Technology has revolutionized the way companies - including very small ones - do business. Meanwhile, many of them are forced to cope with government regulations, fees and taxes seemingly aimed at keeping entrepreneurs from going into business at all.
Many would-be small business people take a look at the red tape and expense and decide dealing with it is not worth the effort.
Some local residents were reminded last weekend that small businesses can be more than mere cogs in the gigantic machine that is the economy. They can be downright tasty, too.
Wheeling was the site last weekend of the Mountaineer Brewfest, an event staged to benefit Wheeling Health Right and expose local residents to craft beers. The beverages, often with very distinct qualities, are brewed by individuals and small enterprises.
Eight small brewers from throughout the state brought their wares to Wheeling. That was an impressive showing, given the fact there are just 11 such beer crafters in the state.
Government regulations, written to deal with large breweries, are a deterrent to those thinking of going into the craft beer business. It can cost a small "homebrewer" $3,000-$4,000 simply to open the business. Small potential profits make that an obstacle many choose not to tackle.
Some state legislators plan to look at whether regulations on craft brewers should be amended.
That certainly is a good start - but what about the many other types of small businesses being blocked by government regulations, fees and taxes? What about the cook whose friends tell her she ought to market those great pies? What about the amateur woodworker who sells his beautiful furniture only to family members? The list goes on and on.
And so does the potential to make it easier for small business people to jump through all the government hoops. For example, one priority Wheeling officials had under the state home rule program was to cut some of the red tape for business. As a result, the number of business licenses dealt with by the city was slashed from 77 to just three.
Legislators should open the tap on studying regulations that block small businesses. Start with small beer producers, then move to single-person bakeries, one-man woodshops, etc.
Concern over excess government regulation has been brewing for years. West Virginia legislators should do something about it.