Small Business in the Spotlight

Oct 05, 2010

In a 12,000 square-foot loft in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Kelly Conklin and his ten full-time employees produce high-end furniture for a largely well-to-do customer base.

Kelly has operated his small business, Foley-Waite Associates, since 1978. Producing custom cabinets, furniture and other woodwork for his customers in a consistent and timely manner requires skilled, loyal employees. One of the ways Kelly ensures he provides a work environment that fosters loyalty is providing benefits such as paid leave to his employees.

He shuts down the business the week between Christmas and New Year's so that he and his employees can enjoy holiday time with their families. All employees who have been on the job for at least 90 days receive pay for that week. After one year on the job, employees receive an additional week of paid vacation, and the amount of paid time off increases with the employee's years of service. While such benefits may be standard for corporations and large companies, this is not so with many small businesses. Kelly and his co-founder and partner, Kit Schackner, have testified before the New Jersey Legislature in support of paid family leave. Kelly told lawmakers that an employee who is "distracted by a family emergency is not likely to do his or her best work."

Kelly said he supports state or federal policies that would mandate employers provide benefits such as paid family leave for employees to level the playing field and to protect employees.

"A level playing field helps small employees better compete with larger ones," he said.

At the state level, Kelly said, government should focus on enacting laws that attract the quality workers small business needs to succeed. "Make New Jersey a good place to work," he said. "And good workers will come, with their talent, their families and their buying power. That is one way state government can help small business."

Kelly is a member of the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, a coalition of over 800 small business owners and sole-proprietors throughout the state who are working to create opportunities to speak for themselves on important policy issues such as paid sick days.

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