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It's time to help small businesses

Brainerd lakes area businesses have always contributed to our economy, our area and our state in a meaningful way. They are partners in the community, job providers and taxpayers.

The vast majority of our 1,000 small business members have fewer than 10 employees. Small business owners are an optimistic and independent lot, believing they can offer products or services that fill a market niche.

They don’t walk out the door at 5 p.m. leaving their work behind; they wake up during the night strategizing about how to do it better, faster, more efficiently, so they and their employees can succeed.

They risk and invest their personal resources, dedicate countless hours (often without pay for the first few years), hire and train employees, and abide by countless government regulations because they believe there will be some future benefit that makes it all worthwhile.

The current legislative climate seems determined to make doing business in our state as hard as possible. I talk to businesses every day — our members. They are being targeted for tax increases, higher insurance premiums to fund the new health care exchange, and increases in minimum wages.

And then there are more legislative changes on the horizon, including street improvement fees, water appropriation fees, transit and gas taxes, and new energy mandates, just to name a few.

There is a tremendous appetite for raising revenue at the Capitol. Instead, our state government could learn from our small businesses by focusing on doing it better, faster and more efficiently.

Members tell me, “It’s so disheartening; I don’t know what to say.”

Many also tell me that in these tenuous times they need to focus on their businesses, not on challenging decision-makers in St. Paul. They wonder why decisions are being made to make doing business more difficult, when other states are trying to make doing business easier.

Small businesses will not be able to grow and prosper when government demands more and more of their time and financial resources. Many will say nothing, but are already making decisions about their investments in our community, affecting jobs, economic development and community sustainability.

Governor and legislators, we know you have many pressures and demands at the Capitol. We ask that you don’t lose sight of the importance of helping small and mid-sized businesses thrive in our state.

(Lisa Paxton is chief executive officer of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber.)