Local business leaders attend summit in Washington

Bi-annual meeting hosted by Congressman Richard Neal

Congressman Richard Neal talks to western Massachusetts businesspeople at the Library of Congress.

WASHINGTON, DC (WWLP) – In Washington, D.C. Wednesday members of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield and Berkshire County met with lawmakers.

These business leaders meet every other year in Washington, D.C. for a three-day symposium held by Congressman Richard Neal (D-Springfield). It’s an opportunity to not just speak among themselves about their concerns and ideas, but also with our representatives in Washington.

22News was there Wednesday morning at the Library of Congress as the delegation spoke one-on-one with Senator Elizabeth Warren. She heard their concerns and shared with them how she’s been addressing problems in the financial market and student debt. “There’s 1.2 trillion dollars outstanding right now in student debt across America. Think about that. About 40 million Americans are dealing with student loan debt.”

Members said they were grateful for this opportunity. Nancy Creed of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield said, “It’s really important for us to be here to hear the voice of business heard and for us to really express the concerns over some of the issues, be it corporate tax rate, Medicare or medicate, the things that are really important to the business community to make sure our economy remains vibrant.”

Another speaker they heard from was Stanley Greenberg, a lead pollster for Bill Clinton, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, and Tony Blair. Greenberg also conducts polls on the economy, which was of particular interest to the local business people.

In the afternoon, we all went to the Rayburn Building, which is where congressional offices are. There, the members spoke with Civil Rights Movement leader, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

Then, they had a lengthy conversation with Senator Ed Markey. He discussed helping college students by providing more job opportunities so they stay in our state after graduation. Sen. Markey also spoke with many chamber members about the opioid problem in our state.

“Eighty-nine percent of all prescription drugs in the world are consumed by Americans. Got that number? That’s amazing isn’t it?” Sen. Markey said fixing the opioid problem was one of his top priorities.

Many of the chamber members who went to Washington are leaders in the medical field, utilities, schools and consulting firms. They represent a large portion of the people of western Mass. They spoke with Sen. Warren and Sen. Markey about challenges for their business and for their customers and clients.

According to Jonathan Butler of the Berkshire County Chamber of Commerce, “We have very common challenges in western Mass. The Springfield area’s a little bit more urban than Berkshire County but we face the same issues with population decline, with job loss, and our challenges are very common, so to spend some time with them like this in an intimate environment for a few days is a great opportunity to brainstorm and share strategies.”

Lawmakers heard their concerns and also told them what they’re working on here in Washington to help residents in western Mass.

Click here for a gallery of images from Kait’s trip to Washington.

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