Local business owners voiced their opinions on key issues at an event called “Speak Out,” giving local elected leaders in attendance real life examples of how policy decisions affect the small business economy.
Event organizer Amy Collins said, “Data is king.”
“I wanted to come up with a format that was a little less intense and a little more bipartisan,” she said, “or at least allowed for more bipartisan [talk].”
The event took place on Feb. 8th at the Monday Club located at 1815 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo. The gathering was hosted by the National Association of Women Business Owners Central Coast Chapter (NAWBO CCC) and welcomed both men and women business owners.
Heather Moreno, an Atascadero city councilwoman who is running for mayor, said, “There were several of the mayors afterwards who were speaking with business owners saying, ‘yeah, maybe we need to get information out there in a better way or at least spread the word so all of you know…when jobs are being bid at the city level.’”
During the non-partisan event, business owners were polled on four topics impacting small business: affordable health care; access to capital; fair and equitable tax treatment, and federal procurement.
Around 75 business owners attended the event and all but two mayors (due to scheduling conflicts and an illness) of the Central Coast cities. Collins said she was pleased that local politicians saw enough value in the first year of the event that they gathered together to hear the voice of business owners. Federal and State elected officials also participated in the discussion.
Questions were brought to the group concerning the four topics, such as, how has health care gone up for you are as a business owner or if owners plan to reduce/increase the amount of coverage that they provide for their employees? Participants were polled and then asked to provide comments and additional questions concerning the specific topic. The polling data will be shared at the national NAWBO conference in Sacramento in April.
Though hesitant to admit it, the unique format was designed by Collins, a local NAWBO public policy director and business owner. Collins created the event for the Santa Barbara NAWBO chapter last year. When she relocated to the Central Coast for her husband’s work she quickly joined the local NAWBO chapter bringing her expertise and energy to the group. Her goal was to give an opportunity for discussion that shifted away from anecdotal evidence and emotion that seems to dominate any current discourse and focused more on data and clear thinking. Based on the positive reception of Speak Out, Collins said that she expects the annual event will be bigger next year.
“I think it’s going to be huge next year,” said Collins, “because it’s so different, there is nothing like it on the Central Coast.”
NAWBO meets the first Friday of every month from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo County Club located at 255 Country Club Dr., SLO. Cost is $32 for members, $37 for non-members. Reservations can be made via the events page at www.facebook.com/NAWBOCCC/.
Story by Mark A. Diaz