There are few more-prized constituencies in American politics than small businesses, those emblems and underdogs of Main Street U.S.A. that are, as any seasoned officeholder will describe, “the backbone” of the nation’s economy.
And for Republicans trying to sell the public on the job-creating potential of a once-in-a-generation tax overhaul, there may be no handier example than Neutral Posture, the furniture company Rebecca Boenigk runs with her mother, Jaye Congleton, in Bryan, Texas. They launched the business in their garage on January 1, 1989, manufacturing and selling ergonomic chairs designed by Boenigk’s father, an engineer at Texas A&M. Twenty-eight years later, Neutral Posture is not so small anymore: What began as exclusively a chair company now produces entire office suites, right down to the cubicles. Boenigk, the 53-year-old CEO, employs 82 people in Texas, along with some 60 contractors in other U.S. states, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Two years ago, Boenigk bought a new product line from Knoll, a prominent furniture-design firm, moving 43 truckloads of equipment 1,200 miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to company headquarters in Bryan. The multimillion-dollar acquisition resulted in 10 new salaried employees. And Boenigk is ready to expand again: Neutral Posture needs a new building for its centerpiece chair division. “Things are really starting to pick up and grow for us,” she told me by phone this week. “Right now we’re really working time-and-a-half, because we’ve got so many orders that we can’t get them all out in an eight-hour day. She added, “We need more space, and we need more people.”