Sen. Cantwell, DelBene stop in Kirkland to meet with small businesses | Slideshow

Incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and 1st Congressional District candidate Suzan DelBene stopped in Kirkland to meet with several small businesses on Monday morning.

Their visit was part of the Washington Democrats’ 26-stop “Jobs for Washington Tour” as the pair campaign together across the district to address small business jobs, education affordability and protecting social security and Medicare.

Kirkland City Council members lead Cantwell and DelBene on a tour of the city’s “Main Street,” which included five businesses along Lake Shore Plaza, Park Lane and Kirkland Avenue.

Cantwell and DelBene took time during the tour to educate business owners about their campaign and their support for small businesses. They both previously worked in the private sector and believe that Congress must do more to increase access to capital for small businesses, building upon the success of the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act.

During the tour, the candidates’ first order of business was a stop at The Grape Choice wine shop in Kirkland, where they checked out some of the store’s Washington wine selection that has boomed in recent years.

Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bruce Wynn also took the opportunity to chat with the candidates about a start-up initiative in Kirkland that he hopes will bring together marketers, developers and other enthusiasts to share ideas and launch start-ups on the Eastside. The event happens on Nov. 9 at the Woodmark Hotel.

“Kirkland has been a great spot for innovation,” said DelBene.

Cantwell also addressed the need to get more young women interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) schools and to provide better training for candidates going into the field of technology.

“When I was in high school, I took typing and Latin,” said Cantwell. “Everyone should take one year of programming – it’s the language of the future.”

Cantwell referred to the 1st Congressional District, which encompasses Kirkland, as a “small business district.” As such, she has encountered several business owners who have had problems with access to capital.

She spoke with one of those business owners on Monday – “A” Suraphong Liengboonlertchai, who owns Simplicity Décor and recently opened his new children’s store, Simplicity ABC.

“A” told Cantwell and DelBene that “business is good,” but he also spoke about his struggle to get a small business loan to open his second location. U.S. Bank gave him the capital he needed to launch his first store in 2006, but would not approve his loan for Simplicity ABC, due to the economy.

He said Banner Bank – a small, local bank in downtown Kirkland – approved his loan for him to open his new store.

“I’m here because customers actually asked me for a new store with a children’s focus,” said “A.” “Customers said we need something like this in downtown Kirkland. Banner Bank gave us a loan so we could open the store.”

Cantwell referred to entrepreneurs like “A” as “patriots.”

“One thing we need to fight for is access for small businesses,” said Cantwell. “We want to push community banks to lend to small businesses.”

Cantwell co-sponsored the Small Business Lending Fund in 2010 that encourages loans from community banks to small businesses. Thanks to the program, five banks in Washingtonreceived lending funds and increased their small business lending by an average of 19.3 percent. This includes Puget Sound Bank in Bellevue, which increased small business lending by more than $21 million.

During the tour, the candidates also visited Ristorante Paradiso, where owner Fabrizio Loi said “business is good.” However, Loi said he was hesitant to open a second location because it is difficult for restaurant owners to find employees who want entry-level jobs in that industry.

Banner Bank manager David DeBois also chatted with the candidates about the difficulties for businesses – especially start-ups – to find capital. He explained how several sectors, including retail and manufacturing, are still struggling.

“When you talk about lending to these groups, we have to go to the history and see how they’ve done,” said DeBois. “When their balance sheets don’t look strong, we have to look at their history. So it’s tough to find a qualified buyer.”

DeBois later told the Reporter that the candidates asked some pretty high-level questions.

“But they have to be asked,” he said. “I think they were listening to what some of the needs are out there.”

Conversation turned toward the menu during the candidates’ last stop at Volterra, when Cantwell asked owner Michelle Quisenberry what was good to eat.

“Wild boar tenderloin with a gorgonzola sauce and mustard sauce,” said Quisenberry, who just opened the restaurant last week. She also has a second location in Ballard.

DelBene said she enjoyed meeting with voters in her district and noted she hopes to build on the economic growth and to get results again in Congress.


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