Small businesses need more access to capital from banks in order to add jobs and expand, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Friday during a visit to Depew.
"Really, our community banks haven't recovered on the level that we need to in many parts of our state," Gillibrand said to a gathering of about a dozen chambers of commerce.
Gillibrand singled out financial heavyweight M&T Bank with praise for its pace of lending. "But on the community bank level, for very, very small businesses that wouldn't qualify for a loan from M&T Bank, that's a real challenge for them. Getting capital is very, very difficult."
Gillibrand advocated a number of business-friendly themes, including increasing the types of loans the U.S. Small Business Administration guarantees; creating more business incubators and technology parks; and supporting entrepreneurs' efforts to develop their businesses.
Gillibrand brought up a few areas where she believes members of Congress could find common ground to stimulate economic growth, amid a partisan climate blamed for impeding cooperation and progress.
One such idea she supports is a "National Infrastructure Bank." It would allow the private sector to invest in long-term projects of national significance, from bridges and roads to high-speed rail and a new electric grid.
She offered the example of a high-speed rail line that would connect Washington, D.C., to New York City and Buffalo, with links to major Canadian cities, creating an international corridor that could foster business growth.
"That's the kind of idea that the private sector, whether it's a private equity company or a life insurance company or a pension fund, would say, 'I want to invest in that,' because that will create a return rate over many, many years," she said.
Gillibrand also advocated making permanent a research and development tax credit, instead of having the credit face renewal every few years and leaving business owners uncertain about its future. "We shouldn't let smart tax policies like the R&D tax credit expire, because it allows other countries to surpass what we're doing," she said.
The senator also promoted cultivating more women-owned businesses. She suggested banks set a target for lending to women-owned businesses.
Gillibrand, a Democrat, is running for re-election against Wendy Long, a Republican. Friday's event at Salvatore's Italian Gardens was hosted by the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.