06/01/06 — $1 miminum wage increase could hurt some businesses

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$1 miminum wage increase could hurt some businesses

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 1, 2006 1:49 PM

An increase in the minimum wage could hurt some business owners in and around Wayne County, but many would not be affected because they already pay their workers more than the minimum.

Both the state House and Senate have approved an increase in the minimum wage by $1 per hour, to $6.15.

They only have to decide now whether to include the measure in the state budget or make it a separate law.

Joe McMichael, the director of the business and industry center at Wayne Community College, said a minimum wage increase could have different effects on different businesses.

"For a small business just starting up or one that is thinking about it, it could change their dynamics," he said.

Joe Kestler, the owner of Bonfire's Tortilla Bar, said he hasn't given the increase much thought.

"I haven't had time to digest it," Kestler said, "but most of my workers make minimum wage."

Kestler said he employs 17 people at his two locations. Some businesses could have to raise prices to compensate for the wage hike, but Kestler said that is something he "wants to steer away from as much as possible."

"We just experienced a price increase three months ago. That was the first one in two-and-a-half years. I don't want to repeat that," he said.

"I can't cut my work force, because I need every employee I have," Kestler said.

Other businesses would not feel the hit.

Rugged Wearhouse manager Carol Andrews said her employees already start at $6.50 an hour. There is enough competition for employees in Wayne that many small businesses cannot afford to just pay the minimum, she said.

"We have almost full employment. If you have somewhere between 4 and 5 percent unemployment, that's considered full employment. There is a lot of competition for good employees and it's hard for an employer to pay workers minimum wage with that kind of competition," she said.

Mrs. Andrews said an increase would help younger workers most. Her daughter works for a local retailer and earns the minimum wage, she noted.

Sharon Froehlich, store manager at Dream-Makers Inc., said her business would not be affected by the increase, but agreed that minimum wage workers should have more money in their pockets.

"I think they need more money. Then, they have more money to spend here," Mrs. Froehlich said. "It helps out the economy and mine."

Wayne County Economic Development Commission President Joanna Thompson, said none of the county's industries have expressed concerns about a minimum wage increase.

Wayne County Chamber of Commerce President Steve Hicks said the chamber will poll its members to get opinions on the increase.