Having owned a small business during the past 25 years, I find some of the statements by the organizations that are supposed to represent me to be self-contradictory and politicized. These groups typically state that they want less big government, less intrusion, fewer regulations, less spending, and less of just about everything. Then they turn around and ask the "enemy" for more of the same: long-term SBA financing, establishment of secondary markets for SBA loans, appointment of advocates, more this and more that.
The list of small business issues in The News "Prospectus" section this year had 15 priorities. How many more are there, and how much are they to cost? Where is the money to come from, Santa Claus or the free-spending government?
My family had two businesses going at the same time and was featured in the March 1978 issue of Money Magazine. My wife owned a beauty school that depended heavily on school aid programs backed by the government, such as Pell Grants and student loans. Those guaranteed funds contributed up to 90 percent of gross income of a very successful business.
My business was a small restaurant (about 80 seats) that was financed by personal loans, although I did make contact with the SBA at one time anticipating help to expand.
The beauty school was destroyed by a fire in 1987. We have started another company, Empire Marketing, which sells hand tools, garden implements, etc., direct to retail outlets and to distributors. We have made an appointment with the SBA in Buffalo and expect much help from them in regards to proper procedures, contracts to sell to the government, contact with a good Buffalo bank to handle our large-scale buying from overseas, financing and many other issues. Without this government help, we would not get to first base.
This is not to say that everything about government interaction with small business is wonderful. Real small businesses, those that employ fewer than 10 or 20 persons, are strapped by many regulations. Local picayune laws, from stipulations about hanging a sign to overzealous employees of health departments, soured me. But not Uncle Sam, the provider of money, of opportunities.
Of course I squeaked and complained, and I paid and paid, but I made a decent living, enjoying all of the benefits of ownership. It was a privilege to be part of the business community, to accomplish what a lot of parents could not do for their families -- and to lean on big government.
Perhaps I feel ready to acknowledge this because I grew up in the real Depression, when there were no choices. But many years later those choices were there for me with help from big government if I wanted it.
Was it to be taken with no strings attached, with all the benefits for me alone? Hardly so. That seems that is what the attitude is today.
If owning a business is just too burdensome, there are other options, such as joining the work force, especially in the pizza-hamburger economy designed to offer the least wages and benefits possible.
Why should anyone expect extra-preferential treatment because they elect to go into business for themselves? It's a privilege and should be thought of as such, not as something for a political agenda. Or perhaps they envision themselves something other than just an employer. Big egos are tough to swallow when the going gets tough. Not everyone will get to own a yacht or the Yankees.
Everyday there are articles in The News and other papers across the country attesting to the dreams fulfilled by owning a small business and stories of elated immigrants hearing of the opportunities to become entrepreneurs with the help of Uncle Sam, the "enemy."
One must be expected to pay in one form or the other. It isn't a one-way street, and all the benefits don't come free. If you don't like that kind of heat, then stay out of the kitchen.
JOHN CAPPELLETTI lives in Olean.
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