Now that the conventions are over and all the delegates have returned home, small-business owners face the challenge of choosing the best candidate for president.
President Bush and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton continue to pepper their speeches with compassionate references to the needs of small business. Both promise to make things better for entrepreneurs by kick-starting the economy. Despite the promises, many entrepreneurs believe the candidates are more likely to listen to what big business and special interests have to say because that's where campaign dollars come from.
Here's what five entrepreneurs want to tell the candidates:
* * *
Pamela Kirst, president, Kirst Pump & Machine Works Inc., Huntington Park, Calif.:
"I have a lot of qualms about a president trying to improve the economy by shifting the burden onto the back of small business," Kirst said. "For example, payroll tax increases could be really damaging to small business. . . . We'd probably have to lay people off if we had to pay more taxes."
Kirst wants President Bush to know she liked what he said about cutting the spiraling cost of litigation. "We are currently involved in a lawsuit that has absolutely no merit, but it costs us time and money to defend ourselves."
And, like most Americans, Kirst is concerned about the ballooning federal deficit. "We couldn't run our business that way," Kirst said. "I don't believe we should be spending money we don't have as a country."
Willie Davis, president of All-Pro Broadcasting Inc. in Los Angeles and co-owner of Preferred Adhesive Inc. of Milwaukee:
Davis, a former Green Bay Packer, said his top small-business concern is lack of access to capital. While big businesses have many financing opportunities, Davis said small businesses find themselves "at the end of the line."
wants the next president to create more economic enterprise zones to help small-business owners -- especially minorities.
"I would also encourage the . . . president to encourage Fortune 500 companies to become more involved in minority purchasing programs," Davis said.
Jim Biedlingmaier, partner in Bill's Hardware, Landover Hills, Md.:
"Small-business owners pay as much or more in taxes than some of the large businesses," Biedlingmaier said. "We're being driven out of the marketplace."
He said he was not too impressed with Bush's tax-cutting proposals. "It's the promises -- promises we've heard before," Biedlingmaier said. "That's not to say I'm not for Bush, but I've seen a decline in my business."
Franz von Bradsky, president of Green Tree Capital, North Hollywood, Calif.:
"I haven't seen anything from either candidate about dealing with issues that will primarily help small business," Von Bradsky said.
An active member of the Los Angeles Venture Association, a not-for-profit group devoted to promoting investment in private enterprise, Von Bradsky said promises to cut the capital gains tax won't do much.
"Does $500 more in your pocket make a difference? I don't think so," he said.
He does support a move to curb litigation. "I think the initiative on the litigation explosion is absolutely correct," Von Bradsky said. "The court system is absolutely ridiculous. The trial awards make no sense."
Maura Weiler, president of Miss Weiler's Gourmet Foods Inc., Pacific Palisades, Calif.:
As founder of a 2 1/2 -year-old health-oriented cookie company, Weiler believes there is too much federal regulation thwarting small businesses.
Still, she would like the government to help small-business owners compete by encouraging big businesses to buy products and services from them.
"If supermarkets had to buy a certain amount of a new product, they would give people a chance rather than always having to go with a big company," Weiler said.
If Weiler could meet with Bush and Clinton, she would ask them to emphasize how difficult it is to run a small business in today's tough times.
"I don't think people realize how difficult it can be to compete against larger businesses."
* * *
If you want to get more involved in the political process, consider joining a group representing small business interests in Washington and around the United States.
National Small Business United encourages business owners to become politically active at all levels of government. For membership information call (800) 541-5768.
The National Federation of Independent Business frequently polls its members to find out what they want legislators to know. For membership information call the NFIB in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 872-5300.
(Jane Applegate is a syndicated columnist and author. Write to her through the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.)