Business owners are told they don’t have to grapple with rules alone
Help is there for the asking.
That was the underlying theme of the Village of Saukville’s annual business forum, held Tuesday at Rebel Converting, a manufacturing company in the heart of the village’s business park.
Joe Knilans, codirector of the State of Wisconsin Office of Business Development, told business owners they need not feel intimidated when dealing with state bureaucracy.
Knilans’ office was created by Gov. Scott Walker in 2012 to ensure that business owners have a seat at the table when state regulations are being crafted.
“I like to think of Ronald Reagan’s quote about the most terrifying words in the English language, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,’ but we say, ‘We’re from the government and we are here to work with you,’” Knilans said.
As a business ombudsman, he said his department gets involved when business owners feel constricted by unreasonable state regulations.
“We are not experts in your field, but we are experts in government,” Knilans said in describing what he called concierge service for the business sector.
Knilans said his office has made presentations in every county in the state, and has had contacts with 17,000 business owners.
“We want to be a permitting agency, not a regulatory agency,” he said.
“If your business has been stifled by a regulation that has been in place for 35 years but makes no sense, contact us and maybe we can help rewrite the rule.”
In many cases the state’s regulatory rules may make sense, but how they are enforced can be troublesome, Knilans said.
“We have found that it is often not the rules that are the problem but the way the rules are interpreted, such as by an individual inspector,” he said.
The activity of his office shows the state’s desire to be responsive to business needs, but Knilans said expertise is not always obvious on the surface.
“The State of Wisconsin regulates the size of the holes in Swiss cheese, which sounds like a ridiculous rule, but people in the cheese industry tell me that the size of the hole affects the quality of the cheese,” he said.
“The goal is to make sure our regulations make sense to our industries.”
Knilans urged business owners not to hesitate about contacting his office if help is needed in dealing with the state.
“Your taxes go to the State of Wisconsin, you should be able to get something back for that money,” he said.
Liz Pusch said another branch of state government, the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, is ready to help employers looking to nurture a skilled workforce.
The apprenticeship program is becoming increasingly important, Pusch said, because skilled workers are retiring at a rapid pace and need to be replaced in the workplace.
Statewide, about 12,000 apprenticeships are in place, with many of those positions in the building trades and skilled manufacturing.
“To have an apprenticeship, you need three things — an apprentice, an employer and a contract agreement,” Pusch said.
She said more than 60 companies in Ozaukee County have apprentices working for them. Those training programs last between two and five years.
About 90% of an apprentice’s time is spent in on-the-job training.
“When they are receiving classroom training, the apprentice brings that knowledge back to their employer so they are kept up-to-date, too,” Pusch said.
She said apprentices tend to be appreciative for their positions and the relationships they have with their employers.
“Apprentices know the company is willing to invest in them and tend to remain with the company a lot longer than average,” Pusch said.
In addition to being a good deal for employers, she said apprenticeships make financial sense for workers, too.
“While it can cost $50,000 or more to earn a bachelor’s degree, an apprentice can earn more than $100,000 during that same time,” Pusch said.
On a more local level, the business owners were reminded that both the village and county have revolving-fund money available to companies looking to invest in equipment or facilities.
The session was hosted by the village and Ozaukee Economic Development.
Image Information: JOE KNILANS OF Wisconsin’s Office of Business Development told Saukville business owners at the community’s fifth annual business forum that his office can help when wrestling with onerous state regulations. The gathering was held Tuesday morning at Rebel Converting in the Saukville business park.Photo by Sam Arendt