Fifteen years ago, I started Highland Landscaping, and I am proud to say that the company has been growing steadily ever since. Like many other small businesses, however, sometimes it feels like government is doing everything it can to place obstacles in the way, making growth a lot harder than it should be.
A new report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation puts data and statistics to what I am experiencing as a small business owner. The Regulatory Impact on Small Business report pegs the cost of federal mandates at $1.9 trillion in direct costs, lost productivity, and higher prices. The study also shows that the costs of federal regulation on small businesses with 50 employees or fewer are nearly 20 percent higher than the average for all firms.
From my perspective, federal red tape is like an overgrown hedge that needs to be trimmed. A good place to start is health care. Our employees are our greatest asset, and it is rewarding to know that more than 40 families depend on our company. Unfortunately, the 33 percent health insurance premium hike we experienced last year makes it harder for us to provide for them. Further, the reclassification of employees under new overtime regulations (currently under stay by a federal court ruling) has caused employees to leave our company rather than deal with an inflexible set of rules that would limit the freedom we have as a small business to accommodate work schedules. Finally, the frequently debated minimum wage laws at the federal, state, and local levels threaten our ability to tailor salaries to the specific situation of each new employee and remain competitive.
I am optimistic that the overgrown hedge of red tape will be trimmed. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation recently highlighted how overly burdensome regulations stifle small business growth. President Trump has already trimmed several unnecessary regulations by signing bills targeting federal agency overreach. One of those bills reversed the Department of Interior’s attempt to regulate streams that are already protected by EPA and several state and local authorities. Another bill that passed Congress reverses an attempt by OSHA to ignore small business concerns and illegally expand their enforcement authority.
These are steps in the right direction, and I applaud the engagement by chambers of commerce to make these things happen. Regulatory relief is one of the reasons I am so involved with the Southlake Chamber of Commerce and is the primary reason I serve on the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business Council.
Chambers of commerce give small businesses a real voice that can be heard. I consider my involvement at the local and federal levels an opportunity to improve the landscape for other small business owners.