Pat Soldano opened the meeting by introducing representatives from family businesses and Family Business Centers in attendance. She then provided an overview of the Congressional Family Business Caucus, highlighting its unique role as a bipartisan Caucus aimed at educating Members of Congress on family business issues. Pat outlined the economic impact of family businesses, noting that family businesses account for 59% or 83 million jobs and contribute $7.7 trillion or 54% annually to the GDP. She also highlighted that 74% of the family businesses surveyed have been impacted by inflation, 82% engaged in local philanthropy during the last year, and 91% retained their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caren Street (Squire Patton Boggs) also discussed the important nature of the caucus, noting that Representatives Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) currently serve as Caucus co-chairs. She also acknowledged additional congressional staff in attendance and thanked them for joining.
We then heard from Ethan Gunnlaugsson (Legislative Correspondent for Rep. Schneider), who discussed Rep. Schneider’s leadership in the Caucus and the important role it plays in educating Members of Congress on family business issues. Ethan also discussed Rep. Schneider’s membership on the House Ways and Means Committee and his prior work as a family business consultant.
Next, Steve Wells (President of American Food and Vending) and David Plimpton (CEO of Inolex) shared their experiences with their own family businesses. Steve discussed the difficulty of passing family-owned businesses between generations and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his business. He explained that during Covid 75% of the employees were laid off, but now all have been rehired. David discussed the evolution of his family business and its commitment to service and to the success of its business partners.
We were then joined by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), who discussed his prior work in his family business and as a family business consultant. Rep. Schneider noted that family businesses are the “heartbeat of our communities,” emphasizing that family businesses are not necessarily small businesses. He expressed optimism for growing the Caucus and stressed the importance of educating Members of Congress on family business issues.
Next, we heard from Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), who discussed ways Congress can assist family business owners, including supporting business-friendly legislation and avoiding complex regulations. Rep. Cuellar then discussed the impact of national issues impacting family-owned businesses, including the debt ceiling and competition with China. Rep. Cuellar then took questions from family businesses in the audience and addressed upcoming legislative opportunities such as the Farm Bill.
Dan Van Der Vliet (Executive Director of the Smith Family Business Initiative, Cornell University) then presented on the role of family business centers. Dan noted that family business centers maintain connections with family businesses across the United States and help better understand the size and scope of family businesses. He also highlighted the importance of Family Enterprise USA’s annual family business survey.
Next, we heard from David Shaw (Publishing Director of Family Business Magazine) and Steve Schroeder (Creative Werks). David discussed the unique impact of long-term planning by family businesses and discussed the mission of the Family Business Magazine to bring family businesses together. Steve discussed the sense of responsibility involved with owning a family business, as well as the opportunities it presents to provide benefits to employees, their families, and the community. Steve shared that Creative Werks has provided language training to employees and instituted sustainability initiatives.
Angie Jones (Director, University of Toledo Family Business Center) then discussed how family business centers support family businesses in managing complex family business issues, including succession and transition planning. She shared that the University of Toledo Family Business Center facilitates peer-to-peer learning opportunities and family business dialogues. Angie then emphasized the value of the Congressional Family Business Caucus in informing Members of Congress on family business concerns.
To conclude, Pat thanked participants for their continued support and reiterated the important role the Caucus will play in supporting family businesses.
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