In late July, small business owners from all across the country – from Maine to Montana, Louisiana to North Dakota – left their homes and their businesses on a mission: to carry a message about small business values direct from their Main Streets back home all the way to Washington, D.C. It was the “America’s Small Business Values at Work” summit, sponsored by the Main Street Alliance, NWFCO, and Community Organizations in Action.
All in all, a dynamic team of 50 small business owners from 17 different states gathered in D.C. for the summit on July 22-23. Small business leaders led a packed agenda that reflected the recent expansion of MSA and its state coalitions’ issue priorities. While the Main Street Alliance continues to highlight proper implementation of health reform and of the financial regulatory overhaul as top concerns for small businesses, MSA and its state partners were also in DC to bring small business values to bear on a whole host of priorities: job creation and community jobs, clean energy and climate issues, responsible taxes, and comprehensive immigration reform.
In one of the highlights of the summit, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, and Health Care for America Now Executive Director Ethan Rome joined MSA small business leaders Kelly Conklin, Inga Haugen and Dr. Odette Cohen for a press conference highlighting one of the key leverage points in the implementation of health reform: ensuring value for premiums by requiring insurance companies to meet new minimum standards for what percentage of premium dollars goes to pay for actual health care costs (as opposed to administration, advertising, lobbying and executive compensation). Inga, a family farmer from Minnesota and founder of her own small business, Farm Girl at Large, put things in perspective: “I don’t sell manure as fresh milk,” she said, and then challenged the health insurance industry to reform its broken business model.
The seventeen different state delegations spent the afternoon on July 22 crisscrossing Capitol Hill on their way back and forth between legislative visits with Senators, Representatives, and senior staffers. A senior delegation of MSA leaders also trekked over to 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue for a meeting with staff at the Treasury Department to discuss Treasury’s small business initiatives.
On July 23, small business owners from the Main Street Alliance’s National Advisory Council took turns facilitating sections of a day-long leadership retreat that included a series of presentations and small group discussions aimed at building a strategic vision for continuing to build a powerful voice for small business owners both in their home communities and at the national level. Distinguished presenters included Michael Lipsky from Demos, Margarida Jorge and Ethan Rome from Health Care for America Now, Lisa Donner from Americans for Financial Reform, Jeff Blum from USAction, and Lauren Bazel from the Center for American Progress.
The “America’s Small Business Values at Work” summit embodied what the Main Street Alliance is all about: creating opportunities for small business leaders to speak for themselves on issues that matter to small business owners, their employees, and the communities they serve all across America. In a time when our political discourse has become so easily hijacked by corporate special interests, elevating true small business voices direct from Main Streets and local communities to inform debates over public policy is more important than ever. NWFCO is proud to contribute to this work.
Main Street Alliance works with affiliates in thirteen states. To learn more about work being done in your state, visit http://mainstreetalliance.org/wordpress/.