Richardson: The power of nonpartisan advocacy being shown in Springfield this term

Small business advocates are making great strides in Springfield this year. Indeed, three bills championed by the small business community have passed their respective chambers.

House Bill 3418 will provide wage subsidies to businesses that hire formerly incarcerated individuals and a $5,000 tax credit to small businesses that make those hires. This legislation passed the Illinois House of Representatives and has moved onto the Senate. Passing this bill will support small businesses struggling to hire and retain employees, foster opportunities for returning citizens, improve public safety and reduce the costs of reincarceration.

Two other pieces of legislation focused on improving transparency for government contracts also advanced with the goal of providing important data and information to small businesses vying for government contracts.

The momentum being built around these legislative initiatives is driven by a nonpartisan, policy-driven approach to advocacy. This same model is being used to advance other legislation that will support small businesses and local communities.

Why is this an impactful way to advocate for the small business community? Here are some of the reasons:

Policy formation

The best policy proposals are developed though the engagement of a robust group of stakeholders all facing similar challenges. They may not consider themselves to be politically aligned when the conversation starts. As experiences are shared, data is exchanged and trust is established however, meaningful policies emerge.

Political hyperbole and partisan rhetoric can stop important legislation in its tracks. On the other hand, a nonpartisan approach to policy formation often produces truly impactful initiatives that can support the small business community.

Coalition building

Small business advocates rely on coalitions to harness the power of critical mass and advance policy initiatives. However, solidifying a coalition requires hard work, engagement and the ability of different stakeholders to find common ground for the greater good.

Building and maintaining a coalition is often difficult and nearly impossible when partisan politics undermines the collective efforts of otherwise synergistic stakeholders.

Escalating health insurance premiums and high property taxes are challenges for small businesses regardless of their political affiliations. By coming together and addressing these issues in a policy-driven manner, the small business community can have the impact needed to effectively advocate.


The willingness to work on public policy with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle enhances the credibility of an advocacy organization. I have advocated for the small business community for years and can assure you that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas.

The SBAC has engaged in news conferences to unveil important legislation attended by leaders in both parties. There is something empowering about standing with the governor of one party, and legislators from the other, who collaborated on legislation to support small business. Organizations enhance their credibility when policymakers understand they are advocating for policies, not a particular party or politician.


Strong advocacy organizations should be able to maintain a consistent and unified message, regardless of election results. For instance, the Small Business Advocacy Council maintains its laser-focus on addressing the issues impacting the small business community and shares its vision with incumbents and newly elected politicians. Policymakers should never be confused about our priorities.

This is a crucial time for the small business community to speak with a strong and unified voice. Proactive, nonpartisan advocacy brings stakeholders together, to advances policies that will support small businesses and foster the growth of our economy.

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.