Michigan’s regulatory environment is so onerous and inefficient that it’s stymieing job creation and revenue growth. And, ironically, it’s also lowering tax receipts.
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Officials at Hart Enterprises, a manufacturer of medical equipment in the small town of Sparta, north of Grand Rapids, figure they’re the kind of business Michigan wants to hang on to. For one thing, the company is hiring, and second, it operates in a growth industry. However, they’re not so sure the state feels the same way.
Hart Enterprises’ experience with state officials may be a perfect case study among the many daunting challenges facing the Snyder administration in reforming the state’s business climate.
Bob Striebel, Hart Enterprises’ executive vice president, says the company received a bizarre and unexpected visit in March from an air quality inspector from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. What was unusual about it? For one thing, Hart Enterprises is not required to have an air quality permit.
“We have never been inspected by (the DEQ) in the 30-some years we’ve been doing business in the state, so we were curious as to why they were there,” Striebel says.
However, it was the inspector’s explanation that really got Striebel’s attention.
“The inspector said since larger businesses have closed down in recent years and things have slowed down (for the DEQ), the agency had more opportunity to visit smaller companies where inspections have not been performed,” Striebel recalls.
That didn’t satisfy Striebel, who refused the inspector’s entry in spite of their threats to return with an armed conservation officer and a warrant. What’s more, Striebel suspects it was more than just a random visit, since the company’s president, Alan Taylor, had been tied up in court with the DEQ for several years — the result of a dispute over a nearby parking lot the DEQ says was built partly on a wetland.
Taylor says that, in March, Hart Enterprises sued the DEQ for alleged harassment over the “unannounced” air quality inspection.
On the wetland issue, Taylor says he was personally charged with three violations and convicted of two of them as it related to the state’s wetland regulations. Taylor says the case is now under appeal.
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