CCO of Job Creators Network Elaine Parker Describes Their Advocacy for Small Businesses

CCO of Job Creators Network Elaine Parker Describes Their Advocacy for Small Businesses

 

Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed the CCO of Job Creators Network Elaine Parker to the newsmakers line.

At the top of the second hour, Parker outlined the purpose and mission of Job Creators Network and the 30 million small businesses that they represent advocating for lower taxes and fewer regulations, and pro-growth policies. She added that the best stimulus small businesses could receive right now is to be able to open up in all of the states.

Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend Elaine Parker the chief communications officer of Job Creators Network. Good morning Elaine.

Parker: Good morning Michael. How are you?

Leahy: I’m just great to have you on. I think this may be the first time we’ve talked many many a time on many many projects. I think this is the first time we’ve actually interviewed you on a regular program. So it’s a real pleasure for me to have you this morning.

Parker: Well, thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Leahy: So Job Creators Network. Tell us a little bit about the Job Creators Network because a lot of people who are in our audience are small business owners. And as you know, you can tell it’s about what you guys do. Small businesses drive the economy and create jobs in America. Tell us about Job Creators Network.

Parker: Absolutely Michael. As you said, they do drive the economy in America. There are 30 million small business owners in this country and they include 60 million people. They’ve obviously been extremely hurt under this pandemic for the last ten months or so. But Job Creators Network has really been advocating for them. Not just during the pandemic but for the last 10 years that we’ve been in existence as a national small business advocacy organization.

And we are founded by a man named Bernie Marcus. And if you haven’t heard of Bernie Marcus well he’s the co-founder of the Home Depot. And he really believed in small businesses. He still thinks of himself as a small business owner. He’s not part of the Home Depot anymore. He’s 91 now, but very much involved in the business of America and keeping it America and defending free enterprise. And he believes that it starts with defending entrepreneurs and people like him who have the next big idea. And so we advocate for small businesses for lower taxes and fewer regulations and pro-growth policies overall.

Leahy: If somebody our listening audience is a small business and wants to learn how to be part of this advocacy group, what do they do? And how many small businesses are part of the network? The Job creators Network?

Parker: Well, we represent all of the 30 million small business owners that are in America. They are actually members of the organization. We’ve got probably about half a million grassroots members as part of the organization. If anybody listening is interested in learning more that you go to jobcreatorsnetwork.com.

They can join the organization and sign up for our newsletter. There’s just a lot of information particularly with the upcoming Paycheck Protection Program, which has been renewed finally by Congress and will help small business owners continue to get through this pandemic and provide some additional assistance. So we’re trying to be an information center on issues like that for small businesses as well.

Leahy: You look at what’s going on in the country today and you see the rise of power of the Big Tech oligopolies. And the people that are getting crushed by this are our smaller businesses. You know, the restaurants that have all these rules and regulations. and really the larger companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Target, they’ve done well in the pandemic in part because of local and state and federal policies. What do you see going forward over the next six months or 12 months as the big challenges facing small businesses?

Parker: Yes. So one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is their inability to open up. And that would be the best stimulus to them is to allow them to open up in all of the states. Michael, as you know that we had a jobs report last Friday, which was extremely disappointing. We lost 140,000 jobs. And that’s a result of all of these shutdowns.

And you are absolutely right, you know, big business has done extremely well during this pandemic because that’s the only place that anybody can go to get anything. And you know, when you look at states like New York and California, New Jersey, they’ve continued to keep their small businesses shut down telling them that they’re not essential businesses. And yet large businesses are able to stay open.

It’s interesting, I don’t know if you saw Governor Cuomo’s Tweet yesterday. But I think he’s finally coming around because he tweeted out that we have to open and he wants to get his economy open otherwise there won’t be an economy to reopen. And he says that we can do it safely. Well, I’m in the state of Florida and my governor’s been saying that for a month and he’s been accused of putting politics over safety. But yet my state is doing a lot better.

Leahy: Florida is doing much better than New York.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: So Elaine in eight days and five hours now Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. At a national level, what issues are going to be important to small businesses? And what do you see will be the big agenda items for Job Creators Network?

Parker: Well, you know Michael next week we will have a new president and the new administration coming in. And unfortunately with the Senate turning over to Democrats, they have the trifecta of power in Washington D.C. And the biggest losers there is the small business because it will allow the Democrats to implement a very anti-business agenda which will include a massive tax hike.

Healthcare public options, energy, environmental, and labor regulations. And that’s unfortunate because our small business owners are coming out of trying to come out of this pandemic after 10 months of shutdowns and just catastrophic economic damage. And we’ve lost a lot of small businesses at this point. And that’s going to be really important.

But the big-ticket items that we think the Democrats want to go after first is going to be the Green New Deal and a tax hike and that healthcare public option. And they’re going to want to do that by eliminating the filibuster. And our goal is to help organize and focus the small business voice so that we can focus on pro-growth politicians in Washington D.C. and amplify that voice so they can hear what kind of detrimental impact that will have on small businesses.

Leahy: But Elaine, the Democratic senator from was West Virginia, Joe Manchin has promised, has promised he’s going to oppose a filibuster. If he were to honor that promise, then they wouldn’t be able to get past the 50 that would give them the ability with the tiebreaker from Kamala Harris to get rid of the filibuster. Are you having any conversations with Joe Manchin to see if will honor his promise on the filibuster?

Parker: I’ve not had any conversations with him. I’m not a lobbyist obviously but you know, those are the types of Democrats in Washington that we would like to hear from and that understand the importance of not only a free enterprise system but the impact that small businesses play on our economy. You know, they produce two-thirds of all new jobs and they employ half of our labor force.

And they have driven this economy for the last four years up until this pandemic which we’ve seen, you know records in every area from hourly earnings growing to the lowest unemployment rate that we’ve seen in half a century in every demographic across the board. And when you’re staring at tax increases on federal and in some cases state levels in some of these states like New York, you’re looking at hurting job creators, small business owners, and their employees.

Because when you hurt small business owners and when you hurt job creators, you hurt the employees that work for them because it takes capital away from being able to create jobs and expand businesses and it puts it in Washington D.C. It’s not as useful there.

Leahy: You mentioned state governments. And this is a theme that I’ve been talking about that it’s time for the states to assert the authority that they have in the Constitution that’s been usurped by the federal government. You look at the states and you see that there are a number of states maybe 15 or so that have really gone out of their way to crush small businesses.

But there are other states like Tennessee that are more small business-friendly. What kind of role do you play in talking with these various states and do you see an increase in the small business friendliness of certain states while it becomes less friendly in other states?

Parker: Yes. So we have members all across the country and obviously a lot of the issues that we deal with at the federal level. We see in a microcosm at state levels. And so we do focus on those issues directly impacting our members. First of all, let me start with the fact that small business owners are not political. It’s not about It’s for them. It’s about growing their business.

It’s about having the freedom to grow their business and hire more people and be the entrepreneurs that they are. And they are the most flexible and they can adjust in ways that big business can’t to things like the pandemic. I mean, you’ve seen restaurant owners go from indoor dining to curbside pickup to deliveries. I mean the things that small business owners have done to survive this pandemic in spite of the government.

Not because the government helped them but in spite of government shutdowns and local ordinances and things like that is what has helped them survive. And to come back and slap them in the face with things like $15 an hour minimum wage hikes and environmental regulations and labor regulations and healthcare increased costs and all kinds of things that are being talked about on the Democratic side.

We have to spend time educating our legislators on how will impact small business because they drove this economy. They were on the front end of the pandemic. But they, I truly believe Michael that they will be the drivers to get us out of this. But we have to help them through good policy.

Leahy: I can tell from your voice that you talked with a lot of small business owners and you can feel the passion they have for being successful and delivering the services and products that they want to deliver independently. I think that’s the theme. There’s a character of the members of small businesses that seems to it embodies the American character. It seems to me.

Parker: Yeah and I do talk to small business owners every day. And they’re very concerned about the types of policies that they are coming down the pike at them. And they are directed right at them because they don’t have wars of lawyers and lobbyists in Washington D.C. I mean, they are many times the chief, cook, and bottle washer of their organizations.

And what I try to help them understand is they are not alone. This is a community. The small business community. No matter what industry you’re in is a community of 30 million voices in this country. And when we rally them together and bring them together and amplify that voice through the media, through talking in Washington or your state capitals and talking to legislators and helping and getting involved and engaged through organizations like Job Creators Network.

This is what we do. Legislators understand. And the best thing that small business owners can do or any American can do is vote. And that’s what makes them so valuable to politicians is their vote. And so small business owners can have a huge impact in the next two years before the next election. In telling politicians what they need in order to come out of this pandemic.

Leahy: When you look at the various state policies and how they respond to these policies, are you seeing some states that have more small business-friendly policies than others? And what does that mean for the growth of small businesses in those states? We have one minute here Elaine.

Parker: Well, look, there’s an exodus of people from New York in small businesses and individuals coming to Florida. And they’re not coming just for the weather although that’s enticing. They’re coming because they’re tired of the lockdowns. They’re tired of the high taxes. Cuomo’s promised high taxes. And they want to come here and have more freedom and run their businesses and be left alone, frankly, and get out of this pandemic. My hope is that they don’t bring their politics to Florida. (Chuckles)

Leahy: Exactly.

Listen to the full second hour here:


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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Elaine Parker” by Elaine Parker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Avenue Owner of Simply the Best and Ensemble Geoffrey Lee Discusses the Loss of His Businesses in Nashville Downtown Blast

Second Avenue Owner of Simply the Best and Ensemble Geoffrey Lee Discusses the Loss of His Businesses in Nashville Downtown Blast

 

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Nashville small business owner Geoffrey Lee to the show to discuss the loss of his businesses in the Christmas day bombing and the lack of support from local and state governments.

Leahy: We are joined now by Geoffrey Lee who is the owner of two small businesses called Ensemble and Simply the Best. He is a small business owner whose businesses were destroyed by the Nashville bombing on Christmas day. Good morning, Geoffrey. Thanks for joining us.

Lee: Good morning, Michael. How are you?

Leahy: Well, you know, it’s a troublesome day and it’s been a troublesome week. It’s been a troublesome previous year and 2021 is not starting off well. Of course, for you, Christmas Day did not start off well at all. Tell us what your Christmas morning was like.

Lee: Well, Christmas morning started out well. I was out back smoking a brisket at about 4:30 a.m. in the morning and my wife came running out at about 6 am and said that there had been a camper explosion. And you know, it’s Second Avenue so we were used to things happening. And then she came back out and said you’ve got to see this and it was horrific. I mean we realized that both of our stores, Ensemble was basically at ground zero, and the other store the $10.00 Boutique was up the street and it was obvious that in a blink of the eye we’d lost everything.

Leahy: So you don’t live on Second Avenue you live elsewhere in the city? Is that right?

Lee: We live in Mount Juliet.

Leahy: Okay, so you’re out there in Mount Juliet and you see this. What do you do after you see this happen?

Lee: Pray. (Chuckles) We knew that we couldn’t get in the car and get down there because it was obvious that everything was blocked off. And so we sat riveted to the TV and watched it unfold and it was horrible.

Leahy: What time did you finally get to take a look at what remained of your businesses?

Lee: Well, actually Michael we haven’t to date. Both of our buildings are in what they call the red zone which means that the buildings are unstable. The one building had collapsed in on itself. So there’s nothing to see. And the other building is deemed unsafe. So we have really not been able to see our stores. The first responders have pulled a couple of things from the front of the store that was not damaged in the bomb blast, which is incredible. But as far as seeing it we haven’t been there.

Leahy: So tell us a little bit about what each store had, what you sold, and how much business you would have at each one. Describe each store for us, please.

Lee: Simply the Best $10. The boutique is really iconic on Second Avenue. It’s been there for 11 years. It caters to the tourists. The tourists will come in and they love it because it’s all one price point. They grab their souvenirs. If they forgot a belt they grab a belt and if they need a scarf they got a scarf. So it was kind of like a go-to destination. The local concierge would send visitors to Nashville to the other store Ensemble, which was two doors up is a ladies fashion boutique fashion and accessories and it’s catered to easy to wear stuff.

Leahy: Now you started the first business called Simply the Best 11 years ago. When did you start Ensemble?

Lee: Six years ago.

Leahy: So did put your whole life savings into both these businesses?

Lee: Yes.

Leahy: So where do things stand now? Do you have insurance? Do you have any government assistance? What’s your plan for your businesses now?

Lee: We do have insurance and thankfully it was not deemed domestic terrorism because that helps a great deal. and President Trump declared a national disaster zone so that helps with taxation. As far as other help we’ve had individuals reach out to us. We’ve had the downtown visitors bureau reach out to us.

We want to rebuild but we also are a realist and know that rebuilding where we were at is not going to happen. I mean, the buildings that we lost will not be salvaged. I mean they might salvage the front but that’s many years in advance. So we want to rebuild. We don’t know – we’re in a holding pattern right now.

Leahy: Now, did you own the building?

Lee: No, we don’t. We lease the building from a group out of Savannah, Georgia.

Leahy: Great. Can you hold through the break? We want to talk more about your plan to recover and what Nashville can do to help you.

Lee: Sure.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: We were talking and you said you do have insurance. You haven’t been able to go back there yet. The inventory in the stores is basically gone and not usable?

Lee: Completely. I mean that the fixtures the inventory everything is gone. One building collapse in and of itself. So it’s just rubble right now and the other one the blast went through it.

Leahy: So it’s gone. And you do have some insurance. Have you received the insurance proceeds or that in the process right now?

Lee: It’s all in process.

Leahy: What percentage of what you need to start again are you going to are you getting from insurance?

Lee: Well, it’s really up in the air, Michael, because some of it comes down to basing your profitability on last year, which was a COVID year when we were down 65 percent versus the year before which is a true number. So there’s a lot of moving parts with regard to the insurance. So we don’t really know.

Leahy: The likelihood that you’re going to get enough back on insurance so that you can start again is what? What’s the probability you’ll get enough or maybe be a little bit short?

Lee: It will definitely be short. Particularly because of our insurance policies. I mean, like so many people we really didn’t keep up with them as we should have. When we started in 2011 the costs were quite a bit less than they are now. And especially with Nashville being the ‘it’ city is in a premium downtown.

Leahy: So do you have a plan for securing enough capital open again? Will you open both stores? And if our listeners are interested in helping is there a way that they can do that?

Lee: Yes, we’re going to start with one store. We would open up Simply the Best again, and we’re just looking for space. As far as help, we have a GoFundMe page and it can be found on EnsembleNashville.com.

Leahy: EnsembleNashville.com. How much have you raised so far?

Lee: We’ve raised almost $30,000 right now.

Leahy: Well, that’s a start, isn’t it?

Lee: That’s a good start. That’s a good start.

Leahy: But significant capital is required to open such a business. I think your plan makes an awful lot of sense. Geoffrey, you need space. Where are you looking for space right now? Now, what would make sense? Somewhere downtown?

Lee: Our business model is really based on tourism. So we’re looking in the downtown corridor. We’ve got a real estate agent that’s helping us. And hopefully some other business owners as far as those that own buildings downtown will reach out, also.

Leahy: And you need street level right?

Lee: We do.

Leahy: How many square feet are you looking for?

Lee: We’re looking for about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.

Leahy: What’s the market like? Are there retail spots available outside the blast zone that might make some sense for you guys?

Lee: It’s tough. It’s too early to tell. Most building owners would rather lease to larger honky-tonks and what – not just from a revenue standpoint. And we get that. So it will difficult, but we have complete hope and faith that it will happen. And I guess we move on from there.

Leahy: Well, it sounds so that when you’re operating in a non-COVID environment. The Simply the Best $10 products that are tourist-oriented sounds like that would be you know something that would have you probably having decent revenue.

Lee: We had great revenue there. Yes. It was a wonderful situation.

Leahy: So let’s assume you do find a place. If there’s somebody that owns retail property out there right now and they’re looking for a tenant, how do they get in touch with you? What’s the best way to connect with you?

Lee: The best way is through my cell phone at 615-944-4062.

Listen to the full second hour here:


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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio