December 4, 2023

People You Should Know: Elliot Richardson, President and Co-Founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council

Elliot Richardson is an attorney as well as the president and co-founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC), a non-partisan 501(c)6 established in 2010. The Small Business Advocacy Council helps small businesses thrive in Chicago and Illinois by advancing policies that support their needs.

Coming out of the recession, as the owner of his own law firm, Richardson found that the actions of policymakers often did not match their words when it came to supporting small businesses.

He co-founded the SBAC as a non-partisan organization to transcend partisan politics and dysfunction. The organization focuses on policies that will support small businesses, then works with policy makers to advocate for those policies.

“There was a need for a non-partisan organization to listen to the small business community, formulate policies, learn how to advocate and navigate the process in Springfield, Chicago City Hall and on a federal level. We are fighting for the small business community,” said Richardson.

Over the years the SBAC has forged relationships in Springfield and engaged business owners on policy issues. The SBAC championed legislation that reduced among the highest LLC fees in the nation. For instance, the fees to form an LLC were reduced from $500 to $150. The renewal fees were reduced from $250 to $75. Throughout the pandemic, the SBAC provided crucial advocacy and assistance to small businesses and has worked to secure resources for local Chambers of Commerce because these groups support small businesses.

“Last legislative session (2023) we worked on legislation focused on reducing health care costs for small businesses. We were able to pass legislation that, we believe, should stabilize health insurance premiums. We were also able to pass some legislation that should add transparency to government contracting for small businesses and minority owned businesses, women-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and businesses owned by disabled individuals,” said Richardson.

Their legislative agenda for 2024 includes property tax relief for the small business community and increasing access to incentives used to foster economic development. It’s critical to Richardson that the small business community be able to access a fair share of those incentives.

Another big concern is to help downtown areas with high vacancy rates.

“Policymakers should be creative, and work with stakeholders to implement policies that will support their constituents. We must figure out an alternative way to support downtown areas that are seeing high vacancy rates. This vacancy issue is real and it’s going to take an “all-hands- on-deck” approach to figure out how to transform vacancies into businesses, apartments, condominiums, or something different, something that brings people and foot traffic into those areas,” said Richardson.

The SBAC is funded in a variety of ways, and small businesses can support the organization by becoming business supporters for as low as $300 annually or $35 monthly.

Richardson spoke about the benefits to businesses supporting the SBAC. “We provide opportunities for business owners to make meaningful connections with other business owners and professionals. Many people are excited to support the efforts of the SBAC because of the work that we do on behalf of small businesses, and businesses in general. There are ways to get engaged on various levels. We always like to hear from the businesses that support us,” he said.

Another initiative SBAC has been working on for the past two years is a bill that would incentivize businesses to hire formerly incarcerated individuals. Richardson said, “We felt that this could support small businesses struggling to hire, foster opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, improve public safety and reduce the costs of recidivism through this legislation. Thus far we have not been able to pass that bill. But things like this come out of talking to our supporters, the small business community.”

“When you’re nonpartisan, legislators, regardless of their political affiliations, really can’t take you for granted. They know that the SBAC is fighting for good policy wherever that lands on the political spectrum,” said Richardson.

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