Georgia Small Businesses Partner with Advocacy to Hold Hot Roundtable

By Nick Ivory, Regional Legislative and Regulatory Manager

Small business owners turned up the heat on burdensome regulations during a small business roundtable hosted by Sigma Thermal, a manufacturing company that designs, engineers, and services process heating systems in Marietta, Ga. The roundtable was one of many Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables being spearheaded by the SBA Office of Advocacy. In attendance were Congresswoman Karen Handel and members of her staff, and multiple small businesses from the area.

Jason Bellville and Jeff Ackel of Sigma Thermal took particular aim at export transaction rules enforced by the United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. They described the rule that requires screening of non-employee individuals entering the facility to be too subjective and that there are no clear criteria on exactly who needs to be screened in order to protect trade secrets. Ackel quipped that the only thing BIS makes clear is that you will be penalized if you are determined to be in violation of the rule. Assistance with compliance from the administering agency is basically non-existent, he told us, which puts an exporter of their size at a disadvantage to larger exporters who generally have sufficient staff to handle regulatory compliance.

Steve Tanner, President of Arylessence, stressed that the global regulatory environment in its current state puts large multinational corporations at an advantage over small businesses. He noted that out of his 150 employees, he has eight of them working on compliance, which comprises roughly 5 percent of his staff. Tanner expressed doubt that there are any large multinational companies that are required to dedicate five percent of their workforce to regulatory compliance. The lack of assistance and guidance regarding compliance from federal agencies is a common criticism heard from stakeholders, and Advocacy regularly works with federal agencies to try to lessen this burden. Congresswoman Handel gave assurance that she and others in Congress have small business concerns at the forefront of their priorities, and are committed to tackling the burdensome regulatory environment throughout the legislative process.

When the conversation turned to trade policy, the main theme among the attendees’ discussion was uncertainty as to how international trade policy would be structured in the future, as the current administration is set to renegotiate trade agreements. Some voiced concerns about the possibility of tariffs, but Handel posited that the administration is more likely using tough rhetoric in order to put pressure on what she called “bad actors,” namely China, in the arena of international trade. She described President Trump as a hard-charging negotiator and said since the White House announced the possibility of tariffs; trade negotiations with China have been more productive than ever. Advocacy is well aware of small business concerns on the matter, having formed an interagency working group focusing on NAFTA renegotiation.

Advocacy was in Atlanta for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable and NAFTA Modernization Outreach Meetings on April 10-11th.

Can’t get to a roundtable near you? Fill out this form and tell us about your federal regulatory burdens. We will pass this information on to the appropriate agency and use it in the planning of upcoming Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables.

Nick Ivory is the Regional Legislative and Regulatory Manager. Ivory can be reached at