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March 12. 2013 10:04PM

Guinta re-emerges as founder, chair of new independent business advocacy group


FRANK GUINTA 

Largely under the radar since losing his U.S. House seat last November, former Rep. Frank Guinta is back as founder and chair of a new group to advocate for conservative fiscal and regulatory policies on behalf of independent business owners.

The Republican is chairing the Independent Business Council of New Hampshire, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) recently filed with the New Hampshire Secretary of State.

Guinta has kept the IBC quiet while recruiting members for several weeks now. He said Tuesday he expects to formally roll out the IBC in roughly 30 days.

Guinta's formation of the group is sure to accelerate speculation that he is using it as a vehicle to keep his profile high as he prepares to run again for office. He has been mentioned as eyeing a 2014 run for the U.S. Senate, another run for the 1st District U.S. House seat he lost to current Rep. Carol Shea-Porter last November, or perhaps even a run for governor.

"I haven't made any decision about 2014," he said. "I have honestly been enjoying time with my family.

"But I'm 42 and retirement is not in my vocabulary, yet. These are issues that I have always been involved in, and so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm engaged in them now.

"I'm sure there will be people who want to try to connect the dots between this and politics, but my passion is about small business owners and making sure we do everything we possibly can to have favorable, positive economic policy in the state of New Hampshire," he said. "If I decide to run for something in the future, that will come in due time."

BIA and IBC

The new Guinta organization may raise eyebrows at the state's largest business advocacy organization, the 400-member Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire. But BIA spokesman Adrienne Rupp said Tuesday the association had no comment on the IBC.

Guinta's IBC will also enter a field already crowded with groups such as local chambers of commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Retail Merchants Association and the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association.

"We're not looking to compete with any existing organization," said Guinta. "But we're looking to strengthen the voice of that small business that doesn't feel it has the ability to communicate in any other way other than joining with like-sized businesses."

In 2009, former state Sen. Bob Clegg, feeling that the BIA did not represent the interests of small businesses, formed the Small Business and Small Industry Association.

"We're still in operation," he said. Tuesday. "We're still alive and we're going to start recruiting again once the budget gets going."

Clegg said he did not view Guinta's group as competition.

"The more people who get involved in advocating for small business, the better off we are," he said."

Guinta said that while the IBC will keep tabs on how federal issues, such as the Affordable Care Act, affect small businesses, he said that state issues will also be in focus.

"We'll be focused on the drivers of our New Hampshire economy - whatever impacts a business owner here in the state," he said.

Small businesses

Prior to winning the U.S. House seat in 2010, Guinta served as mayor of Manchester from 2006 to 2010. He is also a former Manchester alderman and state representative.

To head day-to-day IBC operations, Guinta has tapped his long-time supporter and former congressional district director, Roger Wilkins.

In a Power Point prospectus that Guinta has delivered to potential members, the IBC's stated mission is to "strengthen the economic vitality of New Hampshire by providing advocacy, education and better linkage with state leaders" and to "promote a strong and healthy business climate which spurs investment in the Granite State, focusing on federal, state and local economic policies."

IBC lists as its goals "government tax relief for employers," "regulatory review and reform," "overhead tax breaks" and "workers compensation reform."

Guinta said he and Wilkins started the group after meeting with small business owners "frustrated by their lack of ability to have a voice in the process. Small business owners did not feel that they were in a position of competitiveness because of the environment that we're in, politically, legislatively and economically.

Generally speaking, Guinta said, the members will be businesses with fewer than 500 employees, although any business is welcome.

"Above anything, it's a service-based organization that's going to help and support what I consider the backbone of New Hampshire's economy, which is small business owners," he said. "It's something I've personally been engaged in throughout my public life and my private life."

jdistaso@unionleader.com



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