Q. Why is government advocacy important for small and medium-sized businesses?
A. Business issues and barriers to growth must be heard by those who write the laws and regulations that impact our businesses. If we are silent, it means that we are “OK” with the status quo.
Q. Do elected officials know that small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Pennsylvania economy?
A. Elected officials must continually be reminded of our importance. They need to know how many employees we have, how we get customers, how we meet payroll and our barriers to growth. There are 1 million small and medium-sized businesses that make up 99.6 percent of all Pennsylvania businesses, and their 2.5 million business employees who make up 46.8 percent of all employees in Pennsylvania.
Q. Does advocacy really work? Is there a return on investment (ROI) or is it just like throwing money down a rabbit hole?
A. It works, but it is not always tangible like a profit and loss statement. Success is framed differently. Results take persistence and a continual show of force. For example, SMC Business Councils, now part of the Manufacturer & Business Association (MBA), and other organizations lobbied long and hard to repeal the 1099 Expanded Corporate Information Reporting provision in the Affordable Care Act. Without repeal, the provision would have added an extraordinary amount of administrative expense. It required businesses to file 1099 forms with the Internal Revenue Service for every business where they spent more than $600 per year. Imagine the consequences if that provision was not repealed. That is what is meant by intangible – not easily seen or felt but meaningful when implemented.
Q. Can’t I just go out and hire a lobbyist for my own business?
A.Sure, but you would pay a mint compared to MBA dues. A contract lobbyist may cost $2,000 or more per month. If you add a lobbyist to your staff, the median annual lobbyist salary may range from $87,044 to $148,948. It is tough to go it alone; the collective voice of many businesses is much more potent than the voice of one individual business.
Q. I belong to an industry trade group. Isn’t that adequate?
A.That type of advocacy covers the issues very specific to your industry. The MBA focuses on broad business issues such as health-care costs, tax, labor, regulations and energy, which are beyond the scope of a tightly focused industry trade group. The MBA’s goal is competitiveness; we want to build a pro-business environment in Pennsylvania.
Q. Won’t we just be drowned out by the voices of large businesses? What is the best we can hope for?
A. Small and medium-sized businesses do not have enough clout to get all barriers completely removed. The best outcome is “shaving something off” or not paying as much. The reality is that if we do not push back, then it is the status quo or worse and nothing gets “shaved off” or removed!
Q. How Does MBA Government Affairs build a pro-business environment in Pennsylvania? Will it take up a lot of my time?
A. You can engage as much or as little as your time allows. There are three goals:
1. ACTIVATE MEMBERS– Create opportunities for members to speak with lawmakers. Examples: Legislative briefings, receptions, webinars and the Business Issues Forum.
2. ENGAGE MEMBERS in grassroots lobbying. Members educate lawmakers about the issues of top concern to small and medium-sized businesses. Example: Harrisburg Grassroots Lobbying Trip
3. EDUCATION & COMMITTEES –Educate members about the issues and government.
- Programs– Example: Association Health Plans webinar.
- Policy groups and committees– Members have the opportunity to have a voice and help shape policy via face-to-face meetings and conference calls that are open to all. There also are occasionally ad hoc groups that meet to work on issues that require detailed discussion.
- Reading– Stay on top of relevant state and federal business issues by reading MBA publications, including the daily News You Can Use, the bi-monthly Hill Report and the monthly Business Magazine’sOn the Hill column.