U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin met with entrepreneurs in downtown Frederick on Tuesday to discuss the challenges small businesses face in the post-pandemic economy.
Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who announced in May that is not running for re-election, began the day with brief visits to several area shops, including Pretzel and Pizza Creations, The Kitchenette, and Magpie Fibers.
Cardin then headed to the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, where dozens of small business owners gathered to share their concerns with the legislator.vs. Blue Jays
Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Downtown Frederick Partnership also attended, along with officials from the city and county governments.
“It’s not often that a federal elected official announces their retirement with sufficient time for the community to reflect on their record of service to the community,” said Rick Weldon, president of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.
Sandra Hofmeister is the owner of A&S Construction. During the roundtable session, she encouraged Cardin to increase federal support for minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
Cardin, who chairs the U.S. Senate Commission on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said he hopes to expand access to credit and government contracts for women and individuals from underserved communities before the end of his term in the Senate.
Several small-business owners in attendance also expressed frustrations about the labor market.
Specifically, many small businesses rely on H-1B visa recipients and migrant workers to keep their doors open, but struggle to provide these employees with stability and pathways to citizenship.
“We have hurdles today that make it very difficult for us to get an expansion of our domestic workforce,” Cardin said. “It’s a problem nationwide, but it is more pronounced in Maryland, where we have an unemployment rate at 2 percent.”
Cardin‘s last stop was Frederick Municipal Airport, which houses hundreds of aircraft including Maryland State Police helicopter Trooper 3. According to the airport staff, many businesspeople use private planes and jets as a faster and easier alternative to commercial flights.
In an interview with The Frederick News-Post, Cardin said that while he is unsure about his plans after retirement, two things are certain — staying in Maryland and staying out of lobbying.
“In time, I’ll make the decision about what to do next in life,” he said. “But I don’t anticipate that I’m just going to shrink into the background.”
Cardin is finishing his third six-year term in the Senate. Previously, he served 20 years in the House of Representatives.
Asked about his thoughtson the race to succeed him in the Senate, Cardin said that although he is watching each candidate closely, he does not intend to endorse anyone in particular.
“We have people in the race who already understand the responsibilities of public service,” Cardin said. “I hope that the next person in the Senate will work with Senator Van Hollen and keep that team spirit.”