As the nation has continued to debate raising minimum wage, Kip Lewis, the president and owner of Lewis Investments in Round Rock, Texas, decided to act. He raised the minimum wage to $15 for all full-time employees of his real estate and development company. Lewis Investments is among the first Austin-area businesses to increase minimum wage for entry-level workers.
Lewis said, “The pandemic brought about recognition of paying a living wage of $15 per hour to all employees in the company. Often the employees physically working the hardest in companies are paid the lowest wage. As a company, we all decided it was in the best interest of the entire team to support all employees and provide not only financial support, but give the respect to those employees who work so hard and are so deserving.”
About Kip Lewis and Lewis Investments
Kip Lewis graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and has studied abroad. In 1992, at just 27 years old, he started Lewis Investments with only $2,000. Lewis has served as a board member of the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Board of Directors of The Serving Center in Round Rock, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting individuals in need.
Today, Lewis Investments is a full-service real estate investment company with residential and commercial properties throughout Texas. These properties include RV parks, mobile home (MH) parks, office, industrial, retail, and raw land. Properties are developed with the highest construction standards and held for long-term investment. Lewis is passionate about the restoration of historic Round Rock and has purchased and remodeled 45,000 square feet of buildings in Round Rock to help develop a beautiful and thriving historic downtown.
Lewis Investments has expanded to 30 employees and is known for having a core value of giving back to the surrounding community. In particular, its mission is to provide resources that work toward finding a solution for homelessness in central Texas. The company is actively involved with civic and charitable organizations such as the Central Texas Food Bank; The Christi Center, a nonprofit providing grief support; and Too Found, a nonprofit that offers low barrier work opportunities and humanitarian aid to people experiencing homelessness in Austin.
Minimum Wage in Austin
Although U.S. News has ranked Austin, Texas the best place to live in the United States, this isn’t the case for all Austin residents. Austin also holds the No. 1 spot on a list of the least livable cities for minimum wage earners. Ranking criteria was based on minimum wage and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
In Austin, minimum wage is $7.25, equal to the federal minimum. This number has remained stagnant since 2009, despite the fact that twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. have raised their minimum wage since 2009.
Meanwhile, a one-bedroom apartment in Austin costs an average of $1,177 monthly. A minimum wage earner would need to work 37 hours per week to pay for a small apartment. Of course, this doesn’t consider additional expenses, including utilities, insurance, groceries, transportation, and childcare.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) living wage calculator indicates that the living wage for an adult in Austin is $13.01 per hour, nearly double the current minimum wage. A living wage is defined as a wage sufficient for a worker to adequately support themselves and their family.
As the cost of living in Austin continues to rise, minimum wage remains the same, making life difficult for entry level workers and their families. Kip Lewis recognized this disparity and felt it was important to improve quality of life for all of his employees.
Why Raise Minimum Wage?
Efforts to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 have failed to pass in the Senate, despite the fact that most Americans support the hike, according to Reuters. 59% of poll respondents said they supported the idea, while 34% opposed it.
Some states have taken matters into their own hands by raising minimum wage at the state level. And in states like Texas, where the minimum wage remains $7.25, employers like Kip Lewis have raised the minimum wage for their own employees.
Of course, a major reason to raise the minimum wage is to raise the standard of living for minimum wage workers. Minimum wage has not kept up with cost of living increases, causing hardship for entry level employees. However, the benefits of raising minimum wage expand beyond the individual level. It could mean less need for government aid, as well as a boost to economic growth due to increased consumer spending.
A higher standard of living for employees also generally translates to better employee morale. Workers who live in poverty often feel unmotivated to put maximum effort into their job duties, since these efforts do not provide a sufficient living wage. Improved employee morale leads to increased productivity, higher levels of employee retention, and lower hiring and training costs. It can also result in a more positive working environment and better work relationships.
Lewis Investments president Kip Lewis agrees, explaining that he believes the company becomes stronger as a whole when all employees are able to earn a minimum wage that improves quality of life for themselves and their families. “As the leader of the company, I personally do not believe it’s a sacrifice. I believe this will unite our company and we will all prosper together as we support each other with respect and decency.”
Final Thoughts: Kip Lewis of Lewis Investments Raises Minimum Wage
Lewis Investments is one of the first businesses in the Austin area to raise the minimum wage to $15, but president and owner Kip Lewis hopes others will follow suit. Increasing expenses in Austin necessitate higher wages for entry level workers, who Lewis notes are often physically working the hardest within their companies.
These workers deserve respect, decency, and the financial support necessary to improve quality of life for themselves and their families, Lewis noted. When an individual worker thrives, the entire company is stronger and more united as a result. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted both the invaluable contribution of minimum wage workers and the need to better support these employees.
Although raising the minimum wage remains stalled at the federal level, business owners like Kip Lewis can choose to positively impact the lives of their own employees and their families.