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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Patch Voter Guide: Small Business Challenges in Fairfield and Westport

Patch Voter Guide: Small Business
Challenges in Fairfield and Westport
The candidates for Connecticut House of Representatives District 133 have varied solutions.
(Appeared on 11/2)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Southport resident Kathryn Engle, a registered nurse at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, has seen small businesses come and go in Fairfield and Westport.

“There have definitely been a lot of fly-by-nights and boutiques that have opened and closed,” she has noticed.

District 133 State House of Representatives candidates DeeDee Brandt, Republican, and Kim Fawcett, Democrat, have noticed, too, and laid out some plans in the 2010 Patch Voter Guide. Click here to see where they stand on small business challenges, transportation and budget woes.

Tax Breaks and Equal Purchasing Power

Engle said one solution would be to provide tax breaks to small business, but she wasn’t sure if that would be enough. “Even if they give breaks, we still have high unemployment, so the tax reductions won’t help business because people are not able to spend.”

Another challenge to small businesses, she suggested, are the big box stores and conglomerates. “Where I was purchasing from small shops in the past, now I’m spending at the bigger stores because of the better prices and savings… trying to save money. In general, people’s wages haven’t increased and bonuses are less, which affects a lot of the town.”

“Maybe leveling the purchasing power ability of small businesses to be on par with larger businesses would help.”

Plans to Address Small Business Challenges

The candidates running for Connecticut’s House of Representatives, District 133, have thoughts on how to give small business a boost.

Brandt said one big challenge to small business is the $30 million the state charges through the business entity tax. “This tax was supposed to go away five years ago.”

Overall, though, Brandt feels, “The best thing government can do is stay out of the way of small business.” She cites all the sessions devoted to anti-business proposals for healthcare, vacation days and other union-driven issues, saying, “The longer these proposals hang around and get debated, the more likely it will be that they become law, and will make the current situation worse for small businesses.” A key solution, she says, is to give businesses a degree of certainty about fees and taxes that may affect them.

Fawcett’s view is that job creation must be the top priority. She plans to expand the reach of the 2010 Jobs Bill that includes economic incentives and helps open access to investment capital to stimulate job creation. The bill also provides for investment in education, which Fawcett says will better align our workforce with evolving economic needs. “In order for businesses to capitalize on new opportunities in emerging industries, they need access to a highly educated workforce.”

Finding the Right Product Mix

Fairfield resident Michael Campbell, 51, has noticed that Fairfield is becoming more like Westport in that big stores are squeezing out small shops. But he has also seen small business successes like those in the Brick Walk Plaza on the Post Road.

Campbell says the solution may just be about small businesses finding the perfect formula to attract local consumers.

“Small businesses have to find the right product mix to be successful… a niche business solution that fulfills current or future needs. I think the rent going up is inevitable, but a local community that supports small business initiatives will also be helpful.”

Improving Access and Helping Prevent Rent Hikes

Gillian Jones, a Human Resources Director from Westport, had her own opinions as to why small businesses in the area are challenged.

“If you look at Main Street in Westport, it’s difficult to park and gain access to the shops there, so certainly improving parking would be helpful.”

Jones also thought focusing on property owners could alleviate issues. “Landlord rent hikes are a problem, so if tax breaks were provided to those property owners, that would help start-up businesses.”