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Bill Package Calls For New Office of Small Business

October 22, 2019

Small businesses create close to 50% of the jobs in Michigan’s economy, according to Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming), so he’s teamed up with three other lawmakers to propose a four-bill package that would create an Office of Small Business and make other small business reforms.

“To me, we are the backbone of the economy,” Brann told the House Committee on Commerce and Tourism Thursday about HB 4835. “My bill creates a Small Business Acceleration Board made up of small business owners and that would be located in MEDC’s (Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s) Strategic Fund. I think it gives a voice for small business, which is long overdue in the MEDC.”

Rep. Donna Lasinski’s (D-Scio Twp.). HB 4838 would create the Office of Small Business.

“We have 1.8 million people in the state of Michigan who are small business employees. That’s 42.9% of Michigan employees and small businesses created 66,240 new jobs in 2018 alone. To complement the board that is being created under Rep. Brann’s bill, we are also looking then to create the Office of Small Business. And the Office of Small Business would have a director within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity,” Lasinski said.

But not everyone is a fan, including Charles Owens of the National Federal of Independent Business (NFIB).

“The idea of a small business czar has been floated before. It originally surfaced in 2002 when then-candidate Dick Posthumus was running against soon-to-be Gov. (Jennifer) Granholm and he suggested that as part of a package of jobs and new economy bills at that time,” Owens told the committee.

Legislators then sent bills to Granholm, which would have created a small business czar, but she vetoed them twice. Then she turned around and appointed a Small Business Ombudsman, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer can do at any time, Owens contended.

Two more bills round out the package.  HB 4836, by Rep. Diana Farrington (R-Utica), would create a virtual business road map on the Internet to assist users with compliance issues, including sales tax, use tax and unemployment compensation, as well as link to other business startup resources.

HB 4837, by Rep. Eric Leutheuser (R-Hillsdale), would direct every state agency that deals with small businesses to create a small business liaison within the agency. These liaisons would assist small businesses with their interactions with the agency.

Lasinski pitched the Office of Small Business as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs.

“In this office, we would be able to establish for the first time . . . a one-stop shop for small businesses. The charge of the office of Small Business Development would be to facilitate the creation and retention of small business jobs and to create not only a one-stop call-in stop but a one-stop website for small business owners,” Lasinski said.

The House Fiscal Agency analysis estimated the cost of creating small business liaison positions in eight departments at $107,000.

How many staffers would be needed in the Small Business Office is unknown, the analysis stated, but it also noted the average cost for a state employee wage and benefit package is approximately $109,000.

SBAM has been working hard to get this legislation passed so that finally Michigan government will look into providing more economic development initiatives for small businesses and set up our state government in a way that is responsive for Michigan’s business owners. 

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