Small Business – the backbone of our economy
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
Did you know that 98.6 percent of retailers are small businesses with 50 employees or less? With Small Biz Week fast approaching April 29 – May 5, I am reminded of the important role those businesses play in supporting our state’s economy. While small businesses may not generate as much revenue as large corporations, they are a critical component and major contributor to the strength of local economies. They represent new employment opportunities and serve as the building blocks for many of our largest employers.
Since 1995, small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total private payroll nationally, according to the Small Business Administration.
So how do small businesses contribute to our economy? One way is by bringing growth and innovation to the communities in which they invest. They help stimulate economic growth by providing employment opportunities to individuals who may not be a “good fit” for larger corporate cultures.
Entrepreneurs who invent new products or implement new solutions for existing ideas are often at the center of many startup businesses. In many cases, even our larger corporations benefit from small businesses within the same local community, as they depend on them for outsourcing and support in the industry.
One of the many benefits of a small business is its ability to respond and adapt quickly to changing economic climates. Because customer service is often one of the key characteristics of a successful small business, customer loyalty to local entrepreneurs often helps to sustain it through the ups and downs.
When consumers patronize local small businesses, they are essentially investing back into their community. A thriving local business will generate strong revenue, which means higher taxes, including local taxes. This tax revenue is critical in supporting local police and fire departments, maintaining roads and building infrastructure, supporting local schools and other necessary social services.
Many of Washington’s successful businesses started out small. We don’t have to look far around the Puget Sound region to see examples of this type of growth and innovation.
Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, Ben Bridge, Bartell’s and the list goes on and on…are prime examples of how a small business idea can change the world. Start-ups that grow into large corporate employers often remain in the community where they were established. Having a large corporation headquartered in a community can further support employment opportunities and stimulate the local economy.
Small Business Week programs
Next week is the 55th Small Business Week. The U.S. Small Business Administration has hosted the week ever since President John Kennedy signed the first proclamation.
The Internal Revenue Service also will host a series of free tax-related webinars. Click on the appropriate links to register:
April 30: Can I Deduct This? (home office, meals, transportation, cell phone)
May 1: Employee or Independent Contractor?
May 2: Pay Now? Pay Later? Can’t Pay? (payment options)
May 3: Small Business Resources
May 4: Pay Check Check-Up
Times and WRA urge defeat of Seattle head tax on businesses
An annual tax on large companies for every person they employ will hurt the economy and damage Seattle’s ability to attract new employers, The Seattle Times argues in an editorial. It urged Mayor Jenny Durkan to prepare to veto any such tax approved by the City Council.
The council currently is considering a per-hour tax of $500 per full-time employee for companies with annual revenues higher than $20 million. The $75 million it would generate would be spent on combatting homelessness.
In addition, Washington Retail Association will be sending an opposition letter to Mayor Durkan and The City Council that highlights the damage a head tax will do to workers and job applicants. Unlike earlier council initiatives that enhanced wages and worker rights, a head tax affords no benefits to employees. University of Washington economist Jacob Vigdor, in fact, maintains the tax would discourage hiring and dry up employment opportunities. The Times agrees and notes that a payroll tax will reduce job opportunities for youth, immigrants and laborers who depend upon economic growth.
The Times argues that Seattle’s budget has grown 17.4 percent the past three years and that it should better manage its money instead of passing on new costs that hurt employers and workers alike.
The council is expected to approve the tax at a meeting on May 14. Read the full editorial here.
Consider joining WRA in combatting organized retail crime
By Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Government Affairs
WRA invites interested companies that are not yet members to join the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance (WSORCA). I attended the organization’s board meeting last week at Federal Way City Hall.
Most of the state’s major retailers, law enforcement and prosecutors participate on the board. It meets periodically to focus efforts to crack down on the growing organized retail crime problem.
The National Retail Federation estimates that retailers lose $45 billion in merchandise a year to theft. The cost of those losses often is borne by consumers in higher prices.
WSORCA hosts an online database with information about retail crime incidents that can be shared by members. The database can only be accessed by law enforcement and pre-approved loss prevention or asset protection officers in order to protect the privacy of sensitive information. WRA was the main organization that sponsored the original enacting legislation to form the database, which now serves as a national model.
The board serves as a forum to discuss cases and trends in retail crime. The biggest problem involves organized theft rings that steal thousands of dollars of merchandise in a single visit and continue at multiple locations, often on the same day. The board also convenes conferences with speakers and seminars to continue sharing crime information with concerned retailers.
WRA plans to run a bill again next year that would allow store security to question suspects hiding merchandise on their person before leaving a store. Washington State is one of the few states that does not have such a law to enforce.
Please contact me if you would like to join WSORCA. Membership is free. The organization is funded through grants and contributions from key members. Contact me at 360-704-0048 or at email@example.com.
WRA seeks merchant to address Olympia Downtown Alliance
Washington Retail Association is cooperating with downtown Olympia merchants to recruit a window display designer to speak at the group’s annual conference on June 11-12.
The Olympia Downtown Alliance hopes to recruit a window designer to address other merchants regarding effective designs and visual merchandising. WRA’s Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer, also will address the conference regarding emerging general human resource and labor issues.
If you know of a merchant who might be interested in participating or would like to volunteer to speak, please contact Tammie at 360-200-6452 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.downtownolympia.org for more information.
Despite the state’s 71 percent increase in spending on schools the past six years, reading and math proficiency of students has not improved, according to an article in The Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington.
While student achievement scores have plateaued, teachers are benefitting from higher pay, the article points out. The unionized Washington Education Association now seeks double-digit teacher salary increases. The increased schools’ spending resulted from a 2012 court decision followed by a state Supreme Court mandate to the Legislature to fully fund schools.
While graduation rates have increased slightly since 2011, average student proficiency in reading and math has either stagnated or fallen, the article reports.
Click here to read it.
Viewership booms for RASI Safety TV
It was the fourth-anniversary last week for the debut of RASI Safety TV, a series of safety videos that visitors to the Retail Association Services website can access for free.
The growth and popularity of the videos has been striking since the site debuted, according to the latest tracking.
As compiled by Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist:
- Regular followers of the YouTube channel have grown every year from 13 to 40, to 144 and now 364.
- The number of “views” has grown from 10,059 in Year 1 to 92,028 last year and now, 797,538. Much of this growth is attributable to WRA’s promotion of its safety app known as SAFEME.
- Users who have shared the videos have grown from 411 in Year 2 to 1,006 last year and now, 2,804.
- The amount of time watching videos on the channel has increased annually including from 3,186 hours last year to 20,867 hours this year.
Rick has grown the archive from 173 videos at launch to 247 this year.
Mother’s Day spending could rival last year’s record
Consumers could spend $23.1 billion, or an average $180 per person this year on Mother’s Day, the National Retail Federation estimates.
Such a result would rival last year’s $23.6 billion, the historic high since NRF began estimating holiday sales 15 years ago. Prosper Insights and Analytics performs the surveys for NRF. Mother’s Day spending has been rising steadily since 2009.
This year’s findings:
- The most popular gifts in order are jewelry, dinner or brunch, flowers, gift cards, consumer electronics, services such as a spa day.
- Those 18 to 34 years old are the most likely to buy a “gift of experience” such as a spa day, tickets to a concert or gym membership.
- Those between ages 35 and 44 plan to spend the most, an average $224.
Click here to read more.
Safety tip of the week
Learn to avoid overdoing it on the job
Overexertion injuries generally fall into two categories: sprains stretch or tear ligaments while strains do the same damage to tendons or muscles. These types of injuries have been associated with lifting, repeated bending at the waist with twisting, long-term bending at the waist, pushing/pulling, carrying, reaching and long-term poor posture (either sitting or standing).
L&I has related data for Washington retailers, which looks like this:
- One out of every four injuries in retail is from overexertion.
- The average cost-per-overexertion claim is a little over $11,500.
- Overexertion claims represent about 37 percent of workers’ comp costs in retail.
- Lifting is the most frequently mentioned cause of overexertion, resulting in at least half of all injuries. Carrying was second, followed closely by pushing and pulling.
- Boxes were the most frequent source of injury. Of the more specific items listed, ‘automotive parts’ was the most common.
- The back was by far the most frequently injured part of the body. Shoulder injuries were a distant second.
To prevent overexertion:
- Stretch and/or warm up before heavy lifting or strenuous activity
- Use a hand truck and carts as much as possible
- Lift with your legs bent and objects held close to your body
- Avoid bending, overreaching and twisting when lifting
- For unusual sized items, get help when lifting
Proper posture, body mechanics and ergonomics can lessen overexertion injuries. Because it is important that the demands of the job match the capabilities of the worker, extra training may be required to perform a job safely.
WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist who is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198, Ext. 18 or email@example.com.
WRA diversity statement
It’s essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people; creates a diverse workforce; fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued; partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities; and communicates these values with others.
In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level. The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members, and our community embrace these principles.