By BRIAN WALKER
COEUR d'ALENE — Mark Freeman tapped the show-and-tell method to drive home his point on how environmental regulations are strapping his wood stove company.
The president and CEO of Kuma Stoves in Garwood on Thursday brought a display of two pipes — one 15 times longer than the other — to illustrate the same ratio of how much the EPA has required stove emissions to be reduced in recent years.
"If the auto industry did that, you all may have had to walk here today," he told officials with the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during a regulatory roundtable attended by about 50 at the Best Western Plus Coeur d'Alene Inn. "Enough is enough."
The SBA hosted the event to hear how federal regulations are hampering small businesses. Input from Thursday’s roundtable and others will be compiled into a report for Congress to review when considering to cut regulations under a directive from President Donald J. Trump.
Freeman said the EPA has not been willing to come to the negotiating table with the wood stove industry when it comes to further reducing emissions, so the sides are tied up in litigation.
"We need some help; we need relief," Freeman said. "The emission target is unreasonable and onerous."
The ripple effect, he said, will be a negative economic impact.
"It will make stoves more expensive, so fewer people will buy them," he said. "We can't punish rural Americans who need this fuel. I believe my business is not only at stake but our industry is at stake."
Freeman said he's not against clean air standards, but regulations need to be reasonable.
Shawn Keough, executive director of Associated Logging Contractors, said her industry also made a plea in 2015 to the SBA about a burden it faces with the Small Business Timber Set Aside Program.
"We have not seen that issue resolved," she said. "We wonder if anyone is truly listening."
The program tasked SBA with ensuring small businesses receive a fair proportion of the total sales of government property.
Keough, also a Republican state senator from Sandpoint, said her trade association would like to see an amendment to the set-aside program. She said it should include timber volume sold as part of a stewardship services contract in the calculation for the timber sale share for small business.
"It is not that the work isn't there to be done," she said. "It's that the challenge for small businesses like ours to secure this work, coupled with other regulatory burdens within the U.S. Forest Service, make it difficult for our small businesses to compete on the same playing field with big business."
Another regulatory issue the timber industry faces is that of restoration after a wildfire on national forest land.
"The regulations binding the hands of the U.S. Forest Service often mean that it is at least one year and more likely longer before all the i's are dotted and t's crossed on the paperwork required to start salvaging of dead burned trees," Keough said.
"As a result, the trees lose their value as the wood deteriorates rapidly. In turn, potential purchasers of that wood such as logging contractors and sawmills won't buy the trees because the value is no longer there. This sets up a vicious circle."
Hugh Himmelreich, branch manager of Century Travel Service, said consolidation of contracts has hurt his business. The workforce for the travel management agency has dropped from 40 to 17.
"We've lost more than 50 percent of our contracting business due to consolidation," he said.
Doug Wolford, of Washington Trust Bank, said regulations are also an ongoing concern in the banking industry.
"My fear is that they'll have a negative impact on my ability to extend credit to small businesses," he said.
In case you missed it
If there are federal regulations that are hampering your small business and you were unable to attend Thursday’s regulatory roundtable in Coeur d’Alene, the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration still wants to hear your concerns at http://bit.ly/2uT9Mrq.