Illinois small business owners optimistic

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — The month of August has provided some good news for Illinois small businesses.

Recent reports indicate national gross domestic product increasing at a 4.2 percent annualized rate, the fastest since the third quarter of 2014. Mark Grant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said small businesses are feeling the effects of that growth here in Illinois.

“They’re super-excited because there’s just so much business out there,” Grant said. “They can’t hire enough people. Because of that, they’re making money, they have customers. That’s really the bottom line. If you have customers and you can sell your service, you’re in good shape.”

Grant said the growth is happening so quickly, some members are having a hard time filling open jobs.

“There’s a lot of employers looking for tradespeople and there doesn’t seem to be an overabundance of them,” he said. “I think a lot of them are talking to community colleges and other workforce folks about trying to get more people interested in the trades as a good career because it’s well-paying.”

A new survey from the Tax Foundation estimates Illinois will add nearly 9,000 jobs this year as a result of tax cuts in Washington, and nearly 60,000 by 2025. But Grant said enthusiasm about the news is tempered by uncertainty about future state policies.

“A lot of our small business owner members are a little concerned about the potential for a hefty tax increase,” he said, “just because of the huge amount of debt that’s out there and a lack of will to find a way around it and fix the situation.”

J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic candidate for governor, has called for a temporary hike in Illinois’ flat income tax rate. He then wants lawmakers to work to change the state constitution to allow for a progressive income tax, which would include several different rates, depending on income.

Grant also said he was pleased at the failure of an Illinois bill that he said could have led to more small business lawsuits. Under House Bill 4572, the Illinois Human Rights Act would have been amended so that businesses with 15 or fewer employees could be investigated for wrongful termination cases when allegations of discrimination are involved.

“Most [small businesses] don’t have an H-R department,” Grant said. “They’re so busy trying to run a business they may do something they’re unaware is wrong. Then they get hit with legal notice. Now they have to take the time and money to defend themselves against something they didn’t even know they were doing wrong.”

The national NFIB Small Business Optimism Index currently is at its second-highest level in the survey’s 45-year history.