When you read this, the elections will be over. If you are in office, you are safe for the time being, but I thought I would write this note to you on behalf of the family businesses I represent and work with.
First, to the alderperson in Milwaukee trying to block a successful choice school – family-owned and -operated – from expanding: Why do you think this school has been successful? It has 350 students, many of whom can’t succeed at Milwaukee Public Schools. On average, when they join this school that is looking to expand in your district, their test scores go up and they leap two grade levels in one year. The neighborhood you represent is being boarded up, and yet here you have a successful business serving the underserved in your community. And you are blocking their expansion because…?
Second, to the politicians who support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour: You should talk to my clients who raised their salaries to workers in their food preparation business. This family business wants to support the community and it was experiencing tremendous absenteeism. Thinking it was a salary issue, they raised the hourly rate, only to find that their absenteeism increased! Exasperated and looking to expand their business, they asked the workers what the problem was. The response was that working was costing them too much money from the government aid they were receiving. It was better to not work.
Third, to the politicians who are satisfied with the current unemployment rate: My families involved with trucking, shipping and distribution can’t find workers. American workers don’t want to do the job, despite the competitive salaries being paid, and foreign workers are being blocked because our immigration policy is all screwed up. As an example, there are students here for college – here legally – who can’t work because their F-1 visas will not allow it. They want to work. There are jobs Americans don’t want. And they are being blocked.
You really need to be paying attention to family businesses. About 75 percent of new job creation and growth and about 57 percent of gross domestic product comes from family-owned businesses, according to Family Enterprise USA. Like a doctor who takes the oath to “do no harm” to the patient, the politician should take the oath to do no harm to businesses and the economy. Businesses employ people who pay taxes, support their families and ultimately, raise our standard of living. To impede their progress to growth is counterproductive and just plain wrong.
I am writing to you, Mr. and Ms. Politician. You promised to serve your constituents and community. Are you serving them or yourself? Are you serving some political agenda, your own political class position, or are you truly helping our nation to expand from the moribund economic growth reported since the Great Recession? We need your help. If you can’t help, then at least get out of the way so we can do what we need to make our world and community a better place.
P.S. To the rest of you, our family businesses need your help. From over-regulation to lack of workers with the proper skillset necessary, our family businesses are being decimated. We have a responsibility to not sit idly by. Regardless of your political persuasion or leanings, without work we become the Weimar Republic before the Nazis took over or modern day Greece, where people are not working and everyone is on a government pension without the dollars to support it. According to a Joint Committee on Taxation analysis of the 2009 tax year, 51 percent of our workforce was not paying into the federal income tax system, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of Americans received federal government benefits in 2011. The gap is closing, and while everyone is so worried about the gap between the rich and poor, nobody is looking at this phenomenon which is devastating to our economy.
Hopefully, we can all agree that those that can work should, and that our government needs to create an environment that supports these family-sustaining family businesses.
-David Borst, Ed.D., is executive director and chief operating officer of the Family Business Legacy Institute, a regional resource hub for family business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.