Site Visit: Southern California Small Business Owners are Hot about Senseless Regulations
By: Nick Ivory, Director of Regional Affairs
While touring the state of California as part of its regulatory reform outreach efforts, Advocacy stopped by Seek Thermal, a small company headquartered in Santa Barbara, California that engineers, designs and manufactures high quality thermal imaging products and core platforms for consumer and commercial applications. Their products include a series of handheld thermal imaging devices and a series of plug-in thermal imaging devices that allow any smartphone to be used as a thermal imaging tool. Their products are used by hunters to seek out game, building and property managers to monitor HVAC and electrical systems, and fire departments, search and rescue teams, and law enforcement agencies to locate survivors, victims, and suspects. Soon, they will be releasing an automotive aftermarket thermal camera that they believe will revolutionize the automotive industry and the automotive accessories industry by enhancing driver awareness and increasing overall road safety.
We toured the manufacturing facility to get a glimpse of how the products are assembled. In addition to that, the leadership team at Seek Thermal hosted a roundtable with Advocacy staff and other small business owners, which included folks from the homebuilding industry, the sports wellness industry, the art industry, and more, to discuss regulatory issues affecting their business as part of Advocacy’s regulatory reform outreach efforts. One of the things brought up during the discussion was the burdens they are experiencing from the state and local level, a common theme we heard constantly from California businesses the entire week we were there. One of the participants referred to Santa Barbara County as a fiefdom, where the red tape that comes along with permitting slows business growth and development down to a crawl. The county government was described as having a sort of anti-growth philosophy, comparative to the governments of Western Europe.
Another topic of discussion was access to capital. The Dodd-Frank Act was roundly lamented as hostile toward small businesses while being tailored to accommodate large corporations, making it difficult for any business that doesn’t fit the mold of a typical business to get loans. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was also brought up as a major hindrance to small business growth. The regulations tied to the law make it impossible to expand, because it causes employers to hold steady at a certain amount of employees, keeping them at part-time status, which hurts the employees as well.
For Seek Thermal, the red tape tied to exports is the biggest regulatory issue that they face. They described these regulations put in place by the U.S. Department of Commerce as suffocating their business. It is to the point where they can’t even talk about their technology to a foreign national without it being considered an export, and this includes technologies that these foreign countries already have. The amount they have to spend on complying with export rules is extremely high, and an unfair burden that is not felt by larger corporations.
Advocacy was in Modesto, Sacramento and Santa Clarita, Calif. for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable meetings April 30-May 3.
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Nick Ivory is the Director of Regional Affairs. Ivory can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.