Last week the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce invited me to speak at an their Distill It: Issues Facing Our Region event. The event featured eight local business leaders who spoke about regional challenges their businesses face. With a regional population of nearly 350,000 residents, our area is bound to have challenges, but working together we can talk about opportunities and solutions.
The Chamber asked me to speak about what keeps me up at night as a small business owner. As anyone in this room that owns or runs a small business knows, there are several things – but I’ve tried to narrow it down to 5.
Currently there are more jobs than there are skilled employees. We need to think of training and retaining the skilled workers we already have. Businesses should invest in loyal employees through training and promoting them within the company. We need to look at doing more on-the-job training for unskilled workers and workers who are looking at switching careers.
For graduating high school seniors who want to jump into a career we need to provide students with accurate information about available jobs. As a business owner we should open our businesses to internships, job shadowing and entry level positions for the youth. Technical degrees should be encouraged just as much as four-year university degrees.
Trying to find qualified, dependable employees is a struggle not only for myself but other businesses as well. We need to figure out how we can all work together.
Living Wages Increase
I worked in this industry 10 years ago with my mother, and when I returned I was shocked to see wages remained the same while inflation in our community increased. There’s a difference between minimum wage and a living wage that we need to address. Minimum wage is a great way for young workers (aged 15-16) to start their career to learn work ethic, social skills and becoming a leader in their community. My career started here in Fredericksburg at the age of 15 at Central Park Funland until I left for college. That job taught me many skills that I utilize today.
Another key struggle in the area is transportation. Some of my employees struggle with getting to their job due to not having a driver’s license, not owning a car, or cannot find a ride. So, when my employee can’t make it to work it puts a hardship on Matern Staffing and the employer.
During my speech I asked by a show of hands how many had used the local bus system – only a few hands went up.
To better understand how and why my employees struggle with transportation I wanted to learn more about the FRED Bus. Since I live in Caroline County I rode the bus from Caroline to my Fredericksburg office. The FRED Bus is a nice system and provides a good service, but we could make improvements. Such improvements include longer hours, more crosswalks and sidewalks, and better understanding of the bus routing/mapping schedules. We need to find out what companies and employees are really utilizing the system and make improvements.
Healthcare is a big problem for small businesses. We need access to better plans that are affordable and comparable to a larger company. The cost of offering healthcare is crippling to a lot of employers. Healthcare is a great benefit and makes a hiring package even better, but some companies cannot offer plans due to the cost. Some companies don’t expand over 50 employees because they can’t offer the rising cost of healthcare.
Local Business Taxes
Next on my list to discuss is the Spotsylvania business license/BPOL tax. My gross receipts due not match up to my gross profit. For a small business owner this tax can be hefty. I have to financially plan to pay for this tax every year on top of the regular business taxes I already pay.
As you all know, my list could continue on. Between offering more re-entry programs for felons, combating the drug crisis, affordable housing solutions, and providing more of a work/life balance for all workers there’s much to improve on.
Thank you all for coming and listening. I’m always available to speak about any of these topics and more. I want to thank the Chamber for this wonderful opportunity.