Why Your IT Business Needs To Get Involved in Public Policy

Since the IT industry plays such an important role across so many sectors of the U.S. economy, it has direct influence over our nation's ability to innovate, grow and create sustainable jobs. Not surprisingly, then, federal policy-makers want to know what they can do to help expand our industry. While these efforts are often well-intentioned and sometimes quite helpful, they're occasionally a bit off-target.

As a consequence, it is crucial that industry provide input and expertise as various policy debates unfold. In Washington, D.C., larger technology companies are already well-represented and being heard on Capitol Hill. While there can be significant consensus throughout the industry on a variety of issues, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in IT have slightly different needs and concerns that are not as well-represented. That is where CompTIA has planted its flag - in support of the SMB tech entrepreneur.

A sizeable portion of anticipated workforce growth will come from start-ups and tech SMBs. The SMB sector of the IT industry accounts for about 40 percent of industry jobs, or more than 2 million workers, and 163,000 employer businesses that maintain a payroll. Moreover, there are an estimated 400,000 self-employed IT industry workers that are not classified as business establishments by the U.S. Census Bureau Economic Census but, nonetheless, provide meaningful employment and services throughout the country.

To have a stronger voice for tech SMBs on Capitol Hill and within the executive branch, we formed TechVoice in 2011. It's a partnership of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), and participating regional technology associations. TechVoice gives eyes, ears and a voice to tech SMBs that are at the forefront of innovation and provide a critical backbone that supports broader commerce and job creation. TechVoice allows SMBs to quickly and comprehensively understand policy developments at the federal and state level and then do something about it.

By bringing voices and real-world experiences straight to our nation's leaders and educating them on policies impacting tech SMBs through TechVoice, its annual D.C. Fly-In and various chapter events across the country, we have already accelerated our grassroots impact on Capitol Hill, which is important to growth, innovation and job creation for tech SMBs.

For example, in 2011, CompTIA surveyed more than 400 small tech and tech-related businesses and identified the payroll deduction extension as a key legislative priority. CompTIA actively lobbied in favor of this legislation and this was a key ask during our 2011 D.C. Fly-In. We were part of a broad effort that succeeded in winning passage of the payroll tax deduction extension.

CompTIA also facilitated several meetings with our TechVoice partners and lobbied on their behalf for the passage of the “Jumpstart our Business Start-Up Act,” which will make capital investment more accessible for small companies and start-ups. The JOBS Act was signed into law in 2012 and we continue to follow the regulatory process to advocate that the “rules of enactment” take place in a reasonable time and in a way that follows the letter and spirit of the law.

At this year's Fly-In, we had more than 60 attendees representing 20 states and scheduled over 60 Capitol Hill appointments, matching up member constituents with state representatives. A major issue that we sought support for is passage of the Startup Act 2.0 — now 3.0, thanks to its introduction in this new Congress. Startup Act 3.0 is intended to boost our economic recovery by providing greater support for high-paying, high-skilled STEM jobs. Among other things, it would boost our ability to innovate by creating a new visa for U.S.-educated students and entrepreneurs, and create a targeted research and development tax credit, based on employment taxes, for companies less than five years old and with less than $5 million in annual receipts.

In addition to growing our Fly-In, we established TechVoice chapters across the country, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and North Carolina. More are expected in New England, the D.C. metro region and Arizona. These chapters provide valuable networking opportunities with policy-makers and regular interaction to discuss policy developments that impact tech businesses.

Our TechVoice partners are doing a fantastic job of addressing policy issues and we're partnering with them to bring the federal piece to everyone's backyard, making it easier to be involved and educated about the issues that impact your business.

Tune in to www.techvoice.org during SMB week, June 17 to 21, where we'll share real life examples of policy issues confronting tech SMBs and what we're doing to help them be heard on Capitol Hill. And then join us and sign up to have your voice heard!

Elizabeth Hyman is the vice president of public advocacy for CompTIA, responsible for the association's outreach to members of Congress, the executive branch, government agencies and other organizations at the federal, state and local levels of government that shape and influence public policy affecting the IT industry.

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