Businesswoman from the Tri-Valley made suggestions on how to improve health care options for small businesses last week in a meeting with U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D., 11th).
The discussion, held at the Danville Library, gave female owners of small local companies the chance to brainstorm solutions for the challenges they face.
Cecelia McCloy, the Danville president of Integrated Science Solutions, detailed that health care premiums are "through the roof" for small business providers. When it comes to negotiating with health care companies, they just don't have the leverage the big companies do, she said.
McCloy, who has company locations in several other states, said she'd like to see a "No Child Left Behind approach" to health care.
"My point is that the federal government should come up with some minimum set standards for health care," she said.
In California, small businesses can ban together in order to have stronger health care representation.
"It's like minnows swimming all together to form the shape of a shark," McCloy said.
But in the other states she operates - Nevada, for one - the cost to provide health care is over twice as much, she said.
McNerney, who supports tax cuts for small business owners, listened intently as the women spoke.
"We pay an enormous burden in health care in this country," McNerney responded. "We need universal health care at affordable rates."
Here in Danville, where small businesses make up most of the downtown area, the women also cited concerns about access to capital, energy costs and taxes.
The Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007, which the McNerney administration strongly advocates, provides incentives to these businesses in order to help with their growth. Small businesses create two-thirds of new jobs nationally and account for about half of the nation's employment.
"As small businesses grow and hire additional employees, the roots in the communities in which the businesses are located grow as well," said Andy Stone, press communications director for McNerney.
Another subject the group brainstormed about was the way small businesses have been impacted by the increase in gasoline prices.
One woman who owned a private jet charter was concerned how global warming could affect her business. And another asked about farm produce as a possible energy source.
"I'd say in a few years we will start to see alternative fuels from farm produce," McNerney said. "What is being accomplished is stunning ... It's quite promising."
But while most supporters of McNerney believe alternative fuel isn't an "if" but a "when," that's just not the case in all of Washington, he said. Some legislators from Michigan, for example, a state that relies on its auto manufacturing, are pushing just as hard against legislature that encourages regulations on environmental impact.
Overall, the business owners said the meeting was a great opportunity to make the Danville area's voice heard nationally.
"(McNerney) seems to be in enough forums that he's getting a good picture of what peoples' needs are in the district," McCloy said.