MT. LEBANON, Pa. – Linda McMahon said it is important in her role as administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration to hold roundtables with local stakeholders to understand what is and isn’t working in government that impacts those entrepreneurs that drive jobs and commerce in this country.
“I have been to 31 states, talked to over 500 business owners, and visited countless industries, and I want to hear what they have to say. What is benefiting them? What isn’t? How is tax reform impacting them? It really gives me a chance to sit across the table from someone, or visit their business and get a sense of what their needs and challenges are,” she said in an interview with the Washington Examiner before the event.
McMahon was joined by Ivanka Trump, a special assistant to President Trump, her father. They both chatted informally with the attendees before the event that included the owners of Potomac Mineral Group where the event was held, along with three female business owners and a handful of Pennsylvania state legislators, including Rick Saccone, who is running for the special election seat in the 18th Congressional District.
“I really enjoy having Ivanka with me, the administration is such a proponent and such a supporter of small businesses, it’s a great combo duo to be able to do this today,” she said.
Despite the cramped conditions in the young company’s office that began in the basement of Stephen Slaughter, one of the owners of the company, the event went smoothly. Corina Diehl, who owns a car dealership, discussed with Trump and McMahon the frustration of how regulations have slowed the sales of cars, complicating her plans for building a body shop.
“I guarantee you people have to sign more paperwork to purchase a car than purchase a home today; it frustrates the consumers,” said Diehl, who employs over 400 people in Western Pennsylvania.
Susan Castriota, who makes specialized cookware, said she was stymied by the lack of glassmaking companies located in the U.S. that forced her to purchase glassware overseas. That in turn, she said, makes her concerned the Trump White House may hit her with tariffs.
Trump turned to Saccone during the roundtable to discuss work he has done in the state legislature to empower small businesses and lessen state regulations, Saccone is facing Democrat Conor Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, who lives just blocks from where the event was held.
Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor and Democratic presidential candidate, will host an event for Lamb on Feb. 28th in the district. O’Malley, who stridently opposed the NRA during the Democratic presidential process, calling them the “enemy he is most proud of,” has Pittsburgh roots.
The White House is going all out to help lift Saccone’s chances to win the seat held by former congressman Tim Murphy, who resigned last October after a scandal surrounding his extramarital affair forced him from office.
Trump mentioned Saccone when he traveled to Coraopolis, Pa., last month during an official visit to showcase the benefits of his then-newly signed tax reform bill.
Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence visited to help Saccone with a fundraiser and a rally, and the president is expected to return to suburban Pittsburgh for a rally in Ambridge at the Ambridge High School Wright Field House at 7 p.m. on Feb. 21.
Trump's last visit to Ambridge came on Oct. 10, 2016, an event that drew thousands of supporters just days after the "Access Hollywood" audio tape was released, a scandal many predicted would end his chances to win the presidential election that year against Hillary Clinton.
At the end of the event Tuesday, McMahon and Trump went to a separate room to meet with the working mothers of Potomac Mineral Group and their babies, who ranged in age from a few weeks, to under a year.
Bethany Salmen and her son Dean, Molly Slaughter and her son Luke, and Samantha Fitzhenry and her son Nicholas all discussed how Potomac Mineral had worked with them to be able to work from home or bring their kids into the office.
The first daughter has been an outspoken supporter of paid family leave and the child tax credit.
Trump held both Dean and Nicholas at different times, as she was cradling the five-week-old Nicholas, the mother of three smiled and said, "Oh, this is going to make me want another baby."