How will Chicago-area small businesses fare in 2012? Will the flagging economy
continue to affect financial performance? JewishBusiness News reporter Karen Schwartz asked some prominent Jewish Chicagoans what they foresee in the coming year.
Lou Lang, State Representative, Illinois House of Representatives
Lou Lang has represented the 16th District since 1987. He was appointed to the Illinois
House in 1987 by the Niles Township Democratic organization to fill a vacancy when
Lang mentor, representative Alan Greiman, became a judge. He serves as Deputy Majority Leader of the Illinois House of Representatives.
What is the outlook for Illinois small businesses in 2012?
For two years, I chaired a job creation task group and we traveled the state seeking jobs for individuals. We have to put people to work, expand job opportunities and cut through red tape to encourage entrepreneurship. Small businesses are the backbone of
our economy. We also have to provide money for people to start businesses, whether it’s through loans or grants. There are people out there who just need a little financial support to hire other people.
What impact will the upcoming elections have on small businesses?
Every election has an impact, but it’s difficult to predict how the business climate will be different in 2012. We should look for political leaders who are willing to invest in the economy and grow the economy. I am a pro-business growth Democrat. The
government of the state of Illinois needs to do whatever it can to support small business.
Nancy Rodkin Rotering, Mayor of Highland Park
Elected mayor in April, 2011, Nancy Rodkin Rotering served on the Highland Park City Council from April, 2009 until her mayoral election, as well as on the city’s planning and environment commissions. A Highland Park native, Mayor Rotering earned her
B.A. in economics from Stanford University, an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and a law degree from the University of Chicago.
Is 2012 a good time to open a small business in Highland Park?
We have a very inviting and nurturing business climate in Highland Park. One of our greatest priorities in 2012 will be attracting new businesses to Highland Park as well as helping our existing small businesses grow. This business development effort is being
coordinated with the city’s Business and Economic Development Commission, Highland Park Downtown Business Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce, the Highland Park Retail Merchants Association, and a group of business district alliances, including the Ravinia Business District Alliance and the Briergate Business Alliance. We’ve had some new stores open, including new gelato stores, ArrivaDolce, and Frost and Charming Charlie, in the old Border’s as well as two new restaurants, Benjamin and M. We have a lot of other prospects for new stores.
Is there legislation that will affect small businesses in Highland Park?
Illinois is faced with financial challenges and is starting to shift funds. It affects Highland Park because our resources are diminished. On January 1, the PRPP (personal property replacement tax) will cut our budget by tens of thousands of dollars as the state squeezes us financially, and it makes it more challenging to sustain the things we need to do to support our businesses.
What else is happening in Highland Park that affects the business community?
Highland Park has a new Facebook page, and I send out regular e-mails to residents and businesses. In addition, we’re going to be working with IDOT to get new signage so people can easily find the nine business districts in Highland Park.
Marc S. Schulman, President of Eli’s Cheesecake
Eli’s Cheesecake World is a 62,000 square-foot state-of-the-art bakery, visitor’s center, retail store, dessert café, and corporate headquarters located on the northwest side of Chicago.
Do you think Mayor Emanuel’s election has helped small businesses in Chicago?
Chicago is definitely a good place to do business. We were grateful for Mayor Daley’s support and look forward to the support Mayor Emanuel will provide. He clearly understands us and has put a big priority on job creation. Since Rahm Emanuel took office, we’ve been promoting internally, and hiring new people from the neighborhood from Wright College, putting people into entry-level jobs. We’ve also hired refugees, and more people with disabilities.
Has any legislation helped you as a business owner?
On the national level, there were tax benefits in 2011 that helped us buy some equipment. It’s a great time of opportunity for small businesses, though capital may be hard to come by in an environment like this. But family businesses are critical to our economy
and work hard to make sure they survive in these tough economic times.
Dr. Steven. B. Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
Dr. Steven B. Nasatir is a graduate of the University of Illinois, has a M.A. degree from Roosevelt University and a Ph.D from Northwestern University, and has traveled the world in his commitment to the Jewish and humanitarian causes. In 2011, he
received the Julius Rosenwald award, the highest award presented annually by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
There are many Jews in the Chicago area who are hurting financially. Are you hopeful that 2012 will bring about an improvement in the economy that will help more small businesses prosper?
Hopeful, yes, but for that to happen, I would be pleasantly surprised from what I see happening in the community. The Federation assisted 45,000 Jews for the fiscal year ending June 30. This economy is so severe, and I don’t see any reason to believe that
this coming year, things will be back to normal. People are asking for more financial assistance, jobs…the impact of this recession is very deep.
Is there anything you’d like to bring to people’s attention?
People might be surprised to find out the number of Jews they know who are unemployed and going through tough times. We know from talking to rabbis that they’re overwhelmed with these types of requests. It would be great if people were a bit more sensitive to the challenges that their friends and neighbors face. The tail on this economic downturn is going to be long, and when the economy picks up, there will be folks whose lives are going to be different and their retirements are going to be different.
Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Congresswoman
Jan Schakowsky was elected to represent Illinois’ 9th Congressional District in 1998, after serving for eight years in the Illinois State Assembly. In her seventh term, Schakowsky serves in the House Democratic leadership as Chief Deputy Whip and is a member of the Steering and Policy Committee as well as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where she serves on the Subcommittee on Health and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
How is national legislation affecting Chicago-area small business owners?
In the 111th Congress, 16 tax cuts were passed into law affecting small business owners, and the White House released in the spring its small business agenda on how to help small businesses. In addition, the Democratic leadership has been having small business
events featuring speakers from federal agencies to help small businesses learn about getting capital. There is free equipment from the GSA (General Services Administration) that small businesses need to know about, and small businesses can get into the export business if they have the know-how to do so.
What would you say about the small business climate for 2012?
We’re going to have a debate about extending the payroll tax, which applies to employees and employers and affects small businesses. We need a strong advertising campaign encouraging people to shop at small businesses. There are so many advantages: they’re in your neighborhood, you can have a real relationship with them, and you know you’re going to get quality work. The Democratic Caucus had a hearing recently on small businesses with speakers who talked about just how important small businesses are to the local communities.