The state House of Delegates already has a committee focused on improving the business climate in the state. It’s title, the Committee on Energy, Industry and Labor, Economic Development and Small Business. A mouthful, to say the least.
So, when Delegate Tim Miley became Speaker Miley in June, he proposed a change.
“For a committee that meets one time a week for an hour, there are a lot of important issues, in my opinion, that would otherwise and should otherwise go through that committee and be given serious consideration,” Miley said during an interim meeting in Charleston.
Miley wants to break the committee into two, creating a new minor committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
“I think when you have a committee with such singular focus,” he said, “you are more likely to have people be thinking of ideas and thinking of legislation to be introduced that will help small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed in West Virginia.”
Since a new committee can only be formed during the legislative session, Miley has instead pulled together a bi-partisan group of Delegates to form a workgroup.
These members were chosen because they currently run, or have run in the past, their own successful small businesses. People, he said, who have been in the trenches and know what it’s like to meet the demands of running your own company.
The workgroup held their first meeting this week to begin discussing a statewide talking tour Miley wants to hold during the session and into interims next year.
The “Celebration of Success Tour” will take the committee to all corners of the state to hear straight from business owners themselves.
“To be clear, I don’t have any intent or desire to make this simply political theater. I want it to be used as a meaningful exercise to ascertain and learn from our constituents in our respective counties and district from which we come,” Miley said.
“I want to find out from them what hurdles they’ve been able to overcome and what hurdles they’ve encountered that they’ve not been able to overcome, but only by learning that information will we be able to even begin to try to introduce information to try to make it easier for businesses to flourish.”
Almost all of the 25 committee members showed up for the introductory and planning meeting Monday, but not all were quite sure what the committee would accomplish, including House Minority Whip Daryl Cowles.
“A lot of times in the legislative process, it seems that issues that the legislature doesn’t want to deal with they will study and study to death,” Cowles said. “Could you help me understand, what would happen this session? Is there going to be legislative action this session that deals with our need for jobs?”
Miley responded a delay in the tour doesn’t mean a delay in the introduction of bills to stimulate the state economy.
Workgroup Chairman Delegate Doug Skaff said he hopes the committee can complete four or five bills before the end of the session.
“Obviously, we can’t conclude the tour between now and the deadline by which bills have to be introduced occurs,” Miley added, “but I don’t think that should be a reason to prevent or delay or deny the opportunity to go around and learn from those people out in our communities.”
Monday night was also an opportunity for committee members to learn about the resources already available in the state for entrepreneurs looking to start their own business. They heard from the West Virginia University Dean of the College of Business and Ecnomics, the Charleston Area Alliance, the Jobs Investment Trust and many others.
Miley said members of these organizations will travel with legislators on the tour so that concerns brought to their attention by business owners that can be addressed with pre-existing programs have immediate access to someone who can answer their questions.
The Celebration of Success Tour is scheduled to hold its first meeting January 16th in the speaker’s home district of Harrison County.