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Congressman Mack Visits Local Business

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Congressman Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, toured Marine Concepts Wednesday to see how increasing taxes are affecting small businesses.

The company, which currently employs approximately 60 workers, saw its staff numbers plummet from 135 employees a year ago to only 20 after the economy crashed.

It also lost projects within the marine industry and as a result the company diversified and took on new projects under JRL Ventures Inc. - including renewable energy, aerospace design, government jobs, amusement park design and local attractions.

"With the economy diving, it was survival," said Matt Chambers, president of Marine Concepts. "It's about diversification and trying to survive."

Marine Concepts was purchased by Chief Executive Officer Bob Long in 1994 from Kiko Villalon when it was a business of 14 employees earning less than $1 million each year. Over the decade the company grew but officials said that growing state and federal taxes have made further development difficult.

In a letter to Marine Concepts employees, Long stated that 33 percent of profits go to paying income taxes. An additional 25 percent pays for Medicare and FICA and the $17,883 that went to unemployment taxes in 2008 is expected to increase by 500 percent in 2010.

Long said that small businesses are dying nationwide and that they are hesitant to invest their money with taxes expected to increase. He also pointed out that Marine Concepts doesn't take profits out of Southwest Florida nor did it give employees huge bonuses.

"We've been hurt as have so many small businesses," said Long. "We reinvested profits back into the company."

Mack toured the business Wednesday and addressed his displeasure with increases in both taxes and government regulations on small businesses.

"We need to remember it's small businesses that create jobs, not the government," said Mack.

He supports an elimination of the capital gains tax - when companies pay a tax for selling land, equipment or assets - and he said some of the suggested free trade agreements won't be considered until next year.

Mack and owners of Marine Concepts are also concerned about President Barack Obama's tax increase for anyone making over $250,000, including small businesses, partnerships and Sub Chapter S corporations. Long said this is a disincentive for growth.

Chambers said the company will continue to diversify and take on jobs as they come. The frequency of marine projects took a nose dive, he said, but the company will continue performing both old marine-based and new projects in the future.

"This is a company that has been here in Lee County for a long time," said Mack, who added that he had his first job at Marine Concepts when it was owned by Villalon.

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