South metro

Coffman talks small business at chamber

Representative brings committee chair to table

(From left) U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.., U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., and Jeff Wasden, vice chair of public affairs with the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, participate in a small-business roundtable on March 20. Photo by Jennifer Smith

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman visited the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce March 19 and brought with him Rep. Sam Graves, of Missouri, chairman of the House Small Business Committee.

The two Republican lawmakers faced a fairly friendly crowd of local, invited entrepreneurs. In a roundtable format, they listened to concerns and suggestions that ranged from the difficulty applying for government contracts to Obamacare.

Andrew Graham, president of Clinic Services and an independent candidate for state representative, said his company has been waiting for its application to bid on government jobs to be approved for five years.

“I get the hurry-up-and-wait approach, but we're not a sit-on-our-hands kind of crowd,” he said. “The help I need is, how do I get the job?”

Graves said that often several projects are bundled into one contract, making it just too big for smaller companies to handle. He's introduced two bills that he hopes will level the playing field. He says the Greater Opportunities for Small Business Act of 2014 will increase the goal of giving small businesses 23 percent of the contracts to 25 percent, and the Contracting Data and Bundling Accountability Act of 2014 will bring more transparency to bundled contracts.

“I believe a lot of these small businesses can do a lot of these projects more efficiently,” said Graves.

Coffman wondered about the effect the Affordable Health Care Act might be having on the group, though most of them employ fewer than 50 people and are therefore not subject to new requirements.

“If there is a constant in the discussion, it's health care,” said Brian Olson, owner of Conversation Starters media consulting firm.

He has no employees, but said he works in a world of freelancers who provide services for each other. The requirement to have insurance has many of them bewildered and frightened about the cost, he said.

Graham said his company has always offered health insurance, and he doesn't believe the government should tell him how to do what he was already doing.

“As a human being, I would like to see a decoupling of health insurance from employment,” he said.

Jeff Holwell, the chamber's chief operating officer, said surveys show about 90 percent of the companies in the south-metro area are happy to be here.

“The 10 percent that aren't happy, it's usually because of a regulatory challenge,” he said, most often local building codes but sometimes obscure federal regulations.

“We'd like to inject a little more common sense into the regulatory environment,” said Graves. “The abuse of power seems to be getting worse.”

He points to ongoing but so-far failed efforts to require congressional approval of rules and regulations created by executive order or administrative policy that would have a national economic impact of $100 million or more.

He points to cap and trade as an example of failed legislation that he says the administration is implementing piecemeal via regulations. The only defense, he says, is to try to defund them, leaving the rule in place but with no money to implement or enforce it.

“But that's a very poor way to run government,” he said. “How do businesses know whether to comply?”

John Brackney, president of the chamber, implored the congressmen to protect all types of energy production and the aerospace industry, which he said is more concentrated in the south-metro region than anywhere in the country.

Coffman noted he's working with Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on a bill that would do away with limits on exporting satellite technology.

“We assume we have such a competitive edge and always will that we don't want to export any technology that could be used against us,” he said. “And any component part falls under that regulation.”