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It’s not always the case that Uncle Sam has the small business owner’s back. In some cases, it can feel like you’re fighting the red, white and blue just to remain in the black. But when it comes to green technologies, Sam has a soft spot. The trick is to understand and take advantage of the many programs and policies which can help businesses who choose to be environmentally friendly.
Some of the basics
For starters, think big and then think local. Green programs aren’t limited to the federal level, which offers several tax reductions and tax credits for businesses and manufacturers. There are many state and even regional programs available which can provide loan assistance or even funding for green projects. Washington State doesn’t even charge sales tax on renewable energy equipment sold there.
So, begin with a simple Internet search to learn about the programs in your area. Make sure to check with your local utilities, too. These energy and water providers have a vested interest in your going green and are likely to meet you halfway when it comes to upgrading equipment or increasing water conservation at your carwash.
Beyond the scope of your immediate region, the federal government has several programs as well. The savvy operator can check www.energystar.gov before purchasing energy-efficient equipment or solar panels to see what falls within the scope of the applicable tax deductions, credits and rebates.
Another helpful website is www.business.gov. This is an official site of the U.S. government which helps small businesses understand their legal requirements and locate government services.
Many counties and municipalities have now dedicated resources to greening up businesses. A phone call to your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Development Center would likely put you in touch with a coordinator in charge of green business efforts in your area. Even if no programs are available to help fund your project, oftentimes these outreach centers can offer a free audit service. This is an opportunity to have a professional come to your carwash or detail center and walk-through operations to determine cost-saving areas and ways in which you can boost energy and water efficiencies.
In addition to the auditing process, your local municipality, utility or county may also offer a certification program. It is strongly encouraged for any business who can qualify to participate in these programs as it boosts consumer confidence and community goodwill.
Follow the letter of the law
Last but not least, before greening up your carwash and seeking some government assistance, make sure your complying with all of the current standards and laws. A recent straw poll on www.carwash.com found that over 80 percent of respondents were not familiar with the Clean Water Act and what it required of their business.
The entire text of the act can be found at www.epa.gov, but it basically boils down to responsibility over the discharging of pollutants into waterways of nearly any size. The Act sets water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters and makes it illegal to discharge “any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained.”
Get the facts, and then get it straight. Your business will be well on its way to greener pastures.