Census reported income increase a boon for small business



U.S. Census Bureau reports that real median household income increased 5.2 percent from 2014-2015, boosting consumer confidence and spending, and raising income to near pre-recession levels.

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released their report, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015” showing the first increase in median household incomes since 2007, and a 1.2 percent decrease in our nation’s poverty rate.

In the midst of slow recovery, this uptick in household incomes is music to the ears of Main Street small business owners who have already begun to feel the impact on their bottom line as incomes surged to near pre-recession levels. The boost in household income is one factor in recently reported increases in consumer spending, particularly in the retail and food service sectors.

Also encouraging was the decrease in households living below the poverty line. A 1.2 percent decrease from 2014 is representative of 1.1 million families and 3.5 million individuals who can now play a more significant role in their local economies and conduct business at the shops and restaurants on Main Street.

Looking at the numbers by race, Hispanic households fared the best with a 6.1 percent bump in pay, while Black households saw the smallest boost of just 4.1 percent. Wages grew at a similar rate for both men and women, while women still brought home just 80 percent of what their male counterparts earned, albeit a 3 percent improvement from the year prior.

The data shows that despite a slow and unsteady recovery, wages are recovering well and small business owners are in their strongest position to thrive in over a decade. Still, the pay gap in place for women and the slower growth experienced by Black households is concerning.

Confident that rising wages will give way to more rapid economic growth, Main Street small business owners vow to continue advocating for state and local wages increases and call on Congress to raise the wage at the federal level, narrowing the gender gap, and fueling the local economies on which their businesses depend.

“Any time there is a boost in household incomes the small businesses on Main Street can anticipate a positive impact on their bottom line. We’ve seen it in Seattle, L.A., and throughout the country,” said Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of the Main Street Alliance. “We need to continue to work to put small businesses in the best position to succeed by raising wages nationwide, closing the gender-based pay gap and ensuring equal participation in our consumer-driven economy for women and people of color.”

Main Street Alliance of New Jersey members support bill to close corporate tax loopholes



Small business owners with the Main Street Alliance of New Jersey joined New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak and allies Monday in urging the state legislature to vote on a proposed bill that would close corporate tax loopholes for multi-state corporations.

If signed into law, the "combined reporting" bill would help level the playing field for small business owners while raising nearly $300 million in additional state revenue.The bill passed through the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee earlier this year, and awaits a floor vote on Thursday. It has been introduced in the State Assembly, New Jersey's lower legislative house, but has yet to brought to committee votes there.

At a press conference in Trenton small business owners Marilyn Sealy, Jill Sasso, and Barbara Stanton called first and foremost for tax fairness.

“All businesses benefit from the public services, education, and infrastructure that New Jersey has to offer,” said Jill Sasso of Lawrenceville Provisions in Lawrenceville." I’m here to ask the state legislature to make sure that all multi-state corporations pay their fair share for these services.”

Combined reporting treats the parent company and subsidiaries of multi-state corporations as one entity for state corporate income tax purposes. Without combined reporting, such corporations can shift profits across state lines, and end up paying a lower effective tax rate than small businesses. The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services estimates that closing these tax loopholes could raise an additional $290 million in state revenue to invest in schools, roads, public services and other building blocks of a healthy state economy. More than half the states that levy a corporate business tax now require it.

“I run a family-owned business, and I pay my fair share of taxes and fees,” said Marilyn Sealy, the owner of Wells Rugs Service in Morristown. “I don’t hide my revenue through some P.O. box in another state, and neither should multi-state corporations. New Jersey needs the funding for many public services, and my business shouldn’t be the only one bearing the burden.”

Senator Lesniak, a primary sponsor of the bill, said he understood the frustration small business owners feel and called for his fellow lawmakers to support the proposed law. “They are upset because they have to pay what these multi-national corporations are not paying because they’re using accounting manipulations to avoid paying New Jersey taxes. This will put an end to that," said Lesniak.

More than 50 business owner have signed a letter of support for the law, with dozens more expected to join the campaign in weeks to come.

"Small businesses should not bear the burden of paying for services that benefit all businesses," said Barbara Stanton of Heritage Lighting. "Our state legislature needs to pass combined reporting into law as soon as possible.

With Support from Main Street Small Business Owners, St. Paul Passes Earned Paid Sick Days

Saint Paul is now home to the strongest paid sick days law in the country.

After months of council meetings, press conferences, social media activity and leadership engagement to raise public awareness,  St. Paul members of the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota built on the successes of the Minneapolis campaign and ensured a policy was passed that is in the best interest of their businesses. 

The Saint Paul City Council voted unanimously 7-0 to pass what many suggest is now the strongest earned sick and safe time ordinance in the country, one that ensures all employees in the city have access to paid sick time. The ordinance will take effect July 1, 2017.

“We are proud to support a strong, fair sick time ordinance as a basic floor for employees throughout the city”, said Shannon Forney, owner of Workhorse Coffee. “The benefits to providing sick time outweigh the costs a hundred fold. If we, a scrappy small business, not supported by capital investments, can do it, certainly other businesses can too”.

The vote came after a year-long campaign to win paid sick days for the 42% of employees in Saint Paul who did not have access to paid sick time. Dozens of small business owners took on leadership roles in the community and participated in roundtable discussions, forums, rallies and meetings with their council members to make Earned Sick and Safe Time a reality for every working family in Saint Paul. 


The Main Street Alliance created a map marking more than 55 small businesses in St. Paul that pledged their support for the ordinance and took on leadership roles in their community, advocating on their own behalf to better the lives of their employees and customers while boosting their bottom lines. 

Matt Zanetti, the owner of Lake Monster Brewing, shared his perspective as a both a parent and a business owner. “Allowing employees to earn paid sick days is a simple way to attract and retain the best staff members," said Zanetti. "I applaud the Council for passing an ordinance that puts me as the employer in the best position to meet the needs of my team and allows employees across the city to care for themselves and their families without lost income."

The ordinance closely follows the recommendations of the Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force, appointed by the mayor and City Council in February to develop recommendations for a sick time ordinance and consisting of a broad representation of stakeholders including employees, business owners, and community leaders. 

Consistent with the Task Force’s recommendations, all employees in Saint Paul will have access to Earned Sick and Safe Time. Staff members will accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. Their paid time may be used to cover a wide-range of events including; time to care for themselves or a loved one through an illness or in the event of domestic, sexual violence or stalking or in the event of a school closure.

As proposed by the Task Force’s recommendations, the ordinance will be enforced through fines and a private right of action, the right of employees to sue their employers, if they face retaliation for taking their paid sick time.

Taking a short break to celebrate and relish in their success, St. Paul members will soon set their sights on statewide legislation, ensuring all businesses and employees in the North Star State can benefit from a minimum standard of earned paid sick leave. 

Oregon Leader Takes on Apple's Tax Avoidance Schemes in New York Times Letter to the Editor

Deborah Field, co-owner of Paperjam Press in Portland, is a former corporate tax accountant who knows how companies like Apple game the system at the expense of small business owners and average taxpayers.

In response to a New York Times article highlighting Apple's outstanding U.S. tax bill, Deborah penned the following letter that appeared first in the New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Apple, Congress and the Missing Taxes” (editorial, Aug. 31):

While the editorial is spot on in calling for an end to the deferral process, it sorely missed the mark in characterizing President Obama’s proposed repatriation rate as “reasonable.” Tax holidays incentivize bad business behavior and reward companies that extract wealth from communities with a deep discount and a clean conscience.

A 14 percent rate on repatriated funds previously held offshore is a handout to large multinational corporations at the expense of small-business owners and our customers. Far from reasonable, it’s been estimated by the Main Street Alliance that the proposed holiday rate would be a $20 billion gift to Apple.

With their nearly unlimited access to capital and ability to buy in bulk, industry giants like Apple already hold a competitive edge over small to mid-sized businesses, which can’t afford to hire high-priced tax accountants and lawyers to devise tax avoidance schemes.

To level the playing field for Main Street businesses, Congress must act to end deferral, stop incentivizing offshoring of revenues with tax holidays, and hold all companies accountable to pay what they owe when they owe it.


Portland, Ore.

The writer, a small-business owner and former accountant, is a member of the Main Street Alliance.

Maine small business owners to Deputy Secretary of Labor: ‘It’s time to raise the minimum wage’


Maine small business owners look to boost consumer spending and level the playing field with low-wage competitors. 

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu visited Fork & Spoon in downtown Bangor on Tuesday for a roundtable discussion with local business owners, community advocates and workers on the importance of raising the minimum wage, both nationally through congressional action and in Maine through the passage of Question 4 this November.

Business owners who spoke in favor of a minimum wage increase cited both the economic benefits of putting more money into the pockets of their customers and the moral considerations of low wages.

“No one can live on $300 per week and no one who works hard deserves to be paid so little,” said Tim Rich, owner of The Independent Cafe in Bar Harbor, who explained to Lu why he joined more than 500 other small business owners in publicly backing the referendum. “I want my employees to be able to support their families, so they need to be paid a fair wage. That’s why I support the referendum; it’s just the right thing to do.”

The initiative on the ballot in November as Question 4 seeks to raise Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9 in 2017 and then by a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. After that, the wage would increase with the cost of living. The subminimum wage for workers who receive tips would also increase gradually from $3.75 an hour until it reaches the adjusted minimum wage.

A recent report from the National Employment Law Project found that Maine retail businesses already pay higher wages than their big-box competitors, almost $13 per hour on average, and so a low minimum wage tilts the playing field against them.

“Unfortunately, Congress has not acted,” said Lu. “Fortunately, states have acted. Since 2013, 18 states and the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wage. 51 cities and counties have also raised the minimum wage. We in the Obama administration are proud to support initiatives like what is happening here in Maine to give American workers the raise they deserve.”

This post originally appeared in the Maine Beacon. 

August Jobs Growth at 151,000, Outpacing 5-Year Average

As consumer demand rose, small business owners increased hiring.

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced the economy had created 151,000 new jobs in the month of August, building on data from the Paychex IHS Small Business Jobs Index that indicated growth in the small business sector.


Despite historically sluggish growth in August, the economy maintained its strong growth pattern, outpacing last year's gains, and more than doubling the 5-year August average of 71,000. Coupled with the rise in small business job creation over the same period these numbers are representative of a surging post-recession economy that has spurred 78 consecutive months of jobs growth and has driven the unemployment rate down to 4.9%.

The BLS report indicates the most significant growth was experienced in the retail and restaurant sectors, with those industries creating 14,000 and 34,000 jobs respectively. An encouraging development for the small businesses on Main Street that signals increased consumer confidence and spending heading into the holiday shopping season.

The Paychex report indicated the most significant small business jobs growth occurred in East Coast states and cities with the exception of Washington State. Washington State led the nation in small business job growth with Seattle topping the list of metropolitan areas.

With job creation and small business success widely attributed to consumer confidence and spending, it is hard to ignore Seattle's rising minimum wage and the role boosting the wages of the lowest-level earners played in earning them the top spot on the list.


Oregon Members Host Mixer to Discuss Portland's Small Business Climate

The group of more than a dozen small business owners and elected officials conversed and shared concerns well into the evening Wednesday. 


Last night, Seahorses PDX, known for their eye for the modern dad and the coolest children’s products in town, played host to
more than a dozen small business owners and City Councilmember Steve Novick. The group discussed shared concerns about new developments and rising rent, among other issues.

Portland’s small business community is concerned that they are being left out of the conversation as the city approves new development projects. For example, large-scale housing projects are slated without consideration for the impact on neighboring small businesses. Issues such as parking, visibility, and access to their business are primary concerns amidst a period of rapid real estate development.

That rapid growth and demand for real estate are also driving small business owners out of locations they’ve held for years. Small businesses sit at the heart of their communities, and they are responsible for the charm and growth that has made their community desirable to developers and tenants. Rising costs threaten the viability of the walking shopping districts that make their neighborhoods the place to be.

The group also discuss access to capital, for all small businesses, but specifically for shops with ten employees or less. Small and micro-businesses experience unique struggles when securing funds for growth and expansion.

Oregon member Andy Diaz, the owner of Blackbird Wine Shop and Atomic Cheese generously provided food and refreshments for the event. Between the great wine and an even better conversation, the group discussed the issues facing them well beyond the scheduled end time for the event.

Events of this nature are regularly organized throughout Oregon and get to the heart of the issues impacting small business owners statewide. Often connecting them to lawmakers that can put their ideas to action.  


Main Street Leader Calls on Illinois Legislators to Close Tax Loopholes

Main Street Alliance Executive Committee Member David Borris speaks at an event taking on corporate tax dodgers and calling on Illinois elected officials to close tax loopholes. 

David Borris, the owner of Hel's Kitchen Catering located just outside of Chicago, spoke at an event hosted by Fair Economy Illinois this week focusing on the use of tax havens and holes in the tax code that allow large and highly profitable corporations to skirt the law and shift their tax responsibility onto small business owners and everyday taxpayers. 

The event was held outside the Chicago offices of Exelon. David and allies targeted Exelon and fellow energy giant ComEd for their participation in tax avoidance schemes and for their failure to pay their fair share. Read an excerpt from David's speech: 

"I am here today to call on Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton to close egregious corporate tax loopholes that allow Huge, highly-profitable businesses to shift their tax responsibility onto the backs of hardworking small business owners and our customers throughout the state.  

On Main St., we do business the old-fashioned way. We work hard to expand and create good-paying jobs, offer our customers a great product for a fair price-- And we pay our fair share of taxes. When it comes to big corporations like Exelon and ComEd, we don’t share many similarities. 

Exelon extracts millions of dollars from local communities through accounting tricks like funneling exorbitant profits through six different offshore tax havens specifically designed to cheat Illinois taxpayers out of revenue that is then redirected into the pockets of wealthy investors.

Exelon has successfully starved our public school systems, caused budget cuts to our health and human services, and consistently and shamelessly put profit before people and planet. 

By employing armies of high-priced lobbyists, accountants, and tax lawyers, large and nefarious corporations augment their personal piece of the pie and bleed an estimated $2.5 billion from our shared Illinois economy every single year. Intricate use of shell companies and off-shore tax havens has become all too popular and plagues not only Illinois but state and local economies all across the nation.

We cannot continue to allow the good people of Illinois and their brethren across the nation to be cheated out of the resources necessary to sustain the common good and fuel the local economic growth that is imperative to a continuing and vibrant economic recovery.  

The shops and restaurants, the plumbers and carpenters, the retail salespeople and office workers toiling every day on Main Street, each one of our employees, and each one of our customers, deserve nothing less.

Large corporations must ditch their complicated tax-avoidance strategies for a simpler process--- =pay what you owe, where you owe it, and pay it on time.

If our lawmakers want to walk the walk about working hard for ALL Illinoisans, they should make holding these wealthy corporations accountable to paying their fair share of taxes their very top priority." 

Strictly Organic Coffee Roasters Host Event in Support of Oregon's Measure 97

Main Street Alliance of Oregon member Rhonda Ealy, the co-owner of Strictly Organic Coffee Roasters in Bend, hosted a canvass launch yesterday for the campaign in support of Measure 97 campaign.

Measure 97 would raise taxes on the largest and mostly out-of-state corporations that generate more than $25 million in Oregon sales each year. The measure designates the new revenue for our schools, health care, and senior services.



Rhonda told those in attendance why she supports ballot measure 97, a measure that will shift some of the shared tax responsibility onto large C corporations and reduce the percentage of funding for schools and health services coming from small business owners and average taxpayers.


“I support Measure 97 because it's time for large corporations to pay their fair share and support the community the way that Strictly Organic does,” said Rhonda. Strictly Organic Coffee Roasters donates thousands of dollars to local schools each year, despite believing these programs should be funded by corporations making investments in the communities that support their businesses.


All told, 20 supporters attended the event, ranging in age and profession, some business owners, some teachers, and retired educators. Attendees phone banked and canvassed door to door in downtown Bend spreading their message of shared prosperity and shared responsibility.


This was the first campaign event in the Bend area, and it garnered excitement from attendees who felt inspired by Rhonda’s words and believe the plan, estimated to increase state revenue by nearly $3 billion annually, was a sound investment in the community.  


Raise Your Glasses and Rank Your Choices

A beer-based strategy to raise awareness of the ranked choice voting referendum on the November ballot in Maine

Craft breweries throughout Maine will be holding “beer elections” during the month of September, hosting tastings and allowing customers to rank their beers as part of a campaign to bring attention to the ranked choice voting referendum on the ballot this year. The events, organized by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, are designed to showcase how straightforward and empowering voting in future elections will be if Question 5 passes in November.


“This is a fun way to demonstrate how ranked choice voting works, and an opportunity to support Maine’s vibrant craft brewing industry,” said Committee for Ranked Choice Voting campaign manager Kyle Bailey. “We rank choices every day of our lives. Ranking candidates for public office is no different.”

19 breweries are backing the referendum and hosting the demonstrations, with the first scheduled for Friday, September 2nd at Oxbow Brewing in Newcastle. (See the full list of breweries here.)

If approved by voters, Question 5 would give Maine voters the power to rank candidates for public office up and down the ballot. The voting system, already in use in Portland mayoral elections, is designed to allow a greater degree of voter choice. If a voter’s first-place choice can’t win after the ballots are tallied, their vote is instantly counted for their next choice, removing the possibility of “spoiler” candidates or the need to vote strategically for a candidate other than one’s top preference.

“By voting yes on Question 5, voters will have more choice and more voice in electing our leaders,” said Bailey. “Ranking candidates is empowering. Ranking beer is just fun.”

This post originally appeared in the Maine Beacon.



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