Cravaack says small business owners remain wary about future

By Jeffrey Hage, Princeton Union-EagleEditor

U.S. Cong. Chip Cravaack, who represents Minnesota’s 8th District, visited with the ECM Editorial Board recently.

The small business owner is key to the economic future of Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, according to Cong. Chip Cravaack.

But uncertainty in the future of afforable health care and a lack of a clear vision on national budget issues are keeping small business owners from investing in their communities, Cravaack said in a recent meeting with the ECM Publishers Inc. Editorial Board.

“Small business is the 8th District,” Cravaack said.

Nationally, seven of 10 people are employed by small business. Cravaack said that figure is even higher in the 8th District.

The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by Pres. Barack Obama in March 2010, has $800 billion in new taxes associated with it, and Obama’s budget proposal includes $1.9 trillion in new taxes, Cravaack said.

The uncertainty associated with these items is having an effect on business owners on Main Streets throughout the 8th District.

“We’re talking a lot of taxes and they don’t know how it’s going to hit them,” Cravaack said. “They are not investing in themselves.”

That’s because those owners don’t know what tomorrow brings as they, themselves struggle to make ends meet, the Congressman said.

“They’re saying, ‘We’re frozen and we’re not doing anything until we figure out what’s going to happen to us,’” Cravaack said.

As the President comes out and says he’s going to tax the rich, it’s the small business owner who is taking the hit. The guy making $250,000 a year, Cravaack said

“That’s the guy who owns the gas station in town, the hardware store, the landscaping firm,” Cravaack said. “Those are the guys we’re going to be taxing. So what happens when we tax them?”

“Those taxes get passed on to the consumer,” Cravaack said. “We’re the ones who ultimately will be paying the increase in taxes.”

The small business owner isn’t going to be able to absorb the increase in taxes because they’re running businesses on a shoestring level now, Cravaack said.

“I can’t tell you how many small business owners I’ve talked to that second-mortgaged their homes to keep the doors open at their business,” he said.

The business owners can pass the taxes on to the consumer or they can streamline their businesses,” Cravaack said.

“And what does that mean? Laying people off. Either way, it’s not a good scenario,” he said.

But the Congressman painted a much more positive picture for Northern Minnesota.

“The 8th District has a gold mine in its backyard when it comes to precious metals,” Cravaack said.

“We’re trying to bring jobs into the 8th District and the steel mining industry is going ‘great-guns’ right now,” Cravaack said.

The PolyMet Mining Company is proposing to build a $600 million mine and processing facility on the Mesabi Iron Range for copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, cobalt and gold. The project will require 1.5 million work-hours of construction labor if planned construction commences next year or in 2014, and once fully operational, PolyMet will employ about 400 people with an annual payroll of about $40 million, according to the company. It proposes an additional 500 spin-off jobs will be created in St. Louis County.

Essar Steel is building a $1.6 million plant near Nashwauk that will produce up to 2.5 million tons of steel annually.

Twin Metals is proposing a $2 billion operation in Ely that could bring 1,500 to 2,000 jobs to Ely.

“The little town of Ely won’t be the little town of Ely anymore,” Cravaack said.

The economy and jobs in the 8th District were just two of several topics Cravaack touched on with the ECM Editorial Board. Following are a few of the others:

• A Cravaack bill was recently passed in the House that relaxed the process for troops passing through security gates at airports;

• In 2011, Cravaack’s first year in office, the Congressman held 22 town hall meetings, 13 tele-town hall meetings and 223 mobile office meetings. This shows that being accessible to his constiuents is a priority, he said. He spends 16 days per month in the district, he said;

• Cravaack is not in favor of the Affordable Health Care Act and has voted against it. He believes Minnesotans should have access to high quality, affordable health care but he doesn’t support the increased regulation, taxation and government interference he says is found in the bill; and

• Gas prices are a concern and Cravaack foresees $5 per gallon gas prices. He believes domestic oil production is necessary to offset what he calls “hiccups” in Middle Eastern oil supplies.

Cravaack tried to ease concerns about his residency.The Cravaacks have a home in New Hampshire where his wife and two children live because of his wife’s work in the health care field in the Boston area. The Cravaacks also maintain a residence in North Branch in the southern portion of the 8th Congressional District, which Cravaack represents.

“The home in North Branch is my home,” Cravaack said.

Cravaack, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot and stay-at-home dad before he came to Congress, said that juggling his and his wife’s travel schedules was taking a toll on their children and they needed the regular care of a parent, which precipitated the move.