Small Businesses and Economy on the Upswing, but Still Need a Hand

05/16/2014 12:25 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2014

For the first time in years, economic indicators are signaling better times ahead for small businesses. This would be good news anytime, but it's especially gratifying now, during National Small Business Week, when the country is focusing on the American entrepreneur and the work they do all year to fortify our economy.

Small business optimism is at its highest level since 2008, according to the most recent Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, and the latest jobs report shows unemployment fell last month to its lowest level since 2008, as well. These reports are promising, but there's still more that can be done to continue building economic momentum.

Small businesses are our nation's primary job creators and the backbone of our economy. We know from our polling that consumer demand is the top concern for small employers, and according to the Public Affairs Council, two-thirds of respondents say they prefer to shop at local small businesses. In order to get people into their neighborhood stores and restaurants, we need smart economic policies that support our nation's job creators, their workers and their predominantly middle-class customer base.

Small Businesses Say Raise the Wage

Debate about raising the minimum wage is a hot topic, and the impact to small businesses and the economy is a sticking point in the argument. So Small Business Majority asked a random sample of small business owners what they think about raising the wage and found 57 percent support a proposal that would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10/hour.

Some have claimed that raising the minimum wage would strain small firms because they wouldn't be able to afford to pay their workers more. However, the vast majority of small employers already pay their workers more than minimum wage and more than half agree increasing the minimum wage would not only help the economy, it would make low-income consumers more likely to spend money--driving up demand for goods and services at other small businesses.

Small employers see a raise in the minimum wage as a way to stoke consumer demand, plain and simple. Despite this, the proposed minimum wage increase stalled in the Senate when lawmakers blocked the bill from coming to the floor for a vote. Delaying this legislation doesn't do our nation's job creators any favors. The time to act on minimum wage is now.

Reforming our Broken Immigration System

Raising the minimum wage isn't the only way to bolster the economy and help small businesses. Our nation's immigration system is broken, and small employers see reforming it as a way to simultaneously stabilize their workforces, make them more competitive, encourage entrepreneurship and pad the country's coffers. Everyone benefits when we encourage hard-working people to bring their skill-sets to the U.S., and let previously undocumented immigrants legally join our workforce and contribute in a meaningful way to our economy.

Small Business Majority's polling found small employers believe creating a path to citizenship is the most appropriate solution for handling our country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. Three-quarters agree with a plan passed by the U.S. Senate to turn them into taxpayers--which would add $1.5 trillion to the economy over the next 10 years and produce a net increase in tax revenue of $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in the first three years alone. Unfortunately, immigration reform has stalled in the House of Representatives. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree reform is needed. Legislators need to stop playing politics and do what's right for the country by passing comprehensive immigration reform now.

The small business community is the engine that drives growth and job creation, and with it, the U.S. economy. Small businesses have played a huge part in pulling the economy back from the brink of the Great Recession. It's time for lawmakers to do their part, and pass smart policies that will not just help small employers survive, but thrive.