Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 30, 2014

Minimum wage proposal concerns, quiets business owners

TRAVERSE CITY — A minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour wouldn't change Spaghetti Jim’s bottom line.

Jim Abfalter, owner of the restaurant on South Airport Road, said he pays his employees well above the Michigan minimum wage of $7.40 an hour. Abfalter said he even pays his employees more than $10.10 an hour, the amount to which several advocacy groups want to raise the state's minimum wage by 2017.

“We pay people as much as we can pay them,” Abfalter said. “It’s not based on the minimum, it’s based on the maximum. That’s the way it should be.”

But it seems Abfalter is in the minority when it comes to the business community's position on the contentious issue. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce represents business interests across the state and is strongly opposed. The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce is not taking a position on the issue, but said the buzz from some members is negative.

"The little feedback we get is all very negative about what the impacts would be to the bottom line,” said Doug Luciani, president and chief executive officer of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Record-Eagle contacted at least 15 different business owners in the Traverse City area about the minimum wage proposal. The only two willing to speak publicly about it were Abfalter, who supports the proposal, and James C. Smith, owner of James C. Smith Fine Jewelry in Traverse City.

Smith said he pays his employs more than minimum wage and understands the motivations for the wage hike initiative, but said he thinks a long-term strategy for job training for the poor makes more sense to him.

"The people it will impact the most, it will help them in the short-term," Smith said. "(But) the bigger businesses that do employ those people will probably have to raise their costs."

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