Advocacy for Small Business

When I was asked to write a column for The Metropreneur discussing the “advocacy” aspect of the Columbus Chamber I wondered out loud, “How do you write a column on advocacy for small business without putting folks to sleep?” Well, I am going to give it a shot.

Let me start with the basics— my role. I serve as the chief advocate for the business community represented by the Columbus Chamber. That means I spend most of my time meeting and talking with business owners and leaders, elected officials and staffers, policy experts, and other key stakeholders to understand the needs of the business community— and advocate for them before policy makers on the local, state and federal level.

Advocacy has long been an integral program at the Columbus Chamber. Our number one goal is to provide the Central Ohio small business community with the best possible regulatory environment so they can grow their businesses and create jobs. We fight for lower taxes, opportunities for you to access foreign markets, the ability for your business to run more efficiently. You get the picture.

We are determined to stay focused on our goal and continue to “move the needle” for small business owners. As we move forward, you will see a more focused and concise public policy agenda from the Columbus Chamber that will concentrate on fewer issues, but drill down deeper on these issues to help small businesses succeed.

What does this all mean for you, an entrepreneur? Glad you asked.

The vast majority of Chamber member businesses employ less than 20 people on their staffs and cannot retain a team of government relations professionals to work on their behalf. The Columbus Chamber serves as the advocate for small businesses in Central Ohio, leveraging the strength and recognition of the Columbus Chamber to benefit our members in the public policy arena.

Translation: if our member businesses are experiencing difficulties with regulations, permitting, zoning, or taxes, or if they are having a customer service issue with a specific public agency, it’s my job to help. Sometimes our advocacy efforts are on behalf of specific businesses, sometimes we advocate for an entire industry. For example, we recently advocated successfully for a regulation change that benefitted the logistics companies.

The Chamber also developed a non-partisan resource for information on government, elections, legislative issues, and voter resources through which businesses and their employees can educate themselves on critical issues. Our Prosperity Project website is designed to provide the information and tools necessary to cast informed votes, track voting records, and directly contact elected officials to express opinions on critical issues.

The bottom line is that we keep our finger on the pulse of business. While our work may be largely “behind-the-scenes,” it is one of the most important roles the Chamber plays.

And we want your input. We are currently surveying our members to learn more about their views on the public policy issues of the day. We’ll use this information as a guide in our public positions and advocacy efforts. If you are a member of the Chamber and have not yet received the survey, please contact me at michael_hartley@columbus.org so we can ensure you are included.

Hope I got your attention.

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Michael Hartley is the vice president of government relations for the Columbus Chamber, where he leads advocacy efforts on behalf of the Columbus regions business community. Hartley, a veteran of legislative and political matters, is responsible for working with city, state, county and federal government leaders to promote a pro-business legal and regulatory environment in which businesses can expand and prosper. Prior to the Chamber, Hartley served as the director of public liaison for Governor John Kasich, where he directed all outreach efforts for the office. In addition, he has served in leadership positions for several campaigns, as well as in state government positions. Hartley received his bachelor of arts degree in history and secondary education from Baldwin-Wallace College.