Cardin Allays Small Business Leaders' Economic Fears
By Ben Swartz
Capital News Service
Friday, Oct. 17, 2008
WASHINGTON - Congress may hold a special session in November to tackle the growing economic crisis, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin told Maryland small business leaders in a conference call Friday.
With a major slump in the housing market and a crisis on Wall Street, many small businesses are having trouble obtaining credit. Without cash, small business owners in Maryland are afraid they will lose their livelihoods.
"Our economy is in trouble, it's in deep trouble," Cardin said. "And it's not just the stock market, it has to do with the fact that retail sales are down considerably. The housing market is still very much unsettled. It's very difficult for someone to buy or sell a home today."
Maryland business leaders were pessimistic and audibly frustrated during the call. Restaurant sales and retail sales are down dramatically, said Casey Wilson of the Small Business Development Center. Hispanic businesses are being hit especially hard, Wilson said, with several down as much as 40 percent.
"We've got a lot of people with their backs against the wall," Wilson said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., may bring Congress back into session in November, Cardin said.
"I think the view of my colleagues is that the economic situations are so severe it would be wrong to hold off until January if there was something we can do in November," Cardin said.
A November congressional session may alleviate some concerns about poor holiday sales. Small independently owned businesses may be particularly at risk, said Wilson.
Because of the economic strain, these retailers may not be able to order the inventory they need to produce a profit this season. If they risk it and place the orders, they may not sell the extra products, which will land them further in debt.
"They really do have a problem because if they really do extend themselves and this season is not up to expectation, they're stuck with the inventory," Cardin said.
"They're stuck with the inventory and probably additional debt," Wilson interjected.
"And if they don't get the inventory, they can't possibly have a good season," Cardin concluded.
When asked by Bob Schaffer, director of economic development for St. Mary's County, about what messages should be given to small business owners, Cardin said owners should make their problems known to him and other government officials.
While the tone of the business leaders was morose, Cardin maintained a positive outlook on economic development in Maryland.
"We're going to get through this," Cardin said. "This nation we can get anything done we set our minds to do."