The hot topic of “Economics of Government Bureaucracy” generated a lot of discussion by the executive panel at the recent Florida Building Material Association’s annual convention.

On the panel were Jon Vrabely, president and CEO of St. Louis–based Huttig Building Products; Greg Schorr, CEO of Custom Window Systems, Ocala, Fla.; Al Bavry, president and CEO of Nokomis, Fla.–based Kimal Lumber; Don Madden, government affairs consultant for Gunster, a Florida commercial law firm; Sen. Jeff Brandes, Florida State District 22; and Frank Attkisson, Osceola County, Fla., commission chairman. I was the moderator.

Everyone on the panel agreed that government regulations are out of hand and something has to change. Vrabely asked, “How much regulation is enough?” and said, “We can’t spend millions waging war against our own government.”

We discussed the mandates and regulations of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Vrabely said that Huttig needs its valuable full-time employees but estimated that complying with the law will cost his company about 2 cents per share. Schorr said the manufacturer’s strategy will focus on variable workforce structure and flexible cost structure to mitigate the expected 15% cost increase. A larger proportion of Kimal’s future jobs will be part-time, Bavry said. Brandes gave perhaps the sagest advice: “Don’t be the first through the minefield.”

I asked the panel, “If you were the king of America, what would you change?”

  • Vrabely would address entitlement and education.
  • Madden would reestablish the draft, mandating two years of public service.
  • Schorr would focus on changing the tax code.
  • Attkisson would change the country’s DNA to respect private capital and small businesses.

A “fuzzy monster” is one of those things that come out of nowhere to get you. I asked the panel, “What fuzzy monsters do you see in the next 12 months?” Their responses were diverse and revealing. Vrabely worries that the loss of government support for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae could stifle the housing market.

Brandes said for government that pensions could become problematic, but he openly worries that new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps, which could dramatically increase flood insurance rates, could devastate the housing market.

Madden believes that unfunded liabilities will create more bankruptcies like the one in Detroit.

Attkisson said he believes that electing former governor and potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist would be a setback for business in Florida.

The real messages from this panel were never spoken out loud but were echoed in the background of their comments. The uncertainty of the future was a resounding concern, as was the fear of government regulations and disappointment in the country’s direction.

—Don Magruder is CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply in Leesburg, Fla., and a former chairman of the Florida Building Material Association. Contact him at [email protected].