LPM Staff

my perspective on: small businesses

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It has long been said “the business of America is business.” We might very well say “the business of Arizona is small business.” Small businesses make up more than 96 percent of our state’s employers, as well as the bulk of the membership in the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. It’s important for our elected officials to understand that what is good for small business is good for our community. We owe it to ourselves to elect leaders who will help create an atmosphere where small businesses thrive, securing our future prosperity.

Unfortunately, many small businesses must leap over roadblocks put in their way by those very public servants we have chosen to lead our state. Here are just a few:

• An unemployment insurance rate hike will take place next January. While necessary to ensure the state can continue to pay unemployment benefits, it comes at a time when other costs of business are increasing (while most business revenues are not).

• Many businesses that would normally pay their June sales tax collections to the state in late July will now instead have to make those payments in June, potentially creating a cash-flow issue.

• A proposal to expand the state sales tax base to include services (such as haircuts or oil changes) in addition to goods would see many business owners spending more time collecting taxes than actually running their businesses.

In fairness, there are practices that benefit Arizona’s small businesses, including

• Health insurance vouchers for small businesses that help defray the cost of premiums.

• Affordable, stripped-down health insurance plans, often referred to as “mandate lite,” allowing business owners to offer some benefits rather than none. This also reduces the strain on the state’s Medicare-like AHCCCS plan.

• Reduced paperwork on drug-and-alcohol testing programs, helping small businesses with workplace testing programs receive discounts on their workers’ compensation policies.

To create a more pro-business environment in Arizona, we must encourage more small business people to run for elected office. If our government – of, by, and for the people – has more leaders who “sign the front of the check” and not just the back, decision-makers will have a greater understanding of the needs of and constraints on small business people. A proposed online “one stop shop,” where business owners can find all the regulations and information pertaining to their business in one place, should be funded and completed. And it is vital that government feature less red tape and regulation and lower tax burdens on those who drive the supply side of our economy.

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce is actively working on behalf of our 3,100+ members with several programs and initiatives designed to help small businesses succeed. We are stressing business fundamentals by offering more networking events and seminars like our “Back to Business” series. Already we have seen a 22-percent increase in attendance at our events, showing the strong demand for these programs.

We continue to act as a conduit between the business community and elected officials. A new series of “Councilmember Connect” tours brings Phoenix City Council members to companies in their districts, builds relationships, and showcases the contribution these businesses make to our community on a daily basis. And we are practicing “thought leadership” by hosting Phoenix Forum events on important topics such as global trade, sustainability, and the impact of the military on Arizona’s economy. You can find out about these events and anything else you could ask about our chamber at www.phoenixchamber.com.

With our state’s centennial less than two years away, the time is now for all of us to demand and work toward making Arizona a leader in commerce, industry, and innovation. These are big dreams that will only be accomplished with a thriving small business community.

Todd Sanders has been the president & CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce since May 2009, after more than three years as the GPCC’s vice president of Public Affairs and Economic Development. A native of Bogota, Colombia, he came to the U.S. as a young boy. Mr. Sanders holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northern Arizona University.

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