Salzberg wants to make small businesses sweet on Illinois again
Benjamin Salzberg has a mission for Illinois: Make it sweet.
Salzberg, a Republican Lean Six Sigma business consultant, is holding an upcoming event for his campaign for the District 29 State Senate seat, and he wants voters to think outside the box.
“I’m going to be having an event on Aug. 23 at Sweet Pete’s from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.,” Salzberg recently said. “I chose this place specifically because it was brought to Illinois as a turnaround by Marcus Lemonis (from the reality TV series The Profit). Lemonis owns Sweet Pete’s, and it is one of the largest confectionary companies in the country. He brought it here to Illinois. This represents what we need to do in Illinois: Think outside of the box, to help businesses out, and bring them back here so they can thrive.”
Salzberg views Sweet Pete’s as a kind of baseline company that represents turnaround and change, a concept he believes Illinois needs. Salzberg's goals, if elected, are to create policies that will help people find work in Illinois, bring them together and help them make a life in the state. Salzberg wants to make Illinois enticing again, which is why his theme is, “Let’s stand together and make Illinois sweet.”
So far, many residents are not getting a sweet deal living in Illinois. Besides the uncertainty of living in a state without a proper budget, many residents were fined due to a license-plate renewal measure to save money.
Secretary of State Jesse White and his office suspended mailing out notices for license-plate renewals in October 2015 to save money. By suspending regular mail reminders, however, hundreds of thousands of motorists were fined because they were unaware that their plates had expired.
“Because he stopped mailing out license-plate renewals, the state of Illinois had about 476,000 residents receiving $20 fines,” Salzberg said. “Because of that, Illinois received $5.24 million in late fees.”
While White's office eventually resumed mailing renewals, Salzberg said the change was a big problem for residents who are not computer-literate and said they are being penalized for it.
“They (the state) are penalizing these particular people and singling them out of the population of Illinois,” Salzberg said. “Instead of making Illinois work, they are taking advantage of people that don’t have the ability or the skill level or the knowledge of how to do stuff…and they are proud of that.”
Salzberg found no pride in what the state did with the license-plate debacle.
“To me, that’s not something to be proud of,” Salzberg said. “That’s really a problematic situation that needs to be resolved. To me, it’s pretty heartbreaking to see that the state is making money off the elderly and people that are computer illiterate. That’s disgraceful.”
Salzberg said he has seen further heartbreak on the campaign trail, speaking to many constituents who are worried about their livelihoods and future.
“One person lost her house,” Salzberg said. “She lost her house because of the high property taxes. She couldn’t pay it. Another gentleman couldn’t find work for the last year and a half because he was laid off from Motorola. He cannot find a job. He doesn’t know what to do with his house and family.”
These are the problems and themes Salzberg has encountered: People are lost. They want to move out.
“That’s the theme that people are telling me,” Salzberg said. “People are crying, and they don’t know what to do.”
Salzberg, who holds a mechanical engineering degree, said it is people like him who can bring the change that is needed and that change has to happen in the culture of the capital.
“This is a very serious situation that really needs help from people like me who understand change and understand what needs to be done,” Salzberg said. “We need to change the culture in the Senate and the culture in the House. We need that shift. Without that shift, we cannot get a working House or Senate that will be able to work for the people.”
Salzberg again refers back to the success of Sweet Pete’s and how its turnaround should be a guide for the state.
“By creating that baseline like Sweet Pete’s and understanding what it means to turn around a company from a very small operation to a very large and profitable one, that’s what we need in Illinois,” Salzberg said, “We need the state to exist, be self-sustained and to work for its people. That’s what we need.”
Salzberg said Illinois doesn’t have to take advantage of the elderly or others to create a family-friendly state, entice businesses to return, reduce inefficiencies and make everything work better. The state just needs the right reforms.
“We need fiscal reforms to areas which were just throwing money away,” Salzberg said. “We can’t do that. We can’t afford to just throw money away. We have to take care of our people. Right now, (this) is not the way to take care of people. You don’t take care of people by fining them and penalizing them when they are just trying to get through life. That is not a way to create a prosperous environment.”
Salzberg said that to create a prosperous state, Illinois needs to create better policies for entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive and grow. This, in turn, will allow people to work, support their families and send their kids to school. Education is close to Salzberg, who holds a master of arts in teaching and is a state-certified teacher. Salzberg sees the problems the state has and hopes, come November, he gets the opportunity to fix them.
“There is a huge crack in our foundation here in Illinois, and we have to catch it immediately,” Salzberg said. “We need to be together as one. We need to hold hands and stand together. That’s why my theme is, ‘Let’s stand together in Illinois and make it sweet.’ We need to make it sweeter because people don’t view Illinois as sweet. They don’t view Illinois as what they want. They want to leave.”