Group's new chief grounded in real world

Special to The Times

Watching his father work to build a radio advertising sales business gave John Kabateck a real-world education in small-business issues.

Jack Kabateck retired last year, but his legacy continues.

Father gave son a firsthand appreciation of the challenges small businesses face and their passion for their companies, the younger Kabateck said. And that will serve him in his new role as head of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

"It was a great learning experience," he said.

Kabateck, 39, who replaced longtime state chapter director Martyn Hopper last month, plans to reach out to ethnic groups for new members and exercise his coalition-building skills as he works to rebrand the nonprofit.

For now, less than 40 days into the job, Kabateck is taking lots of meetings, listening to members, staff and others about the future direction of the lobbying and advocacy group.

"I'm getting smarter every day," said Kabateck, who most recently was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's director of external affairs.

Hopper left the organization in September after 26 years as its director. He subsequently worked on the governor's reelection campaign, was named to chair the state's newly revived Small Business Board and last month became executive vice president of the Pest Control Operators of California, a trade group.

Kabateck, who grew up in Glendale, spent four years at the California Restaurant Assn. before his job in the governor's office, ending the stint as the restaurant organization's senior legislative director.

He started his public sector career in 1991 as a special assistant to the secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. He then worked as an executive writer and chief deputy appointments secretary in the Office of Gov. Pete Wilson.

The Sacramento resident worked briefly at Edelman Public Relations Worldwide before returning to the public sector as chief of staff to former Republican Assemblywoman Charlene Zettel.

Kabateck said he hoped to use his coalition-building skills to address the core concerns of his group's nearly 25,000 members, such as healthcare and workers' compensation insurance.

He also plans to focus on being more effective in demonstrating the value of membership, the value of the organization and the role of small business in California.

"Our goal is to help figure out how we can effectively brand and even rebrand NFIB California, both with members and public policy leaders," Kabateck said.

The National Federation of Independent Business was founded in 1943 in Burlingame, Calif., as a nonpartisan group to help small- and independent business owners shape public policy. It polls its members and then takes the majority stance as its position.

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Funds to aid the disabled at work

Free money -- as much as $2,500 -- is available for small businesses from the state Division of Workers' Compensation to modify their workplaces for disabled employees.

The money can be used to modify a workstation or to buy equipment, furniture or tools, such as a hands-free device for the telephone.

Qualified expenses to accommodate a temporarily disabled employee will be reimbursed up to $1,250. For a permanently disabled employee, the maximum is $2,500.

The employee must have been injured on or after Jan. 1, 2004. The expenses cannot have been reimbursed by an insurance company or other source.

The money is part of the Return to Work program, in place for six months, that was created after the 2004 workers' comp legislation that aimed to turn the focus to keeping an injured employee at work, if possible, or getting an employee back to work as soon as possible.

Studies show this strategy provides the best outcome for injured workers and employers, said Susan Gard, the division's public information officer.

The incentive for small businesses, those with fewer than 50 employees, has been used by only a few companies. But that could change when the workers' comp unit ramps up its outreach this year.

"We're moving toward an emphasis now of stay at work, return to work," Gard said. "You'll be seeing a lot more help for employers from us on these issues."

To download a reimbursement form, go to

Gard is working on a new website for the division to be launched in September that will be geared to small-business owners and other workers' comp users.

For now, small-business owners can learn more about workers' comp rules and programs at or by listening to recorded messages at (800) 736-7401.


Learning how to raise capital

Small-business owners are always on the hunt for capital to expand their companies. They can get a head start on the process at the Access to Business Capital event July 10 at the Mission Inn in Riverside.

The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce program will feature panels and presentations by equity investors and private, invitation-only pitch sessions.

A networking mixer wraps up the event, which runs from 2 to 5 p.m.

Businesses can apply for the limited number of pitching slots by calling Laura Cabanero at (916) 444-2221.

Many Latino-owned small businesses prefer to attend several of the chambers' monthly capital events held around the state before they feel ready to make their pitch, said Martha Montoya, owner of Los Kitos Entertainment in Santa Ana.

"Culturally, we don't open our books," said Montoya, who is also chairwoman of the group's Access to Business Capital committee. "You have no idea how long it takes us to convince businesses to share their information."

Investors at the event will include Daniel Villanueva Jr. and representatives from Palladium Equity Partners, Engage Capital and RCFontis.

The event is free, but seating is limited and registration is required. To register, call (951) 320-7020, Ext. 238, or e-mail


Minority suppliers to be honored

Rub shoulders with dozens of successful minority-owned suppliers and the corporate citizens who buy their goods and services at an awards luncheon to be held July 13 at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel.

Four minority business owners will be named suppliers of the year at the event sponsored by the Southern California Minority Business Development Council.

More than three dozen companies are up for the awards. Winners will go on to compete in regional and national competitions for the supplier of the year award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

For more information, contact Shawn Smith at or (213) 689-6940. Or go to


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