WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Some small business owners are saying that with Dan McKee as governor, there may be more of a focus on them in Rhode Island, something they said he’s championed largely behind the scenes as lieutenant governor.

“Dan’s kind of like the hidden gem of Rhode Island.”

You haven’t seen McKee on the stage at the state’s weekly coronavirus updates, but business owners, like Justin Gontarek, said he’s been working tirelessly to get them financial relief and the resources needed to stay open.

“Having been a mayor, having been in politics most of his life, his family has owned a business for about a 100 years or so, so Dan is a small business person, so I think the state is always going to have the best interest of small businesses, moving forward you know even out of the pandemic,” said Gontarek.

Gontarek, who is also the co-creator of the R.I. Small Business Coalition, said he’s been speaking with McKee two or three times daily for the past nine months.

Together, they created the “Gift it Forward” initiative, to encourage people to invest in small businesses with gift cards. They also host a daily zoom call with hundreds of small business owners.

“He was able to, with his abilities, get group leaders together, so we constantly had DLT on the call updating just about unemployment, how to get it if you were a small business, how to get it if you were a 1099 sole proprietor, we had a lot of the SBA officials on there, daily,” Gontarek added.

He expects those daily calls, and help, to continue with whomever McKee selects as his lieutenant governor.

“The goal was always to keep the small business stuff with the lieutenant governor’s office, so whoever that may be coming in, which there are a few good candidates.”

Gontarek says that candidate may be a mayor, former mayor, or someone from the business community.

There’s no word yet on when exactly McKee will become governor, but we know that Gov. Raimondo has to first be approved as Commerce Secretary by the senate and that won’t happen until sometime after Inauguration Day on January 20.