By now, I would hope you have heard of the Rural Business & Innovation Summit 2016. We have been calling it #RBIS16 because it’s much shorter and kinda catchy.

If you don’t know, #RBIS16 is a gathering of business minded folks who can learn, collaborate, and participate in workshops geared toward making business in the Basin successful. We have some amazing speakers lined up for the two day event, and I was lucky enough to chat with one of our speakers, Ruth Miles.

Ruth works for the Office of Small Business Assistance, Oregon Secretary of State, as a small business advocate. Here is a picture of her so that when you go to #RBIS16, you know whose autograph you are asking for:

Ruth Miles, Small Business Advocate and Regulatory Ghostbuster

I wasn’t sure what a Small Business Advocate working for the Oregon Secretary of State did, exactly, so I asked Ruth about her work. “We work with almost any business and what we specialize in is helping grow business by engaging in local and state government on their behalf.”

Say whaaaaat!? So what she means to tell us is that, if you are a new business, an already up and running business, or a winding down business, you can call her and her team of other super heroes, and they will speak to government agencies for you? It turns out, that’s exactly right.

“We focus on how we can help businesses work through questions or problems they may be having with regulatory systems to come up with positive solutions.”

I was curious: what kind of businesses does Ruth and her team of troubleshooting, regulatory ghost busters help? Recently, there has been an influx of businesses with inquiries pertaining to marijuana. I know, that’s a hot button issue for many. But think of it from a small business owner’s standpoint; much like speakeasies who wished to become legit after Prohibition, those people into the wacky tobaccy business may have no idea how to forage into new frontiers and wade through regulatory systems…likely because those regulatory systems are so new. Ruth’s office can raise questions and concerns with OLCC…are entrepreneurs missing out on business opportunities because they don’t understand the regulation? Is OLCC missing out on an opportunity to clarify their systems for their customers? Inquiring minds want to know. And Ruth has an inquiring mind.

Think about it…without a clear and transparent regulatory system in place for marijuana businesses, it’s less likely that these businesses will stay in compliance. Not only that, but what if someone comes up with a legitimate business model and no one is around to ask the questions on their behalf? It doesn’t necessarily have to do with marijuana, either. Ruth told me a story about a guy who wanted to have natural gas compressors installed in homes as home fueling stations for cars.

Now, I immediately thought, “Well, there goes the neighborhood. Like, literally. In flames.” And Ruth agreed; DEQ, ODOT and a host of other alphabet soup agencies had something to say about that proposal. But what a GREAT IDEA! If the regulatory systems, and the guy with the idea, could come to some kind of agreement on what regulations should be in place to make his idea safe and implement-able, then sweet. And that’s where you need a team of super heroes: Ruth gets the info needed to help business owners and business dreamers the tools they need to hit the ground running.

Ruth is pretty awesome if you ask me, and I’m not even a business owner or a gonna be business owner. One of the things I liked the most about our talk was this part:

“If you have a question [about business] just call. Of course, we are going to ask you what you have tried first. Always try to solve a problem on your own if you can; but if you can’t, we’re here to help. WE work with almost any business, and our conversations are confidential. We will provide you with a list of tasks and help you make those connections to get things moving.”

How sweet is that!? Another thing that was pretty awesome are the resources Ruth showed me on their website. Here is their site page (<—also helpfully linked):

See where it says “Get Help” in the upper right corner? That green box? It’s that simple. Get Help. I wish I had a Get Help button for a great number of questions.

Want to help yourself? See where it says Business Express? Just click it. And a whole toolbox of things to help you get started, stay running, or close down shop are in one convenient location.

And check this out; I love graphics. I think they breakdown a lot of data into a more manageable format for my poor tired brain. And Ruth loves data too! Well, I don’t know if she loves it. I made that up. But, part of what her office does is to collect data. Such as:

This graph shows cases by issue from the inception of the office (January 6, 2014) through to August 31, 2016. That is a long time to track information, but how interesting this is to me! I hope it is to you, too. You can see that the majority of the the issues pertain to licensing. One percent is listed as “_” which is somewhat foreboding. Do you think that’s what will start the zombie apocalypse? I hope not. I’m not in good enough shape to outrun zombies.

I am really excited to meet Ruth in person at next week’s #RBIS16. She is scheduled to give her presentation during the 12:45pm session on Thursday, September 15th. Seriously, if you haven’t had the chance to sign up, now is the time! Otherwise, you’re missing an opportunity to meet one of the Regulatory Ghostbusters and then you will be very sad. Register toay! (<—helpfully linked)