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OP-ED: How unfair federal regulations led to layoffs in York City

During my first term in Congress, I was invited by United Cool Air - a small manufacturer of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) products - to tour their operations and discuss the impact of federal regulations on their business. Invitations like this are a regular occurrence for me and they provide me great insight into how federal policies impact local small businesses and their employees.

For nearly 30 years, United Cool Air has operated in the City of York.  At the time of my visit, they employed more than 100 local residents. I enjoyed this local success story – 100% American-made products, being manufactured at a time when the City’s tax base needed the support.

The good news stopped, however, when we sat down to talk. Company officials worried that increasing federal energy regulations on the HVAC industry would hurt their ability to keep the business afloat and employ people.  Their then-Vice President of Product Development, whose job was to create innovative new products to sell, said that he spent 85% of his time trying to understand and comply with federal regulations – which stuck with me since that meeting.  Instead of creating products to create jobs and strengthen our local economy, this business has to jump through bureaucratic hoops from Washington.

Fast-forward about 3 years:  17 United Cool Air employees were just notified that they’d be laid-off, just in time for the holiday season.  These folks played by the rules:  they worked hard in mentally and physically demanding jobs; they learned a skill and a trade; they took pride in making quality products right here in the United States. Now their company is being forced by the Department of Energy to meet new compliance standards that don’t care about the impact on small businesses, utilize a one-size-fits-all mentality, and fail to differentiate between a custom manufacturer and residential/mass producers.

To our small business families, regulations like these are devastating; and this is just a microcosm of what’s happening all over the United States. How many more will watch their companies shut their doors?  America needs a fair and level playing field to help small businesses prosper.

For years, I and my staff have worked with United Cool Air, the Department of Energy and other federal agencies to find some relief.  When that process stalled, I offered an amendment through the appropriations process to roll back these “efficiency standards” – which was voted down on the House floor. I was criticized as usual – from the usual avenues - for wanting to roll back efficiency standards and not caring about the environment. The critics fail to realize – or refuse to understand – that regulations like this increase the costs for small businesses, and the money they’re spending on compliance means less money for salaries/benefits for their employees.

United Cool Air’s story is just one example of many. Nearly every day, local employers tell me how government regulations are killing their ability to grow their businesses and hire more people. Government regulations cost the average American more than $15,000 each year.

I’m not going to stop fighting to protect the “United Cool Airs” of our country. The next time you read or hear that I’m trying to rollback federal regulations, it’s not because I don’t care about the environment or safety standards, or whatever else I’m often accused of; it’s because the federal government has failed to strike the necessary balance between sensible regulation and enabling Americans to keep food on our tables.

I’m going to keep pushing for a solution. Small businesses and their employees aren’t asking for a handout; they’re asking for a chance to succeed.  We deserve better from our government.

Associated Links: 
York Daily Record - Scott Perry: How unfair federal regulations led to layoffs in York City (column)