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Business panel: Clinton, Trump espouse different business-friendly policies

Friday, August 19, 2016  
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Business panel: Clinton, Trump espouse different business-friendly policies

by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer, Aug 15, 2016



Karen Kerrigan and Kristie Arslan listen as Debbie Kobrin makes a point during "Women Entrepreneurs and the 2016 Elections," a panel discussion held by the Regional Women's Circle of Influence on Aug. 11 at Maggiano's restaurant in Tysons Galleria. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)


Voters may hold starkly different views of presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but business people view this year’s race through a clarifying prism: What will the winner likely do and how will it affect us?


While both candidates inspire revulsion in each other’s supporters, each favors business-friendly policies, albeit in different ways, said Debbie Kobrin, government-relations director with Madison Services Group Inc.


Clinton wants to increase lending to businesses and Trump seeks to reduce taxes on business income, she said.


“We want both those things,” said Kobrin, a panelist at an Aug. 11 forum titled “Women Entrepreneurs and the 2016 Elections.”


The event was hosted at Maggiano’s restaurant in Tysons Galleria by the Regional Women’s Circle of Influence, a group composed of  members from six local business organizations.


Joining Kobrin on the panel were Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council, and  Kristie Arslan, entrepreneur-in-residence and small-business counsel with the same organization.


The panelists agreed the long presidential race has been grueling for candidates and voters alike.


“I feel like the campaign started on Jan. 21, 2013,” said Kobrin, referring to the day after President Obama’s second inauguration.


Discussion of real issues has taken a back seat to “noise” surrounding various controversies, Arslan said.


“People are either turned off or can’t turn away because it’s like a train wreck,” she said.


Clinton and Trump are proposing markedly different solutions to the nation’s problems, Arslan said.


“On all the things you care about, they differ completely,” she said. “It’s important to hear their plans of action.”


Arslan recommended voters examine the presidential candidates’ advisory teams and leadership styles. Trump’s management is more top-down and Clinton’s appears to be more bottom-up, she said.


Kerrigan said both candidates have a small-business focus.


“There are differences in what they would do, but there is a commonality in the issues they’re addressing,” she said.


Regardless of who wins the presidential election and the 469 U.S. House and Senate races Nov. 8, thousands of new people will be working for the government, Kobrin said. Entrepreneurs should build relationships with candidates and policy makers and apprise them of issues affecting the small-business community, she said.


Arslan recommended women business owners tell lawmakers their stories, as those officials often respond well to personal anecdotes. While legislators frequently act upon constituents’ recommendations, Congress often blunts the impact of such changes by passing temporary legislation. Uncertainty about laws and policies makes business owners hesitant to invest and act, panelists said.


Business owners also should reach out to staff members of lawmakers and candidates and be sure they’re put in contact with the people who handle business concerns, Arslan said.


Arslan, who with her husband owns a popcorn business in Alexandria, said self-employed people are double-taxed because they have to pay both the employee’s and employer’s share of taxes. They also cannot deduct health-care costs as a business expense, which cost them dearly, she said.


Kerrigan advocated for regulatory reform, noting that business owners encounter many of the most nettlesome rules at the state and local levels.


Kobrin pressed for more women in Congress, and said female lawmakers helped end the “just awful” federal-government shutdown in 2013.


The country’s 10 million women-owned businesses face plenty of hurdles, panelists said. Only 4 percent of bank loans go to such companies and just 2.7 percent of the venture capital, they said.


Women generate about $1.6 trillion in economic activity annually in the United States, Kerrigan said.


“We have a very strong voice and need to leverage that,” she said.


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