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Health care reform’s impacts a concern, Bustos hears

City, economic development leaders meet with U.S. rep

STERLING – How will health care reform affect local small businesses?

That’s what business owners want to know, local leaders told U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, during a meeting Friday.

Bustos, a freshman representing the 17th Congressional District, met with Twin Cities mayors and economic development officials at AirPlay Sports and Espresso in Sterling.

She said she’ll try to arrange a question-and-answer session between small business owners locally and the Small Business Administration.

Heather Sotelo, executive director of Greater Sterling Development Corp., said some local businesses are holding off on hiring because they don’t know how much more they will have to spend on health care.

“We’re hearing that constantly,” Sotelo said. “The federal government has not done a good job of explaining to businesses [the Affordable Care Act’s impacts on them]. I think it’s scary for businesses.”

Kim Ewoldsen, executive director of Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, said many growing companies are hiring part-time employees instead of full-timers to avoid providing health care.

Bustos said “connecting people with questions to people who have answers” about the impacts of health care reform is a big part of what her office should be doing.

Health care wasn’t the only topic of conversation Friday.

Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said the cost of demolishing buildings along the riverfront to clear the way for redevelopment has been “prohibitively expensive.”

“We could use funds to help with demolition costs,” Lee said.

Sterling City Administrator Scott Shumard said he received a quote for $2.7 million to demolish the former Lawrence Brothers building.

“Our general fund is $9 million,” Shumard said. “To come up with $2.7 million to demolish something [would be difficult].”

Some at the meeting said federal regulations have caused problems for local towns and businesses.

Bustos asked for specific examples, and said she welcomes suggestions for lessening regulations.

“If we specifically need to look at an area, I need to know what is considered over-regulation, what hinders progress,” Bustos said. “You can’t introduce legislation that says, ‘there’s too much regulation; let’s stop it.

“We need specifics on that. I don’t think I heard specifics today.”

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