Can small businesses band together to influence policy that relates to their interests? That optimistic hope floated in the air at the first Governor’s Conference on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Los Angeles last week.

The two day conference led by the state’s Small Business Advocate, Marty Keller, focused on issues important to the small business community.

Listening to experts on business and the need to create an entrepreneurial state, attendees considered a number of areas to improve small business in the state.

The ten issues addressed by the conference were: Concerns over the AB-32 greenhouse gases law; Access to Capital; Entrepreneurial Encouragement; Health Care; Innovation and Technology; Procurement (for small business wanting to do business with the state); Regulatory Reform; Transportation; Taxation; and Workforce Development.

The issue groups produced 37 recommendations in these 10 areas. Members of the conference then voted to prioritize the concerns of the attendees.

The top five issues voted on by the conference attendees:

1) Restoring investment in programs that support small business through the
Small Business Development Centers.

2) The costs of AB-32 and how those costs can be dealt with through the law’s implementation period.

3) Small Business partnering in the state regulatory process to reduce regulatory costs and cost surprises for small business

4) Insuring that small businesses get a fair share of state business

5) Enhance and increase funding for loan guarantees and micro lending programs

Some of the priorities will run into state budget realities. However, small business is the economic engine of California and allowing that engine to run smoothly with fewer obstacles will help the state’s fiscal picture improve more rapidly.

Particular concern was raised about the costs of implementing AB-32 and how small business can cope with these new mandates during lean economic times.

The cost of regulations have been a problem for small business and members of the community are looking forward to the results of a study authorized by the legislature a couple of years ago to determine the cost of regulations on small business. A similar study done for the federal government in 2005 determined that federal regulations added a cost of $7,647 per employee.

Conference members considered ways to bring the small business community together to influence the policy debate using networking technology. Allowing small business to become more of a political force on business issues will depend on the success of embryonic networking efforts that were started and encouraged by some conference participants.