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Small Businesses Support 'All of the Above' Energy Policy That Balances Public Land Protection

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The Grand Canyon State, the Silver State, the Land of Enchantment and Colorful Colorado are all very different, as their state nicknames show. But they also have something in common: they describe a region of the American Southwest featuring some of the most stunning natural assets our nation has to offer. And according to opinion polling released May 15, small business owners in all four states strongly believe the preservation of those assets is essential to their financial success and that of local economies. Furthermore, a majority of them would find the president's "all of the above" energy policy all the more appealing if it ensures protection of those public lands.

The poll, commissioned by Small Business Majority, revealed the important role public lands often play in small business owners' decisions to open businesses in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. Nearly half said that when choosing where to live and own a business, access to outdoor opportunities provided by parks and public lands was a large factor. That's a huge deal. Of all the reasons for someone to start a business -- affordable rent, an area well-known for talent -- it says a lot that half of them attribute the reason to public lands. And similarly, four in 10 owners believe their state's national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife habitats are not only an essential part of the outdoor culture and quality of life there, but also one of the reasons they do business there.

It's evident these entrepreneurs have seen firsthand that protecting public lands can bring business to their states. And keep in mind, this wasn't just a poll of owners whose income is related to outdoor activities. In fact, only 11 percent report their revenue is tied to open space in some way, such as selling outdoor equipment, offering bike tours or even just owning a business near a touristy outdoor area.

Small business owners were quick to indicate that as additional energy sources are developed in their areas, they'd like to see steps taken to protect nearby public lands. A broad three quarters support the president's all of the above energy strategy, which promotes development of various energy sources including solar, wind, natural gas and more. But this policy becomes even more attractive to them if it takes steps to ensure some areas remain accessible to visitors and free of development. Owners are more than two times more likely (than less) to support an all of the above strategy that takes that extra step.

With so many entrepreneurs saying monuments, national parks and the like are important to them and to their local economies, it's not surprising four in five owners believe we can protect land and water, maintain a strong economy and create local jobs all at once. In addition, they're more likely to believe protecting these assets has a positive impact on their state's ability to attract and retain entrepreneurs, new businesses and high quality workers.

Taking smart steps to preserve natural assets is good for business, plain and simple, according to these job creators. And it's important legislators listen to what they have to say. They're the backbone of our economy and now is as good a time as any to help them, considering the current economic climate.

John Arensmeyer is the founder and CEO of Small Business Majority