The possible fiscal cliff one of the most debated topics in Washington today, and an issue that stands to impact many small-business owners. In light of this, President Obama and Vice President Biden met with 15 small-business owners on Tuesday to discuss how the fiscal cliff could affect their customers and businesses.
Chris Yura, the CEO and founder of SustainU, an apparel company in Morgantown, W. Va., which uses only recycled material and American labor, was among those invited to the White House. Here, Yura discusses the meeting and some takeaways for small-business owners.
Entrepreneur: What were your concerns going into the meeting?
Yura: I was interested in hearing what the president had to say about the fiscal cliff and more importantly, his stance on small business and how we are going to continue to grow small business as it is such a huge part of our economy. The president and others in the meeting, including myself, agree that extending tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans is a way to keep small businesses moving forward.
Entrepreneur: In addition to the fiscal cliff, what other issues did you discuss with the president and vice president?
Yura: In the industry that I represent, the textile manufacturing sector, only two percent of the clothing we purchase in America is actually made here. Ninety-eight percent of the clothing is imported from somewhere else. There is a huge opportunity for us to create jobs [in the U.S.]. I think that should be an area of focus. The president and his head economic staff were very receptive to these types of suggestions and various ideas about current and future small business growth.
Entrepreneur: How responsive was the president to the ideas of small business owners?
Yura: The president was very open to ideas. It was a very candid conversation. He asked for suggestions on what we saw as obstacles and opportunities for small businesses. The president offered insight on how extending the tax cuts for the middle class could help keep our businesses growing without hindering the purchasing power of American consumers.
It was a lot of dialogue. The president is extremely intelligent and has a great staff that really has their pulse on the economy and what's going on right now and what we need to do to keep moving forward. For small-business leaders like myself, it was very encouraging. The president sees how critically important small business is for our county and the [importance of] continuing to grow entrepreneurship in our country.
Entrepreneur: Do you feel more confident after your meeting that there will be an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff?
Yura: Yes, I feel the president and his advisors and staff have a plan that can get us through this time. The president and his staff went through the details of the plan and I was very encouraged as a small-business owner. I think it's up to everybody to sit down together and talk through the issues and come to an agreement so we can work as a cohesive unit to move forward. We need to encourage Congress to move forward before January first.
Entrepreneur: Do you have any other takeaways from your meeting to impart to small business owners?
Yura: I was really encouraged by the variety of businesses that were represented and hearing what they've done to grow. For someone who speaks with college students a lot and also speaks to young entrepreneurs, it just further drove home that right now is a great time to think of ideas. Right now is a great time to start companies. Hearing some of the stories of other entrepreneurs and the success they've had continues to give me confidence to speak to young people and encourage them to create good ideas to really get our country back to the place it needs to be.
Cheryl Winokur Munk is a freelance writer and editor in West Orange, NJ. She is a former reporter for Dow Jones Newswires and American Banker where she covered the financial services industry. She earned a B.S. in journalism from Boston University.