The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said that optimism was unchanged in October. The Small Business Optimism Index remained at 96.1 in October, representing some progress since the 94.1 reading observed in June. Coincidently, the index was 96.1 in October 2014, as well. Overall, it is also clear that small business owners remain anxious about the economy, with index values under 100 typically coinciding with softer economic growth. With that said, there were also positive developments for the month. For instance, the percentage of respondents saying that the next three months were a “good time to expand” increased from 12 percent to 13 percent, its highest level since February. This figure has trended higher over the past year, averaging 9.8 for all of 2014 and 11.6 year-to-date for 2015. Meanwhile, the percent planning capital expenditures over the next three to six months rose from 25 percent to 26 percent. (continue reading…)
On July 6, the Department of Labor proposed a new income threshold to determine who would be eligible to receive overtime pay. The current threshold of $23,660 a year, or $455 per week, has been in place since 2004 and we have to go back to 1975 in order to look at the time before that. In total, the income threshold for overtime has been increased seven times since it was first implemented in 1938. It has never been indexed to inflation, wage rates, or any measure. The threshold being proposed would increase to $50,440 a year, or $970 per week, and then indexed to either the 40th percentile of all salaried employees, or to the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). If the $50,440 figure strikes you as a bit high and wide of the strike-zone, you would be right. In the chart below, you can see why. (continue reading…)
A new paper was recently released by Georgetown University’s Center for Business and Public Policy citing that increased regulation will lead to a decrease in investment in our nation’s broadband infrastructure. The manufacturing industry is embedding technology in their products and across their shop floors to deliver sophisticated products and compete in the global marketplace. A decrease in the investment in the technology backbone helping to drive that innovation is something we cannot afford. (continue reading…)
Donald Trump turned one of the most feared phrases in the workplace into a punchline. As the star of The Apprentice, Trump famously critiqued contestants in a board room and concluded by telling one of them, “You’re fired.” With the release of a new proposed regulation on overtime, it seems President Obama is rebranding the show’s tagline to “You’re demoted!” (continue reading…)
In a commentary published in the journal Science today, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists found that reliable data on ozone levels, especially in the Intermountain West, is elusive because of background levels of ground-level ozone. Accordingly, compliance with existing standards is complicated and bound to get more complicated – if not impossible. (continue reading…)
The NAM’s annual Manufacturing Summit was held June 10-11. The event brought more than 500 manufacturers of every size and representing dozens of industries to Washington to meet with Members of Congress. Over two days, manufacturers participated in 220 hill meetings and were able to tell their stories to lawmakers about the impact of federal policies on their abilities to provide jobs, expand their businesses and compete in a global economy. A common theme for many manufacturers through the summit was the challenges they face with inefficient and outdated regulations—especially from small- and medium-sized manufacturers.
Richard Gimmel is the President of Atlas Machine and Supply, a small manufacturer of complex compressor equipment and industrial components in Louisville, Kentucky. He discussed why our regulatory system is placing manufacturers in the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage:
“Work force regulations, environmental regulations, [and] tax regulations – the cost of compliance with all of these regulations is extremely burdensome, particularly for a small company like ours. We have 200 employees, and by standards of most manufacturers, we’re below average in size. So, we have to employ resources, disproportionate to our size, just to ensure the paperwork is in order.”
Unnecessary regulatory burdens weigh heavily on the minds of manufacturers. In a NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers released in March, nearly 80 percent of respondents cited an unfavorable business climate due to regulations, taxes and government uncertainties as a primary challenge facing businesses, up from 67.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013 and 62.2 percent in March 2012. The unfavorable business climate due to government policies exceeded rising health care and insurance costs, which ranked second (77.1 percent).
Manufacturing in America is making a comeback, but this comeback could be much stronger if federal policies did not impede growth. If we are to succeed in creating a more competitive economy, we must reform our regulatory system so that manufacturers can innovate and make better products instead of spending hours and resources complying with inefficient, duplicative and unnecessary regulations. Manufacturers are committed to commonsense regulatory reforms that protect the environment and public health and safety as well as prioritize economic growth and job creation. The time is now for members of both parties to work together to find ways to improve the regulatory system.
NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer recently co-authored an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star, emphasizing the direct impact federal regulations have on local energy prices, consumers, and manufacturers.
Though these policy discussions take place on the national level, Timmons and Hamer note the implications are often most felt on the local level. According to the authors, “Arizona manufacturing has rebounded to levels beyond pre-recession output. Thanks to hard work and smart investments, manufacturers in the state now employ almost 6 percent of Arizona’s workforce. But those gains could be put at risk by misguided federal energy policies.”
As manufacturing continues to grow jobs and expand nationwide, the NAM has made a concerted effort, partnering with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), to advance common sense regulatory reform. A month ago on Capitol Hill, the NAM co-sponsored a “State of U.S. Regulations” event with the NFIB, during which both groups announced they “will utilize the full weight of their grassroots networks in an effort to engage with Congress and the Administration on the need for regulatory improvements.”
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the NAM, said of the partnership, “This will be a strong and effective partnership because manufacturers and small businesses face a disproportionate burden of all regulatory costs. While manufacturers recognize the need for regulation, the scope and complexity of rules have made it harder to do business and compete in recent years. This is a trend that simply cannot continue and is easily solved with common-sense reforms. We can achieve a streamlined regulatory process with increased accountability and transparency that will protect businesses, manufacturers and consumers.”
The event, which coincided with Congressional debate on regulatory reform, included a keynote address by U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Whip, and opening remarks from Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the NAM, and Dan Danner, President and CEO of NFIB. Following the opening remarks, a panel of policy experts, which included former Governor George Allen (R-VA) and former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), discussed the complications within the federal regulatory system, noting how complexities create unintended consequences for manufacturers and small business.
When the Senate confirmed nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) late last month, it marked the first time that all five seats had been filled since 2003. It also marked a turning point in labor policy. Recently, decisions rested with an unbalanced configuration that almost never had a dissenting view. That did not seem right. After all, the NLRB is an extension of a government founded on the belief that tyranny of the majority is just as undemocratic as dictatorial rule.
Although the National Association of Manufacturers does not tend to agree with NLRB on a lot of its more recent opinions, we welcome a fully-staffed board ready to engage in the kind of robust debate of the issues that should take place before making decisions that impact our labor law system. Dissenting opinions are an important part of litigation. They often help to clarify a ruling, even when the overall outcome leaves something to be desired. A dissenting opinion could become the basis for why a law should change or why a previous ruling should be overturned.
Completing the NLRB roster brings the agency’s legitimacy back into play. Manufacturers are hopeful that the board’s members will avoid partisan politics as they carefully weigh all the options and opinions at hand. Our democracy depends on a healthy dose of dissent to properly function. So does our labor law system.
Amanda Wood is the director of employment policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.
Do the benefits of environmental regulation outweigh the costs? It’s a question as old as the Environmental Protection Agency, and one that Marlin Steel President and NAM Member Drew Greenblatt addresses in a recent column on INC.com.
Small and medium size manufacturers across the country face a never-ending onslaught of complex federal regulations and obstacles to reaching new foreign markets. These regulations require enormous amounts of paperwork and staff time, and often keep small businesses from focusing on providing good service and expanding their customer base. The true impact of these costs often go unmeasured.
In an effort to illustrate the severity of the problem, Greenblatt photographed a few employees standing beside their files to respond to government regulations, and noted that “the stack was three feet taller than they were–and would be even higher today.”
Manufacturers across the country agree with Mr. Greenblatt and would like the federal government to re-examine regulations that harm the economy and make us less competitive. We can balance environmental protection with a regulatory structure that doesn’t bog down companies with endless mounds of paperwork. Simply piling on more costly regulations is not the answer.
Mr. Greenblatt is President of Marlin Steel Wire Products, a U.S.-based builder of steel wire baskets and sheet metal material handling containers.
Today, the Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy to be the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Administrator McCarthy will almost immediately have the opportunity to show how she intends to run the Agency for, perhaps, the remainder of President Obama’s second term. Will she pursue a reasonable approach to regulations, ensuring they are designed with care, input from stakeholders and without unnecessarily harming the economy? Or, will we have more of the same partisan-driven regulations, unattainable standards and astronomical compliance costs that so often occurred during the President’s first term?
One of the very first tests will be the Agency’s “re-proposal” of the carbon standards for new power plants pursuant to the President’s Climate Action Plan. In their first crack, the Agency proposed a rule that would have required all power plants irrespective of fuel to meet the same standard, effectively mandating plant design and fuel-type for all new plants. Strongly opposed by this organization and many others, the one-size-fits-all approach would have been an unprecedented attempt at using an environmental statute to set U.S. energy policy. After substantial input from several entities (and direction from the President), it is now widely believed that the Agency will try again and reissue the proposed power plant rule in September, setting separate standards for different fuels. A step in the right direction? Maybe. The answer will lie in the details.
EPA can set a separate emission standard for every fuel-type, unit design, and plant size, but if those standards cannot be achieved through existing, commercially viable technologies, the result will be the same as the last proposal: energy policy, not environmental regulation; one-size-fits-all, not all of the above. We stand ready to work with Administrator McCarthy in her new role, one that we hope will lead to a reasonable and balanced approach to environmental regulations.