AUBURN — Low wages are something I’ve never been comfortable accepting. Nor was my dad.

When I took over the family business in the 1970s, the phrase “income inequality” wasn’t a concept that the times required. Back then, I simply wanted to continue to run our business in a manner that encouraged good people to join us, stay with us, grow with us and have a decent life.

We’re happy to pay non-managerial people $15 an hour on average, but it is not our minimum. We also have many incentives that encourage learning and reward effort, so $15 is not a normal base wage for us. If it were, we would have to remove our training and other incentives. We also provide a good health care program and a 401(k) that provides a 100 percent match on the first 5 percent contribution.

Good business policy is almost always good for the community. Pay people fairly, treat customers well, offer a superior product for a fair price, be kind to the environment – that all contributes to a strong local economy.

I have written opeds in the Portland Press Herald, the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Bangor Daily News about income inequality.

I have spoken in favor of raising the minimum wage to the Portland City Council and the Bangor City Council, and I am one of four Maine People’s Alliance sponsors of a statewide initiative to raise the minimum wage. The pope is right: We must attack income inequality.

Now the Green Party of Portland has put a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot in Portland to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

I’d love to see this happen on a global basis, or move discreetly in that direction on a national basis, but if Portland goes it alone on this, a company employing 10 people at $7.50 an hour would become a company employing perhaps six people at $15 an hour.

Some processors would relocate to Windham, or Saco, or Lewiston, and few, if any, new jobs would come to Portland for the people who need them. It would hurt Portland and Portland people badly. In short, this is a job killer.

Many business leaders in Portland heartily approved of the City Council’s recent decision to raise Portland’s overall minimum wage to $10.10 starting on Jan. 1, 2016, as did I. The wage goes up again a year later to $10.68, and in the following years, any raise in the minimum wage will be commensurate with the consumer price index.

This approach brings a meaningful increase in wages for workers, while allowing local businesses and nonprofits time to make incremental adjustments in order to meet those wages. It will give Portland the seventh highest minimum wage in the nation.

We can’t ask small businesses – which are the majority of businesses in Portland – to immediately add tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to their labor costs and expect them to be able to absorb it without consequences.

If we abruptly raise the minimum wage to $15, employers would be forced to cut hours, cut benefits, cut staff, raise prices or perhaps all of these. Some may even be forced to close altogether, which would be a heartbreaking loss.

When hours are cut, employees are laid off or when businesses close, no one’s benefiting from a higher minimum wage. On the contrary, every aspect of doing business in Portland would be more expensive. Prices everywhere would rise.

And while only Portland voters will decide this question, it affects more than Portland. Business owners based in other communities, but who perform work in Portland, will be subject to the $15 minimum wage.

Nonprofits based in Portland would be hit extremely hard. When they start cutting staff and services, then the poorest among us would pay the price for this increase. There would be more unemployment and more poverty, which is certainly not what Portland needs.

I’ve been in business more than 50 years. I’ve been a strong advocate for fair wages and benefits for just as long. A $15 minimum wage would seriously harm Portland’s economy. It would be extremely unfortunate to have Portland bite off more than it can chew. Please vote “no” on Question 1 on the Portland ballot.