VALDOSTA — The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce hosted a round table meeting with Congressman Austin Scott and several business owners to talk about startup capital, insurance and changes in the market during the past decade.

One of the challenges discussed is startup capital a new business needs to open. 

“Your community banker used to (lend to small businesses), that was their niche,” Scott said.

“One of the most frustrating things to me in Washington ... we have not been able to get the regulatory relief for the small and community banks to free up that capital for small business. If you take a rule that’s designed for a multi-billion dollar institution and you make it apply to your small lending institutions …  it's had a direct impact on the capital available for small business.” 

One of the businesses present was Solar Integrated Products. Scott used the business as a launching point about how businesses have changed in the last 10 years.

“I think that the alternative energy was something nobody was talking about at the small-business level,” Scott said. “It was all multi-billion dollar corporations looking at this technology. … Now all of the sudden whether it's solar panels, fuels cells or bio diesel, there’s all types of opportunities in the energy fields.”

The energy industry is only one change Scott noted at the meeting. 

“You don’t see a home town camera store or a television store,” Scott said. “If you are a high-dollar item — it has become harder and harder for those small town retailers to survive.”

Several of the business owners mentioned the problem of businesses out-sourcing parts of its production cycle.

“You’ve got the development of the product, the manufacturing of a product, the distribution of the product and then you have the actual consumer of the product,” he said. “Any time you increase the cost at any one of those levels, it increases exponentially at the final cost to the consumer. … We do a pretty good job of developing things in this country. I think the problem we’ve got is when it comes time to build, the actual manufacturing of those products is leaving the United States. … We need the manufacturing jobs in the United states.”

Many business owners expressed frustration because they are unable to bargain for better insurance rates as a small business than the larger corporation. 

“Association plans have been allowed for years,” Scott said. “Georgia Bar Association has had plans in the past.”

Aside from possible insurance plans, Scott recommends joining trade associations. 

“Whatever industry you are in, you should be a part of the association that represents your industry,” he said. “These rules and laws that keep getting increased penalties and other things, it's your association that is going to do the best job of finding those things that are specific to your industry and protecting you from an agency that wants to move from $1,700 per violation to $7,200 per violation.”

The business owners also discussed sales tax on online products to try and even the playing field with traditional brick-and-mortar small businesses. 

Jason Smith is a reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be contacted at 229-244-3400 ext.1256.

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