National Small Business Week: an Opportunity to Put Small Businesses Front and Center

From small towns to big cities, we depend on small businesses to make our economies more vibrant. In addition to creating two-thirds of new jobs each year, small businesses from bakeries to accounting firms are leaders in innovation and finding new and better ways to solve old problems. But policymakers focus too little attention on addressing the challenges facing small business owners, which makes it harder for small businesses to grow and thrive. During 2016’s National Small Business Week, it’s time for us to think about ways to put small businesses at the center of policy decisions all year round.

The 2008 Recession hit small business owners hard, and a recent poll found 64 percent of small businesses are still recovering. In addition to weakening small businesses’ economic security, the Great Recession exacerbated long-standing problems for small businesses. For instance, the small business share of total bank loans dropped from 50 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2012 — which means it’s harder than ever for entrepreneurs to obtain the financing they need to launch and grow their businesses. In fact, Small Business Majority’s polling found 91 percent of small business owners name access to capital as a top concern.

While access to capital may be one of the most longstanding issues impacting small businesses, it’s hardly the only challenge they face. Small businesses today must deal with a broad range of new and evolving challenges, like government dysfunction stemming from partisan bickering. Frequent threats of government shutdowns and the Senate’s reluctance to confirm appointments in a timely manner — as most recently exemplified by the short-staffed Supreme Court — have left small businesses owners facing an uncertain and unpredictable business environment. It’s no surprise Small Business Majority’s polling found 53 percent of small business owners believe the president’s nominations to key government positions like judgeships and government agencies deserve timely up or down votes from the Senate, compared to 30 percent who did not believe this.

These are just a couple of examples of issues impacting the small business community that lawmakers have failed to address. Whether we’re looking at healthcare or taxes or retirement security, small businesses need smart policies in place that enable them to thrive. And if we want to help small businesses and create a strong economy, it’s imperative that we work to address problems that real small businesses face — and that means focusing on pragmatism, not ideology.

Unfortunately, too many special interest groups and lawmakers are willing to mischaracterize small businesses in search of political gain. Big businesses too often erroneously speak on behalf of small businesses, and more and more media outlets are dropping small business-specific coverage. The solution to this problem is bringing real small business owners to the table — whether that means increasing the presence of small business owners in the media, at the ballot box or in legislatures around the country.

Small Business Majority is dedicated to fulfilling this mission, and that’s the goal of our second annual Small Business Leadership Summit taking place next week. This event brings together 150 of the best and brightest small business owners from around the country to meet with policymakers, members of the media and issue experts to discuss how we can ensure that the real small business voice is heard.

The Summit is a tremendous opportunity to address this challenge. But if we’re truly going to solve this problem and help small businesses thrive, then we can’t just focus on small businesses for one week a year, or during one event. Small businesses need to be considered in every policy decision, all year round. Small businesses do a lot for us; during National Small Business Week, it’s time to think about what we can do for them.