How minimum wage increase will impact small business owners in Pullman

PULLMAN, WA - Washington Governor Jay Inslee is proposing a 23-percent increase to the minimum wage, which could have a significant impact on small business owners.

Jenee' Ryan talked to both the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and small business owners who already face some unique circumstances.

The proximity of Moscow and Pullman creates many special opportunities for both communities, but that proximity could also be damaging if Governor Jay Inslee's plan to increase the minimum wage passes the legislature.

"We are in a very unique situation here on the border of Idaho where their minimum wage is already significantly lower," said Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Marie Dymkoski. "So there's a lot of challenges with that and I think raising the minimum wage is going to especially be difficult for small businesses."

Inslee's plan is to raise Washington minimum wage at least 23-percent to around $11.00 but it's possible it could be raised to as high as $15.00 an hour.

Last week the Pullman Chamber of Commerce sent out a survey to Pullman business owners to see what they think about the possible increase.

Willow Falcon and her husband Mike own Glasphemy in downtown Pullman.

"I think that we are a little too close to other states with much, much, much lower minimum wages and I think it could be damaging to our community," said Willow Falcon.

And the results of the returned surveys so far are pretty clear.

"From my survey already I have 75% who say that the proposed minimum wage will negatively affect their business," said Marie. "It's not that employers don't want to pay their employees good wages, it's that they can't afford to and still make a profit.

"As a business owner, I'm going to make less money," said Falcon. "You know, that's going to bring me down in wages, and I'm not happy about that"

I spoke with several other small business owners here in Pullman and they all agreed. If this passes, they'll have to cut hours, cut employees, and maybe even raise their prices. Then there's the competition down the road.

"It's gonna be pretty easy to go across the state line eight minutes away and buy something that can be considerable cheaper there," said Marie. "Labor is going to be cheaper; the cost of doing business is going to be cheaper."

Dymkoski hopes every small business in Pullman completes the chamber's survey because she is sending the results to a committee who will hopefully have the ear of lawmakers in Olympia.

The Pullman Chamber of Commerce will be collecting survey results for about a week.