The Madison business community has complained that efforts to raise the city minimum wage, mandate paid sick leave and impose a smoking ban have created a hostile environment for local businesses. This week, Isthmus asked the city's mayoral candidates if the regular complaints about Madison's business climate are a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Their responses follow below.
Are the constant accusations from the businesses community that Madison has a bad business climate hurting the city's economic growth?
Of course not. The unwillingness of City Hall to understand that some policies are best considered at a regional or state level is what's hurting Madison's business climate. As a member of the Collaboration Council, I continue to support regional efforts to grow our economy.
To strengthen our local economy, we need to:
- Update our economic development plan, which hasn't been updated in more than 20 years, in a way that's more than just a list of chronic mandates.
- Ensure that Madison's economic growth is enjoyed by all of Madison, especially working families. That's why I support Best Value Contracting, and why I've called for an organized labor seat on Madison's Economic Development Committee, so working families have a voice as economic development is discussed.
A strong local economy is important to effectively fight poverty. By fighting poverty now, we are fighting crime in the long run. The biggest obstacle to our economic growth will be crime. Trolleys will not be a vehicle for economic development. If City Hall continues to focus on trolleys instead of focusing on crime, they better make those trolleys bulletproof.
For the most part, the Madison business community is progressive and fair-minded. I'm happy to have the support of business leaders like Mark Bugher, Jim Bradley, Mary Lang Sollinger and many others. There are a few extreme naysayers but they're in a very small minority. I'll keep working with the mainstream of the business community to continue the progress we've made in the last four years.
Madison's economy is in great shape, with the lowest unemployment rate in the state. I want to keep it that way, and work to expand the benefits of our economic growth to everyone in our community. I believe we can be both progressive and pro-business.
Business climate aside, Madison's strong economy is fueled primarily by state government and the university. Whether based on reality or perception, many people think city government promotes an unfriendly business climate. Since 2003, this thinking has been exacerbated by the mayor's championship of mandates that, no doubt, have stifled economic growth by instilling fear in the business community.
For example, this past weekend I attended a campaign house party hosted by Bryan and Hilda Grau. We had a good discussion and an issue that came up was Madison's business climate. Attending was the owner of a small business that is located in a community just outside the city. I asked him if he would consider moving his business to Madison. He emphatically stated that he would not and said that he located outside the city, because of the unfriendly mandates Madison imposes on business. He specifically cited the recent sick leave proposal as a mandate that would seriously damage his business.
I am committed to promoting economic growth as a way to creating more jobs that pay a living wage. The best social program is a good job and to this end we must partner with business, not hinder them.
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