Open for What?

I have the absolute privilege of representing almost 11,o00 small businesses across New York.  This is not something I take lightly.  I know many small business owners personally both within and outside the NFIB membership and always make a point to “shop small”.  The role of main street in all of our livelihoods may vary, but it is undeniable that they are critical in the future of our communities.

While there are times that advocacy has me speaking rhetorically,  the past seven days have provided stories that hit home personally.

If you live in the Capital District, you may have heard or frequented the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory.  They provided a tasty and well received snack that was a staple at several “get-togethers”.  When I read the Business Review’s article on July 5th discussing their situation and subsequent closure, I was saddened.  Not only because I was a customer, but because this morbid tale of New York versus small business plays out over and over again.  Think about this one line from the former business owner…”If anybody came to me and said they were opening a small business in New York, I’d say, you’re crazy.”

Their tale is common.  Lack of clarity in a regulation led to a sales tax audit.  The audit led to a bill from New York for three years of back taxes.  And with that, another small business is history after five short years in business.  The business owners were hard working, honest and were just trying to make their way.  And New York stepped in and slammed the dream shut.

On Saturday I went to the dry cleaners and was met with a sad and startling surprise.  This was a 75 year family business and sadly was closing their doors at the end of the month.  Why?  Tired of dealing with the constant onslaught of overzealous state regulators.  This constant battle forced the business owner to make the difficult decision to not pass on the family business to the next generation.  And with that, another 75 year cornerstone in a upstate New York community will vanish.

As Albany continues to hand out enticements to “splashy” businesses, begging them to come to New York and as the Governor runs his presumptuous ad campaign, it is tough not to think of these two examples.  These two small businesses never asked for a handout.  Let’s be honest, they would get one anyway.  But more troubling is the fact that they never received any measure of latitude from Albany.

What will it take for Albany to get it?  New York is not open for business.  There is not an ad campaign or “START-UP” program around that would fix the minefield small businesses operate in.  I know these business owners understand the risks they took and the consequences of each and every decision they made.  But couldn’t Albany, for once, recognize how vital main street is to our state?

If they don’t, these stories will continue to be repeated.  Maybe they will have to hit home to some lawmakers for needed and real change to occur.

Until then, the closed signs and vacant storefronts will be all that New York will be known for.  I wonder if they will produce a commercial for that?



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About Mike Durant

Mike Durant was named New York State Director of NFIB in May 2011. Prior to joining NFIB as the Assistant State Director in May 2010, Durant began his career in the New York Senate working in the Office of Member Services. From there, he served in a number of positions during former New York Governor George E. Pataki’s administration. As a Research Specialist in the New York State Office of Demographic Policy, Mike was responsible for drafting a redistricting proposal for Governor Pataki. In addition, Mike served as a Research Specialist for the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Associate Commissioner of Human Resource Management with the New York Department of Labor. Durant also spent four years working at the Questar III BOCES as a specialist focusing on the complex formulas that drive aid to school districts across the state while also taking a lead role in the state legislative/budget process as it related to education policy. These past positions have given Mike a deep understanding of the complex political economics of the State of New York. Active in the community, Durant has served on a number of boards in both the village of Ballston Spa and Town of Milton. Durant received his bachelor’s degree from Siena College in Loudonville, New York and resides in Ballston Spa with his wife and two children.
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