On Tuesday, August 17, all eyes were on Seattle’s Pioneer Square as President Obama was in town stumping for Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in her critical primary race. Obama and Murray held a private meeting at a café with three small business owners to discuss the economy, as well as what could be done to help small business owners drive economic recovery. Of the three business owners in attendance, two of them were active members and leaders of Main Street Alliance, which speaks to the power and importance of grassroots organizing.
A few days before the event, the administration placed a call to Joshua Welter, organizer for Main Street Alliance of Washington, asking if he knew of any business owners who had a story about being denied credit. Within two hours, Welter provided the administration with a robust list of small business owners from all over the state who had compelling stories about a host of banking, economic, and finance-related experiences.
The ability to quickly provide a list, on demand, about a particular issue isn’t something that happens overnight. It doesn’t happen over six months, or even a year. The Main Street Alliance has been organizing small business owners in Washington State for five years. The relationships and trust between MSA and its members were cultivated carefully over time, as small business owners came to understand that MSA isn’t a fly-by-night operation. It has a long-term commitment to its members, its community, and their needs.
The same can be said for the MSA Washington’s relationships with both the media and Senator Murray and her staff. Over the years, they have worked together repeatedly on events and a host of issues. Without that familiarity and trust, the ability to quickly pull off a successful high profile event wouldn’t exist.
This week’s event with President Obama, and Main Street Alliance’s central role, furthers MSA’s reputation inside the Beltway. Congress members now recognize MSA as a force that can mobilize the critical small business constituency in their home districts. It was also an important event that deepened Main Street’s relationships with two powerful players in American politics.
MSA’s name was featured prominently in the media coverage of this event (including articles in the Seattle Times ((Martin, Jonathan, “President to lower profile during visit today,” The Seattle Times, August 16, 2010, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012638785_obamavisit17m.html)), Puget Sound Business Journal ((Erb, George and Gilblom, Kelly, “Obama in Seattle, meets with business owners,” Puget Sound Business Journal, August 17, 2010, http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2010/08/16/daily16.html)), a local Southwest Washington daily paper ((Olson, Erik, “Long Beach resort owner gets face time with Obama,” The Daily News, August 17, 2010, http://tdn.com/news/local/article_0b40e434-aa97-11df-8536-001cc4c002e0.html)), even a St. Louis newspaper ((St. Louis Globe-Democrat, “Obama in Seattle to stump, talk business,” August 17, 2010, http://www.globe-democrat.com/news/2010/aug/17/obama-in-seattle-to-stump-talk-business/))) which is critical to the long-term success of any grassroots organization. Not only does it help broadcast our message to would-be supporters, it builds name recognition and relationships with the media.
Not to be lost amid all the excitement is the most important fact: two Main Street Alliance members had the ear of the President for a full forty-five minutes, telling him about their everyday concerns and needs, and also helping to dispel some of the common misconceptions about what the business community believes. Empowering individuals to make their voice heard in the political process is exactly the mission of grassroots organizations like Main Street Alliance.
If you are interested in joining or learning more about the Main Street Alliance of Washington, contact Joshua Welter: washington(at)mainstreetalliance(dot)org, 206-805-6674.
Main Street Alliance works with affiliates in thirteen states. To learn more about work being done in your state, visit http://mainstreetalliance.org/wordpress/.