Anson Excavating & Pipe Inc. could once land jobs totaling $500,000 to $1 million or more, co-owner Mike Anson said.
But that was before a recession undermined the economy and, by extension, consumers’ faith in it.
Now, his biggest jobs usually top out at around $200,000, he said, or only 20 percent of what he once made in better days.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there in the world,” he said during a media conference call with the campaign for Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney.
“We just can’t get anybody to spend any money.”
He and Scott Cook, owner of Cook Chevrolet, were invited to give the campaign a boots-on-the-ground view of the challenges facing small business owners.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., joined them in the call, directing criticisms at President Barack Obama.
“The policies of this president are hindering our ability to get access to capital,” he said.
Cook and Anson, who participated in a roundtable with Romney before his May 29 rally in downtown Craig, pointed to regulation and health care costs as major obstacles.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, designed to increase accountability in the financial sector, puts requirements on car dealerships that cost time and money, Cook said after the call.
But dealerships act only as brokers for car loans, he said. The finance companies have both the money and authority to determine who receives it.
“In my opinion, this whole thing is kind of misaimed,” Cook said. “I don’t understand what (Dodd-Frank) is for to start with, but if they’re going to do something to control or regulate the finance part of cars, (they) need to be talking to the people that are actually loaning the money, not the people that are brokering the loans.”
He said he's still in the dark as to how his business must comply with the regulations. To the best of his knowledge, he probably won’t know until a dealership gets taken to court for noncompliance, he said.
Cook believes pushing for higher gas mileage standards also is problematic.
“All industries and businesses should be, and have to be, consumer driven, not regulation driven,” he said.
And then there are health insurance costs, which required Cook Chevrolet to drop its employee insurance in 2010 when family premiums spiked from $1,400 to $2,800 a month.
The company and its employees each paid for half of the cost, but neither could afford to pay after the premium hike, Cook said. Now, about a third of his employees do not have health insurance.
Costs also forced Anson to stop offering health insurance, he said. He, too, has employees who are now uninsured.
“I know that there’s some people that can’t afford it and don’t want to go out and look for it,” he said.
But beyond regulations and health care costs, he and Cook agreed that lagging consumer confidence is one of the biggest hurdles business owners face.
“There’s so much uncertainty that everybody’s in neutral right now,” Cook said.
Or worse, Anson believes.
“It just seems like everybody you talk to is down and out about everything,” he said.
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