Published: May 14, 2012
Speaking to an American Bar Association group the other day, Business Roundtable President John Engler discussed BRT's proposals to reform federal regulation and permitting. (See prepared remarks, news release.)
But there's action beyond the federal level, too. Joe Whitley, vice chair of the ABA's Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section, asked for insights from Engler's time as governor of Michigan, as well as his current BRT position, on the role of state regulation and regulators on the economy. Engler responded:
If I were a CEO today and I came here and I announced that somewhere in America in the next year, we're going to make a decision on where to put a manufacturing facility that is going to employ 1,000 people and we're looking for a place that has a good workforce, good infrastructure, a competitive tax structure, half the governors in the country would be calling by tomorrow. Their economic development folks would be putting together a packet of information, and many of them, as part of that information, would be bragging that they have a "One Stop" permit shop, where you come in at one place, we can take care of everything for you: We can get it done in, you know, one a week, six days, five days, five minutes!
They're going to work hard to try to attract that investment. Some have gotten very good at this. Some have done a very good job in terms of cleaning up their regulatory environment. Others, California, Illinois, are right at the top of the list, are still horrific. And you see it in the unemployment rates and you see it in the poor economic performances in those states.
There are differences to be felt.
The same today is true, and this is the point I think is missed in Washington: As much as we understand that states compete, we fail to understand that that competition has moved up to a national level, and nations are competing against nations.
We're probably the one nation, we have a little bit of a, maybe, overconfidence, that, "Gee, we never have to do that. We're America. Everybody wants to be here."
Well, today capital is pretty mobile. Technology can be put down in a lot of different places, there's some pretty talented workforces being assembled out around the world.
So we have to compete. It's not a single thing. It IS energy costs. It IS the tax climate. But it's also the regulatory environment.