Small businesses find a voice at Legislative Hall

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Rep. Stephanie Bolden meets with Greg Balance of Diamond Technologies on Small Business Day//Photos by Brian Harvath.

By Kathy Canavan

Keri Simpler, operations manager for Mid-Atlantic Services A-Team, attended the House Small Business Caucus for the first time this month. She said she came to network, keep tabs on legislation and learn from what other businesses are doing.

Gary Sutch, owner of Tri-State Battery, said he’s been in business for 28 years but he never attended a meeting at Legislative Hall until this month.

“I should have come to these much sooner,” he said. “Some of these bills affect the profitability of my company. For example, this meeting scheduled with respect to workmen’s compensation. Before I came here, I felt like my only representative in this issue was my attorney, at an extremely expensive hourly rate. I would have liked to talk to one of these representatives who might create a bill that would help.”

Simpler and Sutch came to Legislative Hall for the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Day May 12.

Legislators discussed bills that will have an impact on small businesses in Delaware — from the minimum wage bill to a bill that would require state-funded construction projects be manned partially by locals.

They explained how small business owners can track bills they want to follow on the state legislature website. And, they repeatedly asked businesspeople to contact them with their concerns.

“I am telling you, as a legislator, I am not hearing enough from small businesspeople about bills like these,” said Rep. Rick Collins, R-Millsboro. “When you first hear about these things, and, especially if you have specific information about these things, I want to hear about it. I encourage you to let us know all you can about the issues.”

Rep. Daniel Short, R-Seaford, told the crowd their input would make a bill a better product: “What’s the best way to advocate for your issue? I’ll tell you the worst way — that is to sign your name onto an e-mail that someone else wrote. Then I know it’s a bogus half-hearted attempt to lobby us. I hit delete, delete, delete, delete. The best way is to write us a hand-written or call downstairs and say, ‘Can Dan come to the phone?’ ”

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, pointed out that mass e-mails don’t allow legislators to respond to individual constituents. She encouraged businesspeople to write personal e-mails.

Rep. Mike Ramone, R-Middle Run Valley, reminded the businesspeople that his job is listening to them and working on their concerns.

Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, recommended individuals find a representative they like and get to know that person: “Find one who works for you. Connect with them in good times, and then, in bad times, they’re going to take the call.”

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