In Support of Small Business

You have a business to run, so the team at SBAM constantly monitors issues affecting small business so you don’t have to.  SBAM also helps to give you and other small business owners a voice in the democratic process by connecting members with influential policymakers.

You can help protect your small business and help bolster Michigan’s entrepreneurs by getting involved today.

SBAM has an easy way for you to contact your elected officials. Take action now and voice your support for small business by:

  • Contacting your legislators
  • Examining voting records   
  • Locating your elected officials
  • Tracking key issues
  • Learning about elections

Policy Agenda

SBAM recently released its Small Business Policy Agenda. Download your copy here.


Latest Legislative News

Michigan’s Health Insurance Exchange - Update

As mentioned in yesterday’s Agent Alert, earlier today there was a joint committee hearing of the House Health Policy Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).  The topic of this hearing was the status of Michigan’s Health Exchange.  The planning work for the Exchange is taking place, or maybe more appropriately stated, would take place in LARA.  Testifying on behalf of LARA were LARA Director Steve Hilfinger, Deputy Director Shelly Edgerton, Finance Director Allan Pohl and Project Manager Chris Priest.  

Following opening remarks and an overview of the Exchange timeline (which matches the timeline we reported yesterday) the key questions of the day centered around funding the development of the Exchange and timing, including:
  • Needed State Action
  • State based vs. Partnership vs. Federally-Facilitated Exchange
  • Medicaid Expansion
  • Essential Health Benefits
  • Federal Rulemaking
  • The potential for new legal challenges
Governor Snyder and the staff at LARA believe that it is prudent to act now on developing a Michigan based Exchange, but they need legislative authorization to request and spend $9.8 million available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The opportunity to receive these dollars expires in November of 2012 (although other similar dates have been extended).  These dollars would be spent conducting further studies on the type of Exchange for Michigan, developing requests for proposal for vendors and information technology, coordinating technologies between departments and other pre-launch steps necessary before an Exchange could be operated.  In total, there are forty-two requirements that must be met, with information technology as the most challenging.

Director Hilfinger worries that further delays may result in the only real choice for Michigan being either the Partnership model or the Federally-Facilitated Exchange, both which limit the flexibility of Michigan to design an Exchange that meets the needs of our citizens and our small businesses.  He commented that the Partnership model, for example, is not nearly a 50%/50% partnership between Michigan and Washington, but more of a 16% Michigan/84% Washington design, and a FFE is 100% Washington driven, with some of the invoices being paid by Michigan.  Hilfinger also commented that some other states are moving forward with planning and that LARA is seeing increases in vendor pricing and decreases in availability due to demand.  To date, seventeen states intend to run their own Exchange, two states will be in partnership models, seven states have declined to run an Exchange and twenty-four are undecided.

The opposing argument for delaying the development of the Michigan based Exchange is three-fold.  First, there are many unanswered questions.  This is especially true regarding the design and operation of a Federally-Facilitated Exchange, Essential Health Benefits, Medicaid Expansion and the debate about whether or not subsidies and tax credits can be made available via anything other than a state based exchange.  If HHS has a plan for a FFE, they are keeping that information to themselves for the time being.  Second, deadlines have shifted in the past and there is no reason to believe that they will not do so in the future. Third, the impending November elections.  

At the end of the day, what did we learn?  If Michigan starts with a FFE, we can apply to take it back in future years to a state based exchange, and we learned that deadlines are real, or maybe they aren’t.   Beyond the arguments of both sides, we also relearned that it is going to be a while before this one gets decided.  No vote was taken today and the only thing promised was that the committees will meet again - sometime in t

Insurance Exchange Arguments & Timeline

Over the last several weeks, we have had many questions from agents and members regarding the status of a health exchange for Michigan.  Provided below is  a timeline for the Exchange,  as well as definitions and brief arguments for and against the Exchange that are taking place here in Lansing.  With a joint hearing scheduled for Wednesday, July 25th, we may know more on the direction Michigan will take.  If anything comes from this meeting of the House Health Policy and House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), we will report that tomorrow.  

Starting with a very brief review of the arguments for and against the Exchange:

Argument for the Exchange:  
  • Unless or until something changes in federal law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land and the ACA requires each state to establish an American Health Benefits Exchange for individuals and families and a Small Business Health Options Program.  The ACA  offers several grants available to the states to develop the Exchanges; these grants, worth roughly $9 million, require that legislation be passed and signed into law by Governor Snyder before the money can be accepted.  Delaying legislative action puts Michigan “behind the eight ball” in the software development and linkages to various legacy information systems and could result in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services establishing and operating the Exchange here in Michigan.  
Argument against the Exchange:
  • The first argument is one of control over the Exchange and Medicaid.  According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), all state health insurance exchanges must be approved by the federal government, and the federal government, not the state, will have authority and oversight over the exchanges. The law gives the federal government full authority to commandeer any exchange that does not meet all federal requirements.  Second, if Mitt Romney defeats Barak Obama in this fall’s election and Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate, the ACA could be overturned.  Mitt Romney has vowed to throw it out soon after taking office and because the Supreme Court has ruled the individual mandate as a tax, a simple majority in the Senate is all that is required to pass legislation overturning the ACA.  
In addition to the option of Michigan developing our own American Health Benefits Exchange and the Small Business Health Options Program, there are a couple of other options that State legislature could decide upon.  The first is a hybrid of sorts called a State Partnership Exchange where Michigan could manage the health plans on the Exchange and the federal government could manage, for example, the Medicaid eligibility and subsidies of the Exchange.  A second option is that Michigan could simply refuse to cooperate and turn all functions of the Exchange over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and let HHS develop and manage a Federally-Facilitated Exchange. 

SBAM believes both of these final two options would be a mistake and that Michigan should take control of our own destiny when it comes to issues of the Exchange.

Mobile technology is a small business powerhouse in Michigan. Details Monday on the Business Next audio seminar!

Michael Rogers talks with Linda Daichendt of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan and Carlo Longino of the Wireless Industry Partnership about the July 30-31 Mobile Moves Michigan conference in Detroit. Also on Monday's show, more interviews with small business owners who exhibited at the  July 19 Farmers Market at the Capitol event at the State Capitol in Lansing.

Listen Monday at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the 
Michigan Business NetworkSBAM members can log in and listen to archived programs anytime on a PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page.   

SBAM on President Obama: "Yet another example of his mistrust of free enterprise."

SBAM President and CEO Rob Fowler:

It would be charitable to agree with President Obama’s defenders that his July 13 statement “If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that…somebody else made that happen” was exaggerated rhetoric taken out-of-context from a campaign speech. But the truth is that the President’s remarks are not a one-off verbal gaffe. They are yet another example of his mistrust of free enterprise and his fundamental lack of understanding about who is really responsible for creating successful small businesses and job growth.

I agree with what the President said in his speech about there being many critical parts that go into making a small business successful, including access to taxpayer-financed infrastructure like roads, bridges and the Internet. But when the president says “Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet”, he’s showing once again his lack of knowledge about the importance of the small firms that grasped the untapped potential of the Internet and built great successful companies (yes, companies like Google and Amazon were once small businesses.)

Yes, small businesses are assisted by taxpayer-finance infrastructure, but on the flip side, the President fails to understand and acknowledge the unfair federal regulatory burden small business faces despite our well-documented and highly important role in the U.S. economy. What small business needs is a level playing field—something any serious politician ought to be working toward. Among the challenges facing America’s small businesses—challenges that land squarely in the small-business owner’s lap alone—is the fact that firms with fewer than 20 employees spend 36 percent more per employee to comply with federal regulations ($10,585 per employee per year) than do larger firms.
During the height of The Great Recession (from 2007 to 2010) employer establishment births dropped 12 percent, and the business startup rate fell below eight percent (of new firms as a percentage of all firms) in 2010, marking its lowest point on record. According to the World Bank, the U.S. ranks fourth in ease of doing business, but just 13th in terms of starting a business. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong here.

The President, like every politician I’ve ever met, claims to support small business. But small business owners, not politicians, get to decide who is really a small business supporter. And the President’s policies (from Obamacare to his proposals to boost taxes on small business job creators) makes it clear to us his disdain for the importance of small entrepreneurs in this country.

President Obama could learn something from the example being set here in Michigan by Gov. Snyder. Under his leadership, the state has enacted business tax reform and aggressively sought to lower the regulatory burden on small businesses. These positive incentives have encouraged entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and fill thousands of jobs – over 8,000 so far this year (documented at

Small businesses are leading the way in propelling a new economic direction for Michigan. They are creating jobs and building sustainable communities. I don’t think any entrepreneur would claim that he or she “did it alone,” but to imply that somebody else made it happen shortchanges the huge risks—financial, time and emotional—unique to entrepreneurs on a daily basis.

How entrepreneurs find success selling at farm markets. Today on the free Business Next audio seminar

SBAM’s Vice President Communications Michael Rogers has interviews from the Farmers Market at the Capitol, July 19 at the State Capitol in Lansing. He talks with Emily Beautle, communications manager for the Michigan Farmers Market Association, and Julie Darnton, vice president of the board of the Association; Margo Roth, owner of JEM Fruit; Tracey Sferlazza-Macioce, owner of Tracina’s Gourmet Specialties;  Brian Droscha, owner of Droscha Sugarbush; Will Branch, co-owner of Corridor Sausage Company and Randall Fogelman, president of Detroit Spice Company.

Listen Friday at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the Michigan Business NetworkSBAM members can log in and listen to archived programs anytime on a PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page.  

New SBAM survey shows improved small business optimism and surge in hiring

The Small Business Association of Michigan’s (SBAM) latest June 2012 Small Business Barometer survey of 600 small business owners finds entrepreneurs reporting higher sales and profits, and increased hiring, compared to last fall. Twenty-two percent said that over the past six months they increased their number of employees, compared to only eleven percent who said in Nov. 2011 that they had increased hiring.

“Michigan’s economy grew in the first half of this year and entrepreneurs responded by picking up the pace in filling jobs,” says Michael Rogers, vice president communications for SBAM. “Many of our members have told us that they are also seeing the positive impact of the Michigan business tax reform and are investing the tax savings into growing their businesses.”

The survey found that:

• Thirty-eight percent of small business owners said sales had increased over the past six months. 
• Twenty-nine percent said profits had increased. 
• Twenty-seven percent said they increased employee wages.

Looking forward:

• Forty-four percent said they expect sales to increase to the next six months. 
• Thirty-nine percent said they expect profits to increase. 
• Twenty-six percent plan to hire more employees. 
• Twenty-four percent plan to increase wages.

Steven Strauss: Startup America

Question: When I watch these so-called “civil servants” in Washington talk about the economy and creating jobs and whose fault it is and so on, I am reminded of that old joke – everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. So what I am wondering is, is there really anything that can be done in this negative political climate?

(Part 2 of 2)

Answer: In my column last week, while lamenting the sad state of political affairs in this country (it really does seem they are fiddling while Rome burns, does it not?), I shared that I have found at least one silver lining: Individual initiative is on the rise. The political and economic situations are such that they are inspiring more and more people to come up with personal and joint creative solutions to the problems we face as a country.

It’s not surprising, really. This is a country founded upon the ideas of individual liberty and freedom of expression. It is no wonder that entrepreneurship thrives here. My personal hero is a man named Buckminster Fuller (an inventor, mathematician, poet, and more) and he put it this way (paraphrasing): “I asked myself what one small person could do in the face of great states and huge corporations with their vast wealth and armies. And I answered that only the individual can decide to take individual initiative to do those things that he or sees need doing. The individual does not need to ask permission of anyone to dedicate themselves to making a difference.”

Last week, we looked at how the Clinton Global Initiative America is making just such a difference by encouraging its members to make specific commitments to getting the country back to work by creating jobs, starting business, and more.

This week, I would like to share another organization that is doing similar, albeit different, work: Startup America. Launched in January of 2011 as a White House initiative to “celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation,” ( Startup America that brings together entrepreneurs, corporations, universities, foundations and other stakeholders to “fuel innovative, high-growth U.S. startups. The Startup America Partnership is based on a simple premise: young companies that grow, create jobs. As a core American value, entrepreneurship is critical to the country’s long term success and it’s time to step up our game.”

And step up their game they have.

In a little more than a year, the Partnership (now an independent private 501(c)(3) that gets no government funding) has gotten more than $1 billion in business service commitments from corporations, foundations and individuals that is being offered to a growing network of startup companies; companies that are going to put America back to work. These commitments include expertise and mentoring, access to vital services, assistance with training, connections to thought leaders, help with building a customer base, and aid with getting access to capital.

Once a startup applies and joins the Startup America network, they access and mange their resources through an online dashboard and regional Startup America support and mentors.

For example, in Chicago, one person a Startup America startup founder might be fortunate enough to meet is JB Pritzger. The dynamic Pritzger is a successful and experienced entrepreneur and venture capitalist, and a person as committed to helping startups as anyone I have ever met. His venture fund, New World Ventures, has been seeding and investing in tech startups for more than 15 years and he has also been instrumental in the development of 1871, a sort of uber-business incubator for Chicago startups. Like all Startup America regional outlets, the one in Chicago is a grassroots, entrepreneur-led initiative

SBAM Small BIZ PAC list of endorsements for Aug. 7 Primary

SBAM's Small BIZ PAC has endorsed candidates for the Aug. 7 primary election. In addition, in some races the Small BIZ PAC has designated multiple candidates as receiving the “SBAM Stamp of Approval.” The Small BIZ PAC endorses candidates based on incumbent voting records, past or current small business ownership, recommendations from SBAM members, candidate interviews, candidate questionnaires and other factors. Click here to see SBAM's Small BIZ PAC list of endorsed candidates.