By Congressman Frank LoBiondo
For the past two weeks, I?ve been able to be home in South Jersey, not stuck in Washington. It has been great to be back in the real world among familiar faces and surroundings. I?ve used these two weeks to meet with local employers, tour local businesses and celebrate some big events for our region. I?ve also talked to countless residents ? from Upper Township to Swedesboro ? about the real implications of policies being enacted by Washington. The central themes of limited credit, excessive taxation and the implications of the recently-passed healthcare bill were present along every stop.
Local employers were unanimous in their frustrations, arguing that government bureaucracies are hindering economic growth and job creation in our region. At an informal small business roundtable I held in Wildwood, business owners detailed how hesitant they were to invest given the uncertainty of upcoming proposals from Washington. Many seasonal businesses echoed that sentiment, pointing out that one can tell if it?s the weather hurting business or the economy hurting business.
Furthermore, I heard of the difficulty securing credit and bank loans for those companies looking to expand operations and increase their workforces. Lending nationally has declined nearly 8 percent in the past year, further discouraging local businesses from Pedricktown to Middle Township to make additional investments. From our charter boat and fishing industries, fears of rising fuel prices paint an uncertain picture for this season even as families stay closer to home. And while hotel reservations and commercial bookings are better so far, budget-conscious tourists are wary of spending as they once recently did in record amounts.
It was not just small businesses voicing their frustrations with Washington. At a visit to Siegfried USA in Pennsville, I heard of how exhaustive bureaucratic red-tape ? compared to the approval process in some European nations – continues to slow down the ability of bringing life-saving drugs to market. A similar complaint was heard at a manufacturing company in Salem County, who has been forced to reduce staff and shut down machines due to unexplainable delays in government contracting procedures.
The two weeks, however, were not all focused on Washington?s short-comings. I had the pleasure in sharing in some positive developments for our area, such as Boeing?s new partnership with the U.S. Army at the Millville Airport and the ribbon-cutting for South Jersey Healthcare?s Regional Cancer Pavilion in Vineland. And I checked in on the progress of the upcoming reopening of the Landis Theater in Vineland and the popularity of the Salem Glass Education Center. These unique facilities are critical to attracting excitement and interest in our region and, with continued perseverance, new businesses and economic opportunities.
As I return to Washington this week, I will take to heart what I?ve seen in South Jersey: how local employers are coming together, like the Upper Township Business Association, to support each other and create new opportunities and how some national companies, such as Goya and US Foodservice, have opened and maintained operations locally with an eye towards expansion. With a focus on the upcoming issues in Congress, I will further look for legislative opportunities to put South Jersey businesses and families in a better position going forward. And I will share with my colleagues what I heard and saw during these past two weeks, believing the economic recovery would happen much quicker if Washington would just listen to what I did in South Jersey.