SBA administrator tells NRF members Trump ‘has your back’
The head of the Small Business Administration told small retailers gathered for NRF’s Retail Advocates Summit this week that President Trump “has your back,” and the leader of one of Congress’s most powerful committees said lawmakers will not "rest on our laurels” following tax reform and other measures that have boosted the economy.
SBA Administrator Linda McMahon (above) was a keynote speaker at the congressional fly-in in Washington on Wednesday, and House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., was named NRF’s Legislator of the Year the same afternoon.
“Right now is a great time for small businesses,” McMahon said. Lower rates and a 20 percent deduction for small business “pass throughs” included in tax reform that took effect at the beginning of the year have coupled with regulatory reform to give small companies savings they are reinvesting in job growth and higher wages for their workers, she said.
But with the economy growing, small businesses are finding it difficult to hire enough skilled workers, so the White House has increased support for career and technical education, she said. Initiatives have included recently signed funding legislation and the creation of a new National Council for the American Worker to promote job training.
McMahon also pointed to an executive order signed by Trump last year making it possible to form more association health plans, which allow small businesses to band together to provide employee health insurance at affordable rates, and an order signed last week making it easier for small employers to provide retirement plans.
“Running a small business is tough,” McMahon said. “But it’s really nice to know that you have a president and administration who has your back.”
Foxx, the former owner of a nursery and garden center now run by her daughter, cited many of the same initiatives that have helped small business, but said lawmakers are not done.
“The bottom line is that tax reform is helping American families and small businesses, but we are not going to rest on our laurels,” she said. “I understand the challenges you face and we are going to continue to respond to those challenges.”
Foxx, who was a chief proponent of legislation Trump signed into law this summer that provided a $1.2 billion reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, cited a survey showing 46 percent of employers have experienced difficulty finding skilled workers to fill jobs, and pledged to do more to attract young people into skilled trades. She was also the lead House sponsor of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a $3.3 billion job training measure enacted in 2014.
“We have to work hard to make skills-based education a viable and valuable path for people again,” she said. “It’s really scary in many ways to hear what people are saying about how much handholding is having to be done now with people to teach them what they need to know and how they need to behave to take even simple jobs.”
The two-day conference brought about 200 retailers to Washington, with small store owners and state retail association executives making up the majority of participants. Small retailers who advocate on behalf of the industry at the local, state and federal levels were honored as NRF’s America’s Retail Champions Wednesday night and more than 250 members of Congress were named Heroes of Main Street for supporting the industry. Retail Association of Maine President and CEO Curtis Picard was presented with NRF’s J. Thomas Weyant Award, which honors the nation’s top state retail association executive.
Retailers also heard from veteran Washington pundit Charlie Cook, who gave Democrats a 65-70 percent chance of taking control of the House in November’s elections but only a one-in-three chance of taking over the Senate.
Following Wednesday’s activities — which included briefings on the growing trade war and the Supreme Court’s recent decision in favor of online sales tax collection — retailers headed to Capitol Hill on Thursday for meetings on trade, tax, data security and credit card issues.
NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay told the group that the presence of “real people” from the retail industry is vital to explaining the importance of the sector to lawmakers.
“We’ve gotten much better at telling that story but that’s a story we can only tell so much,” he said. “It’s important for you to be here and tell that story and help us bring retail to life in a way only you can.”