Letter From Washington

Small Businesses, Big Opportunities

By:U.S. Senator Joe Manchin

Issue:Winter 2015 : Columns

“There is no doubt that our great country is the business leader of the world because of our small businesses.” U.S. Senator Joe Manchin

From working in my grandfather’s grocery store and my father’s furniture business, to starting my own company, I have been closely involved in small businesses all my life. I learned at a very young age the importance of providing great customer service and going the extra mile to assist those in need, and I’ve applied this mindset to everything that I do, especially when I was Governor and now as U.S. Senator. I have always believed in this commonsense philosophy of retail government – truly listening to and taking care of the people you serve.

Today, West Virginia’s more than 120,000 small businesses make up an estimated 96 percent of our state’s economy. We all know that small businesses are the engine of our economy, providing the goods and services we depend on every day. Their success is critical to communities across West Virginia and to our country as a whole. The leaders behind our small businesses – like my grandfather and my father many years ago – face several challenges, but they power through each obstacle by staying optimistic and innovative in the face of adversity.

As a small businessman myself, I can relate to the challenges our small businesses face, and I understand all they contribute to make this country great. And, I have always put creating jobs and helping our small businesses prosper as one of my highest priorities.

In the past year, I have had the honor to participate in some major business announcements, tours and meetings across our state.

In May, I proudly joined RCBI, the U.S. Navy, ATK, Marshall University and others in announcing their partnership and investment in a $750,000 state-of-the-art 3D metal printer that will assist small businesses and manufacturers. This technology has the ability to print with a variety of metals and it gives companies – both large and small – the opportunity to test products before full production. By having this game-changing advanced technology, we are able to further position our state for economic development and help make our existing manufacturers even more competitive.

In June, Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg visited our great state, and we organized an informational forum for West Virginia small business leaders. The Global Access Forum was a wonderful opportunity for small business leaders to network and explore their potential for sales and customer growth not just here at home but also on the global stage. More than 150 business leaders and advocates from around the state attended the event and learned about the available programs that will keep them competitive. I look forward to welcoming Chairman Hochberg back to West Virginia again and hosting another similar event for our small businesses.

My state staff has also been tremendously active in promoting West Virginia’s small businesses. Previously, they teamed up with the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer free business outreach meetings to business owners and leaders in our state who are in need of direction. These workshops focus on providing resources to West Virginians so that they can get their small business off the ground or build onto their existing company’s success.

In addition to hosting events in West Virginia, I have also supported key legislation that greatly benefits our small businesses. In July, nearly $13 million was deployed by state economic development agencies to grow our small businesses in West Virginia. During these rough economic times, small businesses are having a tough time gaining access to the capital they rely on to make smart investments, hire more workers and expand their operations. That’s why it is important to make sure our small businesses have the resources they need to stay competitive, create more jobs and help move our economy forward.

This past January, I introduced the Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Simplification Act of 2013 to exempt brokers involved in mergers and acquisitions of privately owned small businesses from expensive registration requirements before the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC). This bill would pay big dividends in the future to create and preserve jobs as the new owners acquire and grow existing businesses. The legislation also preserves other investor protections under both state and federal law. Small businesses that make less than $25 million in annual earnings or less than $250 million in annual gross revenue are exempt from the SEC’s expensive
registration requirements.

West Virginia is a proud and patriotic state, home to countless veterans. They put their lives on the line for our country, and should be confident that their families will be cared for in times of need. That is why I was a proud cosponsor of the Veterans Small Business Protection Act. This legislation would help the spouses and dependents of veteran-owned small businesses after the service members pass away from a disability or in the line of duty. I know West Virginians share my commitment to doing anything that we can to help make the grieving process that much easier for our veterans’ families.

There is no doubt that our great country is the business leader of the world because of our small businesses. To remain at the top, we must continue to improve this engine of growth. By harnessing the talent already inside our borders, we can make West Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family. West Virginia has never steered away from its essential building blocks for a better future: our location; our skilled, dedicated workforce; and a commitment to grow. And, we won’t start now.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was sworn into the U.S. Senate on Nov. 15, 2010, to fill the seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Born and raised in the small coal mining town of Farmington, W.Va., Sen. Manchin was W.Va. Secretary of State from 2000 to 2004, following his service as a state legislator from 1982 to 1996. He was inaugurated as the state’s 34th governor in January 2005, serving until he resigned to take his Senate seat. He serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the Senate Special Committee on Aging.