Beyond Trump’s First 100 Days: Small Businesses Plan Ahead
By: John Rossheim
How is the new administration impacting small business?
With big tax cuts for business on offer and a House-approved Obamacare replacement bill moving to the Senate, many small businesses anxiously await outcomes that could dramatically alter the economic environment — and their workforce strategies — for years to come.
Meanwhile, many owners of growing businesses are already feeling the effects of President Trump’s policies and actions on immigration. These companies are grooming their wish lists for regulatory change.
Here’s how a handful of them are positioning their business and hiring strategies for the days ahead.
Awaiting action on deregulation. Millions of businesses have deregulatory wishes, changes that could enable them to operate, expand and hire more efficiently.
In the early months of the Trump administration, “we see a lot of promises but no movement,” says Lior Rachmany, CEO of Dumbo Moving and Storage in New York City, who believes the trucking industry is overburdened by Federal regulations on truck weight and shift hours that became stricter during the Obama administration.
Holding out hope for targeted regulatory remedies. Experts in some industries have very specific ideas for reforming the regulatory environment to create growth and jobs.
“We think there are a couple of opportunities to work with the administration on regulations affecting solar,” such as high rents charged by the Bureau of Land Management in Western regions that are well-suited to job-creating solar development, says Abigail Hopper, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.
States to the rescue? In many cases, small employers are counting on states rather than the Federal government to create the business conditions that will enable them to hire. The states’ solar energy policies are clear, for example, while Federal policy continues in flux, according to Hopper of SEIA.
Awaiting clarity on Obama’s overtime rule. Employers want to know whether new hires might fall under FLSA rule changes on overtime that were suspended by a Federal judge late last year just before they were due to take effect.
But so far “the Trump administration has failed to take a stance against the Obama administration’s overtime rule, which raised the salary threshold for overtime-eligible employees by 100 percent,” said Trey Kovacs, labor policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a statement.
Key administration labor positions have yet to be staffed. “Nearly all vacancies at the primary federal labor agencies have yet to be filled…and two must-fill seats on the National Labor Relations Board remain unoccupied,” says Kovacs.
“Despite President Trump’s campaign promises to spur economic growth and job creation, doing so has not been a policy priority so far."
Immigrant workers are wary. For many businesses that depend on a labor pool that includes many immigrants, recruiting has been difficult this year.
“Because of the approach that Trump has taken, workers feel they have to be careful about who they trust,” says Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting, a staffing firm that specializes in sourcing immigrant labor in Atlanta.
Small employers seek cover for immigrant workers. Many new clients are placing a greater emphasis on ensuring that immigrant employees are working legally. “We do eVerify,” which reassures prospective clients, says Chancey. His firm places workers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, Congo and other countries in positions in shipping, receiving, packaging, warehousing, machine operation and skilled construction trades.
Interest wanes in summer visas to work in the U.S. Many businesses that depend on low-skilled seasonal labor from abroad are having a hard time staffing up.
“Household moving is very seasonal, and we normally get a lot of requests from students overseas seeking work visas to work here for the summer,” says Dumbo Moving’s Rachmany. “Last year, we got 40 or 50 requests; this year, just two.”
Immigrant labor can be hard to replace. When job applications for immigrants dwindle, business owners often have a hard time identifying another talent pool. For the arduous work of moving, “our company culture is based on a melting pot of immigrants,” says Rachmany. Few natural-born U.S. citizens seek this work, he says.
Immigrant labor appears unaffected in some regions and industries. “We’ve seen no change in our immigrant labor pool,” says Don Dickson, operations manager at Tarantino’s Landscaping in Bridgeport, Conn. Tarantino’s employs people from Mexico, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and other South American countries.
For some, easier work visas. While IT shops scramble for H-1B visas amid changing Federal policy, employers in at least one niche are having less difficulty obtaining needed work visas this year.
“When qualified individuals from overseas are available through legal immigration and there aren’t qualified American candidates, President Trump supports their work visas,” says Evan Mountain, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “I know of several other ballroom dance studios across the country that have experienced increased approval of O-1B visas for ballroom dance teachers from overseas since the administration took office.”