Backbone of State

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Apr 30 2018

Arkansas small-business owners embody the American values and ideals that helped build our country--hard work, willingness to take risks and vision for opportunity. As these entrepreneurs pursue the American Dream, they support and sustain our towns, state and country. They are the businesses displayed on the area football team's scoreboard and advertised in local papers. They are part of the history of communities across our state.

More than 90 percent of Natural State businesses are small businesses. They employ nearly half of Arkansas employees. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy.

Washington is supporting the needs of these economic engines by enacting pro-growth policies that provide the predictability small-business owners need to plan for growth and investment. With the passage of tax reform legislation and the rolling back of regulatory burdens, Congress is building a strong foundation for economic success for small businesses.

Last year Congress passed historic legislation overhauling our nation's tax code. Small-business owners and their employees are experiencing the benefits of this law. A recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation's leading small-business association, shows historic levels of optimism. For the first time in 35 years, small-business owners indicating that taxes are their No. 1 business problem has decreased.

The confidence in the economy is reflected in the plans of small-business owners. Small businesses are passing some of the savings from tax reform along to their employees in the form of bonuses and investments in the local community. In March, NFIB released data that shows 22 percent of small-business owners plan to raise wages, the highest percentage since 2006.

Coupled with the repeal of burdensome regulations, small businesses have the tools to grow, create jobs and increase wages.

Community banks account for more than 60 percent of loans to small businesses. These small-scale lenders are crucial to the success of small businesses in rural areas and farming communities in Arkansas. They had been unfairly punished for the sins of big banks, targeted with increased regulations and ultimately put a strain on small businesses considering opening or growing.

Congress is taking steps to provide regulatory relief to community banks and credit unions from the burdens created by Dodd-Frank--legislation passed after the 2008 crisis regulating financial institutions which did not differentiate between large Wall Street banks and small local banks and credit unions. The Senate recently passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act to free up resources and make it easier to provide capital to small businesses so they can invest and hire more employees. The House of Representatives has been aggressively rolling back Dodd-Frank provisions and in April passed a pair of bills to provide relief for Main Street.

The stories of small-business challenges and successes can be found in all corners of Arkansas. As we recognize National Small Business Week this year from April 29-May 5, we'll be visiting some small businesses in Arkansas' 4th Congressional District. We will discuss the economic environment with business owners and employers and examine how the laws we helped pass affect small businesses and their employees. We will take what we learn from these Arkansans to Washington to continue crafting policies that support growth, investment and employment while encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in our state.

This was printed in the April 30, 2018 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.