Pillars of our Economy: Small and Medium-Sized Business

I believe that investing and supporting businesses is fundamental to the flourishing of our communities.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the West Michigan economy, and across our state. Just over half of Michigan’s private sector workers are employed by businesses with 500 or fewer employees. Many friends and family members I know either work in or own a small business that they have poured their lives into making successful. We must maintain a framework that supports these businesses. 

As I’ve been listening to business owners across the district, they’ve shared with me the challenges that need to be addressed. Here’s what I’ve learned to be true:

First, we know that West Michigan has a shortage of qualified workers. West Michigan is home to some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, and hiring has become a serious competition – especially in the skilled trades.   

Second, we must reduce the cost of healthcare - healthcare costs continue to increase for businesses and, in fact, small employers often pay more because they lack the buying power of big employers – they pay about 8 to 18 percent more than large employers for the same health insurance plan, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Third, the rising cost of education is a major issue – it prevents entrepreneurs with college debt from investing in their business, and it prevents workers from continuing their education. 

And finally, we also know that the recklessly implemented tariffs imposed on agricultural exports to China have created volatility and instability for our local businesses and farms. The Center for American Progress estimates that these tariffs have already cost Michigan families and businesses $232 million. According to the American Farm Bureau, there has been a 13% increase in farm bankruptcy filings this year, including 14 Michigan farms. Tariffs have created more problems than they’ve solved, and are being waged to benefit one industry – steel and aluminum – at the expense of others. This is hurting West Michigan businesses and families.

Here is how I will address these challenges:

  • I will fight for programs that bring together business leaders, community colleges, and trade schools so that training and apprenticeships translate into well-paying jobs in professional trades and other in-demand fields.

  • I will create a think tank of concerned citizens to address the high cost of education for our young people and adults who seek additional education. We must find ways to make community college, 4-year universities, and continuing education more affordable by reducing costs, increasing access to federal grants, offering interest-free loans, and exploring ways to provide debt relief to those most in need.

  • I will work on bipartisan solutions for healthcare that enable our businesses to grow and thrive - while also making healthcare affordable for employees. I believe that:

    • Broader structural reform is needed to move towards a system where health care benefits are increasingly portable and not tied to one’s employer – a model that is more appropriate for our modern economy with workers moving jobs frequently (or working multiple jobs). It gets employers out of the health insurance business altogether, freeing them up to do what they do best: creating value for their customers and clients.

    • Employers that do provide health insurance to their employees must have appropriate flexibility in how they offer it so they can innovate, stay competitive, and stop costs from increasing while also getting their workers the health insurance they deserve.

    • The outrageous cost of prescription drugs is low-hanging fruit – it is time to stop talking about this issue and act!

  • I promise to strongly advocate on behalf of West Michigan businesses to bring common sense and stability back to how this country negotiates with our trading partners, and by making businesses competitive through innovation instead of market manipulation.