Rep. visits Hampton
By Patrick Cronin
HAMPTON -- First District Congressman Jeb Bradley spoke to local business owners on everything from rising gas prices to what he can do to help them to succeed on the federal level while on a tour of the downtown business area in Hampton.
Wednesday's political stop was one of many the congressman has made this summer through the 80 towns he serves while on the campaign trail to get re-elected in November.
Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce President Doc Noel guided Bradley on his tour as they stopped in at several businesses including Zesto Pizza, Hampton Vision Center and Custom Travel.
While on the walk the duo discussed the state of local businesses in the area and what is being done to revitalize the area since the departure of several longtime businesses from the downtown.
The closings of Colt News Store, 7-Eleven, Bib N Crib and Funny Bones this year had some people worried the downtown is not what it used to be -- a shopping destination.
Midge Dawes, of Naturally Silk Custom Plant and Floral Designs, told Bradley numerous business owners are banding together to try revive the area.
"If we don't do it, no one will," Dawes said. "I've been in business here for 21 years and I'm staying here. We need to join together and do things as a group to let people know that we are down here."
They are currently working on a project in September to bring music to the Gazebo to attract people back to the downtown.
Noel told Bradley while several businesses may have closed, several new ones are on the way including a new Starbucks where a Shell Gas Station used to be located.
When asked what he could do to help small business succeed, Bradley said he would like to see additional tax incentives for small business.
"I would also like to see a federal initiative that would allow small-business owners through a chamber of commerce to group together with other chambers of commerce around the country and get the benefit of greater buying power with insurance," Bradley said.
"This is a reform that is long overdue. It passed the House a couple times, but it's been blocked in the Senate. I'm hopeful when we get back in September we will find a way to get that passed because that will offer relief in health -care costs for small business."
Several business owners wanted to know what can be done about the high gas prices.
"My biggest problem is that I'm paying too much at the pump for gas," said Jerry Sterrit, of New York Life Insurance.
"We all are," Bradley responded.
The "proud owner of a Ford Escape hybrid SUV," Bradley said he co-sponsored legislation to increase tax credits for fuel-efficient cars.
"I don't think we should be telling you that you can't buy a minivan or an SUV," Bradley said. "But at the same time, if we encourage people through tax credits to buy hybrids, then that's a better way to go."
Bradley said he also supports repealing the tax and tariff on imported ethanol in hopes of increasing availability to keep gas prices down.
Bradley said he enjoyed his tour of the downtown, especially his new favorite coffee shop, Caffé Fresco.
"I think there is a vibrant retail community here and people are working to expand," Bradley said. "Talking to most of the business owners they seem to be optimistic with the direction of the economy is going.
"A big part of my job is to try and reflect New Hampshire values in Washington," he said. "That's why I think it's so important to do these types of things where people have a chance to talk to me and tell me what's on their mind. Tell me what they like and maybe what they don't like."