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Navigating the Regulatory Landscape

Navigating the Regulatory Landscape

Bill Betts
Betts Company
December 19, 2023

California stands as both a land of opportunity and a labyrinth of regulations. Companies operating within the state must grapple with an intricate web of rules governing everything from labor practices to environmental standards. Betts Company has existed in California since 1868, when my great-great-great-grandfather, William Betts, founded the company in San Francisco. Today, the company has diversified and grown a great deal. Still based in California, we compete against companies all over the country, many of whom exist in an environment that is far less regulated than ours. Yet we are an industry leader.

Labor laws in California are far more stringent than most of the country. While labor laws were initially intended to protect employees, California’s current labor laws pose significant hurdles to businesses statewide. The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) is a good example of this. PAGA authorizes employees to file civil lawsuits on behalf of not just themselves, but also on the behalf of their coworkers for State of California Labor Code violations which penalizes the employer. The main problem with laws like these is that they assume ill intent on the part of employers. They are susceptible to abuse and can become punitively expensive for businesses across industries. Further, they shift and evolve frequently, which requires constant attention and policy adjustments on the employer’s side, which is also expensive. Navigating complex labor laws, ensuring compliance with meal and rest breaks, accurate pay stubs, and addressing new mandates like California’s paid sick leave are daily concerns.

In addition to labor laws and regulations, California is among the most regulated states when it comes to environmental issues, and specifically, emissions. Here again the initial intention was laudable: to ensure that we respect and protect our natural environment. One example is the recent regulations created by California Air Resource Board (CARB) that are affecting the heavy-duty truck industry. But since California is often the first to mandate certain reforms and new policies, it is up to the businesses in the state to scramble to adjust to them continually.

How do we, at Betts, manage to thrive and remain competitive in such an environment? In several ways. First, we are a Certified Evergreen® company, and we believe in putting People First. As a baseline, therefore, we do a great deal to ensure that our employees are happy, fulfilled, and treated fairly, thus minimizing the cost of frivolous lawsuits brought through PAGA and similar regulations.

Second, we work cooperatively with many businesses in our industry and region to create and support systems and organizations that protect the rights of employees, but without putting the burden on employers. We founded, for example, the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance, which aims to support the Valley’s $19.3B manufacturing industry by helping develop and train the workforce. We are also part of an organization called Heartland Compass, which provides resources for employees of employer partners. Heartland can help employees with all sorts of problems, including finding resources to pay for car repairs so they can get to work, finding the right advocates to start the process of seeking US citizenship, and securing a case manager and hospice care for an ailing parent. In this way, we are helping create a landscape where employees do have access to support and resources, making them less vulnerable and better able to stand on their own. In addition, the collective efforts of our business and our many co-collaborators stand as evidence that many businesses do care about employees and are willing to prioritize their safety, care, and wellbeing. We are working to redefine business as one of the good guys, not the villain.

A third and significant part of our work to improve the regulatory landscape is our contribution to a great many efforts to proactively advocate for Common Sense regulations and politics. My father, who is still Chairman of Betts, has taken on the role of primary steward and advocate for initiatives like PAGA reform and career tech education in California. Under his leadership, Betts Company has joined a broader coalition called the New California Coalition, representing businesses from various regions and industries. This coalition is united in its goal to create a common voice for businesses statewide, bridging the gap between government policymakers and localized businesses. The initiative aims to impact decision-makers at the state level and bring clarity to the regulatory challenges faced by companies of all sizes. The bottom line is that California needs good businesses, and therefore it is in everyone’s best interest to promote and enact reasonable and manageable regulations that will protect employees and the environment without driving companies out of state.

Finally, the most significant and fundamental way Betts remains competitive on the national stage despite the challenges imposed by the regulatory environment is by being excellent at what we do. We strive to outperform our competitors by offering superior quality and service. This shows up in several ways, starting with our commitment to investing in our equipment and technology. Betts Company continuously invests in cutting-edge equipment, improving efficiency and quality and allowing us to offer better products to our customers. We are also committed to innovation; we actively engage with customers to design and engineer solutions tailored to their needs. This sets us apart from competitors who may focus solely on production. We have historically and continue to maintain rigorous quality assurance standards, ensuring our products are top-notch and reliable, fostering customer trust. We’ve built a reputation for quality and reliability over the 155 years since our founding. And finally, while we compete nationally, Betts recognizes the importance of understanding local markets and tailoring our offerings accordingly.

As a final added bonus, the multi-generational nature of Betts Company plays a significant role in our success. As President, I oversee the day-to-day operations and the pursuit of excellence in manufacturing. My father, Mike Betts, with his wealth of experience and dedication to advocacy, spearheads the company’s engagement with government and regulatory agencies. Having someone with such deep experience and knowledge of the industry landscape who can devote his time to this effort is an enormous advantage for us. In order to have similar success, another company might have to hire someone solely devoted to this effort, which would of course mean increased cost to and burden on the company.

At Betts, we remain committed to advocacy, innovation, and customer-centric excellence. We do not hold these values because of the regulatory landscape, but they are at the top of the list of reasons we succeed despite the often-challenging environment. Through collaboration with other businesses and organizations, and our deep commitment to being a Certified Evergreen company, Betts Company continues to work towards redefining business as a force for good and towards shaping a more positive business landscape, all while ensuring our competitive edge. We are proud of our multi-generational leadership as it provides a strong foundation for our ongoing success and commitment to positive change.

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