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Civility

From Nevada to DC and Back: A Local Small Business Owner’s Take on Politics, Policies and Pathways to Growth

By Ron Nelsen

Small business owners like me are busting our humps to put people back to work in the aftermath of the Great Recession. For the economy’s sake and our own, we deserve a chance to tell Washington exactly what kinds of policies can give us a leg up. I got my opportunity last month when Small Business Majority took me and 13 other entrepreneurs from across the country to D.C. for the first annual meeting of its Network Council.

For three days, our group of 14 entrepreneurs from 11 states crisscrossed D.C. meeting with policymakers and elected officials on Capitol Hill and at the White House. As seasoned small business owners of varied industries and political backgrounds—who own companies that have seen good economic times and bad—we had a lot say about what it will take to get our nation back on track to prosperity.

From clean energy policies, such as the new fuel efficiency standard recently set in stone, to the implementation of federal healthcare reform, topics discussed at the meetings ran the gamut. Being a small business owner in the Silver State, one of the issues I found important to discuss was the protection of public lands as we develop new energy resources in the U.S.

In the mid 1960s, my family opened Pioneer Overhead Door in Nebraska—a residential garage accessory company. After two successful decades, our Las Vegas branch opened in 1978. It wasn’t long before it became clear that Nevada was an excellent state for us to do business in.

This is a major destination state for tourists because of all the recreational opportunities here. And those same opportunities attract plenty of people who end up moving to Nevada from out of state. As newcomers turn into longtime residents who build homes or remodel fixer-uppers, it helps grow our customer base, since we work on their properties.

On the surface it might not seem like Nevada’s great outdoors affect my business directly. But they absolutely do—they bring customers here. And it would significantly help small businesses like mine if steps were taken to make sure those lands are protected.

Other Nevadan entrepreneurs feel the same way. Small Business Majority recently released opinion polling that found more than four in 10 Nevada small business owners agree access to outdoor opportunities provided by parks and public lands is a large part of the reason they do business here. What’s more, a 60 percent majority would be more likely to support an energy policy being discussed in Congress right now—known as an ‘all of the above’ approach that promotes developing a diverse mix of energy resources including solar, wind, biofuels, natural gas, oil and coal—if it took an extra step to protect public lands. Small Business Majority also found 60 percent of Nevada business owners believe it’s important government continues to invest in clean energy. Our group told lawmakers in D.C. that through smart energy and preservation policies we can protect our environment while helping small business owners like me thrive.

No matter what the policy at hand, anything that gets the economy moving here in Nevada is good for my company, my employees, my customers and me. When people spend time and money in the state, it strengthens our small business community and equips us for growth. That desire to expand and create new local jobs was something many of us entrepreneurs shared with representatives last week in D.C.

The stories I heard from fellow small business owners offered proof of how important it is to support entrepreneurship in our country. There are so many ways for Congress to give that support to the people who deserve it. Lawmakers are capable of reaching across the aisle and working together for the good of small business—we’ve seen them do it before and they can do it again.

The reason our network council visited D.C. was to show Washington that small businesses are ready and willing to help sustain the economy—but we can’t do it alone. We hope we made our message clear: regardless of the issue in question, we’re looking for a productive effort to put politics aside and respond to small businesses’ needs.

Ron Nelsen is the owner of Pioneer Overhead Door in Las Vegas, Nevada

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