Richard Wilson, executive director of the State of Tennessee's Office of Small Business Advocate, told the Rotarians Tuesday that there are over 555,000 small businesses in Tennessee.Wilson spoke …
Richard Wilson, executive director of the State of Tennessee's Office of Small Business Advocate, told the Rotarians Tuesday that there are over 555,000 small businesses in Tennessee.
Wilson spoke during a luncheon held by the Rotary Club of Cleveland at the Museum Center.
The Office of Small Business Advocate was established in 2010 to connect state government to small-business owners seeking answers to questions about starting a small business, as well as help in resolving issues with state departments and agencies. The OSBA is part of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.
According to Wilson, small businesses are considered those with 50 or less employees. In addition, he said 95 percent of businesses in the state are small businesses.
Wilson said the Tennessee General Assembly created the OSBA as an advocate for small businesses who need help navigating the state’s 30 regulatory agencies.
“We can refer comments from small business owners to the affected state agency or department,” Wilson said. “We serve as the point of contact."
For example, if a small-business owner needs to apply for a certain type of license, the OSBA can help the owner connect to that particular state agency.
The agency also functions as a voice for small-business owners and can help answer questions about starting a business, as well mediate and resolve issues between the business owners and state agencies. During that process, the office will speak with the business owner to discuss the issue and will contact the appropriate state agency or department to begin the steps needed to come to a resolution. The OSBA has the authority to maintain the anonymity of the small business owner. While there may be some occasions when sharing the identity will help find the best solution to a problem, the OSBA will ask if the business owner if comfortable with sharing their identity before contacting a state agency.
Importantly, Wilson said the law requires heads of regulatory agencies and departments to appoint an employee who will serve as a point of contact with the OSBA.
Wilson also said the OSBA functions as an agency that monitors larger state agencies and departments on their responsiveness to small-business owner concerns.
“We also rate agencies on their effectiveness,” Wilson said. “We function as if we are on the outside looking in.”
For more information about the Office of Small Business Advocate, visit www.comptroller.tn.gov/OSBA
The senate bill establishing OSBA may be viewed here: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OSBA/pdf/pc1129.pdf
The Nashville office phone number is 615-401-7806.
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