Secretary of State Is Anti-Business

Montana's Secretary Stapleton Declares "You Can't Have Local Shops"

April 19, 2018

As part of his Things That Matter tour, Montana Secretary of State, Corey Stapleton, visited Butte, Montana today. According to Secretary Stapleton's web site, the Things That Matter tour is supposed to be outreach to "help commerce thrive in every town."

Montana is our nation's fourth largest state. It makes sense to travel outside the capital city to better understand the businesses and people who make Montana tick! "Things that Matter" is the Secretary of State's outreach tour that does just that-spending time in every county, promoting democracy to all ages, helping commerce thrive in every town, and immersing in the unique cultures of each Montana community.

Business owners and community leaders are invited to these events where, according to the Secretary of State's invitations, Secretary Stapleton wants to talk about what can be done to improve businesses and the business environment, what the Secretary of State's office can do to help businesses and make things easier for businesses in Montana (and particularly at the location currently being visited), and what hardships area businesses are experiencing and how businesses can work together to overcome those issues, or how the Secretary's office can help businesses overcome those issues.

However, when asked by one of the business leaders present - an individual invited by Secretary Stapleton to ask questions and voice concerns - what existing local businesses and community leaders, like those represented in the room, could do to help promote local business growth and getting new businesses to fill vacant spaces in the Butte Uptown area, the Butte Plaza Mall, and other commercial areas, Mr. Stapleton's response was that you just can't have businesses like that any more. There is no place for local shops in the modern economy.

An elected state government official - the one who proudly touts himself as "Montana's Business Officer" - couldn't provide any suggestion as to how local businesses can survive, let alone grow and flourish. He couldn't provide a single suggestion about how community leaders or other businesses could help grow the local business environment. He couldn't provide a single suggestion from any of his other community visits about things that were working in those communities that may be applicable to Butte and Southwest Montana. He couldn't even be bothered to try. He just immediately dismissed local businesses as a non-starter! And in an event he and his office put together ostensibly to help promote businesses and local economies!

Here are several things that should come to mind to anyone in the Butte community that could be helpful in promoting the local economy:

Support Business Incubators
Successful local businesses can support the local business incubators. There are a couple of business incubation programs in Butte that can provide things like discounted rent and shared services to keep some business costs low for businesses for a limited time so the business can get on their feet. Successful businesses can help new businesses by supporting these incubators financially, with services, or even just by directing consumers in the direction of the incubating businesses.
But Secretary Stapleton couldn't mention incubators. Apparently the Secretary doesn't believe in business incubators - but he didn't provide any argument on why they don't work.
Support Business Development Grants
Local businesses can work together, and in conjunction with business development and promotion organizations like the local Chamber of Commerce or Mainstreet to fund, manage, and award grants to business startups or businesses in need.
But Mr. Stapleton couldn't think of grants, or didn't consider it worth his time to mention, or didn't think it could be helpful - but he didn't provide any argument against grants.
Cooperative Marketing Efforts
Cooperative marketing efforts can also help new or struggling businesses. By advertising with other businesses in an area, whether it is a mall, a city block, a development district, a shared building, or just neighbors, by marketing several businesses, the cost to any individual business can be reduced. So called "co-op" dollars are also available from some suppliers, product manufacturers, or professional organizations. A new business may be able to get some (or sometimes all) of the cost of certain advertising paid for by a professional organization they are a member of just by mentioning the professional organization in the ad. A number of product manufacturers or suppliers have advertising dollars available for the businesses that sell their products, if the ad in question is about the manufacturer's brand-name products.
How can local businesses help with this? Well, talk to the new business opening up next door or across the street. Find out what they do and whether that compliments your business. If the existing business is reasonably well know, suggest the new business use the existing business as a landmark for directions in their advertising - and offer to pay for part of that ad. Or look into where your two businesses may really compliment each other and offer to split advertising costs for ads highlighting the synergy between the businesses.
But Secretary Stapleton did not bother to suggest cooperative marketing. Maybe it was just outside of his understanding of promoting businesses and helping with economic and commercial development. But he also didn't say anything against cooperative marketing...
Address Consumer Inconvenience
In some places where business growth or development is struggling, consumer inconvenience is a significant issue. Parking availability, poor quality or potentially dangerous sidewalks or streets, or difficult to find addresses can be (or can feel) sufficiently inconvenient to customers that they don't bother to seek out the new business. Business leaders and tenants can work together to pressure building owners to help clean up some issues, or can work together to get community leaders to prioritize maintenance on public infrastructure, such as streets. Also, some cooperative marketing dollars could be spent just to market the available conveniences, like where open or public parking lots are and how close together and to businesses they really are. Accessibility of locations and their proximity to each other can also be promoted.
But Mr. Stapleton didn't suggest addressing consumer concerns. Of course, he also didn't say anything against addressing public concerns (but he is more about ignoring public concerns than addressing them).
Assist New or Struggling Businesses to Get Online
New businesses or struggling businesses may benefit greatly by having an online presence, but they may not know how to do this, or how to do it effectively. It's more than just creating a Facebook page. Existing businesses and community leaders can help a new business by letting them know what has worked for them or where they have gotten good services. Just getting good online promotion of a physical location can make a big difference in the success of a new business venture.
But Secretary Stapleton didn't mention helping businesses get online. Maybe he didn't think of it, but that seems odd since he is all over his ill-conceived and discriminatingly executed "going digital" initiative. But again, he didn't say anything bad about helping new businesses to get online.
Share Services
Sharing services, where possible, can be beneficial to new or struggling businesses. This is one function of many business incubators, but it can also be mutually beneficial to other businesses. Can the cost of a receptionist be split? Can the cost of snow removal be split? Can you split an internet connection without violating your ISP contract? What about other professional services or premises services?
But the Montana Secretary of State didn't think it was worth suggesting that businesses share some costs where it makes sense. He was too busy telling business and community leaders that you can't expect to have local businesses any more.
Personal Patronage
This one seems just painfully obvious. Maybe I should have had it first or last on the list for that reason. But really, if you want a business to succeed, you ought to put your money where your mouth is and patronize that business. Go there. At least see what they have to offer. Recommend it to your friends, acquaintances, and business associates. Get people in the door of the new or struggling business.
But Corey Stapleton wasn't prepared enough to even suggest that people simply patronize businesses they want to survive. Failing to even bring this up seems to indicate that Mr. Stapleton was completely unprepared to talk to business people about the issues businesses are facing and how to address or overcome those issues. But, once again, he didn't say anything against patronizing those businesses you want to see succeed. (But he implied through his statements and lack of suggestions that he doesn't want to see businesses sudcceed.)
In-Kind Trades
Trading product for product or service for product or service for service can help new businesses to succeed. Trades show the quality of product or service, and get the new business things they need often with lower initial capital outlay. However, new businesses need to be careful about going too far with trades and exchanges, because they still need cash flow to pay bills.
But Secretary Stapleton didn't suggest businesses offering trades with new businesses. But he also didn't speak against them.
Tax Credits
Tax credits or tax incentives are often discussed by municipalities trying to attract big businesses to build in their community, and this can help fill vacant spaces in commercial or industrial zones, but these same incentives can be helpful to small businesses - and may both cost the municipality less in the long run and have a larger business and economic impact in the long run. But these are usually not considered in favor of the big return right now in the form of a large business opening up locally.
But Mr. Stapleton didn't think to mention tax incentives, instead stating that local businesses can't survive. But, as always, he didn't speak against tax incentives.
Business Mentorships
Currently successful business owners, or retired business owners can provide invaluable insight, support, and advice to new or struggling business owners. There are business mentorship programs available through large business organizations that existing businesses and community leaders can get involved in, or a group of local businesses and community leaders could work together to create their own mentorship program and offer this to new businesses.
But business mentorship is not something Secretary Stapleton suggested as a way to help grow businesses. But he still didn't say anything against it.
Festival Tie-Ins
Particularly in Butte, the festivals each year are important to the community and the economy. Coming up with ways to tie your business into the festivals, whether that is through a related sale, advertising in the materials and programming, sponsoring events or features, having a presence on the festival grounds, or just putting your sandwich board out on the sidewalk where people will walk or drive past it on the way to the festivities can help a business.
For some businesses it also makes sense to decorate or theme your location to tie in to the current festival. From streamers, banners, and posters, to moving relevant product to front windows or easy access aisles, you can help bring customers in from the festival to get something they need or something to remember the festival. Either way, the business can take advantage of the festival.
But this, too, was beyond the ideas of Mr. Stapleton for supporting businesses. But, again, he did not speak against the festivals.

Mr. Corey Stapleton has again demonstrated is absolute lack of qualification to hold any elected office, but most particularly Montana Secretary of State. He is not sufficiently informed on basic economic development strategies to provide even one thing that could be done to help new or struggling businesses. From his actions and statements, it is not only clear that Mr. Stapleton is not qualified to hold office, but is actively acting against the best interests of Montana businesses and trying to cause those businesses harm directly or indirectly. And he demonstrates this while on a tour to supposedly help local businesses deal with issues they are facing.