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Small businesses are key to a healthy economy

Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy; when we support our local entrepreneurs, creators, and service providers, we’re building the foundation for our community’s prosperity.

But we also know that opening and running a small business is no small task. It can seem as if the rules of the economy are stacked against local businesses and in favor of large, out-of-state corporations. As representatives of districts with strong, vital small business communities, we’re greatly interested in finding out what we can do to help turn challenges into opportunities.

Last month, we gathered on Main Street in Hillsboro for a “small business coffee” to hear more from our local business owners.

First, we have to praise the energy and hard work of the diverse small businesses that we are fortunate enough to have in House Districts 29 and 30. We both have significant personal experience with small businesses. State Rep. Joe Gallegos is a small business owner of Western Research Associates, a social research and program development consulting firm. Likewise, state Rep. Susan McLain’s husband owned a small business for many years. So we know firsthand the challenges of balancing local, state, and federal regulations, keeping up with shifts in the marketplace, and being on the frontlines when the economy tumbles.

But challenges aside, we also know small business owners play a critical role in making our community a welcoming and unforgettable place. Small business owners help identify the unique qualities of their individual communities to provide services and products that are home-grown and homemade. And whether it’s that special, vibrant coffee shop on the corner, the unique wine shop on Main Street, or a brand new bakery with interesting smells and delicious food, small businesses enrich our days.

Our constituents have heard from us — many, many times — that we must have an educated and healthy work force in order for our communities and economy to thrive. But what does this mean for small businesses? For one, we must recognize that small businesses are our primary job creators, and thus, pillars of our local and state economy. That being said, in order to foster growth and investment in small businesses, we need to prioritize their needs. For example, to fulfill employment demands it is imperative to have healthy and properly trained employees.

In order to promote a healthy economy, we must also listen to the concerns of our small business owners. Business owners at our recent coffee session talked a lot about transportation infrastructure at both the local and statewide level in order to create more accessibility for customers.

Small business owners also focused on increasing the minimum wage. As we explore raising Oregon’s minimum wage, we as legislators are determined to find a path that will allow workers to take care of their families and give business owners the time and tools to plan for these changes — and to capitalize on the increased demand for local products and services that will come from increased spending power.

GALLEGOSFinally, many individuals around the table wanted to know more about statewide support systems, and we would like to note two helpful resources. Janet Soto is the economic and business equity advisor within the governor’s office, and she can be reached at 503-378-5884. Ruth Miles is the small business advocate for the Secretary of State and can be reached at business.sos@state.or.us.

MCLAINOur "Small Business Coffee" provided an environment for us to listen, and for small business owners to share the real issues and concerns they’re facing. We are both grateful we had the opportunity to meet with some of our local business owners, and look forward to a continued dialogue.

State Rep. Susan McLain represents Oregon House District 29, which includes Forest Grove, Cornelius and parts of Hillsboro. State Rep. Joe Gallegos represents Oregon House District 30, which includes parts of Hillsboro, North Plains and Helvetia.

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