Policy topic of Small Business Week panel

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At Tuesday’s Small Business Week workshop, “The New Administration: Policy and Possibilities Through a Small Business Lens,” panelists spoke about the effects of state and federal governments, recent changes and how those changes will affect small business owners.

The panel was led by keynote speaker Tony Gagliardi, the Colorado & Wyoming state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, who was joined by Kelly Manning, deputy director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade and Small Business Development Center state director, and John Hazlehurst, senior reporter at the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

According to the Small Business Association, small businesses generate 55 percent of all current jobs and have created 66 percent of all net new jobs since the 1970s.

“Small business is the true engine that drives the American economy,” said Gagliardi.

According to the NFIB, small business “spans the spectrum of business operations, ranging from sole proprietor enterprises to firms with hundreds of employees.”

The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism index, measuring emotional contentment and economic activity of participating small business owners, rose to the highest level since 2004 after the national election. Gagliardi said that optimism following this election pertained largely to expectations that the new administration will address health care costs, taxes and regulatory burdens to business.

An atmosphere for change

An encouraging theme of the new administration is the increased public involvement in the political process, according to the panel, which had some advice for small business owners thinking of running for office.

Manning recommended “making sure you have your business well established” before pursuing public office, but encouraged young and forward-thinking citizens to run.

“We need a new perspective on everything,” she said. “If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.”

Hazlehurst shared anecdotes from his own political career, describing public office as being part of an engaging and interesting process.

“You become part of something you cannot control,” he said. “Imagine you have a business where the board doesn’t agree, doesn’t know where it’s going, or what it’s doing, and it just kind of meanders along on public money.”

Local Issues

El Paso County recently voted in favor of increased stormwater project spending, after passing road improvement spending last year, which Manning and Hazlehurst viewed as crucial to the Colorado economy.

“Water does not care about political lines,” said Hazlehurst. “The voters of Colorado Springs have kicked this can down the road for literally a decade. We’re the only city of our size to not have a fee-based stormwater solution.”

Manning also pointed to the lack of affordable housing in the region and an inadequate transportation system.

“Sometimes people can’t afford to live in a city so they have to commute,” Manning said. “Colorado is one of the fastest-growing states, yet our transportation-related services are not keeping up with growth.”

Manning listed state-level legislative issues that would be helpful for small businesses, and encouraged attendees to research them. Those included:

• HB17-1051: Procurement Code Modernization — The code governs how executive branch agencies, other than institutions of higher education, buy goods and services.

• HB17-1214: Encourage Employee Ownership of Existing Small Business — The bill requires the Colorado Office of Economic Development to engage the services of a local nonprofit organization that supports and promotes an employee-owned business model.

• SB17-280: Extending the Economic Development Commission — The bill extends the Colorado Economic Development Commission by changing the repeal date to July 1, 2025.

Gagliardi and Manning both lamented the impact of the Gallagher Amendment, which was designed to maintain a constant ratio between the revenue that comes from residential property and from business property taxes.

“[Gallagher is] probably the largest impediment to business wanting to move, expand, acquire additional properties or move to Colorado,” said Manning.

“Make sure your legislators know that you’re paying attention and are sharing your story with them,” said moderator Stephannie Finley Fortune, executive director of university advocacy and partnerships at UCCS and spokeswoman for mPACT, a locally funded lobbying organization. “How many out there have invited their legislators into their businesses? They get information from people they know and people they trust. There’s no reason anyone in this room doesn’t have that power.”

To wrap up, the panel members said small business owners should stay vigilant and educate themselves about tax policy as well.