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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We are in the heart of the 2017 legislative session, and small businesses and working families have been on my mind.

Small businesses play a key role in thriving communities. They provide more jobs than any other source of employment, and their owners regularly serve as leaders in the community. That’s why I evaluate bills closely to determine the impact or benefit they may have on small businesses and working families in East King County.

The American spirit is about innovation, resilience, and entrepreneurship. Everyone deserves the chance to chase their dreams and have a shot at success. Over the last few decades, however, fewer people have been starting their own businesses. Too often, that has been due to burdensome regulations that have stood in the way. I care about making sure that what we do in Olympia encourages, rather than inhibits, small business creation and growth.

Rep. Paul Graves, R-Fall City

But small businesses are not just about abstract ideas. They are about people, many of whom have worked hard and risked much to pursue their passion and start their business.

With that in mind, I’ve invited two small business owners in our area to share their stories.

Thrive Community Fitness, Maple Valley

Owner: Tanya Neilsen

Tanya has three children who attend school in the Tahoma School District. Tanya has been an active volunteer with several organizations such as the USO Northwest, Seattle Navy League and Always Brothers. She currently serves as President of the Maple Valley Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce.

What type of business do you run? A full-service, family focused gym and fitness studio.

How long have you owned the business? Est. 2010, owned since 2013.

How many employees do you have? 38-40. Mostly part-time, a few full-time, and about 10 high school students.

What are some challenges you’ve faced as a small business owner?

B&O taxes and the increased minimum wage have made owning a small business very challenging. Increases in the minimum wage over the past year have cost my business $25-30,000.

I love employing high school students. I think entry-level jobs, which teach critical skills and customer service, are important. But the high cost of employing and training new and younger employees is becoming increasingly more difficult.

I feel like I’ve accomplished the American dream as a single mom and small business owner, but sometimes I feel like it’s slipping through my hands with each new regulation.

How can lawmakers in Olympia help you?

Talk to business owners, get involved, and visit our businesses. See our work conditions and meet our employees. We’re regular people trying to make ends meet.

What piece of advice would you give to a small business owner?

Get involved! Join the local chamber of commerce, make friends and network with fellow business owners, and call Paul Graves and let him know where you stand on bills in Olympia.

Valley Automotive Repair & Electric, Covington

Owner: Bryan Kelley

Bryan currently chairs the Mechanical Division for the King County ASA (Automotive Service Association) and serves as a chamber delegate to the East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition. Bryan and his wife have two wonderful young daughters.

What type of business do you run? Automotive repair with a specialty in electric repairs.

How long have you owned the business? Established in 1982, owned since 2004

How many employees do you have? 11 full-time, 2 part-time. Usually 1-2 seasonal workers in high school or college.

What are some challenges you’ve faced as a small business owner?

Crushing regulation, mostly from King County. We struggled for so many years to operate the shop in King County that we finally moved to Covington earlier this month.

The training wage is difficult to comply with in this industry. We agree that all workers should be paid fairly. But learning the automotive trade in 90 days isn’t feasible. We’re training workers for a career, not a quick job.

A high minimum wage is difficult to comply with as well. I used to hire a high school student full-time in the summers to clean the shop, but I can’t afford to anymore.

How can lawmakers in Olympia help you?

Give businesses an equal voice and a seat at the table. We want to employ people and we want to treat our employees well, but we can’t do that if we’re not given equal consideration on the impacts of legislation.

What piece of advice would you give to a small business owner?

Have a plan. If you’re thinking about buying or starting a business, ask yourself, “do you want to buy a job or buy a business?

“If you buy a business, you can afford to pay your employees and yourself.

If you buy a job, you’ll almost never be able to afford to take home a paycheck.”


Regulatory Climate

Bryan and Tanya touched on some of the challenges of owning a small business, including the regulatory climate. It’s vital we find a balance between regulations that protect working families while also allowing small businesses to grow.

I want to know what you think.

Please click here to take my one-question survey about the regulatory climate on small businesses.


Contact Me

Hearing from you is the best was I can truly represent you. I want to speak with you about your experiences with the most important issues facing our state so I can continue to carry your voice to Olympia. You may call my office at (360)786-7876 anytime, or send an email directly to me at paul.graves@leg.wa.gov.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Paul Graves

State Representative Paul Graves, 5th Legislative District
122B Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7876 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000