WHALEN: Small-business owners need more than a week

Job creators call for action

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Over my nearly 35-year career leading Heart of America Group and with Job Creators Alliance (JCA), I’ve had the good fortune of working with many entrepreneurs and small-business owners. I know from firsthand experience that small businesses have borne the brunt of the Great Recession and I also know that sustainable economic recovery will depend on the extent to which we are able to empower them to take risks, invest and hire more people.

Last week was National Small Business Week, an effort by the Small Business Administration to recognize and honor U.S. small businesses. It’s a worthy goal that I support wholeheartedly. But the reality is that small-business owners need more than a week of national attention; they need legislative action - for example, a pro-growth public policy that enables current job creators to stay afloat and encourages would-be entrepreneurs to launch their enterprise. A comprehensible tax code, a commonsense regulatory regime and certainty about the impact of sweeping federal laws like the Affordable Care Act or Dodd-Frank would all be welcome changes from the current path of Washington.

JCA has laid out a policy plan that would cut through the government red tape that’s currently hindering job creation at the small firm level - where we need it most. Our policy plan calls for such actions as reforming our tax code, removing the regulatory uncertainty small businesses face, and bringing a rational approach to government fiscal policy and entitlement reform. Our policy recommendations provide a road map to lead our nation back to sustainable, stable economic growth and give small businesses what they need to survive and thrive in today’s economy.

Recently, Thumbtack.com, a website where people can hire local businesses, partnered with the Kauffman Foundation, a national organization devoted to entrepreneurship, to complete a survey that draws data from thousands of small business owners to identify the best and worst places to do business nationwide. My home state of Iowa got an A+ for overall friendliness of state and local regulations and Iowa’s small businesses are the fifth most healthy in the country. In particular, Iowa earned very high scores from its small-business owners for its licensing regulations (the most important factor in determining a state’s small business friendliness), the cost of hiring an additional employee, and friendliness of zoning, environmental, employment, labor and hiring regulations. No wonder Iowa’s small business growth was top 3 in the country.

At a time when job creation should be the top priority for every policymaker and elected official at every level, and as economic data continues to point to a long road ahead before unemployment and jobs return to pre-recession levels, it seems Washington could learn a lot from Iowa.

While it is heartening to hear rhetoric from our elected leaders that job creation is job No. 1, and to see legislation designed to encourage innovation and startups, the bottom line is that small business owners need more than talk or a commemorative week. The solution to the jobs problem is small business. Job creators need, and deserve, real action.

Mike Whalen is the president and CEO of Heart of America Group, which designs, builds and operates hotels, restaurants and commercial real estate and is a leader with Job Creators Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to the defense of free enterprise.

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