CLARKSBURG – More than 100 people from the Clarksburg area turned out for the kickoff of the House of Delegates 10-stop listening tour to hear from small business owners and entrepreneurs about the successes and challenges of doing business in West Virginia.
“We are very fortunate that so many talented business people with a sincere interest in West Virginia’s business climate were willing to come out and express their views,” House Speaker Tim Miley said. “It’s very encouraging to find so many West Virginians who truly care and have concrete suggestions about what the Legislature can do to help small businesses.”
The House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee traveled to Clarksburg Tuesday evening for the two-hour meeting.
Committee Chairman Doug Skaff said the crowded meeting was a positive experience for committee members.
“Business owners shared both successes and frustrations, but the overall atmosphere was extremely positive, and participants expressed appreciation for this effort,” he said. “All involved want to see small business owners and entrepreneurs succeed.”
Some of the many issues, suggestions and concerns expressed Tuesday include:
* Including a special focus on “micro” businesses with sole proprietors that employ only 1to 3 people, in particular reducing the amount of paperwork required by the state.
* Seeking incentives to help businesses attract more educated workers and expanding workforce development efforts.
* Scrutinizing regulations in a variety of areas, including licensing board requirements.
One participant, a building contractor, noted “With regulation .. comes intimidation,” highlighting the importance of state representatives’ assistance to entrepreneurs.
At the same time, he pointed out the need for closer oversight of irresponsible contractors that seek bankruptcy protection, only to return under a different name and continue irresponsible practices. * Considering simplifying the state tax code related to businesses.
* Creating incentives for lenders to provide small business loans.
* Bolstering the state’s effort to help high school students who are not bound for college acquire other training, especially in technology, and providing entrepreneurship classes to younger students.
* Shoring up the state’s Capital Access Fund for small businesses. Created by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and funded through the Benedum Foundation and the state Department of Commerce, the program provides debt and equity capital and technical assistance to small businesses seeking expansion financing.
* Focusing on how to assist small farmers, such as by loosening regulations regarding livestock and produce, expanding rural broadband access and improving infrastructure.
Also attending the meeting were representatives of nonprofit groups and government agencies offering assistance for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Representatives of Techconnect West Virginia, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, the Robert C. Byrd Institute and WVU’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Law Clinic introduced themselves and offered help.
The next stop of the House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee Listening Tour will be Monday, February 17, in Huntington. The meeting will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Shawkey Room of Marshall University’s Student Memorial Center.
To follow the Committee’s progress on Twitter, look for #smallbizwv or follow House Communications Director Stacey Ruckle, @staceyruckle.