Tuesday, April 16, it was business as usual at Gemini Athletic Wear in Edina, a day after entrepreneur and owner Chris Bonvino joined with a handful of other small business owners to participate in a tax cut roundtable on Tax Day with President Donald Trump. The gathering was held at Nuss Trucking in Burnsville. Small business owners from around the country were invited to give feedback to the President and several Cabinet members about the Trump Administration’s tax reform, particularly relating how lowering taxes has affected their businesses.
After opening comments on the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the President began, saying, “A lot of progress has been made by our country in the last two-and-a-half years,” evoking thunderous applause from the audience. “We’re getting tremendous relief, “Mr. Trump said. The focus then moved to the roundtable guests. Bonvino drew applause when he introduced his company as one of the largest hockey athletic wear manufacturers in the country.
“I started the business at 25 in my apartment. We’ve grown significantly, since.” When the tax cuts were announced, he asked his tax accountants to interpret how the cuts would affect his business: it was good news.
“We’re going to have quite a bit of money left over – it was substantial for us. Those crumbs they pejoratively talked about really were not crumbs to us. Because of the tax break, (my operations manager) is going to buy his first home,” Bonvino said, referring to Ross Cooney, seated next to him.
Cooney, 32, who has been with Gemini for six years, told the audience the tax cuts have yielded bigger paychecks and bonuses for company employees. And of his home purchase, “We’re going to be living the American Dream soon.”
In his office on the day after the roundtable, Bonovino was still feeling elated.
“It was exciting, it was a very humbling experience… a guy like me, a very average person with an average business, would be sitting next to (United States Secretary of the Treasury) Steve Mnuchin, and actually being asked questions and being able to converse with the President of the United States of America – only in America could that happen.
“We have more money, and contrary to (what some believe) with the corporations, we don’t just put the money in our pocket. We invest the money to grow our businesses. We bought two significant pieces of equipment that were very expensive. We would have bought one of them, likely, but probably not the other one. We had this money, we want to grow. We’re looking to hire two additional W-2 employees.”
Gemini currently has 11 employees and hires numerous specialized contractors as business demands.
“We’re hoping the tax cuts stay. We gave record bonuses this year and it’s a good feeling. We have essentially a family here. We’re a small business, but we take care of one another. ”
Bonvino said, “This tax cut has been really good for (his employees). Not only in ways that they could see immediately with their checks being heavier, but in terms of our profit-sharing, which is predicated on our bottom line.
“If we save more money on taxes, then we have more money for equipment purchases or raises or bonuses.”
He doesn’t like the fact that public perceptions lump small businesses in with some opportunist large enterprises.
“The biggest problem I have is how corporations – even sub-S’s and LLC corporations that are small, like mine, are looked at and vilified as these greedy corporations that don’t care about people. We’re all people – our corporation is people. We don’t stick (the lion’s share of profits) in our pockets, we reinvest in our business. Do we make a little bit more for taking a risk? Yes, otherwise people wouldn’t take risks. That doesn’t mean that we’re greedy… most of the small businesses I know are not that way.”
This isn’t even political for me. A president who doesn’t look down his nose at people like me … I have a B.A.(degree), not an MBA, I don’t have a trust fund, I work, surround myself with people who have like values, who are fastidious about quality and our product. We enjoy what we do. This is enough for me, I love this. It makes me happy.”
His network of friends and family, a lively bunch, are having fun with Bonvino over his newfound celebrity. One buddy dummied up the photo of the roundtable participants, adding phony tagged names of public figures, purposely misidentify some of the participants. The doctored photo shows that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the Unabomber were present at the roundtable. They were not.
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