Old Town business environment a factor in election

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By Rachel Jackson
Lansing Old Town Times staff writer

Looking around Old Town, it’s hard to imagine a small neighborhood like this could get very outspoken about politics and complex economic policies.

But when a significant portion of the area devotes itself to local business and improving business life in an area that was not always so well kept, these policies matter.

This November, Old Town residents — and Americans across the country — will vote for the next President of the United States, a figure that has a lot of say in how businesses run and are taxed, which in Old Town is a big part of life.

Danielle Cooke, communications director for the Old Town Commercial Association, said the inviting business environment helps make Old Town what it is.

“It’s exciting for me to say I work in Old Town, and people light up and say, ‘Oh, it’s so great,'” she said. “I love the business there. I think it’s the connection with the business owners.”

But she also added it’s important to revitalize public support — financial or otherwise — for the area.

Economic growth

Just a few years ago, Old Town wasn’t in the best commercial shape, said David Gregware, owner of Tallulah’s Folly.

Gregware said he never fully understood the concept of a supportive commercial association before moving to Old Town.

In a small business setting, Gregware said it was difficult to start up something new, and business wasn’t great at first. But he said he also was doing better because he didn’t have to give profits back to larger companies; it was focused more locally.

That’s why businesses are so important to the area, and last week’s debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney was telling in how differently they view the role of small businesses.

In the debate, Romney said small businesses are what drive the nation’s economy, and small business owners employ about a quarter of the American workforce.

Obama, for his part, touted his tax cuts for small businesses, which incentivized health care plans for tax breaks.

Business details and tax plans are important to making a locality what it is, Gregware said.

“Places like this just aren’t going to exist,” he said. “I think it’s a real comeback … We were working for someone else; we weren’t working for ourselves. Now we can do what we want.”

Entrepreneurial freedom

Economic freedom to launch a business or promote entrepreneurial spirit is important to Timothy Moede, a candidate for the 68th district seat in the state House of Representatives.

Moede said he does not think the government should have a prominent role in telling Old Town or any other business-laden area how to operate, which is a similar platform in Romney’s plan.

Moede’s opponent, Democrat Andy Schor, said the only way to keep young people in the area and not suffer from “brain drain” is to support local businesses so young people have opportunities to work or become entrepreneurs.

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