Maine’s harsh regulatory climate continues to hinder our state’s economic growth, especially for an Amish man in the small town of Unity.
Matthew Secich, a former sous chef at a renowned Chicago restaurant, left his life in the big city and came to Maine, where he began hand-crafting Amish delicacies like dried meats, smoked cheeses and baked goods for sale. He opened up his store, Charcuterie, late in 2015, and is already struggling to keep his doors open in Maine’s harsh regulatory environment.
Secich’s operation is small, but his creations have a large following. According to the Bangor Daily News (BDN), his store usually has a line of customers out the door on Saturdays.
Despite the store’s popularity, Charcuterie is struggling to stay open. Secich claims he’s buried in paperwork and other legal requirements he must adhere to in order to continue operating, which has forced him to consider closing his doors. Some of the regulations outlined in the 158-page-long Maine Food Code are unfathomable when applied to his business and teeter the line of obstructing his religious freedom. Together, these regulations have severely burdened his livelihood.
Secich described regulations that range from refrigeration requirements to crafting lengthy food safety plans as stipulated for obtaining a retail butcher and meat shop license in Maine. Because of the nature of his business, Secich is also required to monitor the temperature of his meats every other hour and record his findings. These excessive measures have left Charcuterie’s primary employee occupied with administrative duties rather than producing goods and running his business.
Because of his Amish faith, Secich uses a custom icebox he created to ensure his meats stay cooled at the required 41-degree Fahrenheit temperature, instead of keeping his goods refrigerated with electricity. Additionally, with his business, Secich does not have the time to create a hazard analysis and critical control points plan as required by the state, and was unaware he would have to create one when he started his business. New regulations imposed at the state level last year mandate that businesses create one of these plans if they process meats.
Steve Giguere, the program manager of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations told the BDN that the state is trying to work with Secich and explore his options given the unique nature of his case. Giguere has insisted that if Secich closes his doors, it will be on his own accord.
Charcuterie shouldn’t be immune from regulatory action, even with Secich’s expertise in preparing food, but regulatory compliance shouldn’t be causing him anguish. Several statues in Maine law prevent do-it-yourselfers from creating businesses in Maine, impeding job growth and obstructing private sector economic activity that is vital to Maine’s small business-based economy. Secich’s story exemplifies the destructive regulations that apply to even the most miniature versions of small business in Maine.
Not even a lemonade stand could succeed in Maine with this level of excessive regulation.
Additionally, Charcuterie shouldn’t be regulated to the same extent as larger companies, as these regulations are more harmful to small businesses. Currently, Charcuterie must adhere to the same regulations that govern larger businesses with higher rates of production and more resources dedicated to compliance, making it difficult for Secich’s business to succeed in a competitive, free-market system.
Secich’s story is telling of how entrepreneurs throughout our state are having their dreams squandered by regulatory overreach in Augusta. Since Gov. Paul LePage took office in 2011, his administration has been unraveling reels of bureaucratic red tape applied to small businesses by liberal politicians in the decades leading up to his first gubernatorial election, but there’s still more work to be done. Secich’s story illustrates how even the most driven and creative entrepreneurs in our state still do not stand a fighting chance against our muddled and confusing regulatory climate.
Employers in our state face strict regulations at the federal level as well, combining as a one-two punch to Maine small businesses. The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s (MHPC) policy analyst, Liam Sigaud, outlined many federal regulations that hinder economic growth in Maine in the MHPC’s Red Tape Guidebook publication, released last Thursday.
With these facts in mind, Maine must continue to weaken the clenching grip state and federal regulators have on small businesses, and abolish unnecessary regulations that harm for our state’s most essential job creators. Maine’s economy needs all the help it can get. There’s no greater disservice to Maine’s newest and brightest innovators than applying unnecessary, tightly-wound red tape that establishes a prominent barrier to opportunity and prosperity for small businesses.