Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Ombudsman hears small business gripes

Excessive regulations among top issues


Brian Castro, ombudsman for the U.S. Small Business Administration, center, talks with John Insco of Toledo, left, and Ray Zammit of Oregon on Thursday at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce offices in Toledo. Mr. Castro was in town to advise small business owners on how to get help.

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Brian Castro is from the government, and he’s here to help you.

No, really.

Mr. Castro is the ombudsman for the U.S. Small Business Administration. He was in Toledo on Thursday to listen to the concerns of people who own and run small businesses and to advise them on how to get help.

Only a handful of small business owners showed up for the session at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce’s offices. Bill Wersell, the vice president of business development services at the chamber, said several people who had RSVP’d for Thursday’s event backed out at the last minute.

And that shows one of the problems of running a small business: When something unexpected comes up, there aren’t a lot of other people around to take care of it. “Small business owners have to wear all the hats,” Mr. Wersell said.

That’s why excessive government regulations are one of the chief complaints Mr. Castro and his colleagues hear.

Mr. Castro said his office tries to make sure the federal government is striking the right balance between having regulations that keep people safe but not so many that it makes it difficult for small businesses to survive.

“Nobody goes into business to comply with regulations,” Mr. Castro said.

John Insco worked several years for a national drug store chain, and when regulatory issues came up, he had people he could turn to who knew how to take care of the situation.

He saw a big difference when he retired and joined University Computer Repair in Toledo, where he is the majority owner and president.

“When I bought into this computer business, it’s like the weight of the world all of a sudden shifted onto my head,” Mr. Insco said.

His latest dilemma is an internship program he runs with the help of a local nonprofit. Questions about tax and insurance implications occupy time he could be using to grow his business.

Barb Bruno of Recycle I.T. U.S.A. also complained about burdensome regulation, especially from the state: “I don’t have time for that. I’ve got a business to run,” she said.

Mr. Castro said another problem he hears often is failure of government agencies to pay contractors in a timely manner.

He said small business owners who have complaints can call the regulatory fairness helpline at 888-REG-FAIR, or go to​ombudsman.

To file a complaint with the ombudsman’s office, business owners can complete a short form at​ombudsman/​comment.

Representatives from the Department of Labor’s wage and hour division, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service also spoke at Thursday’s event and offered their assistance to small business owners.

Contact Chip Towns at: or 419-724-6194.

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