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Senate Democrats Host Local Chambers of Commerce From Around the Country


Local and State Chambers Highlight Ongoing Efforts to Create Jobs and Boost Economies with Senate Democrats

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senate Democrats were joined by leaders of more than ten local Chambers of Commerce and economic leaders from around the country for a discussion at the invitation of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. The meeting highlighted how Senate Democrats and local Chambers of Commerce have successfully worked together to support policies which spur economic growth and job creation in communities across America.

Today’s meeting was part of an ongoing effort by the Steering and Outreach Committee, chaired by Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska), to seek local perspectives on economic challenges and policies which encourage hiring and strengthen the economy. Participants emphasized the need for the Senate to continue to focus on local business priorities which include support for small businesses, providing increased access to capital, and investing in workforce development programs.

U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Vice-Chairman of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hosted the meeting.

“Job creation will remain my top priority as long as people in Nevada and across the country struggle to find jobs,” said Senator Reid. “Leaders from local Chambers of Commerce today spoke about how to put Americans back to work, and I look forward to working with them to achieve this goal. To grow our economy we need to strengthen the middle class and small business community, and I hope my Republican colleagues will work with us to advance commonsense, job-creating measures that help the middle class get back on its feet.”

“Our nation’s local Chambers of Commerce are on the front lines of job creation, sustaining our small businesses and the families and communities that they support. They are important partners as we work to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression,” said Senator Akaka. “I am especially pleased that Jim Tollefson from the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce was able to join us today to share the insights of its 1,100 members representing over 200,000 employees across an industry base that is as diverse as our islands.”

“Local Chambers have a unique virtue they can provide to their legislators – they know day in and day out what it takes for small and local businesses to really survive,” said George Allen, Vice President of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. “We strive to know exactly what they need to grow jobs and create stability for families, and we appreciate the chance to come to D.C. and express those concerns directly with the legislators that can improve their lives. The connection between federal legislators and the local Chambers of Commerce representing local businesses is critical to understanding the voice of business when crucial votes are being taken on the floor.”

Today’s meeting included:

  • Kathryn Ragsdale, President, Troy Area Chamber of Commerce, Troy, Missouri
  • Jim Tollefson, President & CEO, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
  • George Allen, Vice President, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
  • Ginanne Italiano, President, Maryland Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
  • Walter Townshend, President, Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber
  • Mark Kleinshmidt, President, New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, New Castle, Delaware
  • Randy Kehr, Executive Director, Albert Lea-Freeborn Chamber of Commerce, Albert Lea, Minnesota
  • Lisa Morina, Executive Director, Gloucester County Department of Economic Development, Woodbury, New Jersey
  • Chip Hallock, President, Newark Regional Business Partnership, Newark, New Jersey
  • Tom Torti, President, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, Burlington, Vermont
  • Jody Sullivan, Executive Director, Newport County Chamber of Commerce, Middletown, Rhode Island

About the Senate Democratic Steering & Outreach Committee

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee facilitates an ongoing conversation between Senate Democrats and the American public. At the direction of the Chairman, the Committee seeks to inform, engage, and mobilize advocacy groups and constituencies to advance the policies and priorities of the Senate Democratic Caucus. The Committee is dedicated to ensuring that diverse communities have a voice within the Democratic Caucus on key issues facing our nation. The Committee is one of two Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate. Senator Mark Begich (Alaska) serves as Chairman and Senator Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii) serves as Vice Chairman of the Committee.

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