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The News Herald: Southerland tours local business

Monday, August 26, 2013

PANAMA CITY — U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland toured the ship the Guadalupe at Port Panama City on Friday as part of a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) event designed to highlight the challenges government regulations pose for small business owners in Florida’s Panhandle.

It was an opportunity for Linea Peninsular, which owns the Guadalupe, to meet with Southerland, R-Panama City,  and discuss some of the questions they have about government regulations.

After the meeting, Southerland toured the Linea facility with company vice president David Humphries, and his father of the same name, who explained the operations of his company whose motto is “The Yucatan is our business.”

The company moved to Panama City after Hurricane Katrina washed out its previous location in Louisiana.

“Moved here eight years ago on the 28th, next Wednesday,” Humphries said. “It has been a great (move) because a lot of our business is in the Carolinas. With the price of fuel increasing, it made it better for the customers because the cost of freight was lower.”

Linea imports products commonly found in local stores, including The Gap and Wal-Mart, as well as Eddie Bauer products. They export lumber and paper products, as well as farming equipment.

Before boarding the Guadalupe, Southerland told Linea staff why he was visiting Friday morning.

“It helps to understand the challenges you are facing,” Southerland told the gathering. “There is uncertainty out there that makes small businesses nervous.”

According to the federal Office of Management and Budget, there are more than 4,100 new regulations pending approval in Washington, D.C.

Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations is a coalition launched by NFIB in 2011 that represents the interests of more than 350,000 members nationwide concerned about the impact of costly federal regulations on small businesses.

According to Linea General Manager Brenda Pomes, the transit time for the bigger ships between the Yucatan and Panama City is two days.

“You can’t fly for that because you have to clear customs and that takes longer and you sure can can’t drive it,” Pomes said.

According to Humphries, scallops from Nova Scotia, Canada, is a big export for Linea.

“The big resorts love them in Cancun,” Humphries said.

Southerland said trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea should enhance the import and export  business at Port Panama City. And freight imports and exports can become a bigger business for Port Panama City if regulations were streamlined, Southerland said.

NFIB/Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle, in a statement released before the tour, said many regulations should be cleared from the books to help places like Panama City increase imports and exports.

“New regulations continue to come out of Washington, D.C., and many impose enormous hurdles to our state’s small business owners,” Herrle said. “We’re working with Congressman Southerland, who is a small-business owner himself, to bring to light stories of how overregulation harms small businesses and the negative impacts it can have on job creation in Florida.”

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