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The Columbian - Heck Listens to Female Business Owners' Concerns, Ideas

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By Bob Albrecht

Business owner Trudy Snyder stated passionately and plainly: "I want to wake up in the morning and know I can play offense instead of defense."

It's a line you may hear again, although next time, it could be delivered by Democrat Denny Heck.

"I love that, too," said Heck, piggybacking off the declaration given by one of the seven female business owners who -- along with Snyder, the owner of a Molly Maid franchise -- joined the congressional candidate Tuesday for the final stop of his five-week "Let's Get to Work" jobs tour.

The business owners, whose companies deal in a range of industries, from interior design to home medical care to upscale coffee, told Heck they're nervous to take on credit and overwhelmed by constantly changing government regulations.

Heck said he left the Java House coffee shop inspired by the ingenuity that has helped area businesses persevere in a slumping economy.

"Adapting" was the common strand, said Heck, who's running this fall against Republican Jaime Herrera for the open 3rd Congressional District seat. "We listened to our customers and acted accordingly" was what he said the women told him.

At the outset of the tour, Heck said he hoped to hear ideas for improving the nation's job infrastructure, increasing work-force training, promoting green jobs, and getting both credit and exports flowing again. Tuesday's conversation touched on those topics and more, with education and overhauling the nation's tax code joining the mix.

"I had an objective (of) growing and learning, and I did," Heck said at the conclusion of the 90-minute event.

Asked how their businesses are doing, all eight owners said they're more profitable now than they were a year ago. Snyder, though, said she's down 30 percent compared to 2007.

Hers is a service, she said, women "aren't going to do without."

Victoria Bradford, the owner of Comfort Interiors, told Heck she in many ways has an advantage by being a female owner, particularly when she works with female clients. "Women tend to get the things that women want," Bradford told Heck.

The discussion pivoted to taxes when Elizabeth Halili, the owner of One World Merchant, said, "We need to punish companies for sending jobs overseas."

Jen Fuhrmeister, a co-owner of Mon Ami Cafe in Vancouver, said she thought the tax code should be made simpler. She suggested a flat or even a progressive tax rate, so long as it was "simple and fair."
Outsourcing foe

Heck agreed that the system should be revised because it "incentivizes tax avoidance." However, he told Fuhrmeister he intends to push for targeted tax credits that encourage manufacturing. "I'm going to go back there and make sure you all get to deduct your sales tax," Heck said.

Heck has said he favors extending the Bush administration tax cuts for middle-class Americans but not for those who earn more than $250,000.

As for sending jobs overseas, Heck told the assembled group that a business from this region tore down its entire operation, sent it to China and received a tax deduction to boot.

"Frankly," Heck said, "I find this outrageous. We have a tax code that literally rewards companies for shipping jobs overseas."

That has to change, he said, adding, "We need to make things in America."

Heck also was joined by Sarah Wynn, co-owner of Mon Ami Café; Julie Williams of Home Instead Senior Care; Amy Pearson of Pearson Photography; and Ann Warren of Kumon Math and Reading Center.


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