Wendy Miller said she knows first-hand how small businesses can get steamrolled at the Colorado Capitol by bigger businesses with high-paid lobbyists who have lawmakers' ears.
"We saved 20 companies from going under," Miller, a Colorado Springs small-business owner, told a crowd of GOP business owners Thursday night. "I don't want any of you to feel helpless and feel like you're a victim of some law that you can't do anything about. We are standing here today as proof."
That's why she and her husband, Corey Miller, are helping the El Paso County GOP launch a Very Important Business initiative. The goal is to have quarterly meetings with elected officials and small business owners.
Thursday night brought a couple dozen business owners to the first meeting, attended by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Secretary of State Wayne Williams and three El Paso County members of the state House of Representatives.
Wendy Miller said a law was passed in 2010 requiring businesses that collect cooking grease from restaurants to construct warehouses to hold the grease before it is shipped. Overnight her peers in the grease business started closing their doors.
Miller said with the help of local lawmakers, both a Republican and a Democrat, the law was overturned.
It wasn't easy.
"You got to corner these guys," Miller said.
She hopes it'll be easier now for small businesses to get the ears of lawmakers.
Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, just finished her first session in the Statehouse and said she saw large companies get their voices heard through lobbyists, as they have the right to do.
"Who suffered?" Carver asked. "The small businesses. The mom and pop shops that don't have the money to hire lobbyists."
Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, said as a small business owner he didn't have the means or the ability to hire a lobbyist to represent his interests at the state Capitol.
"It didn't even enter my mind," Lundeen said.
Rep. Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, who owns a small business that she said supplements her legislative income, encouraged those in the crowd to band together to have more of a voice.
Williams, the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder before he was elected to state office in 2014, said his introduction to owning a small business was getting a call about filing his business personal property taxes.
"That's how I found out the fun of business regulation," Williams said, adding that he now tries to do everything in his power to make it easy for those who do business with the Secretary of State.
Coffman said her battle is fought with the federal government when it oversteps its bounds, whether through laws, or the creep of administrative rules.
The next event will be in November and Mayor John Suthers, the former state Attorney General, has been invited to participate.
Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644