By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Aug 17, 2011 at 8:05 AM

Henry Sanders, a life-long Wisconsinite, ran for lieutenant governor last time around. Of course, he didn't get the nomination, but today he's working hard on behalf of Wisconsin businesses.

As the founder of the Madison Area Growth Network (MAGNET) and Propel Wisconsin Innovation – non-profit organizations dedicated to job creation and attracting/retaining skilled professionals to help grow the economy in Wisconsin – the UW-Whitwater graduate has always been a civic champion.

I've known Sanders for a while, and we're somewhat kindred spirits as we both helped found and grow young profession networks in our communities. In fact I met Sanders while we were starting Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM), now called Fuel Milwaukee.

Sanders was in town recently so I asked him a few questions about his new job and life. What are you up to now?

Henry Sanders: I'm with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The Regional Advocate for the Office of Advocacy's Region V, which means I'm in charge of six states in the Midwest.

The Office of Advocacy deals with regulations with small businesses at the Federal level. We are the watchdogs for small business at the federal level. Policies that affect small businesses at the federal level – we're the ones to say yay or nay, this is good or bad. A perfect example of that is the 1099 and the health care bill that said that anyone does over a $600 transaction would have to fill out a 1099 form. Our chief counsel was the first one to come out and say that should be repealed. So those are the types of things that we do.

OMC: A lot of statewide travel?

HS: I travel a lot. In a lot of ways, I'm the person that talks to the people on the ground. I talk to small businesses, chamber and trade organizations, and a lot of senators. I talk to them about what's going on. A lot of times in D.C., we don't know what's going on with small businesses, so the only way you're going to know that is by going out and talking to the people in the community, and that's what I've been doing. We also do round tables that bring small business owners together to talk about the issues that are concerning them.

I think most small businesses are feeling uncertain about the economy. They feel better now that things are moving slowly, but there's still uncertainty about what's going to happen long-term. So small business owners are still not hiring, they're still saving some dollars there because there is uncertainty there. But, I think overall, people are moving in the right direction, and I think that's a good thing.

OMC: You're a Wisconisn native, right?

HS: I'm from Madison, I'm a Wisconsin guy, and I used to work for Tammy Baldwin – I did outreach for her. I was also Vice President for the Chamber of Commerce. I also worked for WHEDA, for Governor Doyle Wisconsin Housing Economic Development Authority. I ran my own small business, Capacity 360, which helps small businesses get funding. Access to capital is a big thing for small businesses. I founded a couple of non-profit organizations. One is called Magnet, which is a bit like Fuel Milwaukee. Those are the things I've been doing; I've always had a focus on human capitalist businesses.

OMC: Talk about your lieutenant governor campaign.

HS: It was a great opportunity. I loved the people; I loved traveling Wisconsin; and talking to people. My big thing that I talked about then, which fits perfectly to my job now is talking to small businesses and how we can get people back to work, and advocate small businesses. It was a perfect transition to the job that I'm doing now.

There are a lot of lessons learned along the campaign trail. One thing you have to make sure of is that you're not talking too much; that you're listening. Because, a lot of times people have solutions to the problems, and politicians tend to think that we know more, we tend to talk about our ideas without listening. That's a big thing.

I think also that more people have more in common than not, when you're talking to them. I don't care if they're Republicans, Democrats, Independents. More people have more in common than they don't. You have to make sure that you focus on the things they have in common and don't pick off things that they don't. Those are really two big things. Wisconsin is a really beautiful state, I mean, traveling around Wisconsin from urban areas to rural areas. People have a lot of pride in Wisconsin and take great ownership in their state.

OMC: Any SBA events coming up?

HS: We did a roundtable here in Milwaukee with Mayor Tom Barrett about two months ago. The chief counsel, Dr. Winslow Sargeant (the sixth Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy), was here. I do a lot of round tables all over the Midwest. The next one I'm thinking of doing in Minneapolis. Then we'll be doing some later things, Chicago in September, which would be one of the bigger things down there. Then, I'll be in Cleveland, and then Detroit, doing some round table with small businesses.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.