Frank Knapp knows small business in South Carolina. So, as a lover of small business I am eager to learn what he has to say. Turns out he also shares my growing interest in energy, its sources, its costs, and its impact on small business. Frank founded the South Carolina Small Business Chamber in 2000 when he was involved with issues at the State House and realized that there was not an entity concerned with the issues most impactful for small business. He knew they needed a voice as well as an ear especially regarding legislative and regulatory concerns around the state. Today, The South Carolina Small Business Chamber is a 5,000+ member advocacy organization with the stated goal “to make the state government more small business friendly and impact federal policy to promote a sustainable economy.”
Back in 2000 the issues for South Carolina small business were primarily around taxes and healthcare costs. Electricity was not something that required much attention. Today, however, it is a major concern.
How important is energy for small business? Very. The electric bill that a small business pays is part of their expenses and overhead. As the rates continue to rise and the business owner is paying a bigger check, and now with all the controversy around rate increases, it is very salient. So, Frank and his team started intervening in rate cases beginning in 2002. He knew the power companies were asking for sizable rate increases. They have intervened in every hike since 2016 as well as in legislation around the construction costs of the nuclear plants.
The Chamber plays many roles. First, it sees and seeks to understand anything (like a rising cost) that will impact the success of small businesses in South Carolina.
Second, the chamber shows small businesses a path which will help their business. With electricity for example, the chamber shows how they can reduce their electric bills. The SC Small Business Chamber is constantly telling people to pay attention to the incentives and take advantage of what is offered. For example: SCE&G Small Business Energy Solutions offers a 4 step program-
Frank has personally made changes in his own building such as swapping out the lighting and he proudly reported that SCE&G paid a portion of the cost for him to do so. Frank promises, “We will continue to put more pressure on utilities to impact energy conservation.”
Finally, the chamber impacts legislations and regulation as a collective voice. The SC Small Business Chamber does this often as the voice of small business to the press and legislature. More importantly, the chamber encourages letters and communication directly from small business owners. When the business owners get directly involved, that is when change really happens.
As the news unfolds regarding the failed VC Summer nuclear project, Frank has been outspoken and quoted in numerous media outlets about need for proper oversight as well as protection for the consumer. Although this blog doesn’t allow room for me to provide all of the quotes attributed to Frank in the past few months, this one from earlier this year gives an overview, “If SCANA doesn’t go bankrupt, they will still be profitable,…They will still have profit-sharing. They can still run their company and provide electricity and still do all these things. They just won’t be quite as profitable. … We certainly don’t need it for any future $9 billion or $10 billion energy projects.”
Frank is not one-sided on this as he recently shared more frustration in his guest column in The State saying “Santee Cooper is a state agency, but that hasn’t prevented it from making bad business decision without being held accountable…for years.” The failed project is a huge issue and a huge cost. It is not one I fully understand. What I have learned is that I need to pay more attention because eventually I pay the price.
I don’t know about you, but for the businesses I run, especially where energy is concerned, I intend to listen, learn, and impact. Thank you South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce for being a resource for doing just that.