Lang's Body Shop, which has customers in both Huron and Erie counties, was honored Thursday by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Lang's has been a NFIB member since 1946, longer than any other Ohio business.
Robin Lang now runs the business, which is the oldest family-owned body shop in Ohio. His grandfather Emil A. Lang Sr. opened the shop in 1936 and passed it down to his son Emil, also called Sonny Lang, in 1968. Robin Lang took over in 1999. He said his mother Mary Lang has been a big help in the business.
Lang said NFIB, which represents 434 small businesses in Huron and Erie counties and 25,000 in the state, takes issues his business faces directly to state and federal legislators.
"With only three to five employees, at times we hardly have a voice when it comes to the rights and laws that affect small businesses," Lang said. "They're lobbying in Congress to get laws to make it more profitable to own a small business."
Ohio has high taxes and many regulations surrounding states do not, Lang added, which makes it difficult for independent business owners.
Lang said he grew up working in the business. "When I was 14 years old, I was sanding cars. When I was in high school, if I wasn't in a sport, I worked," he said. "I've worked here full-time since I was 18."
Kyle Jackson, NFIB assistant state director, said his organization raises many issues that face business owners. Tort reform, health care costs, workers compensation rates, state taxes and regulations are just some of the issues he brings up to legislators.
"Ohio is known as a high tax, high regulation state. We try to reduce the regulation so small business owners don't have to be paper pushers for the state of Ohio," Jackson said. "When the businesses hurt, it's not only the business owner. Its the employees and the community that suffer too."
Jackson said NFIB isn't against large businesses, but concentrates on the needs of small companies. "When we lose huge manufacturing companies, that absolutely has a ripple effect," he said.
Rob Duncan is the NFIB membership representative for Huron and Erie counties. He organizes quarterly meetings in Norwalk to bring in state and federal legislators for face-to-face meetings with members. Norwalk is one of 16 sites in Ohio for quarterly meetings.
"Typically our members have three to four employees," Duncan said, so NFIB represents "the little guy" in business. He said about 20 independent business owners usually come to the quarterly meetings.
Small business owners can contact Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to lobbying, NFIB provides discounts to members on business products and services, training and resources.