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Manufacturing Panel Talks Success Despite Obstacles

MACKINAC ISLAND (WWJ) -- Thursday afternoon's manufacturing panel discussion was a bit of a curious dichotomy.

One panelist, National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons, railed on "Washington" for excessive regulation and taxation of business, called the Affordable Care Act "a failure from the start" and said President Obama doesn't put economic development front and center.

But the actual manufacturers on the panel, Rush Grouip LLC CEO Andra Rush and Sturgis Molded Products CEO Mark Weishaar, described their success and growth regardless.

Timmons said state and federal governments lay a $1.8 trillion cost of regulation on business, with 2,000 new regulations imposed on manufacturers in the past 30 years. He also praised the economic policies of his former boss, former Virginia Gov. George Allen. (Timmons was Allen's chief of staff during Allen's term as governor, 1994 to 1998.)

Moderator Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner for Deloitte LLP, called for a lower federal deficit, lower corporate income tax rates, expansion of education and work force programs, and more free trade agreements.

But Rush described how "perseverance and a great team" grew her original company from three trucks to 1,800, and spawned a diversification into auto manufacturing that's added 600 jobs in Detroit in the past year alone.

Weishaar, meanwhile, said most entrepreneurs run their companies initially for their own family's economic security, "then you come to a point where you realize there's a whole lot more to it than that."

He said his company is working on building a plant in downtown Kalamazoo, "and hire a bunch of people who are currently on government aid."

Said Weishaar: "It's the business leaders' responsibility to create these jobs. We need to quit thinking so much about profits, and think about jobs and creating livelihoods."

Said Timmons of Rush and Weishaar: "They're going to succeed no matter what Washington or the states throw at them. Just imagine what they could accomplish if Washington got its act together and reduced those corporate taxes and streamlined the regulatory process and made sure we have a reliable energy supply."

Weishaar also called for immigration reform, saying as many as 35 percent of the population of Sturgis, 2010 population 10,994, is illegal immigrants.

Rush said other states did make it attractive for her to move -- South Carolina offered up to $9,000 per senior executive in moving expenses, free real estate and help with infrastructure improvements.

And both Rush and Weishaar said they didn't yet know how their companies would respond to the mandates of the Affordable Care Act.

WWJ Newsradio 950′s Roberta Jasina, Tom Jordan, Vickie Thomas and Charlie Langton are on Mackinac Island covering the conference. Stay tuned for live broadcasts, Thursday and Friday.

Complete Conference Coverage -

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