Broad Range of Issues Highlight Fort Collins Roundtable
By Bruce Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel
The Office of Advocacy hosted a Regional Regulatory Roundtable in Fort Collins, Colorado on August 8, 2018 that attracted dozens of small businesses and their representatives who were eager to discuss federal regulations that burden small business.
The meeting began with Fort Collins Mayor Wade Traxell, who is also a professor at nearby Colorado State University, discussing how he believes public policy decision making should follow an “ecosystem approach” that focuses on effective communication, energy, and the avoidance of unnecessary friction. He stated that regulatory reform can only be effective in an environment of open communication and trust.
The open discussion portion of the meeting began with some ideas about SBA lending programs, including that SBA should consider tying 7(a) loans to some measure other than the prime interest rate because when the prime goes up so does the small businesses 7(a) loan payment, which cuts into their ability to grow and hire new employees.
Another speaker suggested that Advocacy and federal policy makers should take a comprehensive look at how regulations impact small business, not a “stovepipe approach” because the regulatory environment is “death by a thousand cuts.” Another attendee agreed, stating that the regulatory process needs to factor in the incredible transformative power of technology.
Next there was a lengthy discussion of the small business environment in Fort Collins and beyond. Several attendees agreed that soaring land prices were causing small businesses to leave Fort Collins for areas with lower real estate costs. Others stated that high health care costs, expensive warehousing, and local regulations were all burdens on small business. One stated that they could not retain employees if they did not provide health insurance, but health insurance was too expensive. He said he splits the cost of health insurance 50/50 with his employees.
Many of the attendees also agreed that there was a shortage of qualified labor that was really hurting small business. Several attendees stated that there were cultural issues about young people working that needed to be addressed. Some suggested the need for better technical training and community colleges. Other said the minimum wage was too high and that many potential workers cannot pass drug tests.
Several other issues were raised as well. A representative from the transportation industry complained about the Department of Transportation’s Electronic Logging Devices mandate. A trucker who hauls livestock complained that the Hours of Service of Drivers rules needed to be more flexible because “you can’t just stop and park when you are hauling live animals.” He also said there was a shortage of drivers and many companies can’t find qualified drivers.
The meeting continued with discussions of the need for transformative energy sources, that the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) for procurement were unduly complex and lengthy, and that the GSA submission schedules for bidding were confusing. A small business from the hearth and fireplace industry complained that EPA’s rules for wood burning fireplaces were too strict, and were having the unintended effect of people keeping older, less efficient wood stoves because the prices of new ones were too high.
The roundtable concluded with a return to common themes from the day: labor shortages, overly complex regulations, and cultural obstacles to the labor force and small business growth. It was a broad ranging and thoughtful discussion.
Advocacy was in Wyoming and Colorado for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables August 7-9.
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.
Bruce Lundegren is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes safety, transportation, and security. Lundegren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.