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Local businesses seek county help


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Published on: Thursday, February 14, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – Local businesses, still reeling from the recent recession are looking for help from government to help them stay fluid.

For Dave O’Connor, owner of O’Connor’s Paint Service in Gaithersburg, the main hurdles he faces are getting licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and making sure he is keeping up to date with state and county requirements. O’Connor, who has run his business for 25 years, said he is required to carry workers compensation coverage, fall protection, and become lead-safe certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While O’Connor makes sure his business complies the law, he said there are other businesses which try to slip through the government’s fingertips.

“The area where they need big improvement on is there are so many unlicensed contractors out there,” O’Connor said. “This is where I really think (the county) fails us. There are so many under-the-table workers, unemployed workers.  The teacher who works in the summer or the high school kid who does this, nothing against that, but I also want them to have the same things we have to abide by that they have to. The county could do it very simply by having an inspector just riding around and when they see ladders in the air they ask to see the license.”

All contractors are required to carry a license issued by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. The license costs $370 for the original, and renewals cost $405.

While O’Connor does not feel Montgomery is destroying small business, he said he thinks the county could do more to help protect contractors.

Another factor affecting O’Connor’s business are websites which rate small businesses, like Angie’s List and Checkbook.org. While Angie’s List does report certified businesses, O’Connor said anyone can post their business on Checkbook.

“I guarantee if you start looking through these people, you’ll see they don’t have licenses,” O’Connor said. “They’re not even doing the first step. If they don’t have a license they’re not carrying anything else.”

Others businesses, like ASCII Group which is based in Bethesda, have taken their cases to Congress.

Doug Young, vice president of distribution and management and membership services for the ASCII Group, attended an industry-wide fly-in on Feb. 12, to discuss key issues impacting his business. ASCII Group is a group of 1,000 small and medium-sized companies in the information technology field which provide services to clients.

“Members constantly have to get their employees retrained,” Young said. “It can be a pretty pricy proposition for a small business to get trained. There’s things Congress probably can do as far as helping to fray some of that training expense with tax breaks and that sort of thing that will help the customers remain up to speed on the latest technologies.”

Young also said members of the information technology industry, such as himself, are asking Congress to reauthorize acts, such as the Higher Education Act, to get companies the funds they need to ensure people are trained.

Young said the major problems for information technology companies are finding qualified employees, and keeping those employees qualified. By talking with members of Congress,

Though ASCII Group went to Congress for help, the option is not necessarily the best route for all local small businesses.

O’Connor said his business has been growing and has a loyal following of customers. While his business follows the rules, O’Connor said he thinks the county should do more to protect small businesses by ensuring everyone is complying with the law.

“If (the government) is going to make us have safety programs and follow the payroll taxes, then they’ve got to do it with everybody. They have to make it a fair playing ground. It’s got to be fair.”

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