This morning the Prince William Chamber of Commerce held a “Coffee with the Candidates,” a meet and greet with the two major party candidates for the 11th US Congressional District, Representative Gerry Connolly (D) and Colonel Chris Perkins (R). The event was organized after representatives from the Connolly and Perkins campaigns reached out to Chamber leadership asking for an opportunity to meet with and learn more about business leaders in the district. Held at the Chamber’s Woodbridge branch office at the Mason Enterprise Center, it was free to attend and open to anybody with an interest in the congressional race.
“We are offering members a number of resources this election season, including an online tool that allows them to identify and learn about all of the candidates in their district. When these two candidates approached us, we saw an opportunity to build upon that,” said Chamber Vice President of Public Policy & Communications Nancy Hiteshue, who worked to quickly set up the event prior to elections next Tuesday. She added that the public is encouraged to use the Chamber’s voter resources, found in the Advocacy section of pwchamber.org, which also feature polling and absentee voting information.
Chamber members first met with Rep. Connolly. Most of those present were familiar with the congressman, who has been active in the Chamber while in office. “I believe a successful business environment, that’s what builds jobs…as we are getting our fiscal house in order, let’s not forget about the importance of investments [in areas such as research and infrastructure],” said Rep. Connolly. He also noted that one-third of the GDP in Northern Virginia is tied to federal contracts, and that we cannot afford for the federal government to continue to “kick the can” on budget issues.
Colonel Perkins spent some time introducing himself, highlighting his background as a US Army Veteran and small business owner. He described himself as a fiscal conservative with centrist views on social issues. If elected, Perkins vowed, “I’m going to compromise. It is not a bad word. People are getting tired of the gridlock.” On the sequestration set to go into effect in 2013, he said that the economic impact in this region will be catastrophic. Colonel Perkins said he believes that the nation needs to grow its way out of the current fiscal situation, versus tax its way out of it.
Attendee Bob Grasso, Vice-President of Logistics Integration at Manassas-based Logis-Tech said that for the government contracting community, “Sequestration has already happened. Our company is looking at over $7 million in business that we competed for and won that [is not going to happen].” He said that with over 350 contractors doing business in the Prince William area, federal decisions have a huge economic impact on the region.
Chamber President & CEO Rob Clapper thanked both men for taking the time to reach out to the Chamber and meet with area business leaders. “It is important that whichever candidate is elected shows this level of interest in our businesses; the companies driving our local economy, creating jobs, paying into our infrastructure. We look forward to working with elected officials to promote commonsense policies that move the nation forward,” said Clapper.