By Eugene Scott
Leaders from multiple industries shared their biggest concerns with U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle at a business roundtable this week.
He hosted the gathering to hear the challenges preventing job growth and expansion affecting area businesses. The meeting was Tuesday at Ajo Al's Mexican Café in north-central Phoenix, a day before he hosted a job fair at Paradise Valley Community College.
"This is an information session for me to come up with some ideas and suggestions to bring back to Washington," said Quayle, who was elected in 2010 to Congress. Quayle of Phoenix represents most of the central and northern parts of the city, as well as Paradise Valley, Cave Creek and Carefree.
When companies are looking to expand into the Southwest, Quayle wants Phoenix to be at the top of their list.
"If we continue to put ourselves at a disadvantage, we're going to miss out on a lot of companies," he said.
Roundtable participants bemoaned the struggling construction industry, energy costs and government regulations as major hurdles.
Steve Macias, president and CEO of Pivot Manufacturing, a Phoenix-based company that manufactures mechanical and electro-mechanical components, said simplicity is lacking in the decision-making process that affects small businesses.
"Washington is involved in so much right now," he said. "So many people are taking the spotlight when the spotlight should be on the economy and creating jobs."
Getting banks to lend money to businesses has been a challenge for many Valley companies, leaders said. Some at the roundtable said they weren't able to secure any funds from banks at all.
"Finding the right people to work with us" has been difficult, Susan Anable of Cox Communications said. "We need stability and predictability to invest and do more."
The government could do more to make investing in small business attractive for investors, said MaryAnn Guerra, CEO of Phoenix-based BioAccel, a company that works to commercialize science technologies.
"We need more funding in high-risk areas to create the infrastructure around companies so that they are successful," she said. "We have to tee up more companies to make them want to come to us."
Keeping family-owned small businesses afloat continues to be difficult because of the death tax, said Dawn Grove, corporate counsel for Karsten Manufacturing Corp., the parent company of Ping Golf.
The death tax, better known as the estate tax, is a tax that occurs when the estate of a deceased person is transferred to another person.
"Half of the family businesses fail because of the state tax problems," Grove said, "and more often than not, they're the ones who want to invest in their communities more than a public company that is focused on profits."
Vicki Kringen is vice president and chief operating officer of Centers for Habilitation, a Tempe-based non-profit that helps create opportunities for people with disabilities. She told Quayle the government should support jobs for people who are difficult to employ.
"We're under attack by the federal government at this time," she said. "There is new legislation that would eliminate jobs for people with severe disabilities. That's anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 jobs across the country."