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Wireless Wasted

Experienced Engineer Hurt by Independent Contractor Law.

This is the true story of Heinz, an electrical engineer who lives near Interstate 495, the outer perimeter of metropolitan Boston. Heinz is a naturalized US citizen, a native of Switzerland, and a named inventor on six US patents.

Hard Hit. Talking with him, one senses his meticulous Swiss engineering temperament and his problem-solving optimism. But that natural optimism has been sorely tried over the last few years, as the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law (MICL) has steadily reduced his income, shrunk his consulting business, and frozen his dream of establishing a manufacturing firm.

The MICL keeps Heinz and 7,410 other electrical engineers from starting new businesses, serving clients, and employing others in their disciplines.

Serving Hot Fields. Heinz worked for 10 years as a wireless engineering consultant at a business he founded in 2003. Selling his own time and that of friends who worked with him on a project basis, his firm offered design, analysis, modeling and trouble-shooting of radio-frequency circuits, microwave and wireless systems, and wireless components.

His design work applied to fast-growing fields including cell phones, WiFi, backhaul radio, satellite communications, and radio frequency identification, all filled with fast-growing firms worldwide. Wireless is an industry surging with new ideas. It spends freely to meet production deadlines using quick-turnaround design projects like Heinz’s company did.

Heinz enjoyed his consulting work and business grew steadily. He saw that if he hired several specialized engineers he could immediately overcome some inefficiencies of his small scale.

Heinz’s Dream in Three Steps. Heinz’s plan is straightforward and feasible. The first step: build up his electrical design consulting business, expand his contacts throughout the wireless industry, and add consultants to staff his projects as he sold work to clients.

Consulting in growing fields like electrical engineering generates cash flow that exceeds the daily needs of a service business. Consulting also generates novel ideas. Those ideas can become patents, the lifeblood of successful technical manufacturing.

As the second step, Heinz expected that he and his staff would spot product design opportunities he could patent. Patent applications take time and money which consultants can usually afford. Then as the third step, Heinz would turn the patented idea into a small manufacturing firm whose initial inves