Chamber Report: Educating Small Businesses

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Ohio Statehouse

The Columbus Chamber provides quarterly series to educate small and midsize businesses about confusing layers of local, state and federal government laws.

While the Columbus Chamber of Commerce represents all businesses, we are working to refocus our attention on small and midsized firms. Nearly half of the US economy is generated by small business, yet they are subjected to disparate levels of burdensome and costly regulation. In Ohio alone, there are nearly 4,000 local governments, all of which can and do enact their own layers of regulation on top of the state and federal government.

Most small and midsized business owners cannot dedicate the time and resources required to track the hundreds of regulations and layers upon layers of new and existing laws while successfully running a company. Further, many businesses lack the political capital and knowledge of how to expeditiously and effectively maneuver our complicated government system.

The most productive way to navigate the sea of policies and regulations is by utilizing resources and tools that will help your business engage in meaningful conversation and act as an active participant when it comes to government relations.

As the Chamber's new vice president of government relations, I was drawn to the opportunity to connect small and midsize businesses to the public policy realm by creating a new series of educational and engaging events.

Hence began the Chamber's Government Spotlight, a new quarterly series to illuminate issues of broad significance to the region's business community and engage and educate businesses on why they should care. Our goal is to energize and inform employers of hot political topics so they feel comfortable talking to elected officials about an issue and can make intelligent business decisions regarding its impact.

Our first event on Ohio's minimum wage brought insight from legal, professional and educational perspectives. With a possible statewide ballot initiative in 2018 to raise the minimum wage, the most extreme proposal in the country currently pending in Cleveland, and murmurs from other local jurisdictions across the state desiring to enact their own rate, the Columbus Chamber wants to ensure members are equipped to tackle the issue if and when it hits the region.

Attendees were able to not only engage in a productive conversation regarding the topic, but also work with experienced panelists to propose alternative solutions. For example, businesses have begun to address the issue nationally through automation-using machines to carry out the work traditionally done by humans, such as taking orders and point-of-sale transactions. Instead of connecting this increased and innovative use of technology to a decline in service jobs, we could shift our focus to creating workforce policies that will prepare workers and incentivize employers to capitalize on these higher paying skilled opportunities.

The next edition of Government Spotlight is set for Nov. 15, when State Treasurer Josh Mandel will demonstrate and explain how businesses can utilize this new tool to their advantage.

The Columbus Chamber's Government Relations team gives a face and a voice to our region's small and midsize business community, so you can rest assured that your interests are being expertly represented even when you're not there to do so yourself. We also want to help you feel empowered to talk to your elected officials about issues that impact our business' bottom line, and Government Spotlight is just one of the educational services offered by the Chamber to achieve this goal.

It is our hope that we can assist in improving the relationship and dynamic between businesses and the government entities that regulate them.

Holly Nagle is Vice President of Government Relations for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. She is an attorney and a graduate of Ohio State University and Capital University Law School.