Local Chamber lobbies in D.C.

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

LAPLACE — The River Region Chamber, through its affiliation with the Alliance of Regional Chambers and partnered with other regional business organizations, visited Washington D.C. Oct. 25-27.

The purpose of this visit was to educate legislators and federal agencies as to the vital economic impact Hurricane Katrina has put on the Southeast region.

In addition, to alert legislators about the severity of devastation to the regional economy and to propose a post Katrina congressional relief package.

The business leaders, representing a variety of sectors, are requesting critically needed help through appropriations requests, and a call for a federally appointed figure of national prominence to coordinate the recovery and rebuilding efforts in Southeast Louisiana.

Appropriations requests include a forgivable loan program to help provide immediate cash for businesses, similar to the recovery grants provided to businesses after the Sept. 11 disaster.

In addition, the group also posed an economic stimulus package that would allow various tax incentives to help businesses enter back into their markets at pre-Katrina employment levels.

Taking part in this coalition were three members of the River Region Chamber of Commerce; Pat Comiskey-Tri Parish Telephone Directory, Penny Freeman – Preferred Companies, and Marc Whitener-Whitener Snacks.

&#8220Educational is the word to describe our trip to Washington”, and until the 9 members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation act as one, it will be difficult to accomplish the immediate needs of our area”, said Pat Comiskey.

Penny Freeman commented, &#8220The tax incentives will be helpful, but again, not an immediate help to those in need of help NOW.” She went on to state,

&#8220Louisiana needs a plan! We need a hand up, not a hand down so that small business owners can do what they do best: work hard, rebuild their company, their community, and their State.”

Marc Whitener added, &#8220I believe the River Region chamber is in a unique position to become a leading voice for small business recovery in the region. In helping offer solutions and lobbying support from local and state officials, this concerted support could offer our congressional delegation a type of effort Washington is looking for.”

In a Washington press release dated Nov. 1, Donald Powell was appointed Coordinator of Recovery and Rebuilding in the Gulf Coast Region.

Powell will be responsible for developing specific goals and coordinating policies and programs for mid – long term federal recovery and rebuilding effort of the Gulf Coast Region. It is anticipated that Vice Admiral Thad Allen will transition out of his role in the field by the end of this year.

Chassity McComack, Executive Director of the River Region Chamber stated, &#8220This proves that there is strength in numbers.

Yet another goal accomplished by unity of the business community. We are working diligently to take whatever steps are necessary to represent the interests of our membership in these most trying times.”