By Valerie Baldowski
Big government should stay out of the way of small business, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) told members of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce.
Westmoreland was the featured speaker at a town hall meeting Tuesday, at the Chamber of Commerce in McDonough.
Westmoreland said he advocates giving small businesses incentives to help them flourish, but he said the federal government should not get involved in private enterprise.
"My philosophy of what government needs to be doing for small business is getting out of the way," he said. "We need to be bringing in small businesses and saying, 'how can we help you?'"
Westmoreland said he frequently comes into contact with small-business owners who are having negative experiences with governmental regulation.
"Typically, what ends up happening is, 99 percent of the people who come to my office display some type of defense against the government," he said. "They're there because the government is doing something that will challenge, or hamstring their business, or cost them more money to operate, rather than giving them a good environment."
A Coweta County resident, Westmoreland owns a construction company, L.A.W. Builders.
At one time, Westmoreland said, government was seen as a friend of commerce.
"That has almost turned around backwards, and now, it's almost that government regulates everything that we do in our personal life, and in our businesses," he added. "That's no way to do business."
"Congressman Westmoreland does a good job of keeping his Henry County constituents informed, and today was no exception," Henry County Chamber of Commerce President Kay Pippin said of Tuesday's remarks. "We appreciate the congressman's candid approach to governing."
John Newman, president of Classic Landscapes, Inc., in Hampton, said that as a small-business owner, Westmoreland understands what small businesses face.
"Coming from the trenches, he has the same background as I have," said Newman, who has been a business owner since 2005. "It's good to hear it straight from someone in the trenches, and to find out how they see how issues are being addressed or not addressed."
Mike Warren, president of Cape Insurance Solutions in McDonough, said he agrees with Westmoreland.
"He's right on," said Warren. " ... It's gone backwards. They [legislators] are doing less and less to help small business. They should be doing more to help small business, because that's the engine that's going to turn the economy around."
Stan Berrong, co-pastor of Glen Haven Baptist Church in McDonough, said small businesses are especially vital to Henry County's economy. "It seems like the government is doing everything it can to hurt small business, and small business is the lifeline of the community, specifically here in Henry County," he said. "The way things are going right now, it's going to hamper and continue to handcuff small businesses."