Opinion | As Michigan businesses struggle, vulnerable families suffer, too

Rep. Tommy Brann

State Rep. Tommy Brann of Wyoming is serving his second term in the Michigan House representing Byron Township and the city of Wyoming. He owns and operates Brann’s Restaurants, which has several locations across Michigan. Brann still works at the Wyoming location when he’s not at the Capitol.

As many local job providers remain shuttered and others continue to struggle with a smaller customer base due to COVID-19, I’m worried we all may soon see what happens to the health of our state without healthy businesses.

Yes, the health of our small and large businesses directly impacts the health of our residents. That’s because without the revenue businesses provide, it will threaten some of the essential health and safety programs Michigan families and vulnerable residents rely on every day. Medicaid and programs to help pull people out of homelessness are two services that are important to me – and they’re both likely to suffer without a safe, complete reopening of Michigan’s economy. So is funding for our schools.

I want to be clear. My goal here is not to place blame. I know the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation. I simply hope that once things are back to normal we all show a little more appreciation for the job creators and risk-takers who serve as the backbone of our state.

I own a restaurant that has been at the same location in Wyoming, Michigan for 49 years. I treat my small business like a baby, and right now my baby is hurting. So are a lot of my business friends. I spoke to the owner of a greenhouse back in April who was suicidal when we thought he might lose it all.   

The buildings might be brick and mortar, but the people who own them are human beings with feelings. They are human beings who pour their lives into those buildings and work seven days a week to meet a payroll. They are human beings who care about their employees and customers. They are human beings who pay property taxes, workers’ compensation, federal taxes, unemployment taxes and more. 

A few months ago, several of my fellow restaurant friends and I closed due to the coronavirus but ironically were still helping feed Michigan because businesses subsidize the unemployment benefits system. After 49 years, my small business has paid more than $2 million in Social Security and Medicare for my employees and I am proud of that. 

Business may sound like a cold word, but I urge everyone to change their way of thinking. As the late Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Massachusetts) once said, “You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.”

While I am not trying to claim anyone hates employers, I sure miss them in Michigan right now.

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David Barnosky
Thu, 09/03/2020 - 4:44pm

Overall I am sympathetic to your position and appreciate your attempt (to my mind) of trying to navigate the serious bi-polar political rhetoric of our time. Nicely done. However, you should realize there will be no “going back to normal,” at least not all of the way. The 1918 flu is still with us today, just no longer a pandemic. There are disruptions caused by this virus that will lessen but never quite go away. Your call for “complete” reopening is an impossible dream. Government and industry will need to work together based in the science of the disease and the reasonable risks we will build into the new normal.
You avoid placing blame, which is good politics for a business that serves the public. But there is clear blame to be placed at the foot of Donald Trump, the “Trump Party” and with all who enable it. If anyone wants a Republican Party to exist again without shame, we need to destroy the abomination that has been born from it’s collapse.

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 9:20am

Mr. Barnosky, you had to get in that last jab at Trump as if he was solely to blame for all the COVID deaths. Who was it who shut down travel and closed borders when the other party was calling him out as overreacting? Who sat there screaming we need a law and we need to use the Defense Production Act when Trump went directly to the people he knew could act and got them to make ventilators and PPE equipment, and they did so in record numbers? Who got the military involved and sent two hospital ships to major cities when the hospitals were over crowded, and the two opposite party governors praised Trump for his quick action? If we wait for our government to do anything, they will be a day late and a dollar short. It seems that everything Trump did must have been the correct thing to do, because the opposition party’s plan seems to parrot Trumps actions, but Trump did it 3 months ago when the opposition party is just starting to do it.