NSBA Announces Finalists for Advocate of the Year Award

September 9, 2011

NSBA today announced the finalists for the 2011 Lewis Shattuck Small Business Advocate of the Year Award. The award winner will be announced during NSBA’s Annual Advocate of the Year Award Luncheon on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 11:30 a.m., which is the kick-off event for the NSBA Washington Presentation on Sept. 14 and 15 in Washington, D.C.

“In the face of all the economic uncertainty facing small businesses today, these five finalists have gone far above and beyond in advocating for policies and programs that help not just their small business, but small businesses across the country.” stated NSBA President Todd McCracken. “I am honored to recognize such a distinguished pool of business owners.”

Eric Blackledge – President of Blackledge Furniture in Corvallis, Ore., is well-known on Capitol Hill for his strong commitment to getting Congress and the administration to convene a national small-business summit. He has been actively engaged on efforts to ease the federal tax and regulatory burden on small business, and has been an outspoken small-business advocate in local, regional and state politics.

Dr. Alison Brown – President and CEO of NAVSYS Corporation in Colorado Springs, Colo., has not only run a very successful engineering company, she recently started a nonprofit small-business incubator for home-based small businesses looking to expand. She currently is serving on the SBA Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board and the NDIA Small Business Executive Committee where she has been active on improving intellectual property protection for small businesses working with federal contracts.

Dr. Ron Katznelson – President of Bi-Level Technologies in Encinitas, Calif., is a well-known and outspoken advocate for fair and sensible efforts to reform the U.S. patent system. Katznelson, an inventor himself, has realized first-hand the many challenges that startup companies face when it comes to the patent system and is continually working to educate stakeholders, lawmakers and the media on this critical small-business issue. He recently organized an advocacy coalition of organizations representing small business inventors and assembled a national forum on the problems with current legislation that would overhaul the U.S. patenting system.

Benny Lee – Chairman and CEO of DuraComm Corporation in Kansas City, MO., moved to the U.S. in 1995 after being a successful entrepreneur in Taiwan and has continued to build on that success with Top Innovations and DuraComm Corp.  Lee has taken on numerous leadership roles with local business organizations and educational institutions.  He volunteers countless hours helping other small and minority-owned businesses.  Lee is Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the University of Missouri Kansas City’s Bloch School of Management and President of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City.

Grafton H. “Cap” Willey, IV – Managing director at CBIZ Tofias in Providence, R.I. has held various leadership positions in state, regional and national small-business associations. He has twice been elected as a delegate and RI State Chair to White House Conferences on Small Business, served a three year term on the Small Business Advisory Council to the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB), and served on a number of state advisory committees to the Governor and General Assembly in RI.  In 2010 he was instrumental in getting the State of RI to change its personal income tax system to a more competitive business friendly system.

The criteria used in determining award finalists was a commitment to small-business advocacy above and beyond policies that specifically impact their own business or industry; a proven history of volunteer efforts to advance and improve the overall small-business community; success in advocating for pro-small business policies; and success and growth as a small-business owner.