The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) claimed last week that California’s small businesses are backing away from our state’s landmark clean air laws. The NFIB does not speak for me, the small business I founded over twenty years ago, nor the majority of fellow business owners I know. On the contrary, many of us strongly support AB 32 and a host of other measures that are reducing pollution, making us the nation’s most energy efficient economy, and drawing valuable capital to our state.
To put it bluntly, the NFIB misrepresents our priorities. Few small companies ever experience a “relentless piling on of costly government regulations” that the NFIB claims is “jeopardizing jobs and discouraging investment.” Most of AB 32’s provisions apply to big polluters, but not to us. On the other hand, many of us benefit from the investments in clean energy technology that AB 32 is inspiring. California leads the nation in venture capital investments for clean energy. Far from burdening our state’s small business owners, these investments are stimulating the creativity that drives our economy. Speaking as someone who is always on the hook to make payroll, I consider this good news. And as someone who loves California, I am committed to making AB 32 work.
Sadly, we live in an age of double-speak and deception. The NFIB based its argument on a deceptive survey by a political advocacy group that abhors environmental regulations. But an unbiased poll by Yale and George Mason Universities found that seventy-five percent of Americans favor clean energy policies. California is leading the way.
It should come as no surprise to learn that NFIB supported Proposition 23, the bid by Texas oil companies to undo AB 32 last November. California voters rejected that deceptive measure 2:1. Enough said.
The argument that small businesses suffer from environmental regulations is almost always a red herring. I’ve worked with countless small business owners who are dedicated to making California a cleaner, safer, more prosperous place to live. That’s because we build companies that reflect our values. Are the values of business owners so different from those of other Californians? Of course not, and we know that a clean environment and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand.
No doubt some small business owners will disagree with me. That’s the point: just like you, our friends, neighbors and customers, we come from every political persuasion. Beware anyone who claims to be the voice of small business owners. We are a diverse and independent lot, and nobody speaks for all of us. Very few of us ever join organizations like the NFIB. We don’t appreciate having our good names misrepresented to support a hidden political agenda.
Is AB 32 a burden to our companies? No. If you favor cleaner air, energy independence, and a vibrant economy, many of us who own small companies have your back.
Tom Bowman is Chairman of Bowman Design Group, a Signal Hill-based company that creates memorable exhibitions, events, multimedia, and print communications for corporations, museums, and other institutions. The company received a 2009 Cool California Small Business of the Year award for generating a cost savings while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent.