Lynchburg Leaders React to Minimum Wage Hike Proposed by Obama

Lynchburg, VA - The President's call in the State of the Union Address for Congress to raise the minimum wage has people talking Wednesday. Right now, the federal minimum wage sits at $7.25 an hour, and the president wants to hike it to $9.

Wednesday, at that manufacturing plant in North Carolina, President Obama also talked with workers there about this proposed minimum wage hike, but folks around here have some reservations.

"Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour," said President Obama during the State of the Union.

Many business owners are not cheering.

"It would be a difficult climate to do it in," said Kent Wood, owner of Big Lick Tropical Grill in Lynchburg.

Only a handful of Wood's staff earns minimum wage. His real concern is if a minimum wage hike gets tied to the server wage. That would mean a pay raise for nearly three-quarters of his staff, and he says that's a side of trouble for the restaurant and the customer.

"Like a lot of businesses, we've been absorbing a lot of costs that have been rising on us, and eventually we'll have to pass that along to the consumer. I think ultimately it ends up in higher prices for the consumer," said Wood.

The Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce calls government intervention a new day for business.

"Certainly, small businesses and businesses in this community are going to have to think differently and do business differently," said Christine Kennedy, Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Less than 24 hours after the State of the Union, GOP leadership gave the minimum wage hike a failing grade.

"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it," said Speaker John Boehner.

Supporters of a minimum wage increase have some facts on their side too. They point out the minimum wage would be $ 10.58 if it had kept up with inflation over the last 40 years. And the annual income for someone working a 40-hour week at the current minimum wage is just $15,000 a year.

The Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce posted a web poll on their website about the minimum wage hike. Small businesses are encouraged to go take it.