ByOffice of Advocacy

Florida Small Business Makes Headlines with their Plaque Company

By Christine Myers, Region 2 Small Business Advocate

In the News, a plaque company based in Tampa, Fla., has been in business for more than 31 years, but it took the break-up of the Bell System to make it thrive. How could the break-up of the largest telecommunications business in the world have an impact on a small plaque company in Florida? It seems very disconnected, no pun intended, until one spends time with its owner, Barry Murante, and understands his business model.

Barry and his partner Tom began Laminations Unlimited in Jacksonville, Florida in 1982.  They sold laminated plaques using a company in Georgia to produce the plaques.  But there wasn’t enough revenue selling plaques in the local Jacksonville area to support two partners, their families and a building.  They knew they needed to expand across the South and perhaps across the nation.  However, the business couldn’t absorb the costs of all the long distance calls required to tele-market to other states, or provide appropriate customer service which, before the internet, would have to be done over the phone.  So Barry left and went to New Jersey to start a painting and wallpaper business.

In January of 1986 Tom called to tell him the news: The U.S. Justice Department broke up the Bell System, allowing companies like MCI to compete for long distance customers.  The impact was not lost on Barry and Tom:  Long distance charges were going to go down! Tom had also found equipment to cut and make plaques, allowing their company to produce and sell their own products. Barry recognized the newfound potential in their plaque business and moved back to Jacksonville. A year later they moved the business to Tampa.

Since then, they have grown from a local business to serving customers nationwide. Most of their customers are repeat customers, including our own Bruce LeVell who has worked with Barry since 2005 for all of his recognition plaques and banners.  The 64 employees are equally loyal — Many of them have more than 20 years of service and a few started with Barry and Tom 31 years ago. Although Tom has now retired, Barry continues to grow the company. In the News used to operate out of a rented building, but in 2008, Barry bought land and built his own 22,000-square-foot building.

A key to their success has been the streamlining and modernization of the operations.  Long gone are the days when Barry cut the wood for all their plaques. Now they have standardized using ¾” birch they source from two suppliers. In addition to wood plaques, acrylic plaques are also available. When they began the business, they used actual newspapers and magazines, but regardless of how good their lamination process was, eventually those articles would yellow. Now articles are found online, downloaded, and professionally edited by Barry’s graphic artists. They remain in pristine condition using that same lamination process.  One employee is responsible to work with the publishers to verify usage terms and conditions.  The fact that major news outlets know “In the News” by name is, indeed, good news.

In the News has more than 2 million customers and is the largest plaque company specializing in newspaper and magazine articles.

Advocacy was in Florida for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables June 5-7th.

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.

Christine Myers is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate representing New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our Regional Advocates in the 10 SBA regions stand ready to hear from you about small business concerns and to help you level the playing field for small businesses in your state.



Advocacy staff meet with Florida company, 'In the News' to discuss regulatory issues.

Advocacy staff meet with Florida company, ‘In the News’ to discuss regulatory issues.

ByOffice of Advocacy

SBA Loans Give Entrepreneurs a Hand Up

By Nick Ivory, Regional Legislative and Regulatory Manager


While in California, Advocacy visited Ross Roberts Truck Repair, Inc., a small diesel engine repair service in Stockton, Calif. The owner, Juan Vega, bought the business in 2011 and moved to a new property with the help of an SBA loan. Vega’s story is a true success story of an individual coming from less than ideal circumstances to living the American Dream.

Having worked on a tomato farm during his youth, Juan only made it to the 8th grade. Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to save enough money to purchase a profitable company and provide a great life for his own family.

Vega’s story is just one example of many other success stories that are made possible with the help of the programs available by the SBA. The 7(a) Loan Guarantee Program is designed to help entrepreneurs start or expand their small businesses. The program makes capital available to small businesses through bank and non-bank lending institutions. The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program assists in the development of small businesses owned and operated by individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged, such as women and minorities.

Advocacy thanks Mr. Vega for inviting us into his business and for telling his story.

Advocacy was in Modesto, Sacramento and Santa Clarita, Calif. for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable meetings April 30-May 3.

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

Advocacy staff meet with the owner of Ross Roberts Truck Repair of Stockton, California to discuss their regulatory burdens.

Advocacy staff meet with the owner of Ross Roberts Truck Repair of Stockton, California to discuss the small company’s regulatory burdens.

ByOffice of Advocacy

In Response to Advocacy’s Recommendation, EPA Declines to Impose Duplicative and Expensive Financial Responsibility Requirements on the Hardrock Mining Industry

By Kevin Bromberg, Assistant Chief Counsel

On December 1, in a victory for small businesses, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the Agency will not issue final regulations for financial responsibility requirements for certain hardrock mining facilities. Darryl DePriest, the previous Chief Counsel, in his last official action in the Obama Administration, sent a letter on January 19, 2017 to EPA asking the agency to withdraw the proposal as being costly and unnecessary.

Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 directs EPA to develop requirements for classes of facilities to establish evidence of financial responsibility for risks associated with the production, transportation, treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous substances. EPA’s proposed requirements for the hardrock mining industry to avoid taxpayer expenditures associated with mining cleanups in January 2017.

In Advocacy’s view, these small mines are already highly regulated in a similar fashion by robust state and Federal programs. Advocacy agreed with the small business mining community and mining regulators that existing programs effectively address the same issues at modern small mines. The office found no significant evidence of a problem warranting federal regulation. EPA had proposed this rule based upon a contrary belief that the existing state and Federal programs would not adequately address future CERCLA liabilities. In the December final rule, EPA agreed, recognizing that it had failed to properly consider that modern mining practice and modern federal and state regulations had already addressed the same risks from operating mining facilities.

EPA convened a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel to examine this rulemaking. The panel report is found at

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, stated that “[a]dditional financial assurance requirements are unnecessary and would impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy and rural America, where most of these mining jobs are based.” This final action avoids these substantial impacts on small mining companies without any harm to the environment.

ByOffice of Advocacy

Former Teacher Adorns Historic Area with Her Handcrafted Jewelry Business

By Rhett Davis, Region 6 Advocate

Named for its owner, Beatrixbell Handcrafted Jewelry began as a business-to-business jewelry company in 2008, selling items to more than 300 stores across the United States.

In May 2017, Beatrix Bell decided to open a flagship retail store in up-and-coming Algiers Point, the historic district that hugs the Mississippi River levee across from the French Quarter. The views of the New Orleans skyline are incredible from Algiers, New Orleans’ second oldest neighborhood, founded in 1719. So it only seemed appropriate that Beatrix chose a site for her new store where small businesses have thrived for 298 years.
“After working closely with small businesses, I was inspired to open my own gift shop,” Beatrix said. “I focus on selling art and other handmade wares created by local artists and female entrepreneurs.”

An array of prints, original paintings, housewares and bath and body products stock the shelves, all created and owned by women-owned businesses and artists. Beatrix’s complete line of jewelry is also featured in this curated gift shop.

The gift shop launched on Mother’s Day weekend in 2017. The former public school teacher who turned her hobby into a small business participated in the post Black Friday’s Small Business Saturday.

“I had a really great turnout,” she said.

Beatrix circulated a Small Business Saturday promotion to everyone on her email list and distributed 1,200 “door knob hangers” in Algiers.

“We had more than five times the normal traffic that day,” she added.

Beatrix loves the personal interaction with customers at her new retail store. “We provide consistent customer service and provide local shoppers and tourists with an opportunity to shop local. My customers have the opportunity to purchase items made right here in Louisiana. They love learning the story behind each item, instead of just grabbing something off the shelf,” she said.

“The store also has an e-commerce site,, so that people can shop online. I feel that is imperative these days. Small businesses should have an online presence in order to compete.”

Beatrix is one of 9.9 million businesses that are majority-owned by women and contribute $1.4 trillion in sales to the economy, according to the Office of Advocacy’s report “Women’s Business Ownership: Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners.” The report was coincidentally published during the same month as Beatrix’s brick-and-mortar store opened. Read the report and more research on the topic here. Research published regularly by Advocacy include small business profiles for each of the 50 states and U.S. territories, and small business statistics.

Rhett Davis is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate representing Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Our Regional Advocates in the 10 SBA regions stand ready to hear from you about small business concerns and to help you level the playing field for small businesses in your state.

ByOffice of Advocacy

Advocacy’s Boston Roundtable Brings Multiple Sectors to the Table

By Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs

Massachusetts small businesses were well-prepared as they met with Advocacy at the most recent regulatory review and reform roundtable. From auto dealers to investment advisors, home builders to appliance dealers, each had ideas on how to reduce the federal regulatory burden on small businesses.

The auto sales industry is dominated by small businesses; in Massachusetts, it has about 25,000 employees and has consistently been among the safest industries in the country for decades, a participant told Advocacy. Yet OSHA now is requiring auto dealers to install time-consuming and expensive injury and illness recordkeeping systems.

A representative of the fireworks and pyrotechnics industry said that his company does 15 to 20 shows a year, but several new requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, has put a lot of pressure on their ability to continue to do so because of the burdens it imposes on part-time drivers.

A small business which deliberately set up shop in a HUBZone now finds itself out of compliance with HUBzone rules due to factors out of its control. Another HUbzone contractor reported that he was losing money after bidding on several contracts that were cancelled.

An investment advisor asked if the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation had small business contracting goals, as several recent contracts have gone to foreign firms and close to 100 percent have gone to large firms.

A paper manufacture pointed out that a 2010 greenhouse gas rule had resulted in biomass waste coming under restrictions; while EPA had indicated earlier that it intended to fix the problem, it has yet to do so. Small businesses need regulatory certainty for planning and other purposes; regulatory uncertainty creates a drain on their resources. The company also reported that its decorative tissue is competing against imported tissue that is being sold for less than the cost to produce it.

A representative from the Massachusetts Restaurant Association pointed to issues restaurants are facing issued by the Food and Drug Administration’s menu labeling rules. He also pointed out difficulties with the process for obtaining needed foreign workers under the H2B visa program. He suggested that visa holders who return to the same employer in subsequent years not count against the cap on the number of visas issued per year.

Not all participants discussed existing rules. A home builder, for example, wondered when EPA would update or improve its lead renovation and repair rules. This rule requires the use of test kits, but the kits have not been available. An online auto parts dealer said that as retail sales have shifted to online, credit card fraud has gone down at retail facilities but increased on line, and this problem should be addressed with a new regulation.

An appliance dealer suggested that the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency standards require testing procedures that are too complex and too costly. The procedures, she said, are geared toward large companies who can more readily afford them. Several agencies and jurisdictions add their own additional requirements for appliances.

Advocacy thanks all of the small business representatives for taking the time to share their difficulties. Despite the breadth of the issues they raised, Advocacy intends to work on behalf of these small businesses in this new year.

ByOffice of Advocacy

Granite State Solidifies their Small Business Concerns at Advocacy Roundtable

By Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs

When the Granite State welcomed Advocacy to the Manchester City Library’s theater-style meeting room, we hoped to hear from local small businesses about federal rules affecting their operations and how those rules could be reformed to reduce that impact. With characteristic concern for good sense, frugality, and direct speech, these New Hampshirites did not disappoint. They all seemed to add a story that brought home the impact of federal regulations in a personal way.

First, we heard from a shopkeeper who relayed how recent rulemaking by the Food and Drug Administration was creating a financial crisis for the premium cigar industry. Among his concerns was a prohibition on providing samples to potential customers, including military members, even though cigars are the items most requested by deployed service members. It had been a cherished way of saying, “Thank you for your service.”

We heard from a farmer who is being prohibited from housing his seasonal agricultural workers in his own home near his little farm — something he has been doing for many years — because the rules don’t allow them to be housed within 500 feet of livestock. He noted drily that advertising for a new housing development on an adjacent property is boasting of its up-close views of the animals on his farm. On a recent trip abroad with his wife they visited the men who regularly return to work on their farm. Everywhere they went the couple was warmly received into their homes, yet they cannot return that warmth by welcoming the workers into their home because of this rule that is supposed to ensure that workers are not mistreated. The farmer would incur a large cost to build a new place for his workers.

Another agricultural representative noted that the visa process for foreign seasonal workers has become repetitive and expensive, and suggested that a single submission of the required information should satisfy the needs of all the federal offices who need it.

We heard complaints about the federal contracting process, and particularly bonding requirements that tie up the capacity of smaller contractors, and dealing with change orders.

Grocers raised issues with possible changes to the overtime rule, as well as issues created by the menu labelling rule, possible tax reform, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The attendees put forward a number of highly technical rules as needing reform. A producer of tissue products suggested that EPA’s rule on nonhazardous secondary materials could be improved, and so too could EPA’s Multi-Sector General Permit. She said her industry felt that the Federal Acquisition Council’s rule on recycled content is out of date.

A small telecom company complained about the proliferation of reports required by the FCC, and their steadily increasing complexity. It takes an average, he said, of 922 hours a year to make all those reports, nearly half a full-time employee.

Community banks in New Hampshire are declining in number; the remaining small banks face increasing demands on their time and resources imposed by regulations issued under the Dodd-Frank Act, many of which target the largest financial institutions, but whose burdens fall heaviest on the smallest banks.

Finally, representatives of a small company engaged in the construction of communication towers made the good sense suggestion that OSHA, which has been considering writing a tower erection standard for years, should adopt a consensus standard already written and followed by businesses large and small. Like the other proposals put forward by New Hampshire small businesses, it’s just good sense.

ByOffice of Advocacy

“How Did This Happen in This Country? Small Businesses are Overregulated and Treated So Poorly!” – Small Businesses in New Hampshire and Massachusetts Speak Up

By Claudia Rodgers, Senior Counsel

The Office of Advocacy heard detailed concerns from local small businesses in Manchester, NH, Gloucester, Mass. and Boston, Mass., during the most recent visit of its Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables on Nov. 28th and 29th. Frustrated small business owners told Advocacy about specific federal regulations that have been burdening their businesses in recent years in hopes that some relief will soon be seen. As a result of President Trump’s executive orders mandating that federal agencies take a good, hard look at existing regulations to see which ones can be revised, reformed or eliminated prior to promulgating any new rules, Advocacy has been actively seeking small business input to determine which regulations are most troublesome.

Small businesses in this region were not shy when it came to highlighting their problems with a number of federal regulations and provided Advocacy with specific suggestions on changes that can be made which will make a difference in the everyday costs of running their business.

“These rules are preventing us from being successful…” a small apple farmer in New Hampshire declared. “The reasons for the regulations may be common sense, but the regulations themselves are not,” stated a small smoke shop owner. Similar sentiments were shared and small businesses present at the roundtables agreed that one of the major problems with federal regulations, and the unending paperwork burden, is that federal agencies need to work together and eliminate the unnecessary duplication that is weighing down America’s small business owner.

In Gloucester, MA frustrated fishermen told Advocacy of the numerous NOAA regulations that they feel has severely damaged their industry. “No one can afford to operate a business in our industry because of all of the regulations,” one exclaimed. “The amount of oversight of my business by the federal government is outrageous,” stated another. They spoke to Advocacy about the problems with the National Marine Fisheries Program (NMFS)’s observer program and the high fees associated with these rules, and they provided dramatic data on the impact of NOAA’s quota reductions on the various types of fishing in the New England waters.

In Boston, small business owners were equally fed up with the amount of federal oversight of their operations and the unnecessary costs they incur as result of federal regulations. “There has been an enormous increase in the cost of compliance in recent years,” stated a small automobile dealer. “…Staying on top of these regulations is extremely costly,” said a small chocolate manufacturer.

Specific regulatory complaints ranged from FDA’s Tobacco Deeming rule, the State Department’s visa programs, rules surrounding service disabled veteran-owned businesses, DOL’s Overtime rule, EPA’s Non Hazardous Materials rule, OSHA’s Combustible Dust rule, CFPB’s enforcement of Dodd-Frank legislation, to the Department of Transportation’s Electronic Logging Device rule, and many more. One thing is clear to Advocacy: Small businesses are desperate for regulatory relief in this country and they are extremely appreciative that someone is finally listening.

For more information on Advocacy’s Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables, or to provide information on small business regulatory burdens, please visit our webpage.

ByOffice of Advocacy

Site Visit: Order Up! Advocacy Visits the Red Arrow Diner to Discuss its Regulatory Challenges

By Linwood Rayford, Assistant Chief Counsel

On November 28, Advocacy’s regulatory team visited the famous Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire, to see its operation and hear its regulatory concerns.

Red Arrow Diner was first opened in 1922 by David Lamontagne. After a few ownership changes the diner was purchased by Carol Lawrence in 1987. Now with four locations in the state, Red Arrow is considered a historical landmark in Manchester.

The accolades the diner has received over the years in print and on TV solidified its status as a hot spot. It was named one of the Top 10 diners in the U.S. by “USA Today” in 1998. The diner was featured on chef Guy Fieri’s TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” The staff can even tout that during the 2016 presidential campaign, nearly all of the candidates sat at its counter, and probably chowed down on one of the diner’s 500,000 breakfasts that they serve up annually.

When Advocacy staff visited the diner, they were greeted by the front manager, Crystal Otis, and long-time employee, Penny Kolski. The diner employs between 20 and 25 people working four shifts. Kolski, herself, has worked at the diner for more than a quarter of a century. Each server and cook prides themselves on offering the Manchester community a quality meal for a reasonable price, 24 hours per day.

On the menu of the diner’s regulatory issues included offering its employees affordable health care and labor costs such as minimum wage and overtime.

Advocacy thanks Red Arrow for allowing us to learn about their business, making us hungry for more.

ByOffice of Advocacy

Site Visit: Advocacy Discusses Regulatory Challenges Facing Fishermen during Visit with the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership

By Linwood Rayford, Assistant Chief Counsel

On Nov. 29th, Advocacy’s regulatory team visited with the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership in Gloucester, Mass., to discuss the regulatory challenges facing the industry. The industry is comprised of many small seafood businesses. The MFP is an organization of commercial fishermen’s associations from all geographic sectors of the Massachusetts fishing industry. Established in 1995, the partnership works to provide solutions to problems common to all fishermen.

Advocacy was greeted by many members of the MFP who informed us about the importance of the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) as it related to their industry. The MSA is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. To manage the fisheries and promote conservation, the Act created eight regional fishery management councils. The 1996 amendments focused rebuilding overfished fisheries, protecting essential fish habitat and reducing bycatch.

While the MFP is supportive of the legislative intent underlying the MSA, they believe that it has unintentionally created several barriers to their business survival. They believe that the federal agencies responsible to enforcing the MSA have placed fish resource recovery ahead of their small businesses, and that there needs to be a better balance of how the law is implemented. Primarily through the reduction in federally-mandated fish quotas, and other associated regulatory costs, MSA noted that the fishermen are hurting. This has resulted in a marked reduction of federally permitted boats that fish the New England waters. Also, because of the diminution of the fishermen fishing the waters much of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is now imported.

The MFP discussed many regulatory areas that need reform, but they condensed their regulatory wish list to two areas: first, an increase in the fishing quota, and second, the elimination of the requirement that the captain must now pay for observers that are responsible for monitoring the fish caught by the vessel. The latter was the undertaking of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Advocacy thanks the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership for allowing us to learn about their operation and for providing us with their regulatory reform suggestions.

ByOffice of Advocacy

“Regulations are so out of control!” Virginia Small Business Owners Speak Out

By Claudia Rodgers, Senior Counsel

The Office of Advocacy held a listening session to aid in President Trump’s regulatory reform efforts and to find out which federal regulations are most problematic for small businesses. This time we went to Glen Allen, Virginia at the request of Congressman Dave Brat, who had heard of Advocacy’s recent outreach to small businesses regarding regulatory burdens they are facing.

“We aren’t against regulations, they just need to be sensible” was a common theme heard at the October 16th roundtable. The industries in attendance ranged from trucking companies to small retail shops. One thing they all had in common was a strong belief that something must be done to stem the tide of the overly burdensome regulations affecting our nation’s small businesses.

“The burden is absolutely immense on us small employers,” declared one small owner. “There actually seems to be an overall attempt to make it difficult for small businesses to succeed.”

As a result of Executive Orders 13771 and 13777, signed by President Trump earlier this year, Advocacy began hosting Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables across the country to bring small businesses to the table to discuss specific federal regulatory burdens they have been facing. While small businesses from each city and state gives Advocacy a different picture of the regulatory landscape across the country, there are common themes heard loud and clear —frustration and desperation on behalf of the small businesses.

“We are struggling, yet we are the good guys who are doing all that we can to stay afloat,” explained a Virginia small home health care provider. When faced with regulations that they consider to be “poor policy” many small businesses in Virginia told Advocacy they feel as if they are drowning in unnecessary regulatory costs.
A variety of specific regulations were highlighted by small businesses at the roundtable; including rules from the Federal Highway Administration, the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and so many more. With so many regulatory concerns facing small business in Virginia, Advocacy will continue to ensure that these voices at the roundtable and those across the country continue to be heard.

Congressman Brat, who sits on the House Small Business Committee, assured the roundtable attendees that small business concerns in his state are a priority for his office and that he will do everything he can in Congress to fight on their behalf. Brat also promised to work closely with Advocacy as summaries from our Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables are provided to encourage common sense changes to unnecessary and overly burdensome federal regulations affecting Virginia small businesses.

“The willingness of senior leaders at the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy to make their rounds and come visit the 7th District to hear from small business owners is proof the Trump Administration is committed to listening and wants small businesses to succeed,” Rep. Brat said in his office’s press release. “By working together, I am confident we can identify legislative solutions to deliver results to hard working Virginia business owners.”

For more information on the Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables, where the next Advocacy event will be held, and what progress is being made on these important small business issues, please visit our website.