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Small-Business Owners On Jobs Bill

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

After a House vote yesterday, businesses are a step closer to getting a tax break for hiring unemployed workers. The measure still needs final approval in the Senate. If it passes, businesses that hire unemployed workers will be exempt from the 6.2 percent social security payroll tax through December. They'll also get a $1000 credit for every new worker they keep on the job for a year. Many in Congress doubt the bill will do much to create jobs. One worry is that most of the money will go to businesses that would have been hiring anyway.

We though we'd reach out to a couple of small business owners to find out what they were thinking. And first we're going to Andy Hann. He's general manager of Fountain Hills Door and Supply in Fountain Hills, Arizona - that's just outside Phoenix. He sells and installs doors and windows. Mr. Hann, welcome to the program.

Mr. ANDY HANN (General Manager, Fountain Hills Door and Supply): Hello, Michele.

NORRIS: I understand that you have 12 employees right now, if this bill passes, do you plan to hire any more?

Mr. HANN: No, we don't. At the current state, construction is at a standstill and our business is closely related to the construction industry. We have to see growth in the industry before we add any more bodies into our system.

NORRIS: Help us understand just how hard the housing market has been hit there in Phoenix.

Mr. HANN: Specifically, I can tell you that our revenue numbers are roughly a third of where they were two years ago. Construction in the Phoenix area has virtually come to a standstill. The amount of inventory that is still on the market needs to be dissipated. And most of the banks and financial institutions are hesitant or just are not loaning any money to developers to start any new housing programs.

NORRIS: Is there anything the federal government could do that would convince you to hire new employees?

Mr. HANN: Yeah, the key thing that the federal government can do to convince us to hire is to get the construction industry growing. In order for them to get the construction industry growing they have to really light the economy on fire. And they have to free up the financial institutions to be able to start loaning to people who want to start building houses.

NORRIS: Well Mr. Hann, all the best to you. Thank you very much for taking time to talk to us.

Mr. HANN: Certainly.

NORRIS: That's Andy Hann. He's the general manager of Fountain Hills Door and Supply in Arizona.

We go next to Simone Wilker in Paramus, New Jersey. She and husband own AlphaGraphics, a printing and marketing shop. Ms. Wilker, you have five employees, is that correct?

Ms. SIMONE WILKER: (Owner, AlphaGraphics) That's absolutely correct.

NORRIS: Are you planning on making any new hires?

Ms. WILKER: Well, I would love to be able to hire a new salesperson because I think it would be great to increase our sales and our revenues. So, that I definitely have in my mind.

NORRIS: I'll take that as a maybe.

Ms. WILKER: I guess it depends on the financial ramifications of hiring someone new at this point in time.

NORRIS: Now if you hired someone, you would potentially be exempt from the 6.2 percent social security payroll tax through the month of December - that make a difference at all to you?

Ms. WILKER: Oh, yeah, that would be nice. I mean every penny counts. That's the only way I can explain it. Every single penny counts. We're watching everything that we purchase. And we're watching our costs and paring everything down to the bone and that's why I'm really considering hiring someone new because if we could now increase our revenues and our sales, it would make a big difference to us.

NORRIS: Now as you know the debate here in Washington as to whether this bill would actually do enough to create jobs - you're the second small business owner we talked to, the first said he's not going to hire someone. You're saying well, I might do it but I'm not so sure. What would the government have to do to move you definitively and very quickly to yes, I'm going to hire someone?

Ms. WILKER: I guess it would be to increase the amount that they're willing to give you as an incentive. I mean I would love to see $5,000 or $10,000. And I would say that having someone on the rolls as an unemployed individual is costing the government a bundle at this point in time. And so anything that could help them in hiring new people and getting them off the unemployment rolls would be an incentive for the government to offer me more money. So in my dreams, they'd be offering the $5,000 or $10,000 to hire someone. But I don't think that realistic. So, I would say that a $1,000, plus not having to pay that social security tax for the month of December, would certainly help. And if I'm already looking to hire somebody, that might be the turning point whether I would hire them or not, and probably I would.

NORRIS: Well, good luck to you, thank you very much for taking time to talk to us.

Ms. WILKER: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

NORRIS: That's Simone Wilker. She is the co-owner of AlphaGraphics in Paramus, New Jersey. Earlier we heard from Andy Hann of Fountain Hills Door and Supply in Arizona. We were talking to both of them about the tax break that businesses would receive for hiring unemployed workers should Congress pass President Obama's jobs bill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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