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RECAP: SBA Office of Advocacy meeting in St. Louis

We have all heard the saying, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help!” And most of us are extremely skeptical about government agencies and their ability to help with most anything.  But I was glad I attended a public meeting of the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy this week in St. Louis.

The SBA Office of Advocacy is a voice for small businesses (defined as less than 500 employees) that works to be sure federal agencies comply with laws and regulations requiring them to evaluate the impact of their rules and regulations on small businesses.

For this particular meeting, participants were invited to let the Office know about problems with particular rules or general problems with federal regulations.

I brought two main concerns to their attention.

First, we let them know that the current procedure allowing federal agencies to keep fines and penalties in funds that may be spent without appropriation or authority by any elected official is wrong. It encourages federal agencies to levy penalties and fines whenever possible. This is akin to contingency fee audits which most of us understand lead to unreasonable audits and should be eliminated. We told them in an era of continuing resolutions, where a federal agency only receives the same money as the previous year because Congress cannot agree on a budget, penalty and fee funds that may be spent without congressional oversight are appealing to federal agencies. This practice must be stopped.

Next, we told the real world story of one of our members, a 146-year old printing business in St. Louis County, that was forced to buy an incinerator at a cost of $700,000 purchase price and $4,000/month in gas costs, to comply with lowered VOC’s put in place by the EPA. This additional unwanted “improvement” has also resulted in a potential property tax increase even though the building has been reduced to a single-use building – only another printer would want the building, reducing potential buyers and lowering the property value.

This small business has been forced to buy this machinery, pay the additional utility costs every month, and still make a profit on the extremely small profit margins that exist in the printing business today, while competing with other printers outside the St. Louis non-attainment area in Missouri and around the globe. Government regulation is killing this small business that employs 70 people. And American jobs are at stake.

I watched as many more small businesses shared their stories. It was clear from the responses we received by the Office of Advocacy personnel that they had heard many of the same stories at other listening sessions and they genuinely seemed to want to help relay the messages back to the agencies involved.

Many representatives from Missouri’s congressional leaders were also in attendance.

If you have a story about how government regulations are hurting your small business, or if you have suggestions for regulatory reform that would help small businesses, you may email the Office of Advocacy at: advocacy@sba.gov and you may learn more at their website: http://www.sba.gov/advocacy and be sure to copy us so we may follow up with them.

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