WESTFIELD, NJ — Congressman Leonard Lance and US Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Kellie LeDet visited businesses in Downtown Westfield Monday to talk to small business owners and promote awareness of SBA programs and services that can help them. With them were Councilman Sam Della Fera, Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gene Janotti, GWACC Chairman Chris Devine, Downtown Westfield Corporation Executive Director Sherry Cronin and other leaders in the local business community.

Businesses visited included Bovella’s Pastry Shoppe, American Shoe Repair & Luggage Shop, Ella Allure Interior Design Center, The Chocolate Bar, Tepp Accounting Services, Details Made Simple, The Westfield Leader, Adler’s Jewelers and Blue Jasmine.

Afterward, during lunch at Amuse, Janotti presented Congressman Lance with the US Chamber Commerce Spirit of Enterprise Award.

Sign Up for E-News

“Congressman Lance has long been a supporter of business and continues to provide an inspiration to all business owners to know that they have someone in Washington who is looking out for their interests,” said Janotti. “As the largest business organization in this area, our members appreciate Congressman Lance’s efforts.”

LeDet spoke during the lunch about SBA services, which hinge on counseling, capital access and contracting.

“It is the small business that is the engine that drives the economy,” LeDet said.

Throughout the morning, Lance and LeDet heard from business owners about their triumphs and concerns. David Tepp, owner of Tepp Accounting Services, said he would like the federal and state governments to make it easier for small businesses to hire independent contractors. Others spoke about the high cost of insurance and competition with online retailers.

“We have more vacancies than we’ve had in some time,” said Downtown Westfield Corporation Executive Director Sherry Cronin over lunch. “We’re not used to that. We used to have a waiting list.”

But while demand for retail space — especially the larger shops — has weakened, she said that there has been a growth in businesses offering personal services and food.

Downtown Westfield impressed LeDet, who said that of the three walking tours she’s taken so far, this was “bar-none, the best.”

Lance explained that he chose Westfield for one of his two offices “because of the vibrancy of this community.”

Developer James Ward told them that he was “very happy with everything” here, but that he would love to see more direct trains for Westfield.

“Real estate values would skyrocket,” Ward predicted.

Lance said that funding from the federal government, as well as the state, would be required to make that happen.

“Obviously we need a new tunnel,” said Lance, who called the Raritan Valley Line, along with I-78, the “spine” of the Seventh Congressional District.

“I imagine there will be a new tunnel built. The question is the funding,” he said.

After the tour, Tepp said that it was an honor and a privilege to host Lance that morning.

“Congressman Lance has an outstanding record in supporting small and local businesses and his presence today was yet another example of his commitment. As a local business owner and as a community activist, we sincerely appreciate Congressman Lance’s efforts and we continue to extend our support for his endeavors,” Tepp said.

“We would also like to thank the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce for organizing and coordinating this meeting,” Tepp added. “This event clearly demonstrates how the chamber is an active and effective voice for area small businesses.”