Street Talk

Street Talk: Blame Washington for a new batch of worries

New heights.

April 5, 2013
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s latest quarterly small business survey finds that Washington policies continue to hamper hiring and growth, with over a quarter of small businesses saying they have lost employees in the last year. The survey, conducted online last month by Harris Interactive among more than 1,300 small business executives, shows that 79 percent of small businesses believe the economy is on the wrong track, and requirements of the health care law are now the biggest concern, topping economic uncertainty for the first time in two years. More than 30 percent plan to cut back hours to reduce the number of full-time employees to avoid triggering the employer mandate.

Small business owners voiced support for policies that will promote economic growth and remove government barriers, including lowering taxes, increasing domestic energy production and tackling immigration reform.

“While the general trends of the economy appear to be improving, a closer look shows work-force participation still falling and full-time employment still historically low,” said Martin Regalia, the chamber’s chief economist. “In today’s economy, we need policies that will breed confidence and encourage small businesses to expand — not cut back staff and employees’ hours. With the right policies in place, small business owners’ optimism and confidence in the economy will improve.”

Small businesses see a number of opportunities for growth on the horizon and are looking for Congress to lead on policies like increased energy production and comprehensive tax reform.

“It’s no surprise that 86 percent of small businesses disapprove of the job the Senate Democrats are doing on the economy,” said Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director and senior vice president. “Senate Democrats have refused to pass legislation that will help create jobs or grow the economy. Instead of approving the Keystone XL Pipeline or reining in harmful regulations, the Senate has passed a budget that will raise taxes by over $1 trillion, after four years of not passing one at all.”

With requirements of the health care law now the biggest concerns for small businesses, respondents revealed the following:

  • Seventy-seven percent saythe health care law will make coverage for their employees more expensive, and 71 percent say the law makes it harder to hire more employees.
  • Thirty-two percent of small businesses plan to reduce hiring as a result of the employer mandate, and 31 percent will cut back hours to reduce the number of full time employees.

Confusion regarding Michigan’s health insurance exchange is throwing another wrench in the works, as is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ proposal to delay some requirements for small business health insurance exchanges in some states.

“The proposed rule would delay two features of small business exchanges in some states until 2015,” said John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority in Washington, D.C. “It would not delay opening of the exchanges themselves. Exchanges will still open Jan. 1, 2014.”

The HHS proposal delays employee choice and premium aggregation, which means small business employees would not have an array of health plans to choose from next year. Premium aggregation is an administrative function that would simplify the payment process for employers.

“What the rule would not do — despite a multitude of reports saying otherwise — is strip small businesses of any coverage choice whatsoever, essentially forcing all small business employers and their workers into one health plan,” Arensmeyer said.

Brain power

Van Andel Institute will be featured later this month as the “Cause of the Day” on AOL.com.

AOL.com is visited by approximately 12 million to 14.5 million people daily, according to VAI, and the Cause of the Day button allows users to learn more about selected nonprofit organizations. AOL.com estimates approximately 7,500 users check out the daily feature.

Parkinson’s disease research at VAI will be featured through the story of West Michigan high school basketball legend and Parkinson’s patient Steve Majerle. Parkinson’s forced Majerle to walk away from a basketball dynasty at Rockford High School that included a state championship and a perfect 28-0 season. Thanks to deep brain stimulation surgery, Majerle got back in the game this year, leading Grand Rapids Christian High School to the state semifinals.

The AOL.com feature coincides with Parkinson’s Awareness Month and enables VAI to highlight an impressive number of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative breakthroughs that have followed the 2011 appointment of Dr. Patrik Brundin as chair of the Jay Van Andel Translational Parkinson's Disease Research Laboratory and director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

VAI claims its neurodegenerative disease research breakthroughs throughout 2012 and into early 2013 include:

  • The discovery of new stem cells in the adult brain. These cells can proliferate and form new brain cells.
  • The restoration of brain function in a model of Huntington’s disease through the successful transplantation of Huntington’s-induced pluripotent stem cells into animal models.
  • A study detailing how Parkinson's disease spreads through the brain. This model has never before been identified so clearly.
  • The identification of plasma-based molecular biomarkers that may one day lead to a blood test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Objective and quantifiable molecular biomarkers would be highly useful as clinical tools to detect Parkinson’s prior to the development of the disease’s motor symptoms.

AOL.com previously featured Van Andel Institute as its Cause of the Day on Jan. 25, providing VAI the opportunity to highlight its Pediatric Oncology Research Program through the story of Brooke Hester, a 5-year-old patient fighting neuroblastoma. VAI officials said the exposure resulted in more than a 1,500 percent increase in traffic on vai.org that day and more than 9,500 click-throughs on AOL’s Cause of the Day button.

“We truly value the chance to share the impact of Van Andel Institute’s cancer and neurodegenerative disease research with a national audience,” said Love Collins III, vice president of development, communications and marketing. “Thanks to the opportunity provided by AOL.com, we are able to introduce thousands of individuals to our mission and ask them to join our fight.”

Through the roof

Looking to find West Michigan’s creative class? Look up.

Following last year’s successful event, the Rooftop series is going to new heights this year, according to spokesperson Crystal Nicole Hilliard.

“The second event in the series designed to uplift West Michigan’s creative talent is Rooftop Cocktail: A celebration of West Michigan Art, Cocktails & Fashion,” she said.

The event is set for June 7 at the UICA. Well-known bartenders from four popular venues will mix drinks up on the rooftop terrace, competing for the best rooftop cocktail, while just below, local designers and boutiques will display and sell their summer collections.

“We expect 300 to 400 people to pack the venue, making for an incredible night of networking, fashion and great music,” she said. Celebrity DJ SuperDre will rock the house. Hilliard said organizers expected the same number of people last year, but nearly 600 showed up.

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