This past week, the national spotlight was on the impact small businesses have on America. Small business entrepreneurs are the backbone of the American economy and create tens of thousands of jobs every year in America.

I had the opportunity to attend the 2008 National Small Business Summit in Washington D.C. this week and saw, first–hand, the dedication and commitment of small business owners to having their voice heard by policymakers. The organizers brought together a wide range of speakers to give our members an opportunity to hear about economics, politics and other issues that small business owners care about.

Meg Whitman, the outgoing President and CEO of eBay, gave a keynote speech on Monday that demonstrated her keen understanding of the importance of small business. Her speech drove the message that government leaders need to make sure government is not getting in the way of small business and innovation: "We live in a hyperfast and hypercompetitive global business environment. Our government leaders must be prepared to take those challenges head-on and do what is needed to keep the United States as the best place in the world to innovate and create jobs.” She hit on key issues for small business like keeping taxes low, eliminating regulations that discourage innovation and growth, and the need to invest in education. She succinctly explained the challenges that business owners face with the continuous rise of healthcare costs: “Healthcare expenses are killing employers… Too often, when companies are successful, workers see their share of that success swallowed up by higher healthcare premiums rather than more take-home pay."

Senator John McCain was the keynote speaker the following morning and made it clear he understands that small business is critical for jobs and our economy. McCain gave a compelling and detailed speech that articulated his plan for lower taxes, less regulation, and free trade. He argued that we need to invest in retraining displaced workers to get them back to work with new skills, and he highlighted his key reforms to fix the rising costs of health care. I was particularly impressed by one comment: “Government should be on your side, not in your way.” This is exactly what NFIB fights for every day. He also said, “For too long government has been more interested in protecting its budget and its interests rather than the interests of small businesses and the family budgets that depend on your growth.”

The Small Business Summit provided an opportunity for a national focus on the challenges and needs of small business entrepreneurs and the contributions they make each day to the communities in which we live. During this important legislative session and political year, we hope that our elected leaders won’t dismiss and instead will make a top priority the vital role small businesses play in creating scores of jobs and a thriving economy for California and the nation.

I have attached links to the NFIB Web site that reported on the highlights of the conference.