Small Businesses Take DC

John Arensmeyer

As we move beyond the recession, it becomes increasingly apparent that our smallest businesses are the ones putting America back to work. These hardworking entrepreneurs deserve a chance to tell legislators in Washington what kinds of policies are going to help them grow and flourish. And that’s exactly what they got this week, when Small Business Majority flew 14 entrepreneurs from 11 states out to D.C. for their first annual network council trip.

From Sept. 11-13, the group of small business owners — who are extremely diverse in industry and political affiliation — crisscrossed DC meeting with policymakers and elected officials on the Hill, in the Capitol Building and the White House. As seasoned small business owners whose companies have seen good economic times and bad, these individuals had a lot say about what it will take to get our nation back on track to prosperity.

From clean energy policies, such as the new fuel efficiency standard recently set in stone, to the implementation of federal healthcare reform, topics discussed at the meetings ran the gamut. Network council members offered anecdotal stories about issues their businesses had faced, such as accessing loans to open up shop or to expand and grow. Moreover, they explored potential legislative solutions to concerns many of them shared about today’s economy.

One thing that was on everyone’s mind was jobs. Since our recent economic recovery began, small businesses have not only been generating more jobs than large companies, they’re also creating them at a faster pace than during our recovery from the 2001 recession, according to Automatic Data Processing (ADP).

It’s absolutely critical for these job creators’ needs to be met if they’re going to help sustain the economy. Many of them want to expand and hire, as any practical business owner would. But oftentimes they need a leg up in the credit arena, first. New York’s Eric Blinderman is one of several network council members who can attest to that.

As the owner of two restaurants in Manhattan, Eric knows what it takes to build a strong business. However, accessing a loan to get things up and running wasn’t easy. After an exhaustive search, a state-chartered company finally agreed to help Eric and his partner open Mas (farmhouse) — which instantly became a hit. The restaurant did so well, in fact, that the duo decided to open a second eatery.

Enter the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act.

“When I started looking for loans to open the second location, Mas (la grillade), I found there were many more financing packages and options than there were the first time around,” said Blinderman. “And it was all thanks to the 2010 Jobs and Credit Act, which invested in projects to help entrepreneurs like me grow our businesses. Without that help, and without the help of family and friends who invested in us, there would be no Mas.”

Eric’s story is one of many that offers proof of how important it is to support entrepreneurship in the United States. And there are so many ways for Congress to give that support to the people who deserve it. One smart way to address entrepreneurs’ lack of access to capital — the problem Eric faced — would be for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation allowing more credit unions to lend to small businesses. In fact, during the trip, Eric and another network council member, Zachary Davis from Santa Cruz, CA, sat on a panel moderated by The Hill newspaper discussing the proposed legislation.

With this proposal, lawmakers are showing they’re capable of reaching across the aisle and working together for the good of small business. And it became strongly evident this week that that’s what small businesses want from Washington, regardless of the issue in question: a productive effort to put politics aside and respond to small businesses’ needs.

In their plethora of meetings this week, Small Business Majority’s network council made that message clear. And for that, we thank them.