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‘Popcorn for the People’ employees the autistic community in NJ

Popcorn for the People is a great New Jersey small business run by Dr. Stephen Bier. I had a fantastic opportunity to tour the facility and see how the popcorn is popped, flavored and packaged in Piscataway.

Stephen and his son, Sam, and colleague, Karen, were terrific hosts. Companies like this are critical in the community as the disabled community has an unemployment rate of 82%. For many with autism, adulthood brings about tremendous financial burdens and struggles with family, friends, and government agencies.

When adults with autism find full-time work, the independence and reward for a job well done, help turn what could be a negative situation into a tremendously positive one.

Thanks to companies like Popcorn for the People, developmentally disabled and autistic adults have a place to achieve independence and success and become productive members of the small business economy —not to mention contributing to the tax revenue of the state instead of taking from it.

It's a process that should be encouraged by tax incentives for the businesses participating. The legislature, always slow to act, is too focused on bills that would spend more taxpayer money when a simple elimination of the sales tax on the product would put significant money back into the company to be reinvested.

In the case of Popcorn for the People, Dr. Bier shared that they produce approximately $2 million in annual sales paying more than $120,000 to the state in sales taxes.

What we need is for the state to eliminate the sales tax for businesses that employ a certain percentage of developmentally disabled people. In the case of the popcorn company, a simple tweak to the exemptions, making flavored popcorn exempt instead of taxable would potentially put more than 100k back into the company.

And unlike the big corporate elites who get rich on the backs of taxpayers and consumers, no one is getting wealthy in this business. The money would be spent on adding additional delivery vans and an automatic bag filler.

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