For this week's chamber of commerce feature, Journal-News talked to Kenny Craig, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, about small business issues.

For this week’s chamber of commerce feature, Journal-News talked to Kenny Craig, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, about small business issues.

1. What are some things the chamber is doing for small businesses?

Craig: “It’s important to note most of the businesses located in the communities that we serve are small businesses. We can’t over estimate the value that small businesses bring to the local, regional and national economy.

The chamber gears several of our programs and activities to help small businesses:

We offer numerous networking and training opportunities for small businesses. Many small businesses need help making connections with potential customers. In addition, most small businesses have limited marketing budgets. By attending one our chamber’s leads networking meetings, business after hours, training seminars, luncheons, roundtable meetings or breakfast meetings, a small business might meet their next important customer.

Recently, one small business owner shared with me that he was introduced to another business at one of our chamber events in 2009. Over the last several years, this business has become the company’s top customer providing nearly 60 percent of their revenue. It all started at a chamber event.

Second, we offer several member benefits for small businesses that provide real cost savings. This past year alone, approximately 90 small businesses participated in our chamber’s third-party group-rated workers’ compensation plan through our preferred third-party administrator.

Through this program, our small business members saved over $300,000 on their workers’ compensation premiums alone. This week another chamber member received a $40,000 safety grant from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. This business learned of the grant opportunity at a chamber roundtable meeting.

Other small business members also realized substantial savings through discounts on health insurance, dental insurance and our new free prescription drug discount card. This card provides savings of up to 75 percent off all your prescriptions.

For a complete list of these cost savings benefits, please visit our website at www.hamilton-ohio.com.

Third, the chamber constantly monitors local, state and federal legislation that could impact small businesses. Most small business owners are too busy running their businesses that they don’t have time to research the actions that government officials might be taking that could impact their businesses. Each month the chamber staff meets with elected officials as we stay up-to-date on legislation as it is in the development stage.

If an issue is important enough for the chamber to take an official position on, we will do so and communicate this position to the elected officials. In these cases, we truly act as the voice of small business.

Finally the Greater Hamilton chamber has several alternative loan programs specifically designed for small businesses. These loans range in the amount of $10,000 to $150,000. During 2013 alone, we’ve helped several small business startups and several existing small businesses gain access to much needed capital dollars through one of these programs.”

2. How is the chamber helping promote small businesses?

“This year we have helped promote small businesses in two new ways. Currently we are partnering with Google and the City of Hamilton to encourage small businesses to get online. Businesses need to be where the customers are — today that’s online.

We know at the chamber 54 percent of Ohio businesses don’t have a website. We want to make sure locally that number is much lower than that. We are encouraging small businesses that don’t have a website to visit www.gybo.com to create their free website for their business. The chamber will continue to promote this program throughout the first quarter of 2014.

Another successful national program that we recently promoted locally is the Small Business Saturday program. The Greater Hamilton chamber partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) to celebrate Small Business Saturday on Saturday, Nov. 30. Through social media and individual store promotions, the chamber encouraged local small businesses to offer special deals to consumers to encourage shoppers to ‘shop small at their stores.’

Through our partnership with ACCE, we were able to distribute various promotional tools to small businesses to assist them in attracting customers this past Saturday. In addition, the chamber distributed over 40 American Express gift cards to participating small businesses to be used as giveaways during these promotions. These gift cards were used for promotions and contests to attract more customers.

Like our chamber on Facebook to learn more about some of the businesses who participated as well as other small business promotions in the future.”

3. Why are small businesses important to the local economy?

“At the chamber we’re proud to serve all businesses, large and small. We encourage large businesses to do business locally and buy from local small businesses when possible.

The latest figures show that small businesses create 75 percent of net new jobs in our economy. Small businesses employ about 50 percent of all private sector workers. They pay taxes, volunteer in the community, give back to local causes and many times, run for elected office.

Small businesses also help stimulate economic growth by providing employment opportunities to people who may not be employable to larger corporations. Small businesses tend to attract talent who invent new products or implement new solutions for existing ideas.

Finally, small businesses do not always stay small. Many of the large businesses in our community started very small and today, they are major employers in the communities we serve. All businesses both small and large are important to the local economy. At the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce we will continue to help all businesses succeed.”

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©2013 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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