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New panel seeks ways to aid small businesses

In an effort to understand the needs of local small-business owners, newly elected State Senator Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) has chosen Troy business owner Bert Fridlin to assemble a Small Business Advisory Committee for District 30.

The committee will act as a board of advisors for Taylor regarding legislation affecting small businesses.

“I think it will be an effective way for me to be well-versed on legislation affecting small businesses,” Taylor said in an interview. “I’d much rather rely on the advice of a business owner rather than a lobbyist.”

Taylor announced Fridlin’s appointment Tuesday at a reception at the Pike County Republican Headquarters. About 40 people attended the event, which was held to thank Pike County voters for their support in the election.

Fridlin runs an antiques business with his wife Ginger in Troy. Before that, he served as the Georgia State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business for 22 years.

During Taylor’s campaign, Fridlin accompanied him door-to-door on visits to local small businesses. Since those visits, Fridlin has been gathering the support and input of small business owners.

He said he’s already created a partial list of interested businesses, and hopes to organize 100 to 120 small businesses throughout the district.

“We’re going to try to have a broad cross-section of types of businesses,” Fridlin said.

He added that he plans to organize the group by mid-January, before the next legislative session meets. The Small Business Advisory Committee will likely meet several times a year to discuss legislation that will touch issues including worker’s compensation, health insurance and the Alabama unemployment trust fund.

“It’s a perfect fit for him and I think he’s going to do a great job,” Taylor said.

With the Republican political shift in the legislature after the election, Fridlin said, he hopes legislation will pass that favors business owners.

“I think we have to see what happens in the legislature itself,” Fridlin said.

Taylor will also meet for a special session regarding ethics reform in December. He said he plans to push for “the strictest accountability laws in the country,” regarding access to information about lobbyists spending on elected officials, ending “unlimited wining and dining” and “cracking down on conflicts of interest.”

“Really, it all boils down to making sure that elected officials are not profiting for their offices,” he said.

Fridlin said he expects the ethics reforms Taylor is bringing before the legislature—should they pass—will attract new businesses to Alabama.

“We’ll try to get them to come to Pike County,” Fridlin said.