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Successful Lobbying 101
Near the end of today's show we asked Peter Buckley if anything in the Ways and Means proposed budget is a direct result of something he heard as part of the statewide listening tour.
Yes, he said:
In the Lincoln City hearing, the testimony concerning the Small Business Development Centers, part of the Economic Development Budget. I was prepared to go further, deeper with cuts to that program, simply because I'd never heard an explanation that had really tied it in to how it impacted a specific community. And in Lincoln City they made an excellent case, and said 'This is exactly how it's affected our downtown. Here's the steps that were used, here are the resources that were used.' And that testimony swayed me on that particular item.
We were curious what exactly swayed Buckley — what you can say to save a program when nearly everything is on the chopping block — so we tracked down the audio from that Lincoln City hearing. John Lavrakis is most likely the speaker that stuck out for Buckley. He's the owner of Advanced Research Corporation in Newport. He also chairs the Lincoln County Technology Solutions Alliance. You can listen to the full two minutes of his testimony (mp3), but here are the highlights:
Last week 70 people attended a workshop sponsored by our SBDC on using social networking technology to help businesses grow.... Take away the SBDC and 70 businesses in our county would lose out on this training.... The investment the state makes in SBDCs has been returned many-fold, and would continue, if we continue to match the federal grants, in increased jobs and revenues, as long as the state continues its full support.
Lavrakas's plea worked. At the beginning of the legislative session, the Office of Economic and Community Development had submitted a budget to Ways and Means that completely eliminated the SBDC program. Buckley's proposal (pdf), released yesterday, brought half of it back.
I called Lavrakas and gave him the news
"Wow, that's exciting," he told me. "It says a lot for our democracy. It's heartening to hear that Buckley is responsive."
I asked him if such a celebration in the face of a 50 percent cut to a beloved program made him a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.
"This is better than the alternative," he replied.
All of this made me wonder about the power of social networking — not for business-building, but to work legislative magic. Is a Twitter shout-out the secret password for retaining funding?