Small Businesses affect Government Think tanks emerge as major players

Most people would agree with the fact that politics have a strong influence and clear impact on how small businesses work. The idea that small businesses can have a huge impact on corporate politics and procedures, however, is a less-discussed topic.

Oftentimes, it’s easier to see that legislation from Capitol Hill has a significant impact on local businesses than vice versa.

A recent article in The New York Times by Eric Lipton and Brooke Williams discussed the idea of how think tanks affect corporate America’s influence. The article, published in August 2014, took a closer look at the Lennar Corporation, who utilized Brookings Institution, the most prestigious think tank in the world.

“Think tanks, which position themselves as ‘universities without students,ʼ have power in government policy debates because they are seen as researchers independent of moneyed interests,” said Lipton and Williams in their New York Times article.

Think tanks have become vessels carrying corporate influence and campaigning for a variety of issues like international trade, highway management, real estate development and more. Think tanks argue that they are not directly tied to any sort of corporate agenda, but rather, team up with donors with similar goals. This is done with integrity, independence and impact.

Businesses don’t always wish government would just step aside, as they are a co-dependent system. As previously discussed in the December 2015 issue of GLBM, Lucas Puente and his team of researchers at Thumbtack conducted a survey of more than 400 small business owner/operators from Michigan. Their goal was to determine how small businesses and the government interact. Their findings were published in the Thumbtack 2015 Small Business Friendliness Survey Report.

What Thumbtack found was that small businesses were overwhelmed at the idea of following their dreams, due to the stack of paperwork, confusing state websites and forms waiting to be navigated.

The report revealed that many entrepreneurs and local service professionals in our state found it harder to find the information, tools and resources to begin a start-up. States like Texas, Tennessee and Oregon have plenty of local organizations to assist.

Lansing is home to a plethora of organizations which gracefully blend the world of politics and government with small, locally-focused and produced businesses. The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) is the only statewide and state-based association with a sole focus on serving the needs of small businesses statewide. According to their website, they have over 25,000 diverse members, with a goal to help small businesses succeed by “promoting entrepreneurship, leveraging buying power and engaging in political advocacy.” When these businesses band together through the Small Business Association of Michigan, they achieve more than they could on their own.

On a national level, there are plenty of other resources with local ties. Small Business Majority is a national small business advocacy organization. Its founders and members are small business owners with a focus on solving big problems that small businesses face. Part of their mission is to engage small business owners nationwide and educate and move forward with public policy and provide resources needed for success.

Through entrepreneurship and revitalization, small, local businesses can be forces to reckon with regarding economic development on a larger scale. The Small Business Majority includes 11 offices in nine states and Washington, D.C., partnering with 150 business organizations including local and regional chambers.

Access to capital, tax policy, healthcare, freelance economy, infrastructure, minimum wage, workforce training, clean energy, immigration reform and exports are all key topics of the organization.

According to their website, the Small Business Majority community is vast, diverse and dynamic, just as small business owners are. “Small business owners are pragmatic, not ideological. And contrary to a long-held misconception, they are not reflexively anti-government. They want government to understand their needs and respond in a constructive matter. Therefore, we work with policymakers on a national and state level to advocate for policies that create jobs and maximize business opportunities and cost savings in tax reform, healthcare, clean energy, access to capital, infrastructure, workforce and more.”

Chris Armstrong of the Small Business Majority oversees all local programs in Michigan. He spoke on the power of a small business’s voice in politics.

“Small business has a powerful voice in the public policy debate, but that voice is often lost or misrepresented in state legislatures and the halls of Capitol Hill. A great example of this is the prominence of states enacting anti-LGBT legislation, like HB 2 in North Carolina,” Armstrong said.

“Our research shows small businesses overwhelmingly oppose this type of legislation and they believe laws like these drive away talented employees and customers and harm state economies. It’s crucial that policymakers at both the local and national level really listen to small business owners on these issues and enact policies that will help entrepreneurs thrive.”

Just because a business is small does not mean it cannot have a huge impact on the national level of politics. Executive Director of the Business & Community Institute at Lansing Community College, Baldomero Garcia, agrees. “The primary value proposition of a think tank is not merely to provide analysis, insight and input on matters of the day, but to seed dialogue and debate,” said Garcia. “This outcome is itself worth as much if not more than the data/input itself.”

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn received her degree in Journalism from Lansing Community College. She’s a concert junkie; living and breathing in both the local and national music scene. She is proud to call Lansing her home, finding a new reason every day to be smitten with the mitten.

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