A national small-business lobbying organization has picked the Cape Girardeau region to begin an intense recruitment campaign in hopes of giving small businesses more clout in government.
The nonprofit National Federation of Independent Business already has more than 600,000 members nationally and more than 13,000 statewide.
They're hoping to double the statewide figure by 2004 with aggressive advertising. The state campaign will begin in Cape Girardeau with billboards and newspaper ads.
Brad Jones, Missouri's NFIB director, said this pilot campaign is being tried out in two states -- Missouri and Maryland.
"We're going to try some things we've never done before, see how they work and possibly use it as a template for Missouri and areas all around the country," Jones said.
The campaign will include billboard advertising in several Southeast Missouri towns. The billboards will include the faces of local business owners. Mollie's Cafe and Bar owner Michael Risch and Horizon Screen Printing and Promotional Products owner Glenn Reeves will soon tower over a highway near you.
One billboard will show Risch on the left side standing alone with the words "One Small Business Voice." On the right side of the billboard, several people are faded into the background with the words "NFIB. 600,000 Small Business Voices. Join Us. Be Heard."
The billboards will go on display Monday, and print advertising will begin next week as well.
"The NFIB is all about accountability," Risch said. "They are up there in Jefferson City, making the politicians accountable for their votes. We don't have the time to leave our businesses to make sure our voice is being heard. The NFIB is our voice."
Jones said the campaign will begin in Southeast Missouri because "there are some excellent and active NFIB members down there and a very experienced sales team helping with the effort."
Jones said the politicians from Southeast Missouri, mostly Republican, are receptive to small business legislation.
NFIB officials say Democratic Gov. Bob Holden's vetoes of a handful of pro small-business bills were proof that the NFIB needs to be stronger.
Glenn Reeves said there are many issues the NFIB can help address on the behalf of small businesses.
"The insurance rates are going out of sight," he said. "Workers comp is going out of sight and businesses are leaving the state. It's been pitiful. Either we do something about it or they'll run us out of the state. If we sit back and do nothing, we'll allow the state to be ruined."