PhillyDeals: Small-business owners plan to delay hiring process until after election

Posted: October 24, 2012

Pennsylvania small-business owners are delaying hiring plans to see who wins the fall elections, Philadelphia-based accounting firm ParenteBeard says, after surveying 70 Pennsylvania small-business bosses.

Four in 10 said they're waiting for the vote before executing their current plans to add staff, John Nealon, head of the firm's small-business accounting practice, told me.

(Despite persistent high unemployment, one in eight employers said it's so tough to find "qualified, talented new hires" in today's market that this has become their biggest challenge, though larger groups cited economic uncertainty, health insurance costs and weak consumer spending.)

These bosses were overwhelmingly pro- Romney - 61 of the 70 wanted him to win - though a majority expected Obama will actually win, according to the survey conducted just before the candidate debates. ParenteBeard, which employs 1,100 at its offices along the East Coast, hired Philadelphia-based Brathwaite Communications to select businesses for the survey; firm founder Hugh Brathwaite told me his firm isn't working for either side in this election.

What do business owners hope for, or fear, from government? "What small businesses are looking for, no matter who wins, is clarity," Nealon told me.

He said owners and managers worry about regulation, not so much because they don't like what it's supposed to do, but because "it takes time and expense to implement" government rules.

For example, the bank and health care reforms of 2010 forced businesses to detail credit-card revenue and insurance expense details. "Big companies have in-house talent to cover that, but small business relies on people like us, CPAs, to supplement their internal staff," and that's "a burden," Nealon said.

Rothman for Romney

Doctors who staff the Philadelphia-based Rothman Institute chain of orthopedic clinics were, as a group, the "top contributors to Mitt Romney's Republican campaign for the third quarter of 2012," the Washington Post reports, citing Federal Election Commission data.

Contributions to a pro-Romney fund from 65 Rothman doctors on Sept. 17 totaled $751,000. The second-largest Romney-donor employer group for that period worked for private-equity investors Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which gave $480,000.

Why do these bone men want to dump President Obama? Rothman spokesman Richard Cushman declined to comment when my colleague Harold Brubaker asked.


Daniel Polsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and its Wharton School (business) who served as an economic adviser to President George W. Bush, has been named the new executive director of Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, succeeding David Asch, whom Polsky has called his mentor.

About 200 "senior fellows" affiliated with the institute spend more than $100 million a year in research grants. Polsky says he wants to do more to get their findings into the hands of Washington policymakers and other practical citizens.

This isn't lobbying, Polsky says: "We're definitely not an advocacy organization. We wouldn't be good at it," he told me. "We're not saying, 'a policy is better.' We're saying, 'this is information that could help your decision.' "

Don't professors already publish? "Who reads [scholarly] journals?" said Polsky. "Mostly other academics, who can read language appropriate to academia."

He plans to work closely with the new Wharton Public Policy Initiative, which Polsky said plans an office in Washington to deliver more Penn research to people "well-connected to put that information in the right people's hands, rather than just blast it out."

Polsky also wants "to encourage our investigators to get involved in research that is more timely, of the moment. For example, there is a lot of talk of this idea of premium support in reforming Medicaid . . . Can someone design an academic study that could shed some light?"

Last year, Asch hired Ad Age journalist Hoag Levins and other writers "good at translating research finding into knowledge content that's accessible for people who are out there making decisions or need to understand how things might work when they're considering policy options," Polsky noted.

But Polsky acknowledges the cross between scholarship and journalism has been "challenging. They come from different schools."

How about selling research to lobbyists and political advocates who need good information? Polsky is dubious: Interest groups who will pay for research typically want to buy scholars' conclusions, he said.


Foreign Matters

Obama, Romney tackled policy questions in the final presidential election debate. A1

Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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