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D.C. business owners launch new advocacy group

Friday - 6/21/2013, 3:47pm  ET

The District's small business community has a new advocate, and it's coming out firing.

Dave Oberting, managing partner of Capstone Partners LLC, and a half dozen other D.C. business owners recently formed Economic Growth D.C., an organization focused "on increasing the rate of economic growth in the D.C. economy." The group's 501(c)(4) application is awaiting action by the Internal Revenue Service.

"The District wants to do a lot of things and has a lot of plans, from increasing affordable housing to increasing Medicaid," Oberting told me Friday. "Our premise is that the District's economy needs to grow faster in order to do all those things you say you want to do. We are hoping to be a catalyst to make D.C. a better place to do business, and an easier place to do business."

"Everything we do," he added, "is devoted to that purpose."

Oberting, a lobbyist headhunter by trade, reached out to the Washington Business Journal on Thursday, shortly after the D.C. auditor released a report claiming that 68 percent of District businesses are now offering their employees paid sick leave. In response to that audit, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson issued a statement accusing business owners of lying (his exact words, "they may not choose to be truthful") about their compliance with the city's Sick and Safe Leave law.

"To just flat out call business owners liars is just shocking to me," Oberting said. "The idea of making somebody like Phil more aware that it's the private sector that pays the bills and having him be more cognizant of that would be one of the goals for Economic Growth D.C."

As is legislative reform (in workforce development, for example) and political advocacy.

"At some point we're going to make a determination about which of the [mayoral] candidates is the most pro-growth, and we will in all likelihood support that candidate," said Oberting, who opted to launch Economic Growth D.C. rather launching a run for political office.

Oberting's organization will compete to a degree, he said, with the D.C. Chamber of Commerce — its money will come from the same place, businesses. Unlike the chamber, Oberting said, Economic Growth D.C. is not a membership organization. And it will generally target issues affecting small businesses, he said, where "I think the chamber sometimes has a focus on its bigger members."

Economic Growth D.C. has seven paid, part-time employees.

J.R. Meyers, president of The Meyers Group LLC (and former chief of staff to D.C. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander), is the group's vice president of government affairs. Lisa Pinter, director of sales planning and enablement with Cisco Systems Inc., will serve as director.

Derek Ford, an independent consultant, is the compliance officer. Sara Dajani, associate attorney with Berenzweig Leonard LLP, will serve as counsel. Colby Waller, owner of Thor Design Studio, is communications director, and Sarah Massey, founder of Massey Media LLC, is press secretary.

Check out the organization's website, and read Oberting's blog, which has tackled the D.C. health exchange, District corruption and LivingSocial Inc., among other issues, since late May.

© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.