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South Carolina needs to invest in small businesses

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By Mandy Powers Norell

It’s no secret that times are hard in our community. Unemployment has been in double digits for a long time and Lancaster County is now ranked ninth in the state in unemployment.

In my bankruptcy practice, I am seeing people who have worked hard all their lives and never would have dreamed they would be facing insolvency. In our community, I see people I worked with at Springs Mills who are now laid off, unable to find a job and who don’t know where to turn. And because of the lack of disposable income in our community, many of our local businesses are closing their doors.

It is heartbreaking to see local people who have worked hard to open a small business and fill a need in our community, who have taken a risk and set their own course, only to have to close their doors.

Small businesses create the vast majority of jobs in our community. They sponsor our soccer teams, they contribute to local causes and their employees volunteer in our schools. Our small businesses are owned by local people who employ local people, all of whom reinvest their salaries right here in our community.

And they do all of this at great personal risk. If the local economy slips, many of our small businesses fail. That’s because small business owners work without the safety nets and incentives that our state gives to large corporations.

As a small business owner myself, I know the joy of giving back to my community and being my own boss. I also know what it is like to have a handful of people who rely on me for their livelihoods, just as I rely on them for mine. I know what it feels like to have to dip into my personal savings during lean times to pay my employees. I know how an unexpected expense or repair can ruin the year’s budget. And I know how hard it is for a small business to provide health or retirement benefits for its employees.

My parents were small business owners and so were their parents before them. While working at Springs, my mom and dad also ran a ceramics and crafts store in the Antioch community. In the 1940s and ‘50s, my mom helped her father at the family’s store, Blackmon’s Grocery, on Gay Street. And my dad grew up helping his parents operate a saw mill and auction barn in the Buford community.

My parents and grandparents had the same dream as all small business people – to provide for their families and live the American Dream. Our government should be encouraging that dream – not stifling it with taxes and regulations that are disproportionate to those imposed on outside corporations.

I am not saying that small businesses should receive more than their share from the S.C. Department of Commerce, only that they should be treated fairly. I believe our small businesses should be recognized and appreciated for their significant impact on our state’s economy.

Small business owners reinvest their profits right here in the community, while outside corporations send the bulk of their profits to a corporate headquarters in another state.

But when is the last time you heard of our state and local governments giving tax incentives to a local restaurant, beauty salon or body shop? It never happens, because small businesses are not even on the radar of the SCDOC.

We are shortsighted if we only strive to recruit big corporations and ignore the local citizens who have taken a chance and invested in our community. The SCDOC should make it its business to encourage and preserve small businesses with proportionate tax breaks and incentives. It is these local entrepreneurs who keep our community moving forward in the face of difficult times. As your state senator, I promise to remember where I came from and fight for the interests of our small business men and women.