5Q: Lobbyist Kim Willson on small businesses staying politically engaged
Kim Willson has worked in community organizations, nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies. But she’s always had an interest in politics. As a lobbyist for Ruggerio Willson & Associates, she works on a number of issues important to both small and large businesses.
You spoke at the recent Small Business Day event organized by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. What advice do you have for small businesses to stay politically engaged?
Being engaged in the process is critically important. Legislators are everyday citizens. Many are working full time and are pulled in various directions by constituents and constituent groups. Unless businesses take the time to form relationships and educate themselves on the issues important to their success, legislators may not be aware that issues are percolating.
How does political engagement differ between large and small companies?
Generally speaking, the majority of large companies have contract lobbyists who engage on their behalf. That said, there is a real emphasis on small companies and their connection to the economy in political districts. Forming relationships with legislators, inviting them to your business and introducing them to the people who work there, really makes an impact.
How can businesses track and prioritize what’s happening at Legislative Hall?
Things happen quickly in Legislative Hall. An excellent way to stay engaged on business issues is to stay plugged into the Chamber. James DeChene is in Dover each session day and has his finger on the pulse of all of the issues (and ideas circulating) that impact the business community. He is a great resource for members. Another great avenue is the Small Business Caucus led by Rep. Quinn Johnson and Rep. Danny Short. Each meeting they feature different topics and give a platform to business owners to discuss issues that are important to them with members of the General Assembly.
Lawmakers and business owners inhabit very different worlds. How can the two better understand each other?
Taking the time to engage your local state representative and state senator to introduce them to your business, invite them to meet employees and attend important events, and educating them on the issues that are most important to you will pay dividends. The goal for businesses owners should always be to act as a resource to elected officials who are making various laws on issues that will impact business.
What issues do you think will shape the year ahead? And what are some specific steps businesses can take to get prepared?
The budget has been the hot topic for the last few sessions. In addition, legislation dealing with guns, legalizing marijuana, sexual harassment training for private employers and consolidating school districts are all hot topics among the General Assembly this session.