The Community Times Magazine
By Frank Knapp Jr.
Twenty years ago, a novel organization was founded—the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC).
Nationwide, state chambers of commerce had agendas that mostly served the interests of their big, dues-paying members.
The SCSBCC was to be solely advocating for the interest of small businesses, even when those interests were not aligned with larger businesses.
We have stayed true to our mission and sometimes have taken the heat from the better-financed big business community for doing so.
We have had many successes over the years at the state level (examples: reducing the income tax on small business profits, lowering proposed workers compensation and utility rate hikes, tax credits for small businesses adding employees, renewable energy and energy conservation).
The SCSBCC has also been active at the national level through its leadership on several national organizations. In these roles we have advocated for policies to benefit small businesses such as healthcare reform, better environmental protection, no offshore oil drilling, fairer taxes on small businesses, grants for small businesses to survive the pandemic.
Today, SCSBCC continues our advocacy for small businesses at the state and federal levels.
Our mission is to help entrepreneurs start small businesses and for those businesses to be more successful by reducing their costs and making them more competitive with big businesses.
Today our nation is at a 40-year low in new business startups.
One significant obstacle for entrepreneurs is access to capital. Our present reliance on private financial institutions, even with Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees on loans, is simply not serving the capital needs of most entrepreneurs. This is especially true for minority and women entrepreneurs. Our rural areas are also not served well by our lending system. Small business loans are simply viewed as unprofitable and too risky.
SCSBCC is advocating for a new access to capital model that will increase the number of very small loans to entrepreneurs and micro businesses via enhanced non-profit lenders and direct loans from the SBA.
Healthcare is serious problem for small businesses. It is too costly and administratively burdensome for small businesses to offer. Yet, small businesses need healthy employees and to be labor-competitive with big businesses that can offer the benefit.
To address this issue, SCSBCC has been and continues to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The ACA offers affordable, individually owned, portable health insurance that is a viable alternative for small employers to promote for their workers instead of offering a group health plan. The millions of workers who lost their employer-based health insurance during the pandemic has demonstrated the value of the ACA.
SCSBCC supports President-Elect Joe Biden’s proposal to build a stronger ACA with a public option.
In addition, state’s that have expanded their Medicaid program under the ACA have helped their small businesses by providing a healthier workforce without the direct business costs. SCSBCC continues to advocate for South Carolina to expand its Medicaid program under the ACA.
Just as an alternative to employer-based health insurance is important to small businesses because it reduces their costs and makes them more competitive with big business, the same can be said for establishing a universal and portable retirement program.
In South Carolina, SCSBCC supports AARP’s Palmetto Work and Save Plan. This 401k-style retirement program would be available to any small business employee who does not have access to an employer-based retirement plan. This program would encourage retirement saving through payroll deduction by the employer who voluntarily participates whether or not providing contributions.
Sick and family leave is also an unaffordable cost for small businesses. SCSBCC supports a federal universal sick/family leave program that is government funded. This would also make small businesses more competitive for attracting employees.
Another significant cost for small businesses is their electric/gas bills. Since 2002 the SCSBCC has intervened in utility rate hearings to successfully keep rates as low as possible. We strongly opposed SCE&G customers from being responsible for any of the nuclear debt from the failed construction project in Fairfield County. On this issue we were only partially successful.
Today SCSBCC is the leading business organization advocating for the sale of Santee Cooper to eliminate its $3.6 billion nuclear debt it ran up for the same failed nuclear project. We believe that selling the public utility to an investor-owned utility can remove all the Santee Cooper debt, lower rates and rapidly transition the utility away from coal to solar energy.
What started 20 years ago as a novel business organization has become a successful engine for making South Carolina and the nation more small-business friendly.
Frank Knapp is the President, CEO, and co-founder of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. He also is Co-Chair of Small Business for America’s Future, serves on the Board of the American Sustainable Business Council and is co-founder and past President/CEO of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast.