The Times West Virginian

December 8, 2013

Small business focus of House work group

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — A new work group of the West Virginia House of Delegates is dedicated to small business growth in the state.

House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, explained that the House of Delegates has a minor committee on Energy, Industry and Labor, Economic Development and Small Business, which meets for an hour once a week during the legislative session. The committee has a variety of issues to cover during these meetings and doesn’t have a lot of time to spend on each one.

“My concern with that is if we truly want to focus on small business growth and entrepreneurship, then we need to put our time where we claim our priorities are,” he said.

Miley came up with the idea of forming a standing committee devoted solely to small business, entrepreneurship and economic development. He established a bipartisan work group, which will turn into a standing committee after a vote by the House once the new legislative session starts.

This effort will change the delegates’ mindsets so they focus on introducing and passing legislation that fits within the committee’s jurisdiction and help promote the success of small business, Miley said.

“Future economic growth can only come from the growth of small businesses,” he said.

Miley commented that he gets frustrated with people who talk about creating jobs and economic development in the state of West Virginia but have never actually been involved in creating jobs themselves.

To be a member of the committee, a delegate must have experience in small business ownership and in successfully meeting payroll needs.

The committee will have 25 members, and Miley will serve as an ex officio, non-voting member.

Starting in December and continuing through the legislative session and afterward, the group will hold panel discussions with successful business owners throughout the state.

The goal is to learn from entrepreneurs what impediments they encountered and were able to overcome and what hurdles could be removed to help foster small business growth, Miley said.

“I’m tired of hearing people talk about doom and gloom for West Virginia,” he said. “I want to interact and learn from those people who have succeeded here in West Virginia because they are living proof that it can be done.”

The legislative panel discussions will be open to the public and should help inspire the community, he said.

Miley has seen an incredible response from people across the state about the proposed committee.

“I am really grateful for the outpouring of excitement that people have for this project and this committee being established,” Miley said. “I think it’s long overdue for the Legislature to focus on small business and entrepreneurship. I think if everyone in the state rallies behind this project and inspires the growth of entrepreneurship and small businesses in the state, then there’s no limit to the heights that we can achieve in West Virginia.”

Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, will serve as the chair of the committee. He is the owner and managing partner of Building and Remodeling Warehouse in Nitro.

“As legislators, we are asked to come together and create/improve legislation to make West Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family,” he said.

“We have a lot of successful people in West Virginia who choose to do all three and have invested and started successful businesses in West Virginia. Small business is the backbone of West Virginia. We need to spend more time not only recognizing those who have been successful, but most importantly learn firsthand from them what we can do to help them continue to grow and expand their business.”

The committee’s panel discussions in cities and towns around West Virginia will give business owners the chance to discuss the successes, struggles and opportunities related to their operations. By creating legislation, elected officials can implement change and play a part in encouraging businesses to keep investing and creating jobs in West Virginia, Skaff said.

He said colleagues inside and outside of the state have shown their support of this committee focusing on small businesses and entrepreneurs, and business owners have expressed their appreciation for this commitment. Businesses are eager to attend and participate in the future panel discussions.

“The most exciting part for me is to chair a committee that will focus on drafting legislation that will help existing businesses and encourage new business investments for those who want to keep West Virginians working, want to call West Virginia their home and help our state’s economy grow,” Skaff said.

Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said he is looking forward to serving on the committee. He is the principal of Manchin Injury Law Group, PLLC in Fairmont.

“I have been a small business man for 30 years,” he said. “It’s something that’s close to my heart. I’ve always been a friend of small business and always been interested in trying to make their growth and prosperity a reality in West Virginia.”

Manchin said the group will not only bring attention to the state’s business success stories, but will also encourage people to start taking pride in the state’s accomplishments.

“A lot of times our people, all they hear is our negatives and think that they can’t create their own enterprises or small businesses,” he said. “There are a lot of great stories out there that we never hear about.”

From the success stories, officials will be able to determine what they might be able to do as a Legislature to assist and encourage small business growth and get rid of obstacles, Manchin said.

The committee is made up of entrepreneurs who have been in business and have experienced what it’s like to maintain a payroll and create jobs with good benefits. Manchin believes this group is very capable of learning from the panel discussions around the state and facilitating improvements on business issues.

The committee’s first meeting will take place Monday at the Capitol, he said.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.