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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From State Capitol to our Nation's Capitol

By: Brian D. Anderson Sr.
President & CEO
Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce

From our State Capitol to our Nation’s Capitol

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of visiting our Nation’s Capitol along with representatives of the Carpet Industry and the Carpet and Rug Institute. I represented your Chamber of Commerce. The trip was organized by Jennifer Mendez from CRI. Her efforts along with those of the staff for Congressman Nathan Deal provided for a very productive and organized visit. A big Thank you to Jennifer!

Before getting into the meat of our visit, let me share that something was different this year. Although I have been to our nation’s capitol a few times, I really paid attention to the atmosphere in Washington. Our nation’s capitol is built to last. The architecture utilized building materials that are as close to permanent as you can get. As I took in the aesthetics of this great city, I had a sense of pride that I have not felt before. When you add up all that is Washington DC, it is hard not to appreciate what was once described as ‘the greatest home field advantage in the world.”

Imagine if our policies and principles were as sound as the buildings and architecture of this great city. The current spend, spend, spend policies of Congress and our past and current President is equivalent to building our nation’s capitol out of cardboard instead of stone. The investments in monuments and cathedrals and the impressive size and number of government buildings represented investments meant to last many generations.

Given the focus today on spending versus investing, will our nation be as strong 100 years from now as it is today? Instead of investing in education, infrastructure, and policies that are sustainable, our elected officials of both parties are spending on the temporary. Even in these times, the growth of the federal government goes on and on unchecked.

It wasn’t surprising that the same issues that faced our industry a year ago are being pushed again this year; Cap and Trade (or better described cap and tax), EFCA (the employee free choice act), and healthcare reform. Two new concerns this year included extended producer responsibility legislation and the EPA’s consideration of labeling Coal Fly Ash as a hazardous material.

Overall the industry would be adversely affected by most of these policies. Given that producing carpet requires the use of a lot of electricity, proposed cap and trade legislation would drive up the cost of electricity and therefore carpet prices. We need good energy policies for our country. I would even argue that emissions must continue to be monitored for the effects they could have on our environment. But to simply tax our industries much more stringently than other competing nations will simply drive more jobs from the US. The position of CRI, their member companies, and your Chamber who represents these same companies is opposed to Cap and Trade legislation.

The EFCA legislation being proposed would allow more influence of labor unions in calling for elections and winning union representation for employees. If labor unions were the way to go, why has the membership decreased for years, and why are the places that unions were so prevalent quickly becoming ghost towns. Big Labor does not create or protect jobs. They simply handicap the free market system and create more bureaucracy within companies trying to compete in a very competitive global economy. The delegation was also opposed to EFCA legislation.

Enough has been said by many, including me, on the healthcare reform debate. Suffice it to say that the current proposed legislation is expensive and unpaid for, will not positively affect the issues facing us related to healthcare, and does nothing to slow down increasing costs.

Extended producer responsibility legislation is new on the horizon and began at the state level such as California. Simply put, the producer or manufacturer of any product would be responsible for that product from creation to disposal. Imagine the costs associated with shipping all post-consumer carpet back to the production center. The delegation asked that if this approach to managing products that have completed their life-cycle is warranted, that a federal standard be created instead of the industry having to operate according to fifty different sets of rules.

Due to the recent Coal Fly Ash spill in Decatur Tennessee, the use of and management of this by-product has come under scrutiny. Coal Fly Ash that has been refined to a glass-like substance is used in latex backing for carpet. Not only does it eliminate the need for calcium carbonate, it aids in the application of latex. The EPA is considering labeling this by-product as a hazardous material even though the science does not substantiate this claim. We asked our elected officials to assist us if this classification becomes a reality.

Let me conclude this column by saying I am proud to be an American. This visit reinforced that pride. But the answers we need right now to guide our country do not seem available from our federal government. I found it interesting that the discussion of job creation was almost silent. Although our federal officials are talking about jobs bills and creating jobs, they do not know how. Only the free market can create jobs. Hopefully investors, and entrepreneurs will continue to be bullish on America, and we will once again stand for all that is true and right in a free world.

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