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Chamber members say minimum wage hike would hurt business

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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What is the chamber of commerce? It's a term that most are familiar with, but oftentimes it is an answer that few can give. This is likely because each chamber is different-some chambers have less than 50 members and some have more than 5,000. What I can tell is you is who the Shelton-Mason County Chamber is and what we do.

Our chamber is comprised of approximately 350 businesses in the Mason County area, primarily from Shelton, Union and Hoodsport. These businesses pay dues to be a chamber member. They then elect the Board of Trustees, who set the vision, priorities and goals for the chamber. This board is also responsible for hiring the executive to carry out those objectives, which is where I come in.

Our chamber members are unique they range from blue-collar workers to executive CEOs, but though there is a broad array, I'm proud of the camaraderie and friendships that have developed between different worlds. Of our members, nearly 60 percent of the businesses have two employees or fewer. Eighty-four percent have fewer than 10 employees. What this means is that our business owners are often the sole human resources person, the sole marketer and oftentimes the sole employee.

Many people have a glorified idea of what a business owner actually is, thinking that lavish vacations and flexible schedules are the norm. The reality of the situation is that when something needs to be done by tomorrow, there's often only one person to do it: the business owner. That said, many of us have heard (and likely used) the old adage "do what you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life."

So what keeps Mason County business owners up at night? Recently, there has been much discussion about Washington's minimum wage, so we asked our members how this would impact them directly. The responses poured in and the results were overwhelming.

With more than half of the respondents citing their business pays all of their employees more than the current minimum wage, many say should such an increase take effect, it is likely that they will not be able to retain all of their current employees (37.5 percent). "I will need to remove at least one employee from my payroll if this increase passes" and similar responses were common. Even more respondents expect that they will also have to cut their employees' hours in order to reduce wage expenses.

Many believed that an increase to $12 to $15 hourly would also impact the cost of doing business. Nearly 60 percent said that it would negatively impact their business with less than 10 percent believing it would be a positive impact. Seventy percent also believed that increased cost to their suppliers or vendors would be passed along to them. This was especially prevalent among restaurants and hospitality-based businesses who pointed out that some workers receive tips above their hourly wage.

Clearly this is a complicated issue and there are passionate arguments on all sides. As the chamber continues to advocate on behalf of our businesses and our community at large, we are hopeful that our business owners and managers, legislators and the workforce will persist in holding this conversation with an open mind. If there's one thing for certain, it's that we've just begun to try and predict how these changes will affect life (and business) as we know it in Mason County.

Heidi McCutcheon is executive director for the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at 426-2021.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 16, 2016

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