State Pushes Small Biz Retirement Benefits

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

Just six people work at Vision Creative in Lansing -- six people who don't have some of the benefits enjoyed by the hundreds of thousands who work at General Motors and other larger corporations.

"It's just too cost prohibitive for me to even offer that," Vision Creative founder and owner Camron Gnass said Tuesday.

'That' is retirement benefits, like a 401k plan. Gnass says small companies don't get the big discounts that make offering the plans possible. Gov. Jennifer Granholm agrees.

"The fees are higher if you have to do it for a smaller number of people," she said at a press conference.

Gnass hosted Granholm as she made the push for the state to negotiate a retirement plan for small businesses. She first outlined the plan in her state of the state address.

"It's a way to have to state assist in pooling the number of businesses who will participate with the private sector adminsitrating a 401(k)-like plan," the governor said.

Granholm says the plan won't cost the state anything. A spokesman for the top state senate Republican says leaders haven't heard anything from the governor about the plan -- so they can't decide whether it makes sense.

We took the plan to a retirement planner to see if it makes sense to her.

As someone who works in financial services, Jane Olney, of the Holt office of Edward Jones, could gain if the state works with her firm to offer the plans. But the state stepping in, she says, seems like a good idea.

"If the state does develop that program and market it and really make it available and accessible to small businesses, I think it's a win-win situation," Olney said.

That is, she says, a win for the workers, and for the small businesses.

"Allow us to compete right off the boat for these kids we're getting right out of college and tell them they can start work here and maybe stay longer than they typically do," Gnass said.

The state estimates only 30 percent of small businesses -- those with fewer than 25 employees -- offer retirement plans for employees.


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