Small Business Minnesota tracks key issues at the Capitol

Plymouth-based statewide advocacy group releases its legislative agenda 

Plymouth-based Small Business Minnesota has spent the last year growing membership and developing a platform on which to advance its mission of “representing the real needs of small business.”

The group consists of around 300 businesses from across the state, most of which employ 100 or fewer workers. In order to advocate for its member base, the organization recently released a document of its priorities for the current legislative session.

The following are selected issues that appear in SBM’s 2014 and Ongoing Legislative Priorities document:

 

Minimum wage increase

Minimum wage reform leads the priorities list and has been the fuel for a substantial debate centering about the state’s lowest paid workers.

Audrey Britton, business owner and SBM Government Relations and Affairs Committee Chair, said the organization believes that an increase is inevitable. However, the group hopes to keep the needs of small employers in the conversation.

Britton continued to advocate for reconsideration where tipped workers are concerned. She said there is a number of small restaurant owners in the member base, and some of them may have to “close down” should the wage increase affect waitresses, bus boys or others who earn a regular salary from gratuity.

However, the board does support a well-implemented wage hike.

“I believe it can, honestly, create a lot of jobs,” said Jim Kelco, board member and owner of Kelco Services. “I think it can generate some new dollars in the economy. That’s going to be beneficial to us.”

Net Neutrality

The priorities document reads, “We support efforts to increase Internet access, affordability and equity. Small businesses depend on affordable, modern and equitable Internet access. Yet, in the United States Internet access is comparatively expensive, slow and unfairly distributed.”

The concept of net neutrality involves ensuring that Internet service providers and governments don’t discriminate in charging or providing service based on user, content or application.

“It’s complex, and we didn’t expect anything this session,” Britton said. “But it’s a huge business issue, especially if you’re in outstate greater Minnesota, it’s going to effect you greatly.”

Former co-chair of the business group Ben Kyriagis said his business, World Trade Network in Minneapolis depends on fast, reliable and affordable Internet access and that it’s crucial to protect those rights in favor of small business.

“We depend on the Internet, and I think most businesses do these days,” Kyriagis said. “If everybody in the state had [good internet access] the economy would be so much better. If you can’t get access to Internet, you can start a successful business. It’s that simple.”

Other issues 

Also appearing on the priorities list are affordable health insurance, transportation, education for a ready workforce, tax code reform, impartial justice and sustainable business practices, among others.

To advocate for the group’s member base, Britton said it has engaged in lobbying at the Capitol on minimum wage, transit and tax code reform. The group has also been letter-writing and keeping close tabs on the issues.

Moving forward into the next year, Kelco said the fairly young board will focus on growing membership, continuing advocacy and adjusting bylaws.

For more information about the organization, visit smallbusinessmn.org.

 

Contact Brian Rosemeyer at [email protected]