Portland, OR — Last night, October 22, hundreds of small business owners and small business supporters braved the rain storms and came together at HATCH to celebrate small business and connect Main Street business owners with local lenders.
Money on a Mission, sponsored by Beneficial State Bank and HATCH, brought together the top local small business lenders: Albina Community Bank, Albina Opportunities Corporation, Beneficial State Bank, Community Sourced Capital, Craft3, HATCH, Kiva Zip, Mercy Corps Northwest, Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs, & Portland Development Commission.
There’s no question that there is a large gap in access to capital for Main Street businesses, especially for women business owners and business owners of color. More and more, tradition forms of lending aren’t working for small businesses across Oregon and nationally. By bringing together local alternative lenders and expert panels on business development and growth, all in one room, Main Street business owners were able to think outside the box and find creative ways to fill their capital access needs.
The event kicked off with welcoming remarks (and trademark song) from Kat Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Beneficial State Bank and Amy Pearl, Founder of HATCH. Then there was plenty of time for business owners in the room to network with each other and all 11 of the local lenders on site. There were expert panels in small breakouts for budding entrepreneurs on accessing early stage funds and for established businesses working to grow to the next level.
While it was inspiring to have all of these lenders presenting their alternative forms of capital, we know that there’s still a gap for those businesses who need smaller amounts. That’s why The Main Street Alliance of Oregon and Hatch Innovation have come together to work on creating streamlined ways for Oregonians to directly invest in Oregon-owned and operated businesses. To find out more about what’s coming down the pipe line, contact oregon [at] mainstreetalliance.org.
Small-business owners slam AmEx over Excessive Fees, Tax Dodging
A fact sheet on American Express’s abusive behavior toward small businesses and on the company’s tax dodging is available here
The Main Street Alliance, a national network of small-business owners, is denouncing the hypocrisy of American Express for championing small-business shopping on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, while the credit card giant’s financial and tax practices hurt Main Street businesses every day.
Now in its fourth year, “Small Business Saturday” is the marketing invention of American Express, encouraging consumers to “Shop Small” the Saturday after Thanksgiving by using their American Express cards at participating businesses. American Express launched the marketing initiative just a month after the U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against the company in 2010.
Small-business owners criticize the company for imposing the credit card industry’s highest “swipe fees” at 3.5 percent, and for its record of tax dodging that includes stashing $8.5 billion in profits offshore, which are not currently subject to U.S. taxes.
The Main Street Alliance encourages consumers to support small businesses this holiday season by shopping locally and paying for their purchases with cash.
But, American Express? Leave home without it.
Small business leaders in the Main Street Alliance network sent an open letter to U.S. Senators urging them to amend the Jump-start Our Business Start-ups Act that passed the House recently. In the letter, they wrote:
"Rolling back basic transparency rules, like SEC registration, won’t help small businesses. Instead, it will tilt the playing field toward unscrupulous actors who are looking to game the system. That sounds like recreating the same atmosphere that brought about the 2008 financial crisis. We urge you not to do that."
The Main Street Alliance, Small Business Majority, and the American Sustainable Business Council released the results of a national poll of small businesses on access to credit and proposals to boost the economy.
Big bank lobbyists have been putting on a full-court press in Washington, DC to roll back components of the financial overhaul passed last year and free Wall Street to go back to the "business as usual" that led to the financial crisis in 2008.
The bankers are gunning for the new Consumer Protection Bureau and attempting to block the confirmation of a director for the bureau. They're lobbying to starve regulatory agencies of the funds needed to enforce the provisions of the new law. And on the Senate floor on June 8, they went after small businesses with an amendment to delay (read, kill) new rules limiting debit swipe fees. But this time, the bankers lost.
The bank-backed amendment needed 60 votes to pass, and it fell six votes short on Wednesday (see the roll call of the vote – no party line vote here, unless you draw the lines of a new "Party of Wall Street"). This vote was a big win for small businesses, stopping big banks and the card company duopoly from walking away with an extra $1 billion a month in exorbitant swipe fees.
Leaders in the Main Street Alliance led the charge of small businesses fighting back against the banks' lobbying onslaught. While the inside-the-beltway small business lobbies (like the NFIB) sat on the sidelines, MSA business owners made calls, signed letters, and organized their business contacts to make their voices heard.
Mike Craighill, owner of the Soup and Such restaurants in Billings, Montana wrote an op-ed in The Hill on June 9 recapping the victory. Mike wrote:
As the owner of two family restaurants that cater to a daytime business clientele, I know a thing or two about serving up a good lunch. And, in the run-up to Wednesday's Senate vote on the amendment to delay new rules limiting debit swipe fees, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that big banks were going to eat our lunch… again.
But, to my surprise and delight – and thanks in large part to small business owners from Maine to Iowa to Washington State who contacted their Senators and make their voices heard - Wall Street bankers didn't win this time. They didn't eat our lunch.
MSA leader Mary Noel Black, owner of The UPS Store at Citiplace in Baton Rouge, Louisiana had this to say reflecting on the significance of the vote:
The massive transfer of wealth from our local economies, from places like Greeley, Colorado and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Manhattan penthouses of bank executives has been slowed. This vote confirms that the new swipe fee limits will move forward, and small businesses will be freed from exorbitant interchange fees that have hindered our ability to grow and create jobs.
The Senate's vote also confirmed that it’s possible to stand up to the big banks and win… and that small businesses banding together and making their voices heard are a force to be reckoned with.
The House of Representatives is expected to consider a bill shortly that would bring about a major overhaul of rule-making processes that set rules for the financial sector, public health and environmental standards, workplace healthy and safety, and other public safeguards.
The Regulatory Accountability Act (or RAA) is being promoted on the pretext of helping small businesses. But real small business owners aren’t buying the anti-regulatory hype. Indeed, in poll after poll and interview after interview, small business owners say what they need to grow and create jobs is more customers, not deregulation.
We asked leaders in the Main Street Alliance network to share their take on the Regulatory Accountability Act and the broader debate about cutting regulations in the name of small business. Here’s what some of them had to say:
Kelly Conklin co-owns Foley-Waite Associates, a custom woodworking business in Bloomfield, New Jersey:
“The Regulatory Accountability Act is just the next example of attempting to shift risk and shift costs from big businesses to small businesses. This bill would gut rules and standards that protect small businesses, the communities where we live and work, and the customers we rely on for our livelihoods.
“I’d like to know, how will rolling back financial standards and allowing another financial crisis help small businesses? How will rolling back environmental rules and allowing another BP spill help small businesses? To hear these proposals being marketed in the name of helping small businesses, it’s just infuriating. This is small business identity theft – using our good name to push an agenda that benefits narrow special interests at our expense.
“Once again the political ambitions of a few are being placed above economic recovery, environmental common sense and the health and safety of small business owners, our employees, and the communities we serve.”
Jim Houser owns Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon:
“These attacks on basic regulatory standards are misguided at best. They completely miss – or ignore – the fact that standards and regulations create jobs and support innovation.
“Just look at my industry, auto repair. In our sector, smart, focused automobile emission standards protect the air we breathe, provide needed employment for the nation’s repair technicians who keep our vehicles running clean, and promote innovations that help U.S. companies be on the cutting edge of new automotive technologies.”
Garry Ault owns All Makes Vacuum in Boise, Idaho:
“I’ve been trying to sell my small business and retire for over a year. I had to cut the selling price back to the point where I would make only $1,500 more than I paid for my business in 1980. Why? Because of the policies of the last 20 years that deregulated our financial sector, encouraged reckless gambling on Wall Street, and precipitated the 2008 financial crisis and this Second Great Depression small businesses are struggling to pull through today.
“Deregulation is a scam – it helps the big guys at the little guy’s expense. Our politicians have got to know that by now, and if they do then there’s just no excuse for pushing this agenda that’s going to hurt small businesses even more.”
Melanie Collins owns Melanie’s Home Childcare in Falmouth, Maine:
“Deregulation that helps narrow, big business interests – like banks, insurers, and oil companies – has the reverse effect on small businesses, who are the majority of our job creators. Compromising environmental protections and the ability to maintain healthy communities with a healthy customer base is counterproductive to small business job creation and an economically vibrant future.
“What small businesses need are customers – Americans with spending money in their pockets – not deregulation that gives big corporations free reign to cut corners, use their market power at our expense, and force even more small businesses to lay people off and close up shop.”
November 10: Small Business Owners Demand Banks, Health Insurers, Oil Companies Come Clean on Dark Money
Small Business Owners to Banks, Insurers, Energy Companies: “How Are You Spending Our Money?”
Washington, DC—Small business owners in the Main Street Alliance network launched the “Business Against Dark Money” campaign today, calling on banks, health insurers, and oil companies to fully disclose their “dark money” spending – dues and contributions to trade associations and other third parties that can then be used for political purposes, often to advance big business interests at the expense of small businesses, without disclosure of the original source.
Click below for letters sent to national banks, health insurers, energy companies, and their trade groups (state level letters are available upon request; email email@example.com).
OIL AND GAS COMPANIES:
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon held a briefing to update members on the proposal to create a state bank in Oregon. This briefing provided a brief summary of what the bill would do for small business owners as well as providing a short glimpse into the short 2012 session.
New Jersey Main Street Alliance leader Jacquie Germany, owner of Nina's Nuances Interior Design in Montclair, NJ, had a commentary published in the Washington Post on July 10 in support of financial reform and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Jacquie writes:
Small businesses have been devastated by the economic consequences of Wall Street recklessness and abusive lending, with the recession leading to small-business bankruptcies nearly doubling between March 2008 and March 2009.
And small businesses are especially hurt when dollars that our customers and prospective customers could be spending on the goods and services we offer are instead sucked away by bad mortgages, or deceptive credit cards or outrageous overdraft fees.
On June16, the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Capital Access and Taxes held a hearing entitled The Dodd-Frank Act: Impact on Small Business Lending. The Main Street Alliance's Bill Daley was invited to testify on behalf of businesses in our network. See the clip of Bill's testimony: