For small business owners, election highlights key issues

Oct 31, 2012

Daniel Finke moved his company Finspeed into this 12,000 square foot building in Moberly thanks to a tax abatement from the city.
Daniel Finke moved his company Finspeed into this 12,000 square foot building in Moberly thanks to a tax abatement from the city.
Credit Kristofor Husted / KBIA

By most accounts, Missouri is a pink state.

Not red. Not blue. Pink.

But, when thousands of small business owners in Missouri were asked which candidate was more supportive of small business, 35 percent chose President Barack Obama, 24 percent picked Gov. Mitt Romney, and 41 percent said they were unsure. (That’s from a recent George Washington University and Thumbtack poll.)

To learn more, I jetted up to Moberly to visit a small business owner and get his perspective. What issues matter most to him? And who was he voting for?

Daniel Finke, 39, makes and sells high-end performance car parts – like fancy, high-tech wheels – for race cars and luxury cars. He sells to sport drivers and auto aficionados.

His office sits in the corner of a pristine warehouse. There are large computer screens with perplexing schematics on them and car wheels sitting in random locations.

Like many start-up business owners, Finke was looking for the ideal place to set up shop.  For his company, called Finspeed, proximity to the race scene and property price were top priority.

“We were thinking about Daytona Beach," he says. "We were thinking about Macon, Georgia. If we could be in Missouri we wanted to because I have an 8-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. And both of our parents – my wife is from Glasgow and I’m from Bowling Green.”

Then he got a call about a place in Moberly.

“I happened to be coming through here," he says, "so, hell, why not? And this was the first one we looked at and I though it’s too big. I can’t afford it. It’s out of our price range. And it was, we were looking for six or 7,000 square feet and this was 12.” But, thanks to tax abatement on the property by the city, Finke was able to afford it. He signed the lease in 2010. 

Finke, who identifies as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, says he used private investments and personal financing from a local bank to get Finspeed up and running successfully without federal help.

Daniel Finke, 39, owns small business
Daniel Finke, 39, owns small business
Credit Kristofor Husted / KBIA

“I would have trouble sleeping at night knowing my neighbors sleeping on either side of me [that] their tax dollars went to fund my business," he says. "And there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t have a negative view of people who use that. I think there’s a good place for it.”

Indeed, state and federal incentives apparently do matter to small business owners. Those incentives along with tax rates and regulations topped the Thumbtack poll as important issues related to the success of the owner’s business. For Finke’s business, fair trade sits atop the list of key concerns this election.

“If we had fair trade, half of what we make would go overseas," he says. "Right now we’re at 35-40 percent. I just sent a quote to a gentleman in Singapore. The cost for of the product was less than the cost of getting it to him and the goods and services, taxes and everything his governments puts on it.”

So knowing all this, I wondered which candidates Finke would vote for. When I ask about the Missouri U.S. Senate race between incumbent Claire McCaskill and Republican Todd Akin, Finke reaches for his water bottle.

“Man, I’m really conflicted on that one," he says. "So, Sen. McCaskill’s done a great job in some areas. I like how she’s thrifty, I like how she looks at things. I think on some of those big picture things, she’s missed a little bit. I don’t think that means she’s done a bad job. [But] that whole Akin comment? He can apologize for it -- that’s fine. But that disqualifies him in my opinion.”

He’s referring to a comment Akin made saying “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy. Here, Finke actually continues to wrestle with his answer for another minute. He shifts around in his chair a few times.

“That comment by Akin? I don’t know the guy," he says, "[but] I’ve done a little bit of research on his positions and financially I agree with him more than Sen. McCaskill. But I really can’t answer it. I don’t know how I’m going to vote on it. It’s going to be one of those where I sit in there and stare at the ballot for 10 minutes."

And what about president?

"I’m going to go with Romney, I think." he says.

And what’s the biggest reason he says: "The trade. It’s one of the biggest reasons why our economy is so unbalanced. That’s one of the main reasons.”

As I was leaving, I asked Finke how sure he was he was voting for Romney. His answer? Ninety percent.

This story originally aired as part of Business Beat, a weekly program about business and economics in mid-Missouri.