Small-Business Owners And The State Of The Union

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Host Michele Norris talks with two small-business owners about what they hope to hear from the president in his State of the Union address. Tyeis Baker-Baumann is president of Rebsco, Inc., a manufacturing and construction business with about 20 employees based in Greenville, Ohio. Lowell Miles is CEO of Miles Fiberglass and Composites, based in Portland.


Since the president's speech this evening will focus on jobs, competitiveness and the need to strengthen American manufacturing, we've decided to check in with the heads of two small businesses who wrestle with these issues every single day.

Tyeis Baker-Baumann is president of Rebsco, Incorporated - that's a manufacturing and construction business based in Greenville, Ohio. Welcome to the program.

Ms. TYEIS BAKER-BAUMANN (President, Rebsco, Inc.): Thank you.

NORRIS: And we also have Lowell Miles. He's the CEO of Miles Fiberglass and Composites. And that's based in Portland, Oregon. And Mr. Miles, welcome to you too.

Mr. LOWELL MILES (CEO, Miles Fiberglass and Composites): Thank you.

NORRIS: Question to begin for both of you. What do you both want to hear tonight, especially on this issue of jobs and competitiveness? And Ms. Baker-Baumann, I'm going to begin with you.

Ms. BAKER-BAUMANN: OK. What I would like to hear is that they are going to be spending some time at the federal level really listening to the day-to-day real concerns of small businesses. The things that we know from our daily experience really inhibit our ability to create jobs and to grow our businesses. Things like taxation, burdensome regulations and increasing costs with health care -those types of things.

NORRIS: And Mr. Miles, what are you going to be listening for?

Mr. MILES: Well, I'm concerned about inflation and I'd like to hear some assurance that we have something in place to keep raw materials from increasing and to keep inflation from really running away. I'm very concerned about that.

NORRIS: The president has said that jobs creation is going to be a top priority for him. But he has also said that there's only so much that he can do to control the levers of the economy. What specifically can the government do to deal with the jobs crisis and create an environment where it's easier for you to add jobs to your payrolls?

Mr. MILES: One thing I think is to, you know, there's some concern about the unions being able to organize without having a vote of the employees. That certainly could affect us in terms of our costs and being able to be competitive. I think the other thing is the cost of energy. If that goes up appreciatively, it's going to affect whether we're going to be able to be competitive with overseas competition and even competition within the United States, depending on who has the cheapest energy to use.

Ms. BAKER-BAUMANN: I would agree with Mr. Miles. I think those two things are two of the main factors that inhibit job creation. I think that there has been a tremendous amount of concern with our industry in particular and in a lot of industries in our area in general, not knowing what the rules of the future are going to be.

You know, we hear a lot about more regulations coming down the pipe. But no one knows for certain how extensive that's going to be, what that's going to look like, what is going to be the cost of actual compliance.

And as a business owner, you only have so much money to work with. It's just like having households. You only - you have a budget. And when you don't know what's coming down the pike, you may decide that you're going to hang onto those dollars because you may need those dollars to be compliant, versus using those dollars to generate economic opportunities in your community or in your business, which therefore would then create employment opportunities for the people in your community.

NORRIS: If you were handing out letter grades to the president from a business person's perspective, what letter grade would you give him?

Mr. MILES: I would give him an F.


Mr. MILES: Yes.

NORRIS: F stands for failure, usually.

Mr. MILES: So far, yes.

NORRIS: He's not done enough to grow the economy, in your eyes?

Mr. MILES: Not for small business.

NORRIS: And Ms. Baker-Baumann?

Ms. BAKER-BAUMANN: I would probably - I'd be a little bit more generous. I'd probably give him a D.

NORRIS: A little more generous. Not much, though.

Ms. BAKER-BAUMANN: Not much.

NORRIS: So, he's going to - he has some pace to go in trying to convince you that he can turn things around and help grow the economy.

Ms. BAKER-BAUMANN: And is sincerely appreciative of the role that small businesses - that business in general play in creating a vital nation.

Mr. MILES: Yes, I think there's a real disconnect between what small business really does and how it operates and I think if he would make more effort in finding out what that disconnect is, it would be very helpful.

NORRIS: Is there a concern that he's focused more on big corporations or larger manufacturers and not smaller businesses?

Mr. MILES: That's my belief, yes.

NORRIS: Well, Ms. Baker-Baumann and Mr. Miles, thank you very much for your time. All the best to both of you.

Ms. BAKER-BAUMANN: Thank you.

Mr. MILES: Thank you.

NORRIS: Lowell Miles is the CEO of Miles Fiberglass and Composites, a company based in Portland, Oregon.

And Tyeis Baker-Baumann is president of Rebsco Incorporated. That's a manufacturing and construction business. And that business is based in Greenville, Ohio.

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