Friday, July 15, 2011

Moving On to the Next Big Thing

Many of you know Marty. Please note he is leaving but I thought you would find his accomplishments interesting.

Marty we wish you well.

Scott Hauge
Small Business California
2311 Taraval Street
San Francisco, CA 94116


From: Marty Keller [mailto:Marty.Keller@OPR.CA.GOV]

Subject: Moving On to the Next Big Thing

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude that I write to let you know of my decision to resign as the state’s Small Business Advocate effective July 31, 2011.

I am leaving this great job in order to work directly for small business owners. Come the beginning of August, I will be embarking on a different course of advocacy, one that will not be shackled by the restrictions of political appointment. I look forward to sharing the details of this new and exciting adventure in two weeks’ time. You can be sure I will be inviting you to join me.

In the meantime I want you to know how much it has been my privilege over the past four years to serve California’s 3.5 million small business owners as their principal advocate in state government. In this capacity I was happy to advocate on behalf of our state’s thousands of Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) owners as well.

For most of that time the office comprised just me and Michael Gonzalez as my deputy—and Michael has been gone for almost a year. The disparity between our meager resources and the sheer number of small businesses was extremely daunting, and became more so when the financial system collapsed in 2008. In order to accomplish anything of value we had to build and empower a “network of networks” to leverage the immense talents and insights of all those committed to the central contribution of small business to a strong, vibrant, and innovation-centric state economy.

And so from the beginning of my tenure I was able to rely on hundreds of business owners, association leaders, government officials, and technical support professionals, not just in California but across the country. Together we accomplished a number of useful and powerful results that, especially in light of the financial downturn and the current sluggish and fitful rebound, offer our state’s small businesses and DVBEs some tools for profitability and expansion.

• Governor’s Conferences on Small Business: We produced two highly successful Governor’s Conferences on Small Business & Entrepreneurship—the first in Los Angeles in November of 2008 and the second in Oakland in May of 2010. These conferences provided amazing connectivity to information and decision-making not only for those who attended but for the networks to which we all belong. That first conference produced a collaborative list of eleven recommendations to state officials for improving the small business climate; more than 2/3 of them have been implemented partially or completely.

• The Small Business Network: We created an information distribution network, one that regularly sends our items of interest to small business owners and supporters, which are in turn forwarded to greater numbers through network connectivity.

• Small Business Website: We created the state’s first small business website, initially through the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, where OSBA statutorily resides, and then after April of 2010 through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. We created a centralized small business/DVBE events calendar on the GOED web page.

• Interagency working group: We initiated an interagency working group which, meeting bi-weekly, provides every agency of state government with a small business mission the opportunity to share information and create collaborations to benefit small businesses.

• Small Business/DVBE Procurement Goals: I had the privilege of working with the state’s 250+ small business/DVBE advocates, thorough professionals dedicated to helping small businesses and disabled vet business owners do business with their particular state departments. During my four years the state has managed on average to place 25% of its procurement with small businesses, and has steadily increased its DVBE placement to just shy of the statutorily-mandated 3%.

• Outreach Programs: We partnered with the state’s remarkable Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Business Matchmaking to sponsor ten outreach events both last year and in the current year, to bring to the far reaches of the state the kind of information and networking offered at the Governor’s Conferences.

• Legislation: We worked on legislation to make it easier for small businesses to succeed in California. AB 31 by Sen. Curren Price expanded procurement opportunities, and last year’s budget brought significant money to our SBDCs and various small business loan programs. My greatest disappointment is the total refusal by the legislature to effect meaningful regulatory and tax reform.

• Small Business Ombudsman: While working on these big picture items, we also worked daily with individual small business owners, connecting them to resources or potential collaborators, collecting unpaid bills from the state, helping them deal with officious bureaucrats, and giving them advice on how to solve their particular problems.

All in all, I believe we made state government a better partner for small businesses than it was when I got here.

But we have still a long way to go.

Small businesses are still, by and large, patronized rather than vigorously supported by our state leadership. While legislators love to give speeches about the importance of small businesses to our economy, they continue to impose onerous and/or petty mandates, while blocking effective reforms. This neglect is no longer sustainable.

In closing, I want to thank every small business owner that I have been privileged to work with, and the leaders of the various small business advocacy organizations across the state, along with my colleagues in local, state, and federal governments. You have shown me universal kindness in our dealings together, and you have put up with all my shortcomings with great forbearance. I look forward to continued collaboration.

Although the economy is tough now, and signs continue to suggest a long slog to recovery, I remain confident that the next wave of prosperity will exceed the expectations of most of us. The explosion of creative ideas, universally supported by the amazing tools and low costs of the network, and proceeding from the new era of abundance that the elimination of bottlenecks that the Internet has facilitated, means that in the near future everyone will be a potential entrepreneur.

We are Californians. “Grateful to almighty God for our freedom,” as we say in the preamble to our constitution, we created our government “in order to secure and perpetuate freedom’s blessings.” It is now up to us to ensure that government does this job we set for it, and stops overstepping its bounds. See you in August.

Yours for an abundant and profitable future,

Marty Keller
Director, Office of Small Business Advocate

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