The Small Business Council is the U.S. Chamber’s principal policy committee and action group representing the issues of concern to small business. In addition to focusing on small business policy, the council assists in creating effective grass roots actions and strategies on legislative, regulatory, and international initiatives.
Members of the Chamber’s Small Business Council traveled from across the country in October to meet with Chamber policy experts and lawmakers in the nation’s capital. Here’s what they had to say about some of the country’s most pressing issues.
On the Economy
During their visit, the members were briefed on the economic outlook by the Chamber’s Chief Economist Curtis Dubay. Some small business members expressed concerns with where they see the economy heading.
“There is a lack of certainty regarding the economy, a lot of concern about whether or not we might see a downturn and manufacturing is actually experiencing a bit right now. I think there's uncertainty about the employment situation, we just don't have enough workers in the state of Minnesota to fill all the open jobs that we have. And that continues to be a challenge,” said Traci Trapani Co-President of Wyoming Machine.
On immigration policy
Jon Baselice, the Chamber’s Vice President for Immigration Policy, led a discussion focused on the U.S.’s current immigration policies and their impact on the way businesses receive immigrant workers.
Mike Zaffaroni, owner of Liberty Landscape Supply in Jacksonville, Florida, talked about his experience hiring foreign-born workers through the visa system.
“They [workers] beg for more work, all nine of them. They have Google Translate to message me…Do you have any more work on the weekends? Can we come back next year, I have a cousin that wants to come, my brother wants to come,” Zaffaroni said. “I have to explain to them that that's not how it works. We have to go back into a lottery again.”
Overall, small business members were hopeful on the prospect of immigration policy improvements to come.
Heleena Sideris, General Manager of Park City Lodging, echoed the need for more workers.
“Something that would be incredibly useful and tangible and would affect our business in ways that would help us grow within our communities, would be immigration reform and opening a pathway to citizenship for those that are already within our country … to take these jobs, and to help us grow,” said Sideris.
The twice annual gathering of the Small Business Council members also included a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers. Ahead of the trip, they heard from Jack Howard, Sr. Vice President for Strategic Advocacy and Ron Eidshaug, Vice President & Chief of Staff, Govt. Affairs to prepare for the meetings.
Their agendas with congress included making sure lawmakers pay attention to the small business community when drafting legislation.
“I think Congress can help us by listening to the small business owners and the people that are in it every day, working really hard, making opportunities for our employees and just making sure that our needs are heard,” said Melissa Bercier, President & Founder of Couch Clarity.
The meeting gave the Small Business Council members more information and tools to leverage in their business—and allowed them to make their voices heard in Congress.