Local Investment Opportunities for Your Political Capital

Local Investment Opportunities for Your Political Capital

By Alan Sorem

Every successful business prioritizes its resources in order to achieve the highest return on its investments. This principle is true for investments of both time and money. Most business owners understand that investing time and money in governmental affairs is necessary for their businesses to survive in a highly competitive economy. However, not all involvement in governmental affairs will yield the same returns for your business, and you must ask yourself how to optimize your involvement in governmental affairs to address the specific needs of your business.

The vast majority of businesses in the United States and in our community are defined as “small” businesses. Each year our local government makes hundreds of decisions that affect the day-to-day operations of small businesses. Local government is also responsible for constructing and maintaining the infrastructure to support small businesses and determining how our communities will grow and develop. Furthermore, local governmental officials and staff are generally readily accessible and responsive to input from business owners in the community. For these reasons, and many more, becoming involved in governmental affairs at a local level can be particularly beneficial for small business owners.

In Salem, we are fortunate to have many opportunities to participate in local governmental affairs. One example is the Neighborhood Association Program. Through this program, Salem residents and business owners may attend and participate in neighborhood association meetings. These meetings provide a direct vehicle for involvement in local legislative and budget activities, as well as a chance to interact with other members of the community. The City of Salem also provides free publications to all neighborhood association members that include regular updates and notifications on local governmental affairs. Participation in such programs will not only provide you with a better understanding of local governmental issues, but will also give you a unique perspective on the role that your customers and competitors play in the community.

In addition to the Neighborhood Association Program, our local community is home to many issue-specific boards and committees. For example, the Downtown Advisory Board and the Citizen Budget Committee provide individuals with the opportunity to meet and work with Cityof Salem staff and officials. Marion and Polk Counties also have many volunteer positions that provide similar opportunities to work with county staff and officials on issues that are important to small business owners, such as economic development, social services, and public infrastructure. Participation on these committees, boards, and other similar groups can help develop relationships with community staff and officials that will benefit your business for years to come.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity for small business owners to invest in local governmental affairs is through the election process, as close relationships are often forged in difficult campaigns. During the next nine months, you can become active in a variety of campaigns leading up to the May 2010 elections, including a mayoral race for the City of Salem, races for representatives of four of the eight wards in the City of Salem, and possibly a vote on an initiative to adopt a new Marion County Charter. The May 2010 elections will have an impact on local small businesses for years to come and therefore substantial and early participation in the elections is necessary to ensure that the views of the business community are at the forefront of the election.

Many members of our office are involved in local governmental affairs through boards, committees, and the election process. We invite you become involved during this critical time and join us in promoting the interests of small businesses in our community.

If you have questions about opportunities to become active in local governmental affairs, or if you would like us to represent your interests before a local government body, please contact one of our Real Estate and Land Use attorneys for more information.