Supporting Role

It's Your Party

Voting for candidates who support small-business issues isn't the only way to make a difference in government. You can make an even bigger contribution by getting personally involved in the political process.

Start right at home by learning about issues affecting business development in your community. These could include local sales taxes, zoning, business retention services, and plans to expand or reduce retail or commercial developments. Your local chamber of commerce is a good source of information about which government agencies are responsible for which issues.

Once you have a sense of the issues, get to know your representatives. Write to your city council members or board of supervisors about an issue that affects your business or industry. Or voice your support or opposition by speaking before your city council or board of supervisors when they review and vote on an issue.

For issues you feel strongly about, you might want to meet with your state legislator face-to-face. The best time to do this is during a legislative recess. Call the legislator's district office and ask to make an appointment for a one-on-one meeting.

If you want to learn firsthand how the political process works, apply for a political appointment. Local and state governments have huge networks of commissions and committees whose seats can be filled by qualified entrepreneurs. Start by expressing to your local government leaders or state representative your interest in an appointment.

The best way to multiply your effectiveness as a small-business advocate is by joining a business or industry organization. There's strength in numbers, and as part of a group, your impact is felt all the way to Capitol Hill.

"Individually, small-business owners have always been in positions of influence. They run the local chamber of commerce and Rotary club and serve on committees for their local congressperson," says Todd McCracken, president of National Small Business United, a Washington, DC, advocacy group. "In recent years, they've become more organized and view themselves as a small-business community--an organized force that is having an important impact on the political process."

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