The SBA Office of Advocacy – Declassified
By Les Davies, Region 5 Advocate
SBA Administrator Linda McMahon says it often – the SBA is the best kept secret in the U.S. government. In my travels throughout my region, I have learned that if the SBA is the best kept secret, then the Office of Advocacy must be Top Secret. Outside of the Beltway there are far too few who know who we are and understand what we do. With regulatory reform so high on President Trump’s agenda there is no better time than now to declassify the Office of Advocacy as the voice of small business to the federal government. As a Regional Advocate, I live and work in my region – which covers six Midwestern states – to listen to the concerns of small businesses and bring those concerns to Washington.
I love to camp and what better place than by a lake or river in the Dells of Wisconsin. In September, I met with the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners at the Rivers Bay Campground in Lyndon Station, Wisconsin. The unique nature of the seasonal camping industry does not fit well within the regulatory framework. Adam Malsack, President of WACO, told me all I needed to know about his plight.
One issue that we discussed was campground flooding. In the case where preemptively elevating them above base flood elevation is not practical, during a flood event, camping units (even park model trailers which look like small manufactured homes) can be moved much more readily than any type of home, including manufactured homes. Similarly, accessory structures to campgrounds can be readily engineered to withstand flood events, or to be removable within the notification time frame. The National Flood Insurance Program is inherently protected by the fact that camping units cannot obtain flood insurance. Campgrounds with legitimate flooding problems have already been implementing procedures to mitigate flooding impact for years and with great success but recently, they were told they were not allowed to do so. As a Regional Advocate, I can bring this information to our office in Washington as well as work with the Wisconsin DNR and Office of Administration to find a resolution and seal the gap.
It doesn’t make a very good acronym, but former President Ronald Reagan was famous for saying that the nine most frightening words you can hear are: “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.” In Advocacy, however, we are sincerely here to help and are partnering with state and federal agencies to expand our outreach efforts. The 1990 Clean Air Act mandated that each state form a Small Business Environmental Assistance Program and Ombudsman office under the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency to assist small businesses with regulatory compliance. I recently addressed the EPA’s SBEAP for Region 5 in Chicago and joined the National Steering Committee in a conference call where we discussed opportunities to partner in small business outreach. The result is that we are working toward connecting the Regional Advocates with their respective SBEAP counterparts in each state to work together in both of our outreach efforts to the nation’s small businesses.
Les Davies is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate representing Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Our Regional Advocates in the 10 SBA regions stand ready to hear from you about small business concerns and to help you level the playing field for small businesses in your state.