County Businesses, Officials React to Minimum Wage Increase (Video)
Small businesses already face tough competition from major retailers, and after the Montgomery County Council voted to approve an increase in the minimum wage, some local business owners and officials are concerned.
“I will probably be raising prices and wages in order to maintain a high quality standard and that’s what I need to do in order to continue,” said Tom Evans, owner of Evans Homes and Gardens in Gaithersburg. “Down the road there might be some wage pressure from the bottom as the bottom rises that we’ll have to raise our wage levels.”
One local restaurant owner says the increase comes at a time when economic woes are prevalent for both the employee and the employer.
“Today we have an economy where everybody’s trying to raise or increase the cost this is obviously a part of it considering how you budget for future years,” said Vincenzo Livia, Owner of Il Pizzico in Rockville.
The County Council’s decision to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $11.50 has been greeted with both praise and hesitation.
“I’m skeptical,” said City of Gaithersburg Council Member Jud Ashman. “I’m concerned that it could be too much too fast even though they did decide to roll it out over four years instead of three it’s still a really really sharp rise in the minimum wage.”
Officials at the County level though say the increase comes at the right time and reaches those who need it most.
“The reality is that very few small businesses are actually paying the minimum wage,” said Montgomery County Department of Economic Development Director Steve Silverman. “When you look at the data that we have there’s about 70,000 jobs out of 655,000 in Montgomery County that are even below eleven dollars and fifty cents much less seven dollars and twenty five cents. Industries like retail, fast food industry, landscape contractors are probably paying at the lower end of the wage scale.”
But even those paying above the minimum wage say the hike will force them to make changes to adapt.
“We have to maintain our price structure in order to be competitive and we have to think of that and then we do to complete the work at the lowest cost so as costs go up certainly the prices go up,” said Evans.
As Prince Georges County and the District of Columbia follow the County’s leaf, others are looking to make their own decisions.
Moving forward, Ashman said the City of Gaithersburg is considering its options.
“I want to get it all on the table and see where the right level might be, I mean if you look at where the minimum wage has been historically and inflation adjusted dollars it may need to be raised, but maybe not quite as much,” Ashman said.