Economic Development, Government, and Small Business & Startups

Steve Van Andel on growth: feds 'churning out' regulations

December 5, 2013
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Hillsdale College names grad school after Steve Van Andel
Steve Van Andel. Courtesy Amway

If economic uncertainty is keeping you from expanding your business, Steve Van Andel has some advice for you: keep moving forward anyway.

Van Andel, chairman of the board for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Amway chairman, spoke about local and global entrepreneurs Wednesday afternoon at the Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids. The event was hosted by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Regulating growth

His presentation, “Standing Up for American Enterprise: Elevating Job Creators, Entrepreneurs and Innovators,” offered insights into regulations and uncertainty — two major obstacles that entrepreneurs are facing locally and abroad, he said.

“Since 1976, we’ve added about 176,000 new regulations,” Van Andel said. “I think the federal agencies are churning out about 4,000 regulations every year. Even more surprising than that are major regulations — and they interpret major regulations as regulations that will have over $100 million in cost impact — that has gone up in the last decade by 80 percent.”

Regulations can slow growth, but uncertainty in the economy and the government can stop it, he said.

Most recently, the disastrous rollout and ongoing confusion about impacts of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act have caused many entrepreneurs to question putting their businesses up for sale, Van Andel said.

Many entrepreneurs are put in a kind of holding pattern until more information about costs is made transparent.

Despite the uncertainties, however, Van Andel urged businesses and government officials to not remain stagnant, simply out of fear over Washington’s troubles.

“Local governments shouldn’t stop, because they’re worried about something nationally,” Van Andel said. “They should just keep moving forward. You may not know what the future looks like, but it will ultimately work itself out, and everyone’s going to be in the same ocean.”

Studying entrepreneurship

Van Andel’s insights come from a recent global study on entrepreneurship from Ada-based Amway.

The goal of the fifth-annual report, which surveyed 26,000 entrepreneurs from 24 different countries, was to discover what’s the driving the fear that’s holding many entrepreneurs back, said Cindy Droog, Amway public relations. Economic uncertainty is the answer, she said.

The report also reveals that the U.S. is the most entrepreneur-friendly country in the world, with the independence of self-employment being the reason many choose to pursue starting their own business.

Only one in three Americans, however, felt favorable about pursuing that option, she said.

“It was actually surprising,” Droog said. “Those aged under 30 had the highest fear of letting other people down. As a community, we need to do a deeper dive into this.”

Droog added that because that generation “grew up so socialized, with more community than independence,” we have to ask if independence is still as woven into our community.

Statewide growth

The good news is that on a local level, West Michigan seems to be doing well, Van Andel said.

He praised the expansion of the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids, as well as the work of Start Garden and Grand Valley State University.

“Closer to home, when we look at our environments here, I think Michigan’s doing a great job,” Van Andel said. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, the state economy is at a 10-year high — in fact, the Grand Rapids metro area is the number two in the U.S. for per-capita job growth. The Michigan Business Tax that was hurting jobs is gone, we’re now a right-to-work state, funding for education has increased . . . I think there’s new optimism here as well.”  

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