All Boxed Up! How Federal Regulations Box Small Businesses

By Joe Knilans, Rural Affairs Advocate

Advocacy visited a small packaging company in Platteville, Wisconsin to hear how federal regulations have an impact on small businesses in Wisconsin.  L & M Corrugated Container is a small, third-generation family-owned business.  Currently L & M operates two plants located in Wisconsin with a workforce of 85 trained employees.  These plants service Chicago, Milwaukee, Dubuque and Madison along with many communities in between.

L & M is a small business that prints, cuts, scores and glues more than 20 million square feet of corrugated every month into packaging and custom containers.  They offer much flexibility to their customers large or small by accommodating a run as small as one or two boxes and up to an order of 20,000 boxes.  Their high-tech machinery allows them to print, cut, score and glue boxes at a rate of 300 boxes per minute!  They prepare containers for big and small businesses alike.

To continue the Office of Advocacy’s outreach effort, the team conducted a mini-roundtable at L & M and invited many local Platteville business owners.   The team heard from a range of small business owners and their struggles with federal regulations.  Many of the topics have been mentioned at past regulatory roundtables, such as the overtime rule that is currently under review.  We also heard about hours of service regulations for the trucking industry, healthcare costs and a shortage of workers.

One attendee from the local radio station stressed to the team about an upcoming crisis in the industries shortage of radio engineers in the broadcasting industry.  He said that the industry will lose up to 60 percent of the industry engineers in the next few years, due to attrition.  Some of his recommendations were to utilize apprenticeship programs and better quality loans for  students considering the broadcasting industry as a livelihood.

Another attendee from the banking industry mentioned that the loan officers and community banks had hoped that with the recent banking regulatory changes they would see improvements in streamlining and reducing paperwork.  However, it seems that the recent regulations added to the paperwork burden for business owners seeking loans to expand their businesses.  Small business owners have limited time to fill out the reams of paperwork to borrow money to expand their businesses.

The local government was represented by Platteville Municipal Airport and they also had a concern with federal regulations.  The Platteville Municipal Airport is in desperate need of snow removal equipment but according to federal regulations they cannot buy the needed equipment unless it is made in the USA.  They have been unable to find American made equipment that fits their requirements.

As we traveled through Iowa and Wisconsin we held many roundtables to hear concerns from small business owners and these were just a few of the many issues that we in Platteville.

Joe Knilans serves as the Rural Affairs Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in rural America. Knilans works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of rural America to Washington DC. He can be reached at