Legislative action priority for chamber’s new chief
Doug Kirkul, the new director of the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce, learned a great deal about lobbying for special interests during 25 years of work in Washington, D.C.
Now he’s laying the groundwork to put that knowledge to use in Nevada.
On the job since August 1, Kirkul, 47, just missed participation in Nevada’s 2007 Legislative session. Over the next two years he plans on defining the chamber’s position on key policy issues, as well as preparing to promote the interests of Reno and Sparks businesses in the 2009 session.
“Some legislators and policymakers have asked, ‘What is the chamber’s stand on this issue?’ or ‘Where does the chamber stand on that?’ As we move forward, I don’t think they should even be asking. We should have a high enough profile in the community and in Carson City that they are going to know because they will have already heard from the chamber,” the new chamber executive says.
Kirkul was born and raised in northern Ohio. About 80 years ago his grandfather immigrated to America and opened a small candy shop in Cleveland, and spent the next decade sending money overseas to collect the rest of his relatives.
“Little by little this huge family was built, and just growing up and understanding that family history has given me a deep respect and admiration for small business,” he says.
Members of the family still operate the largest carpet-cleaning service in the state. While in Washington, Kirkul earned a master’s degree in public administration from American University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business and government at Ashland University in Ohio.
His first Washington job was with the Small Business Administration, and he also worked for the Department of Energy. For the past five years Kirkul served as vice president of member communications and marketing with the National Association of Manufacturers, which he calls one of the nation’s 10 most influential advocacy groups.
“Working there gave me the opportunity to work with executives from hundreds of companies and to work on policy issues that affected our companies both on the local and national levels,” he says. “Throughout the years it has become more and more evident how important government policy is to businesspeople to own, grow and expand their business and to create jobs.”
After more than two decades in the nation’s capital Kirkul and his wife headed West for a change of pace. He first heard about the position at the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce from Ray Bacon, president of the Nevada Manufacturer’s Association.
Kirkul says policy advocacy is the heart of the chamber.
“We understand deeply that free enterprise is the heart of a sound economy,” he says. “We are going to be more proactive about government affairs and be sure that we explain to the policymakers how the policies they are considering will affect those things we all care about and cherish, such as ability of our companies to grow, attract new employers to northern Nevada, our education system, and our ability to create jobs.
“In a year from now, how the chamber is viewed in the community is going to be different than it was in August when I arrived here. One of the real opportunities we have is that we have new leadership. That gives us a chance to speak with a fresh voice, and I believe the community is ready to take another look at the chamber. They appreciate all the chamber has done through the years and are ready to see how the chamber is going to grow.”
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