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Small businesses share challenges with Delaney

By Ed Waters Jr., The Frederick News-Post, Md.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 29--Small-business owners met with Rep. John Delaney in Frederick on Thursday to share their concerns.

Speaking to the group at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the 6th District congressman stressed the importance of small business to the overall economy.

"Small companies are the lottery ticket, they could be the next big business," Delaney said.

Before entering politics, Delaney had two businesses that lent money to small businesses, helping them to get started or grow, he said.

America is unique in giving people the chance to start a business, Delaney said. "You have to balance regulations so that it doesn't stifle businesses to start. And you have to have access to capital."

Ed Knox, lead lender relations specialist with the Small Business Administration, said SBA is an alternative for startups and small firms that can't get money from a bank.

"Traditional lenders want collateral or the person has to have enough money to start a business," Knox said. "It is those who don't have that, or a risky venture such as a restaurant, where SBA may be able to help."

Knox recommended people seek help from SCORE or the Small Business Development Center to learn how to prepare an application for a business loan. If the SBA approves the loan, it co-signs with a lender.

Knox said he is optimistic about the economy.

"I used to get calls for people in desperation, saying they needed money to keep from closing the business. Now it applications for new businesses or expansions," he said.

SBA has completed 471 loans for $21 million in his region, Knox said, which covers all of Maryland, except Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Donna Zukas, of Vini Culture, said her main issues are the minimum wage and city regulations on entertainment. Other small-business owners said traffic problems and those who deal under the counter with workers and clients, not paying taxes or following regulations, hurt legitimate businesses in the county.

Small firms also have problems getting employees, they said, because they can't provide health insurance or pay wages comparable to those of big companies.

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For Monique Pasquale, owner of a bed-and-breakfast, competing with major hotels is challenging. Most large firms have contracts to send visitors to larger, established hotels, rather than to her B&B, she said.

Delaney said he hoped Pasquale would be able to get more business, perhaps with foreign-owned businesses because Europeans often prefer B&Bs to hotels.

Delaney supports the proposed hotel in downtown Frederick, which he sees as a key to boosting tourism and business, he said. The direct benefit would be for large businesses to send visitors to the new hotel. The indirect benefit would be that visitors would shop and dine downtown.

Francesca Contento, who coordinates exchange students, said she faces problems with the U.S. State Department on exchanges, and finds other countries' economies affect her business; Spanish students can't come to the U.S. for an exchange program because their nation's economy is struggling.

Small firms too often focus on the need for money only for equipment or other items, Contento said, and fail to consider marketing to let people know about the business and what it offers.

Delaney was surprised taxes were not mentioned as a major issue, he said during the meeting.

Interviewed later, Delaney said Maryland can't try to beat other states on taxes.

"We would lose. The businesses that only want to talk about taxes will move out anyhow," he said. "A major point is how the taxes are used. Maryland has an excellent education system and many good businesses."

Over the next 20 years federal funds for projects will decline, Delaney said, creating problems for Maryland, where many businesses work with the federal system. He said resources such as SBA can help small businesses prepare for the future.

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(c)2014 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

Visit The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) at www.fredericknewspost.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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