To help small businesses cope with the nation's growing economic crisis, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week announced plans to host a conference bringing together owners and policy experts from across the state.

Schwarzenegger says he wants small-business leaders and entrepreneurs to develop strategies that will help boost public and private sector efforts to offset the impact of the downturn on smaller businesses.

Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California and co-chair of the conference’s Health Care group, says he has high hopes for the conference’s ability to unite small business leaders.

“The issues are important, but the bigger piece is forming that network around the state for the future,” Hauge said. “One of the problems small businesses have is that they are all over the place. Hopefully we can be organized in the future,” he added.

According to organizers, conference participants have been divided into policy groups ranging from health care to energy, and will make specific recommendations for discussion at the conference.

One critical topic will be access to capital, Hauge said. “I hope other issues will be discussed, but we would be remiss if we didn’t deal with it,” he said.