Small Business Week is a good occasion to reflect on how I came to be a small business owner. As far back as I remember, there has always been a neighborhood bar at 36th and V St. in Omaha, Neb. Both my parents and my husband's parents used to spend time here, and it was always the kind of place where anyone, no matter how much or how little money they made, could have a good time at a reasonable price. When my husband and I bought the spot and founded our own bar, The Brass Monkey Sports Bar, we wanted to keep it that way, but rising electricity costs make that a constant struggle.

We try our best not to pass costs on to our customers by raising prices because we want our place to affordable for everyone in our community. My customers are already dealing with higher costs from daycare and groceries due to rising energy prices. I want to my business to be a place where people in the community feel like they can relax with friends while not spending a lot of money. But it takes a lot of energy to keep our products cold. Keeping our electricity bills low is vital for my business, and my family.

We are lucky in Nebraska because we have the 11th lowest energy bills in the country. That's because more than 70 percent of our power comes from coal, the most affordable source of electricity available.

As I've learned, small business owners like me have relied on the dependably low price of coal for decades. When I'm budgeting for my business and my family, it's important that I can easily predict how much I will spend on electricity each month. From what I've recently learned coal prices have always been steady, and have really helped to keep electricity rates affordable in Nebraska. 

I now know why it is so important for us to use our own energy resources for small businesses like mine to compete. I always want a place at my bar for everyone in our neighborhood, and to keep my prices down I continue to need electricity that is affordable and reliable. It's a good thing we've had access to low-cost coal-based electricity, because it has proven for decades to be one of the most important things to ensure small businesses can keep the lights on and the doors open.

Maria Tworek is the co-owner of The Brass Monkey Sports Bar in Omaha, Nebraska.