Tom Sullivan 2017-04-05 01:46:16
Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Tom Sullivan joined the U.S. Chamber as vice president of small business policy. In this article, Tom reflects on his first few months with the Chamber, including testifying in front of Congress alongside Kevin Sunday of the PA Chamber, and discusses the many challenges facing small businesses across the country. My first congressional testimony as the Vice President for Small Business Policy sat me next to Kevin Sunday. What a perfect way to carry the message of small business to Congress, when the Committee in charge of energy and environmental regulations called on us to explain how regulatory relief could benefit Main Street small businesses. Our message to Congress was clear: when released from the choking grip of regulatory overreach, small businesses are poised to hire new employees and reinvest in their firms, helping grow their communities and America’s economy. I am honored to represent the interests of over 3 million businesses of all sizes, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. Most of our business members are small firms. In fact, approximately 96 percent of U.S. Chamber member companies have fewer than 100 employees and 75 percent have fewer than ten. No organization connects better with small businesses than local and state chambers of commerce, and Kevin and my joint appearance before a congressional committee is a perfect example of how the U.S. Chamber works with local and state chambers of commerce. My message to Congress, bolstered by Kevin’s expertise, was to stress the urgent need for small business regulatory relief. As the head of Small Business Policy at the U.S. Chamber, that message will be repeated over and over and over again until we are successful. While I am happy to be the messenger, the examples of regulatory overreach are best told by small businesses themselves. It is my job to provide a megaphone for those businesses, so that the policymakers hear them clearly. As you know, small businesses are hugely important to the economy. Recent figures show there are over 28 million small businesses in the United States. The 62 million people employed at small firms represent about half of America’s private sector workforce, and small business has Been responsible for creating about two-thirds of the net new jobs over the past 15 years. However, the U.S. has experienced a decline in start-ups over the past decade and that trend threatens a full economic recovery. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 700,000 fewer net businesses created from 2005 to 2014 than from 1985 to 1994. More worrisome is recent evidence suggesting that the number of transformational startups — those that contribute disproportionately to job and productivity growth — has been in decline since 2000. Scholars who are far brighter than I am believe that the headwinds from massive federal regulatory growth are to blame for some of the alarm bells going off in places that monitor the U.S. economy. The good news is that President Trump is hell bent on changing how regulators talk with small business owners from “what have you done wrong” to “how can we help?” President Trump has signed several bills into law that reverse regulations deemed duplicative, excessive, or unnecessary by a bi-partisan majority of Congress. And, several Executive Orders and instructions to Government agencies outline a de-regulatory approach designed to reverse the perception of Washington D.C. as Main Street’s enemy. Congress is also considering ways to improve the government’s approach to regulation long-term. The U.S. Chamber’s top priority for regulatory reform is the Regulatory Accountability Act, which brings greater transparency and stakeholder engagement into a strong cost-benefit test for major new regulations. The Regulatory Accountability Act passed the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support and we are optimistic that it will receive similar consideration in the Senate. The House also passed the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017, which bolsters the ability of small businesses to impact regulatory policy decisions. We are equally optimistic that small business regulatory relief legislation will gain bipartisan support in the Senate. Getting input from small businesses is a major part of my job. Chambers of commerce in Pennsylvania and throughout the country make my job easier because of our good relationships and our regular collaboration. I am committed to weaving the expertise, concerns, opinions and constructive suggestions from our small business members and partners in every policy discussion at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. From regulatory relief, to tax reform, to trade, to healthcare and competitive workforce issues, the role of our Small Business Council is to strengthen U.S. Chamber of Commerce policy positions through active involvement. Working together, we can accomplish great things for small business, for our communities, for our economy and for America. ■ Tom Sullivan is vice president for Small Business Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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