Small Business Commission
April 6, 2005
The Small Business
Commission was established in 1995 to study, report and make recommendations
on issues of concern to small businesses in the Commonwealth. The Commission
met on the morning of the General Assembly's reconvened session to identify
issues for study this year and to schedule future meetings.
Issues for Study
two issues of primary concern to small businesses. First, there is a need
to facilitate access to information about available programs to assist
new and existing small businesses. At the Commission's meeting in January
2005, information was presented regarding a variety of programs administered
by state agencies that are designed to support Virginia's small businesses.
However, members agreed that they were not aware of an existing system
to communicate the large amount of information about these programs to
the persons who are intended to benefit from them.
The issue encompasses
both communicating information about programs to small businesses and
assisting those that are seeking state assistance in navigating the often-complex
information about current programs. Virginia Tech is working with Matt
Erskine in the Office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade and several
other state agencies to develop a search engine that will help link businesses
with the appropriate resources. It is anticipated that the search engine
will be ready by November.
The second issue
members identified as being of urgent concern to the small business sector
is the cost of providing health insurance to employees. Mr. Archer noted
that the Commonwealth has received federal funding for a program to identify
how to assist small businesses in providing health insurance. A survey
indicated that many uninsured persons are employed by small businesses,
which are facing rising costs for health insurance premiums.
The members also
briefly discussed a proposal that a formal process be developed through
which the impact of proposed legislation on small businesses would be
analyzed during legislative sessions. Such a pre-enactment evaluation
of the impact of legislation on small business is conceptually similar
to House Bill 1948, enacted in the 2005 Session, which directs the Department
of Planning and Budget to conduct an analysis of the impact of proposed
regulations on small businesses. The Commission is currently charged,
in § 30-183, with evaluating the impact of existing statutes and
proposed legislation on small businesses.
a threshold topic of how to define a small business. The Commission's
enabling legislation does not define the term. Various state and federal
programs use thresholds of 100, 250, or 500 employees. House Bill 1948
from the 2005 Session defines "small business" as a business
entity, including its affiliates, that employs fewer than 500 full-time
employees or has gross annual sales of less than $6 million. Mike Eisenman,
Director of the Department of Business Assistance, noted that using a
cut-off of 250 employees would include 99.1 percent of business establishments
and 59 percent of employees in Virginia. Edward Hamm, Director of the
Department of Minority Business Enterprise, suggested separate thresholds
for small and "micro-sized" businesses, on grounds that very
small firms face unique problems.
One statutory duty
of the Commission is providing small business owners and advocates with
a forum to address their concerns. Members agreed that conducting public
hearings would provide small businesses with an opportunity to identify
additional issues with which they are concerned. In addition, such hearings
would increase the visibility of the Commission and thereby let small
businesses know that the Commission is available as a resource for relating
their concerns to state government.
The Commission discussed
conducting a public hearing jointly with the Governor's Small Business
Advisory Board. In addition, Mr. Hamm of the DMBE offered the assistance
of his agency and the Department of Business Assistance in holding meetings
around the Commonwealth.
The Commission intends
to hold its first public hearing, which will serve as a pilot, in Hampton
Roads in June. A business meeting will be held in conjunction with the
hearing. Other public hearings are intended to follow in other regions
of the Commonwealth.
The Hon. J. Brandon
Franklin D. Munyan
DLS Staff Attorney