Celebrate small business week May 20th

Diane Schwenke
Diane Schwenke, GJ Chamber

In Mesa County it is all about small businesses…in fact we are almost all small businesses using the definition of the Small Business Administration (SBA) which is a company with less than 500 employees or $10 million in sales.

In 2008, the most recent year for which census statistics were available, the State of Colorado had roughly 130,000 employers. Of that number 114, 000 or nearly half had twenty employees or less. In the Grand Junction Chamber membership we estimate that close to 800 of our 1,000 members also have 20 or less employees.

I think it is great that we have a whole week set aside to honor these economic engines of our local and national economy. But for many of these businesses, rather than being feted or celebrated they’d like to be left alone to do what they do best…produce something, serve customers and make money.

The Small Business Administration, the same agency that created Small Business Week created quite a furor in 2010 when it commissioned a study of the regulatory costs to small businesses. The study’s authors found that federal regulation in 2009 costs all companies $1. 75 trillion and that the costs for companies with less than 20 employees had risen to $10,585 per employee annually. These numbers were compiled before the 4,000 proposed regulations from various federal agencies were identified in 2011 including 224 that were estimated to cost $100 million or more to implement.

It is also no surprise that the SBA study identified environmental regulations as the fastest growing area of costs for all businesses. And, lest we jump to the conclusion that those environmental regulations were primarily aimed at energy companies, the sector that paid the most to comply with these environmental regulations were manufacturing companies. And, we, as a nation, wonder why the very jobs that provide us with the most value are going elsewhere.

It is also important to note that this is just the impact of federal regulations that are costing us $10, 585 per employee. There are also plenty of state and local regulations that add to the cost burden of small business owners.

With deadlock in Congress and the Colorado General Assembly there has been a new strategy adopted for moving agendas forward. Now the effort is to “regulate” rather than “legislate.” As a result of the implementation of this strategy and the potential costs to business, the Chamber this year created a new committee named the Regulatory Oversight Committee. The Committee has small business representation from retail, food service, manufacturing, construction, insurance, finance, real estate and energy to provide a balanced perspective on how rules affect specific industries and rules that hurt all businesses in the hopes we can anticipate how proposed rules will impact industries and be able to weigh in as “the voice of business” in time to have an impact.

So far, the Committee has focused on issues at the local and federal level. Recently Chamber representatives alerted businesses in the South Downtown area about changes being proposed to zoning and/or development standards so they can be informed and have conversations with city representatives before action is taken that can either help or hinder future development.

On the federal level, this committee put the finishing touches on the Chamber’s comments about the BLM PEIS on oil shale and wrote an initial letter on the scoping related to listing the Gunnison Sage Grouse as endangered. This is an action that could impact how large tracts of our public lands are managed for economic and recreational activity in the future.

Any business that is concerned about the regulatory environment or even a specific proposed rule/regulation is encouraged to contact the Chamber. Small businesses can have a big voice when they band together and the Chamber provides a vehicle for doing that.

Also, take time during the week of May 20th to congratulate the small business next door for being part of one of the largest group of job creators in the nation. Altogether with 5,295,000 other small businesses with less than 20 employees, these firms employ 21.5 million people. And that means that they are paying $2.275 billion dollars at the rate of $10, 585 per person for the privilege of being employers who comply with regulations. A pat on the back is the least we can do during Small Business Week!