Change the culture of doing business in Washington state

Like many of you, I dreamed and planned for the day I could break away from the company I was working for too venture out and live the American Dream of owning my own business. I certainly had trepidations, but, thanks to my service in the United States Navy Submarine Force, I also had nerves of steel.

I entered the investment business in the late 90s, and saw how fast a firm could be built. By August 2001, things were slowing a bit, but what could go wrong? Apparently, a lot can go wrong and it did on September 11, 2001.

I dug deep, refusing to lose despite the hit to our economy and my business. While I would never want to go through the experience again, I learned valuable lessons that have kept me in business for more than 12 years. This is the American Dream. It is what drives people like us and gets us up every morning and make a better life for ourselves, our family, our customers and our employees.

Today, our American Dream seems to be under constant bombardment from all levels of government. Politicians and bureaucrats wonder why company “X” moved out of state for lower workers’ compensation insurance, why company “Y” moved to a state where a project permit was issued in less than 4 weeks and why company “Z” moved out of state to realize significant economic relocation benefits.

If Washington state aims to remain competitive in the 21st Century, retain and grow the companies located here, and encourage others to move to the state, we must change the state’s culture that impedes business growth and retention.

We cannot fill potholes along the way to benefit just one industry or company. If it is good for Washington, then it is good for Boeing and Microsoft. This means it is good for your local insurance agent, bakery, restaurant and shipyard.

We don’t need 100-point plans. We need solutions that could include:

Reasonable and understandable regulations that can be implemented without undo hindrance or burden. State agencies must change their culture to encourage cooperation. They need a “how can we help you with this regulation” attitude as opposed to the “do this or we shut you down” atmosphere.
Allow competition for workers’ compensation insurance. For some companies it may make sense to utilize the state system, others to self-insure and others to shop for private coverage. Competition lowers prices. Economics 101 does work.

Reform the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The Skagit River Bridge collapse occurred in May. Today, a new bridge is in place, less than six months later because we cut the red tape. That should be the rule, not the exception. We can lower transportation costs by removing the sales tax on road projects and streamlining permitting. It is time to make WSDOT accountable with projects that specifically provide congestion relief and increased freight mobility.

Provide relief from Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes. One way to alleviate this costly burden would be to create a deduction that a business can take each year. This could include writing off the costs of goods sold, employee compensation up to $300,000 per year, or 30 percent of revenue. Let the business choose what it needs and give it the ability change each year based on what is most favorable to job growth. Flexibility allows for investments, job creation, better benefits and higher employee pay.

By doing these things we will make Washington more competitive and be a job-creation leader in this nation. We cannot maintain the status quo and expect our market share to increase. By changing the culture of doing business in Washington, I firmly believe we can, as President Ronald Reagan said, “make it morning again in America.”

State Rep. Drew MacEwen is a small-business owner and serves the 35th Legislative District, which includes Mason County and parts of Kitsap and Thurston counties. He is the assistant House Republican Whip.