These days, the primary emphasis of state strategies is recruiting new businesses and supporting existing large businesses rather than supporting small businesses already here in our community.
This prioritization occurs despite the fact that Oregon has a strong core of small, stable businesses making up our economic fabric and creating the majority of jobs in the state.
That's why I formed an advisory group of small business owners to identify barriers to their success and develop potential solutions. Members come from Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove and include manufacturers, farmers, health care providers, contractors and retailers.
Some have been in business many years; others only a short time. The following barriers to success emerged from our first meeting:
n Access to capital: In spite of the massive public bailouts of large Wall Street banks, small business loans for start-up and expansion purposes are almost non-existent. Most small businesses need bridge loans between seasonal buying months and to technologically improve operations to remain competitive. Small business loans are also needed to fuel expansion into new markets and product development.
n Land use: Small businesses have less clout when confronted with large ventures that would adversely affect their operation on their own land. This is particularly true in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) controversy where legislation has been passed that will allow private energy corporations to get permits to do soil removal and/or fill without landowner approval.
n Regulatory Laws and Licensing Requirements: State and local laws and licensing requirements rarely take into account the economic impact of compliance on small businesses.
n Access to health insurance pools for employee healthcare purposes: Small businesses could get more employee healthcare coverage at better rates if pooled together.
The participants agreed that small businesses need to be given incentives equal to those provided for large businesses. Many business owners are ready to expand and hire new people but they need capital to expand. We need to help get it to them.
1. Incentives to expand. The last Legislative Session allowed the state to 'Buy Oregon first.' We need a bill to 'Hire Oregon First.' I will introduce a bill to give incentives to small businesses, to do just that.
2. Streamline the permitting process. The state has instituted one-stop permits for state agencies. The process now needs to be coordinated with counties and cities so businesses truly have one-stop permitting.
3. Provide access to capital. In the last session the Oregon Investment Act pooled funds for business loans. Now, we need to make sure those funds get delivered to our small businesses so they can expand and hire more workers.
4. Lower the cost of health insurance for small businesses. The new health insurance exchange program needs to be expanded to allow small businesses and their employees to participate.