While the economy is slowly recovering, the road back to pre-recession employment levels has been peppered with potholes. Partisan politics in Congress are doing nothing to help the economy, or the small businesses working to rebuild it. In one of the latest attempts to harness the influence of small business -- a coveted pawn in political chess games -- former Senator Blanche Lincoln decried government regulation as the biggest impediment to small business and economic recovery in a Huffington Post blog entry. She pointed to Environmental Protection Agency regulations specifically.
But let's get the facts straight.
Small business owners actually support an array of recently proposed EPA regulations. And by wide margins, too. Small Business Majority's most recent polling, released on June 7, found the vast majority of small businesses in Ohio -- a major manufacturing state -- support EPA clean air standards, and two-thirds of those polled also feel government investments in clean energy can stimulate the economy and create jobs now.
Specifically, 7 in 10 small business owners support the EPA's federal standard requiring new power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide -- even though 6 in 10 of them believe it will directly impact their business.
Todd Stegman is one of the many small business owners who believe clean energy standards are long overdue. Todd co-owns two small businesses in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his father and brother: Osborne Coinage, America's oldest private mint, and Doran Manufacturing, LLC, which provides innovative transportation products for truck fleets. "Boosting energy-efficiency standards in the United States wouldn't thwart growth for small businesses like mine -- it would enhance it," he said. "Encouraging manufacturing businesses to refine their processes by becoming cleaner and more energy-efficient would put us on the way to becoming part of a more competitive global economy."
From Todd's point of view, complying with EPA regulations is simply one of many aspects of owning a business. Consumer demand and the cost of materials are the real concerns, he says. Todd knows firsthand that the long-term benefits of investing in clean and renewable energy far outweigh the upfront costs, as he's already saving money thanks to his 2009 decision to install solar panels.
It's evident EPA regulations are not what's bogging down small business success. Even entrepreneurs who believe new regulations would directly impact their business often still support them. Half of those in our survey believe rules to reduce mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants would impact their company, yet a vast three-quarters still support them. What's more, nearly half strongly support them.
And when it comes to the "Good Neighbor Rule," which would reduce smog and soot crossing state lines, the story is the same: 65 percent are supportive of the rule, withstanding the fact that 52 percent believe it would impact their business directly.
Considering these strong numbers, it would appear there's some disconnect between this data and the Gallup polling Lincoln cited. But in fact, there isn't. The poll, which found 46 percent of small employers aren't hiring because of government regulations, actually found five other reasons that far out-ranked regulations, including no need for more employees (76 percent), worries that sales won't justify more hiring (71 percent) and worries about the current state of the economy (66 percent). Of the eight reasons owners cited for not hiring, regulations beat out just two -- the worry that their business might not last another year, and "other."
It's unfortunate when small businesses are used as a vehicle for pushing ideological agendas. This isn't to say that small businesses support all regulations all the time. But as Todd Stegman noted, small businesses are most worried about consumer demand and the rising cost of doing business, along with making payroll, healthcare costs and credit availability. That's all according to a wide body of research including our own and the very survey Lincoln cites.
So please, lawmakers, when you sit down to the policy table, don't turn a blind eye to the real issues facing small business. And when it comes to EPA regulations that promote clean and renewable energy, don't believe the hype -- small business owners support 'em.
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