to their local economies.

North Carolina is once again in the running for a large automobile manufacturing plant and many believe the facility could be located in the Piedmont Triad.  Undoubtedly community leaders will rally support for a significant incentive package to attract the company, but we also must consider the priority of ensuring our small business owners preferential opportunities.

Algenon Cash is the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm, he is also a national spokesperson for the oil and natural gas industry.  Reach him at acash@nullwhartongladden.com.

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