Warner addresses concerns of business owners in Staunton visit

Confidence. That’s what America needs to get business moving again.

“The challenge we have now is, what can we do to fix the confidence of the business community at large?” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told a group of business owners in Staunton on Wednesday.

Warner did some talking and a lot of listening as business owners big and small bent his ear on issues related to business.

“There’s money in the banks, but people are afraid to borrow it because they don’t know what’s going to happen six months to a year from now,” said Bob Chambers of Hollister Inc. in Stuarts Draft, hitting on a point that has become a key point of criticism lodged by Republicans in the weeks leading to the midterm congressional elections in November, that the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have done little if anything to inspire business owners to take the steps needed to get the economy moving.

Warner, for his part, doesn’t disagree with the critics. He said it would help to build some certainty around tax codes and the regulatory environment faced by the business community, particularly the small-business sector.

“Historically, coming out of every recession the last 50 years, two-thirds of the jobs created come from small businesses. And while we’ve seen things start to come back really well, still access to credit for small businesses is still tough,” Warner said.

Developer Brett Hayes, who is on schedule to open a new digital theater in Waynesboro on Oct. 1, and on Tuesday had a job fair that drew 1,000 applicants for the 70 open positions that will be created by the opening of the theater, said actions taken by the administration and Congress to open up access to credit for small businesses “is not trickling down” as intended.

“All business developments are not the same. Housing is clearly still in a slump. Prices are dropping. It makes sense that you don’t build new houses. That’s a smart thing. But commercial development is good. Commercial development is going to generate sales tax, it’s going to provide jobs for construction, it’s going to provide property-tax revenue for localities,” said Hayes, who told Warner that regulators should treat commercial-development loans differently because commercial development can have a multiplier effect on the economy through the hiring done in the construction phase and then the hiring that is done when commercial projects come online.

Warner told the business group that he is working on bipartisan legislation aimed at easing access to credit for small businesses and streamlining operations in the Small Business Administration.

The senator also heard concerns from the group related to the health-care reform that was signed into law earlier this year. Uncertainty was again a key piece of the feedback from the business owners.

“One of the complaints that I hear about health care – why couldn’t they make it simpler? Why did they have to pass this massive bill? I think in certain ways it was too much,” said Warner, who defended the bill even as he conceded that there could be a “valid debate” about whether what ended up being codified into law “was the right approach or not.”

“This is just fact: We had a system that was putting us into financial ruin,” Warner said. “This bill is not as good as some people would say, it’s not as bad as some people would say, but it’s going to shock the system, and it’s going to force the American people to have the kind of conversation that we didn’t have around health care before.”

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.
Photos by Mark Miller. Mark is online at www.markmillerphotography.com.

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