Monday, September 17, 2018

What is on the Council Agenda for 9-18-2018: an attack on use of plastic bags, a Blue Ribbon Commission to look for cost saving, and studying Tax Increment Financing.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. This is a shorter agenda than that of recent meetings without lots of controversial issues.  This should be a shorter meeting and I am certain Council members will be pleased.  Recent meetings have been marathon session running four to six hours. Here is a link to the Council agenda and the staff analysis for those who want to watch the Council meeting and follow along.
 

Below is legislation of interest.

Resolution RS2018-1385 by Councilman Blalock  is a resolution calling on grocery store operators within Davidson County to take effective measures to reduce the use and/or impact of single-use plastic carryout bags and report the measures being undertaken in this effort, and encouraging the use of reusable bags by residents and businesses within Davidson County. In a previous council meeting Blalock had sponsored legislation that failed to ban plastic bags. This needs to fail also. We do not need to be trying to force grocery stores to give up plastic bags and forcing them to report to metro on this topic.

Resolution RS2018-1390  approves a PILOT for renovation of affordable housing  apartment complex. PILOT is "payment in lieu of taxes." The company does not pay property taxes but instead makes a payment considerably less than what they would pay in taxes. Only in the last couple years have PILOTs been used to promote affordable housing. Prior to that they were used to entice businesses to locate to Nashville.  I hope someone is closely monitoring this program and thinking long-term. This will be the thirteenth such deal for affordable housing.  When we talk about "affordable housing" we are not talking about the projects.  Unless one had personal knowledge, most of what is "affordable housing" one would not know it was some how subsidized. The unintended consequence of using this PILOT tool to encourage affordable housing, is that it may become an expectation and subvert market forces. There is still a demand for housing that is not luxury housing, but if the expectation become that any developer who builds anything but luxury housing gets a PILOT or tax credits or other subsidies then no developer may build non-luxury housing without that subsidy. On the other hand, my fears may be unfounded. I just hope this tool is being used judiciously.

Resolution RS2018-1391  approves the sale of $775 million in General Obligation bonds. These are all bonds authorized by other legislation actions of the council. I do not expect this to be debated or controversial.

Resolution RS2018-1411  confirms the mayor's appointees of members of a Blue Ribbon Commission to recommend Metro cost saving and improved efficiencies. It is an impressive list and includes former Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz, ex-Metro Councilmember Emily Evans, real estate developer D.J. Wootson, SEIU Local 205 President Brad Rayson and former school board chair Gracie Porter. I am especially pleased to see the appointment of Emily Evans. I observed her when she served on the Council. She is smart and had a firm grasp of Metro financial issues. Dave Goetz seems like a good choice.  I don't know much about the qualification of the others. I am hopeful that this committee will come up with some meaningful recommendations.  The establishment of the Blue Ribbon Commission was an initiative of Councilman John Cooper.

Bill BL2018-1283  on Second Reading would prohibit the use of funds from the sale of Metro owned property from being used to fund the operating budget. While I do not think it is wise policy to use one-time funds for reoccurring expenses, I do not think it ought to be strictly prohibited. If this passes it would leave a hole in the current budget because the budget did rely on revenue from the sale of some property that has not sold yet. That problem could be easily fixed by changing the effective date of the prohibition to future budgets and exempting it for the current budget year. Nevertheless, I think this resolution should be voted down.  It should be noted however, that anything done by resolution can be undone by a resolution so if this did pass and a future council wanted to undo it they could do so.

Bill BL2018-1314  on Second Reading establishes the Blue Ribbon Commission to look for government efficiencies and cost savings. The Commission wold be 15-member. This lays out how they are appointed and their duties. Resolution 1411 above is the confirmation of the five appointed by the mayor.

Bill BL2018-1319  on Second Reading would amend the law regarding Tax Increment Financing.  TIF is a program that provides that property taxes generated in redevelopment areas and authorized by Council do not flow to the General Fund but instead are used to subsidize the development and repay the cost of infrastructure improvements in the area. Much of downtown development does not contribute to the tax revenue of Nashville but flows to MDHA because of this. This bill would impose a formula requiring that a portion of the property tax revenue would flow to the general fund to support schools. This is better than nothing.  However, I think it probably should be deferred to see what the Tax Increment Financing Study and Formulating Committee comes up with.

Bill BL2018-1315 on Third Reading creates a  Tax Increment Financing Study and Formulating Committee. This sits out the composition of the committee and what they are charged with doing. This is a positive development.

To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person or you can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site and you can watch it live on Roku. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel. If can stand the suspense and just wait, I will post the video on this blog the day after or the day after that and provide commentary

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Councilman Robert Swope explains his vote on the Fairground/MLS issue.

by Rod Williams - At the September 4th Council meeting, the council voted to approve several

Robert Swope
pieces of legislation necessary to finalized the MLS deal. This issue had been before the Council for months and pitted soccer fans, city insiders, and elites against advocates of saving the fairgrounds. The part of the deal of most concern to those who support saving the fairground was the giveaway of ten acres of fairground property to the wealthy developers bringing MLS soccer to Nashville. They contented that to make the deal work they had to have the ten acres for mixed-use development.

Of all of the pieces of legislation before the Council to finalized the deal, the one piece of legislation that had the least chance of passing and thereby the best chance of derailing the MLS deal and the ten acre giveaway was  Substitute Bill BL2018-1289. This legislation approved the demolition of certain buildings and structures necessary for the construction of a new Major League Soccer Stadium and the imposing of a privilege tax on the sale of tickets to events at the new Major League Soccer Stadium. The reason this was the best chance to derail the MLS deal was because this bill required 27 votes to pass instead of a simple majority. It passed by a vote of 31 to 8. 

Recently I posted How they voted on the Fairground giveaway and who switched sides.  Included among  those who voted in favor of the MLS deal who had previously been opponents was Councilman Robert Swope. This came as a shock to many.  Robert had been a critic of the deal. On this and other issues, such as the transit issue, Robert Swope had always taken the conservative position and had emerged of one a very few dependable conservative voices in the Council and a Republican leader in Nashville.

I asked Robert to explain his vote which he did graciously and in detail.  I am posting below his explanation in full.
Rod,

As you know, the Fairgrounds Nashville MLS Soccer deal is a highly emotional and complicated issue.  In light of this fact, I have, for months, attempted to not only accommodate soccer in Nashville, but protect the existing Fairgrounds and all the activities that currently reside there.    I do believe that both can exist together, if sane minds prevail.

For the past 20+ years, every mayoral administration has attempted to bulldoze the fairgrounds to make profits off of public land.  This has been an ongoing WAR.  The 1902 land grant, the 1962 Charter of Nashville, and the 2011 referendum have done their best to protect this 117 acres.... but for the last 2 decades, the war has intensified.  With each battle becoming harder to fight.

In my humble opinion, the war needs to end.

How does this happen?  Protect the elephant in the room.  In the 117 acres that is Fairgrounds Nashville, the elephant is the speedway.  One of the oldest tracks in America, producer of more NASCAR drivers than all other tracks in America combined, and a jewel that is currently in desperate need of love and attention.  If you want to "Save The Fairgrounds"... then you need to save the elephant.  Long Term.  Something that no other person or group has managed to do in the last two decades.

When the MLS deal was proposed last October, I fought it tooth and nail.  What was proposed would be the start of the end of the speedway.... and as a consequence, the State Fair and the Flea Market... and ultimately the Fairgrounds itself.  I consider these three things the 3 legged stool that IS the Fairgrounds.  And I have spent months working to save them all.  Months spent on my own dime, my own time, and my own energy.

To make a very long story short (considering I have personally spent over 600 hours working this), Speedway Motor Sports (SMI), the folks who own Bristol and a half dozen other tracks, approached me two months ago.  After numerous meetings and calls, at my request, they wrote a letter to the Mayor and all Councilmembers expressing their interest in a long term contract to manage the Speedway.  This letter fell on totally deaf ears.  This was totally amazing to me.  No-one even had the time to respond.  Except myself.

So.... I began calling, meeting, and emailing the mayor, council members, Tony Formosa, Melissa Smithson, Shane Smiley, John Rose and numerous others attempting to bring everyone to the table to once and for all Save The Fairgrounds.  This was an intensive all out drive to convince the Mayor, and everyone else, that in order to save the three legged stool, we need to save the elephant.  If the speedway were to be contracted on a 30 year deal, then everything else would be saved as well.

There are a hundred other things involved here... .including the needs of the State Fair, the monthly Flea Market vendors, Christmas Village, Hunters Auto show, the Botanical shows, Boat Show, and hundreds more.  All of these were at risk IF the speedway were to fail.  I took my time and energy to speak with most, if not all of them.  Including chairing two Codes Fairgrounds and Farmers Market Committee special meetings in council.

This is a very complex issue....with hundreds of variables, and I wanted to see this from all sides before I acted upon anything.

Please make note:  I was out of the country on business when the council vote occurred last November.  IF I had been in chambers that night, I would have voted no.  Since that time, and until the third reading, and final vote, I have abstained (essentially voting no) from every vote.  I did this because during this entire process I was working my *** off to "Save The Fairgrounds" by bringing SMI to the table, coordinating with the State Fair, the Flea Market vendors, the Save The Fairgrounds coalition, the mayors office, the Fair Board, and others.  Basically bringing a company, and its owners, who are worth far more than the entire Nashville Soccer group combined, to protect the elephant.

Each of these groups agreed with me on several key issues that become the mantra of my personal mission.  They are:

1) The Formosa family shall remain promoting and operating local racing.  (This was agree to by SMI from our first conversation)
2) SMI would receive a 30 year contract to promote NASCAR racing at the speedway.
3) SMI would agree (and they have) to SHARE the expense of rebuilding the speedway with the city.  50-50.  This includes safety upgrades, new seating, new PA, new lighting, a full television/media center, sound barriers, and numerous other upgrades.  No other private entity has EVER offered the city such a deal.
4) The State Fair and the Flea Market vendors would have voting seats on the design board for the new exhibit space (this is being done now)
5) The State Fair would be offered a 30 year deal from the city IF the speedway were secured for the same time period.

All of these things are currently being done.  It will take weeks for these deals to be consummated... but I have personally shaken hands with the mayor and the SMI folks and feel comfortable that these men will honor their promises.

This all comes down to trust.  I am a man that lives up to his word. And I expect, and demand, that others do as well.  My yes vote on the stadium and additional 10 acres of development came at a VERY high price.

My price was the protection of the remaining 100 acres of Fairgrounds Nashville for generations.
My price was the end of a 20+ year war.
My price was saving a 100 year old treasure from any and all further development.
My price was creating a crown jewel where there is now a run down facility for all to enjoy.
My price was never having to spend hundreds of hours of my life again in protecting this treasure we all love in different ways.

My concession was having to agree to the additional 10 acres of land.  This was a pill I HATED to swallow.... but agreed to based on solemn promises made to me by the mayor, SMI and others.  It was the hardest vote I have had to make on this council.

I expect all of these agreed to promises to be consummated within the coming weeks.  SMI has been in town three times and has taken meetings with all the parties relating to the "three legged stool".  So far, everyone seems to be in agreement.  They will be back in town within a week and written agreements are forthcoming as I write this to you.  I TRUST that men who have agreed in principle will honor their words moving forward.

Again... this is about trust.  Something this city desperately needs to regain.  I hope I have played a part in rebuilding that trust, for the betterment of all, the protection of the Fairgrounds property, and in building a facility that we are all proud of....... and not simply been played.  Time will tell.  It always does.

All the Best,

Robert

Robert Swope
Metro Councilman - District 4
Nashville, Tennessee

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I will not wear or buy Niki

by Rod Williams - I will not be buying Niki shoes since Colin Kaepernick is now their spokesman. Not that my not buying Niki will have an economic impact on the company.  My "boycott" of Niki will be less than negligible.  I just don't buy that many sneakers. I will not buy or wear Niki not to cause financial harm to Niki but as a matter of conscience.

After this announcement by Nike, I went to my closet to see if I had any Niki's I needed to trash. I don't have any athletic shoe brand loyalty and did not even know what brand I was wearing. Thankfully, my shoes are not Niki, because I am frugal and hate to waste, and I would have hated to throw them out before they were worn out but I would have.  I have two pair of tennis shoes, one pair is a Reebok and the other is Dr. Scholls. I had one pair of Nike socks which I will trash and they are almost new.

I am not big on boycotts.  There is too much other stuff to be informed about to try to remember who I am supposed to boycott. Life is complex enough without evaluating companies and products based on the causes they support, the political opinions of the company owners or to

whom they give discounts.  I will never join AARP, but I am not going to boycott companies that give AARP members a discount. Life it too short to complicate it like that.

Following the Parkland school shooting, there was a push by gun control advocates to pressure companies to drop their NRA association and some did.  The "NRA association" did not amount to much really. Usually the "association" meant that NRA members got an insignificant discount if they presented their NRA membership card at the time of purchase.  I don't remember if it was Delta Airlines or some other company, but one major company in a year's time had only awarded four NRA discounts. The reason is that usually only one discount can apply at a time and if you purchase through another party, such as Travelocity, you don't get any other discount. I bet most NRA members even think to present their NRA membership card and ask for a discount.

In response to companies dropping their NRA discount, some conservatives mounted a boycott of companies like Delta airlines that had disassociated themselves from the NRA.  I recently took a trip to Montreal, Canada and flew on Delta simply because it was the best and most convenient option. The supposed boycott of Delta did not enter into my calculation. 

Due to their bathroom policy some people boycott Target and lots of people boycott Starbucks but I forget the reason why. I don't do Starbucks, not because I am boycotting them, but because I think they are overpriced and there is other coffee just as good.

So, my point is that I am not big on boycotts. However, Niki is different. By choosing Colin Kaepernick they have chose the person who started a movement to disrespect the flag. I do think people ought to have the right to disrespect the flag.  I even think they should have a right to burn the flag if it is their own flag.  The first amendment should extend to symbolic speech and flag burning is symbolic speech.  The flag itself is not a sacred icon but a a symbol and while I find burning it or disrespecting it offensive, free speech means sometimes people may do or say something that offends you. That doesn't mean that you have to respect them or associate with them.

Niki has taken sides and proudly aligned itself with those who disrespect the flag. The logic of the move to show disrespect for the flag is that it somehow protest alleged police brutality. "Taking a knee," is to support the Black Lives Matter movement. I get it. However, to chose this kind of protest to make your point is so very offensive to me.  I am a patriot. I love my country and I pledge allegiance to the flag and and to the republic for which it stands. I take showing respect for the flag seriously. I sill can get goosebumps at patriotic displays.

Niki may know their customers. Maybe this won't hurt them at all.  I assume among many Blacks this will make Niki more popular.  I perceive that many millennials and many other liberals, are slightly embarrassed by patriotic displays and find patriotism not much more than tribalism. They may view themselves as citizens of the world rather than America and see attachment to country as an embarrassing relic of a previous era of jingoism and irrational romanticism.  They probably applaud Niki.

As for me, I cannot respect someone or a company who disrespects the flag. If there was a rally to publicly burn your Niki's, I would attend and throw my Niki socks in the fire.  I would feel good doing so.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

MLS, Nashville ownership discussed 'plan B' if stadium location and fairground giveaway was rejected.

During the MLS debate  the plan which placed the stadium at the fairgrounds and included a ten acres fairground giveaway to the wealth developers, we the public and members of the council were told if the plan did not go through then the MLS coming to Nashville was dead. It was the fairground giveaway deal or no deal. Well, there was a plan B all along.

Garber: MLS, Nashville ownership discussed 'plan B' if stadium was rejected

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

How they voted on the Fairground giveaway and who switched sides.

As everyone who cares knows already, at the last council meeting legislation was passed that approved the building of the MLS stadium and the giveaway of ten acres of fairground property to the developer. This action required the passage of several pieces of legislation.  The most crucial of the votes was the vote on  Substitute Bill BL2018-1289 which approved the demolition of certain buildings and structures necessary for the construction of a new Major League Soccer Stadium and the imposing of a privilege tax on the sale of tickets to events at the new Major League Soccer Stadium.

The reason this was the most crucial vote is because the vote on this bill was the best chance opponents of the fairground giveaway had to stop it from happening. Both provisions in this bill, the demolition and the privilege tax, required 27 positive votes to be approved.  All of the other pieces of legislation only required a simple majority.  On second reading the bill failed to get 27 votes. On second reading only 24 voted in favor, seven voted against, eight abstained, and one member did not vote.  Since the bill required 27 votes to pass on final reading an abstention or not voting was as good as a "no" vote.

Unfortunately, between second reading and final reading some council members had their arms twisted, were somehow bought off, or were persuaded in their own mind by the preponderance of the arguments that the MLS stadium and fairground giveaway was a good deal.  The final vote was 31 in favor and eight "no" votes and no abstaining votes and no one not voting.

Below is a list of those who voted "yes" in favor of the bill and third and final reading.  I have highlighted in red those who were "No" votes, "abstain" votes or not voting when the bill was on second reading. In other words, these are the people who switched sides.

 Yes (31): Allen, Gilmore, Mendes, Hurt, Shulman, Hastings, Robert Swope, Scott Davis, Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Pridemore, Rhoten, Syracuse, Freeman, Sledge, O'Connell, Roberts, Kindall, Weiner, Mina Johnson, Murphy, Pulley, Elrod, Blalock, Vercher, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Lee, and Rosenberg.


Hall and Haywood were "yes" votes on second reading who switched to  "No." They switch from being in favor of the fairground giveaway to opposing it. Robert Swope is the most surprising of all of those who switched side from a vote against the giveaway by voting "abstain" on second reading to a "yes"  on third reading. I have asked him to explain his vote. When I get a reply, I will post it.

Here is who voted "no" on third reading, the vote that really mattered on the only bill that had a chance of stopping the fairground giveaway.  No (8): John Cooper, Johnathan Hall, Brenda Haywood, Doug Pardue, Larry Hagar, Steve Glover,Holly  Huezo, and Angie Henderson. These brave soles who voted "no" need a thank you.  For their contact information, click on their name below the picture. For contact information of other council members, follow this link. Also, if you are unsure of which district you live in, follow this link and look to the top right of the page for the "Council District Lookup" tool.

John Cooper
At-large
Brenda Haywood
District 3
Jonathan Hall
District 1


Doug Pardue
District 10
 

Larry Hagar
District 11
Steve Glover
District 12


Holly Huezo
District 13















Angie Henderson
District 34


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Bill Lee Super Saturday, Saturday September 15th.


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Southeast Nashville Conservatives Breakfast Meeting Saturday, Sept. 15th


Breakfast 8-9am, Meeting Called to Order at 9am
Shoney's, 407 Thompson Lane, Nashville
On the agenda are:
  • 917 Society
  • Americans for Prosperity
  • Evann Freeman - Marsha Blackburn's Campaign
  • David Birdsong - Campaign

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Leadership Institute campaign workshop coming to Cool Springs, October 6th.

I have taken the class and highly recommend it. For more information follow this link.

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Tax Cuts Work bus tour to be in Franklin at the Factory Sept. 19th


For more info and registration follow this link.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

United Way chapters in Nashville and Williamson County give financial support to Planned Parenthood

From 2nd Vote - United Way is the world’s largest privately funded non-profit organization and raises over $5 billion every year. Across the United States, a coalition of 1,129 United Way chapters partner with businesses, civic organizations, educational institutions, healthcare providers and more with many decisions made on the local level. United Way claims neutrality on the Life issue, but many chapters have financially supported Planned Parenthood programs. According to United Way’s own admission, an estimated 5-6% of local chapters have financial ties.

In 2015, 2nd Vote created the Pro-Life Guide to United Way to provide conservatives with a free resource that shows which chapters do contribute to Planned Parenthood.  The latest update with the most recent publicly available financial documents show 62 United Way affiliates donating to the abortionist. Our research team updates the information each year and has linked the supporting documentation.

Recently, United Way updated a position statement dismissing affiliate support for Planned Parenthood as “only a small number.” Well, if a Planned Parenthood abortion costs up to $950, the $2.7 million funneled through United Way would pay for at least 2,901 procedures in a single year. Does that sound like “only a small number” to you?

#

Rod's Comment: While the vast majority of United Way chapters do not support Planned Parenthood, the Nashville chapter, called the United Way of Middle Tennessee, and the Williamson County United Way do. The information is not current for the most recent year. Unless I have information showing that the Nashville chapter has stopped funding Planned Parenthood, I will be withholding support for United Way. To see which chapters of UW contribute to Planned Parenthood, follow this link.

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Phil Bredesen has supported higher taxes and is out of touch.

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Small Business Optimism Shatters Record Set 35 Years Ago

NFIB press release, NASHVILLE, Sept. 11, 2018 — The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index soared to 108.8 in August, a new record in the survey’s 45-year history, topping the July 1983 highwater mark of 108. The record-breaking figure is driven by small business owners executing on the plans they’ve put in place due to dramatic changes in the nation’s economic policy.

The August survey showed:
  • Job creation plans and unfilled job openings both set new records.
  • The percentage of small business owners saying it is a good time to expand tied the May 2018 all-time high.
  • Inventory investment plans were the strongest since 2005 and capital spending plans the highest since 2007.

“Today’s groundbreaking numbers are demonstrative of what I’m hearing every day from small business owners – that business is booming. As the tax and regulatory landscape changed, so did small business expectations and plans,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “We’re now seeing the tangible results of those plans as small businesses report historically high, if not rerecord-breaking levels of increased sales, investment, earnings, and hiring.”
State-specific data is unavailable, but NFIB State Director Jim Brown said, “When small-business owners feel good about the direction of the economy, they are more likely to invest in new equipment and new employees.”

A net 10 percent of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months compared to the prior three months, up two points. August is the ninth consecutive strong month of reported sales gains after years of low or negative numbers. The net percent of owners planning to build inventories rose six points to a record net 10 percent, the 14th positive reading in the past 22 months. The frequency of reports of positive profit trends rose two points to a net one percent reporting quarter on quarter profit improvements, the second highest reading in the survey’s 45-year history. 

“At the beginning of this historic run, Index gains were dominated by expectations: good time to expand, expected real sales, inventory satisfaction, expected credit conditions, and expected business conditions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Now the Index is dominated by real business activity that makes GDP grow: job creation plans, job openings, strong capital spending plans, record inventory investment plans, and earnings. Small business is clearly helping to drive that four percent growth in the domestic economy.”

As reported in last week’s NFIB’s monthly jobs report, a seasonally-adjusted net 26 percent of owners plan to create new jobs and 38 percent of owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, both survey highs. Sixty-two percent of owners reported trying to hire, with 89 percent of those owners reporting few or no qualified applications for their open positions. A record 25 percent of owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem, up two points from last month.

The report concludes, “As a leading indicator of economic activity, the Index turned up sharply late in November 2016 and headed to readings in the top 5 percent of the Index history in December, never looking back. Three months later, economic activity soared, rising from 1.5 percent GDP growth to over 3 percent. Profits are driving the stock indices for ‘small’ firms to record levels, mirroring the record levels of profit gains for NFIB firms.”

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