By U.S. Senator Kay Hagan
April 30, 2013. North Carolina’s economy depends on people like John Cooper. John has led the Mast General Store system for more than three decades and continues to open new stores in the region. John has opened nine locations throughout Western North Carolina and into Tennessee and South Carolina, and he’s planning to open a new location in Winston-Salem in the near future.
I visited with John during my North Carolina Back to Work Jobs Tour last summer on a tour of small businesses in downtown Boone. Not only is John heading the Mast General Store system, but he’s making efforts to improve communities around the region by redeveloping rural downtown areas.
With his decades of experience leading a successful small business that continues to grow, John was a natural choice to co-chair my newly formed Small Business Advisory Committee, which will advise me on legislative issues and help me develop policy proposals to support our state’s small businesses.
As our economy continues to recover, I’m looking to small business owners like John for new ways we can jumpstart hiring and growth in every corner of our state. The Advisory Committee, which is composed of four co-chairs and 15-20 small business owners and advocates, will meet with me and my staff throughout the year.
Congress has taken bipartisan steps recently to help our small businesses. We’ve passed legislation to help companies raise money, go public and hire more workers. We’ve reauthorized the Export-Import Bank to support $2 billion worth of sales for 165 North Carolina companies, the majority of which are small businesses. And I’ve reintroduced my bipartisan AMERICA Works Act to close the skills gap and help businesses find qualified workers for jobs that are available today.
But I’ve found that the best way to promote small business growth is by talking with North Carolinians on the ground. They are the ones working day-in, day-out to run a successful business, foster new ones, and create a better, more economically vibrant community in the process.
The Advisory Committee will provide advice and policy ideas on how Congress can best help. Sometimes that means getting Congress out of the way; other times it may mean fixing or revising outdated regulations.
As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I am looking forward to taking their input, feedback and ideas and giving them avoice in Washington as we work to craft legislation that affects small businesses. I plan to hold quarterly conference calls with committee members to hear about conditions facing small businesses in North Carolina. This type of dialogue is critical to ensuring policies in Washington reflect the real needs of our small businesses.
One thing I already know is that Washington has to set aside the bickering and provide some certainty for small businesses in order for them to thrive. To that end, I’m working on legislation that would make permanent the temporary 15-year depreciation schedule. This will allowbusinesses to write off certain expenses much sooner, plan for the future and spend resources on expanding and hiring new workers instead of paying more taxes.
I am eager to hear from the Advisory Committee about the most pressing needs for small businesses, and I will be ready to take theiradvice and policy ideas to Washington.