Experts at Business Day in Madison predict less-regulated future

Experts at Business Day in Madison predicted a less-regulated future.

Jay Timmons, (pictured here) president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, ended his “State of Manufacturing” tour by speaking at the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce event Wednesday.

On his travels to six different states, Timmons says he spoke to many who expect change to come benefitting U.S. manufacturers.

“I’ve seen optimism from manufacturers about the future,” Timmons told “We had a few pretty tough years. The growth of the economy and specifically the manufacturing sector hasn’t been what it’s potential is, and I think folks are pretty excited about the possibilities for some significant policy changes in Washington.”

He pointed to Wisconsin as a shining example for other states in terms of policy supporting business growth.

“I think Wisconsin is really an example for the rest of the country,” Timmons said. “Your governor has been very focused on manufacturing, and he has worked pretty hard to get the policies right.”

Wisconsin’s pursuit of a hospitable business climate will be echoed on the national level if the Trump administration keeps its word on taxation and other regulations, Timmons says.

“For the first time, we have a president who is focused on exactly the same thing,” he said. “From a federal level, we’re looking at taxes and regulation and infrastructure investment and workforce development.”

One way regulations can be cut is through the Congressional Review Act, a method for undoing recent action taken by the previous administration.

“The only area where there is absolutely no uncertainty, where it is incredibly clear that the president, and all the advisors around the president, and everyone in Congress agrees, and that is the drive for deregulation,” added Kimberley Strassel, an author, columnist and member of Wall Street Journal Editorial Board who spoke at the event.

She says that trend will “act as one of the biggest spurs of economic growth that we have seen in decades.”

“Regulatory reform is the top priority, and in that regard, it is hard to overstate the sort-of laser-like and yet expansive focus on this in Washington, D.C. under this new president,” Strassel said. “I have had my share of complaints about some of these things the new White House has done. But on this area of deregulation, it is a home run — ‘knock it out of the park.’”

Timmons says in Wisconsin, state legislators have done a great job of supporting the economy, making Wisconsin a particularly appealing place to move a business.

“When I talk to manufacturers around the country and they talk about the states they are most attracted to, or where they think investment opportunities are the best, Wisconsin is always right at the top of the list,” Timmons said. “It’s pretty impressive what you’ve built here.”

Hugh Hewitt, a broadcast journalist and author, pointed to California as another example to follow.

“The secret to the Silicon Valley is it’s an unregulated industry,” Hewitt said at the event. “They’re the least regulated industry of any industry because they enjoy extraordinary startup advantages of not having an old regulatory framework — in fact, having no regulatory framework.”

Timmons says if states don’t try their best to have a partnership with the federal government, manufacturing is going to suffer.

“So, it’s so critical that we get our policies right at the federal level and get rid of that competitive cost disadvantage for manufacturers in this country,” Timmons said.

Timmons points to statistics showing manufacturing is up to 24 percent more expensive in the United States because of two factors: taxes and regulation.

“We have the highest tax rate in the world, and on the regulatory side, manufacturers are directly impacted by 297,696 regulations,” he added. “That equates to about $35,000 per employee per year in compliance costs for a small manufacturer.”

While Timmons made the point that all regulations aren’t bad, he also said the country has an obligation to make sure regulations take economic impact into account.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that (having) almost 300,000 regulations is not sustainable; it’s not healthy for the economy,” he said. “So we’re heartened to see the president already taking a look at regulations on the books.”

–By Alex Moe