How small businesses can leverage candidates seeking election

Election season is quickly approaching. Candidates are circulating petitions to secure their place on the ballot, fundraisers are being planned and far too soon, we will be inundated with political commercials. Promises will be made by candidates vying for votes. Politicians will tell small businesses owners they drive our economy and assure them that, if elected, the interests of the small business community will be advanced and protected.

While most politicians do value the contributions small businesses make to local economies, their priorities are too often lost in the shuffle after elections conclude. The good news is the tide seems to be turning, and this past year, legislation focused on stabilizing the costs of health insurance was signed into law in our state. Policymakers also passed legislation addressing the difficulties small businesses have procuring government contracts. We kept the small business community front-and-center through robust advocacy and strong coalitions. This election presents the opportunity to build on this momentum.

The small business community should use this upcoming election as an opportunity engage with policymakers, speak with a strong and unified voice, and solidify candidates' positions on specific policy initiatives. Small business owners and advocates have formulated proposals that should be front and center at every fundraiser, legislative forum, Zoom meeting and coffee with political candidates. These proposals include property tax relief for small businesses, a level playing field for taxpayer funded economic incentives and cutting unnecessary red tape so entrepreneurs can thrive.

There are numerous ways for the small business community to harness the power of critical mass and engage during this election. They are not time-intensive but in the aggregate, extremely meaningful. It all begins when candidates are gathering petitions. Small business owners and advocates should let politicians know the importance of supporting the small business community when they seek petitions outside the grocery store, knock on doors or otherwise engage folks looking for support. They should take some time to talk with candidates about the challenges facing their businesses and how policy changes can help small businesses succeed.

Once candidates secure their positions on the ballot, small business advocates can engage in coordinated email and phone banking campaigns to highlight and advance specific policy proposals. Social media can also be used to interact with candidates on issues that will impact Illinois small businesses. Intentional and respectful social media engagement can bring issues to the forefront during campaigns. We encourage folks to attend legislative forums and ask candidates specific questions about policies that will support small businesses. Meeting with candidates, whether in-person or via Zoom, and providing them first-hand accounts of how policies impact small business, will also help pave the way for policy reforms once the elections are over.

The small business community has the votes to be a major force during these elections. We will work to harness this critical mass and have a meaningful impact on the 2024 elections, and then watch carefully to ensure politicians fulfill campaign promises.

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

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