Local Businesses React to Obama's Minimum Wage Proposal


HAGERSTOWN, Md. - The minimum wage is one of the main themes of President Obama's State of the Union Address.

The last time the federal minimum wage was increased was in 2009. Now, Obama’s expected push for another increase has some local businesses concerned.

"It’s a really high increase going from $7.25 to $10.10,” said Pietro Priola, who owns Greens and Grains in downtown Hagerstown. “I think small businesses will have a hard time with this."

Priola small cafe sells locally grown organic food. He says a minimum wage increase would definitely affect his business.

"The pricing would have to go up a little bit,” said Priola.

A sharp hike in the minimum wage could also create a domino effect on employers, who might have to increase the wage of all employees including those who are already making a salary above minimum wage.

"It can get very complicated and frankly very costly for the employer who was using the minimum wage as an intro or youth or training or part-time wage,” said Brien Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. "That's tough for businesses big and small, but especially small businesses in retail, in the service industry, in restaurants. Those sorts of industries tend to be particularly hard hit.”

But other small business owners like John Hall say the proposed wage increase will have little effect on their finances.

"I have not paid anybody minimum wage for years,” said Hall, who owns H&S Automotive in Hagerstown. “My guys are trained professionals that are worth way more than minimum wage."

But what if Hall wanted to hire some extra help to keep his shop in order?

"I probably would not hire anybody just to do clean up now if this wage increase goes into effect," said Hall.

No wage increase has gone into effect yet, but it's clear there are mixed reactions.

"Now is the wrong time to be talking about something that could potentially hurt businesses of all sizes, especially small businesses that we're really looking to expand,” said Poffenberger. "We really should be talking about how to get those businesses up and running, up and flying and then if there are other parts of an economic or social agenda that need to come in after that great, let’s have that conversation."

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