When you are asked by a new acquaintance where you’re from, what do you think of? Do you think of your childhood home? A fond family memory? Your teenage hangouts? For most people, it’s a combination of all these and more. A person’s home includes every aspect of their community, including the local businesses. They provide each community with a unique character, something you can’t find anywhere else. A community without a vibrant local business presence lacks cohesion; simply put, local businesses hold a community together.
As the head of my local chamber of commerce, I witness brick-and-mortar retailers in action every day. Early morning gathering places like Bluestem Bistro and Daylight Donuts help Manhattanites wake up with fresh coffee and sweet donuts, the local news playing in the background as people start their day by checking in with their friends before work. After preparing for the day, many people go to work atthese local businesses. From selling running equipment at Manhattan Running Company to catching a showing of Rent at the Manhattan Arts Center, local businesses in Manhattan provide jobs for our friends, family and neighbors. When we have a question about a new product or service, we go to the closest experts available: the people who run our local businesses.
The economic benefit of small businesses cannot be understated, either. Local businesses bring money into a community’s economy, support our families and help raise funds for charities and nonprofits. Local businesses also provide stability for communities when larger companies move their operations. I’m proud to say that nine out of ten Manhattan Chamber members are small to mid-size, local businesses.
However, many of our local businesses have taken a hit due as a result of our outdated sales tax framework. My members routinely voice their complaints that customers visit their stores, look a product over and then leave to buy it for less online because online-only sellers are not required to collect the sales tax. I am a firm supporter of a free market – and that means all businesses need to compete on a level playing field. Businesses in Manhattan and all across the Sunflower State and across America are more than happy to compete on price, inventory, quality and service. But they cannot compete on sales tax.
I urge our Congressman, Tim Huelskamp and the rest of the Kansas congressional delegation to support the Remote Transactions Parity Act (RTPA) of 2015. RTPA closes the online sales tax loophole, but more importantly, it levels the playing field for small businesses in communities across the country. And that is a good thing.
Lyle Butler is the CEO/President of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.