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Opportunity Cost by Philip Stalnaker

Opportunity Cost. It was a lesson I learned quite a few times sitting on the knee of my father, a budget specialist in the military. He would pull me up, bring me to his eye level and help me learn to process the debate going on about whether or not a desired purchase was going to be made. I would work hard to lay out my reasoning for and the family’s benefit of me getting to buy whatever action figure I was holding in my hands at the time. He always brought it back to those two words: Opportunity Cost. Sure, we could buy the toy, but what would we have to go without?

The lesson would continue, sometimes surpassing the attention I held on the toy in question. But what spoke loudest was not the ability of my father to go on and on and all things financial, but about the actions that always followed up his words. Despite him having a sweet tooth of legendary proportions and happily picking up a candy bar or a soda (ALWAYS a Coke) while stopping as a gas station, I learned quickly, even as a young kid, that if I wanted something, dad would go without. If I grabbed for a candy bar, I knew his approval by him putting down his.

Say Goodbye to Order Takers

There are only so many dollars to go around.

“Would you like fries with that?” may soon be a phrase of the past.

As minimum wage levels approach or surpass $15 nationwide, restaurant customers expecting to be greeted by a smiling face will instead be welcomed by a glowing LED screen.

As of 2020, self-service ordering kiosks will be implemented at all U.S. McDonald’s locations. Other chains, including fast-casual brands like Panera and casual-dining brands like Chili’s, have already embraced this trend. Some restaurant concepts have even automated the food-preparation process; earlier this year, NBC News profiled “Flippy,” a robot hamburger flipper. Other upcoming concepts include virtual restaurants which eliminate the need for full-service restaurants (and staff) by only offering home delivery.

While some consumers may appreciate the novelty or added convenience, the conveniences come at the cost of entry-level jobs.

Despite denials from McDonald’s public relations department, dollars that were directed to labor prices are now being invested in order kiosks and hamburger flippers (Forbes). When dollars are forced to go to one area (even a good area such as wages), it has to come from somewhere else. The common sacrifice is the number of hours a low-wage employee can work.

Overtime May be a Thing of the Past

“In 2017, a group of economists from the University of Washington concluded that Seattle’s law had cost the city thousands of jobs. It also led businesses to pare back hours for their employees, and as a result, the researchers reported that the average low-wage worker earned $125 less per month than if the ordinance had never passed. While an updated version of their paper later lowered that estimate to a loss of $74 per month, it appeared that the ordinance had backfired” (Slate).

The article from Slate goes on to make the argument that as more data continued to come in, it showed the minimum wage law to be a net benefit to low-wage works, as long as they already had a job. If they didn’t; well, that was a different story. The article finishes with the statement that the Seattle law (a good experiment for the rest of the country to learn from) was less risky than originally thought. “Between their two papers, the University of Washington economists arrive at the following conclusion: “Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance appears to have delivered higher pay to experienced workers at the cost of reduced opportunity for the inexperienced” (Slate).

New York is feeling the negative effects as well. “What it really forces you to do is make sure that nobody works more than 40 hours,” Ms. Koteen (owner of Lido Restaurant in Harlem) said. “You can only cut back so many people before the service starts to suffer.” Ms. Koteen said she shelved plans to move her restaurant to a larger location. That would require her to hire more staff, and she isn’t willing to take the risk with the unpredictability of her business. “You would just have no choice but to cut people at the bottom,” she said’ (Wall Street Journal).

Coming Together for a Better Solution

This is all about Opportunity Cost. All sides of the political aisle are unified in a desire and willingness to work towards everyone having a living, workable wage. The question is how. If money needs to go to higher wages, where can that cash come from? Raising prices? How much are you willing to pay in a free market for a pizza night out? Eventually, whether it is $20 for a pizza, or $40, or more – the public will stop going out and make one at home. There is certainly no clean answer for where that money can come from to cover those wages, but there are steps that can be taken together.

At the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, there are multiple ways the Chamber is working towards that goal, but from some different angles. The Chamber “recognizes the challenge of earning a living wage. We believe compensation should be based on what the local market will bear. Therefore, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce does not support government mandated minimum wage increases” (Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce).

Greater Fort Myers Chamber Development Opportunities

Aside from hosting an event in November of 2019 to educate the members on these aspects of the potential minimum wage hike in Florida, the Chamber is working hard through multiple targeted approaches to help low wage earners’ upward mobility in the workforce. Some of our efforts are included below.

FutureMakers Coalition

“The FutureMakers Coalition aims to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications and other high-quality credentials to 55%. FutureMakers is a collective impact initiative working along the cradle-to-career pathway to create a skilled and sustainable workforce pipeline. The pathway begins with early childhood learning and ends with post-high school credential attainment and career connections. The coalition focuses on systems change to connect untapped workforce with the education and training to fill in-demand jobs by removing attainment barriers and creating a culture of career exploration and aspiration from an early age” (FutureMakers).

Fort Myers Leadership Program

The mission of the Leadership Program “is to assure leadership development in the Chamber’s business members by encouraging their community involvement, broadening their knowledge and heightening their leadership skills through participation in eleven weeks of structured, interactive programs and activities emphasizing local economic, education, government and volunteerism issues” (Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce).

Through a 4 month long, heavily directed program, class participants are introduced to civic leaders, movers and shakers, and successful entrepreneurs who can provide them with the training, skills and opportunities necessary to grow into success in their own right.

Stop Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Opportunity Cost. There were many times I ended up with the toy I wanted. There were many times I didn’t. What I ultimately learned that, just as Antoine Lavoisier said in regards to matter; “it cannot be created or destroyed”. Money can be wasted or earned, but if a dollar goes into one pot, it cannot go into another. What can be created are opportunities. Whether it is a chance to rub shoulders with a successful leader, be mentored by a more experienced professional, or develop skills that strengthen a resume, working together to develop opportunities for all is something that can be done without robbing Peter.