LEWISTON — There’s a clear path to job growth, both nationally and in Lewiston-Auburn, according to U.S. House Democratic Party Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

It means giving Democrats control of the House, he said, starting with Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

Hoyer joined Democratic candidate Emily Cain at the Rancourt & Co. Shoecrafters for a 90-minute roundtable discussion with local business owners, before touring the operation.

“I’m here, not only to learn from these business people about how to make things in America successfully, but also to say that Emily Cain is needed to make Congress functional and to make America better,” Hoyer said.

Cain is hoping to unseat Republican Congressmen Bruce Poliquin at the polls in November.

Democrats do have businesses in mind, Hoyer said.

“We like to think of ourselves as the party of workers,” Hoyer said Wednesday morning. “I tell my members, though, if you want to be the party of workers you damn well better be the party of employers. Because without employers, there are no workers.”

Local business owners, including father and son duo Mike and Kyle Rancourt, Baxter Brewing founder Luke Livingstone, Fish Bones American Grill owner Paul Landry, all said American businesses have plenty of challenges.

Kyle Rancourt, who creates the shoe designs for his family’s business, said much of his company’s manufacturing equipment comes from other countries because nobody makes it in the U.S. The same is true for some components, like the soles of the company’s popular brands. The company had to invest $30,000 to buy molds so the soles of the shoes they made for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team could actually be made in the U.S.

“We are making investments to help bring that infrastructure back, but it is expensive,” he said.

At the same time, borders and international trade present a different set of hurdles. His company has had customer orders blocked trying to cross international bounds.

“Exporting is important to us, and right now it can be very challenging,” Rancourt said. “So for us, it’s not just about being able to make things here. But we need help to sell things as well.”

Chip Morrison, former Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce director, said businesses also need help with health care costs.

“It’s a huge, huge problem,” Morrison said. “I don’t have a solution, but it’s something that must be addressed.”

Hoyer said the six-year-old Affordable Care Act — known as Obama Care — is generally a good idea that needs tweaking. A split Congress has kept that from happening, he said.

“We adopted the ACA in 2010 and we lost the election in 2010 — big time,” Hoyer said. “We’ve spent 2010 through 2016 with just two options, repeal or don’t touch it. Irrational. None of you, in your business, would adopt something in 2010 and see it operate for six years without tweaking it to make it work better. We have a system that has a lot of assets, but it’s not perfect and it needs work.”

That brought Hoyer back to this fall’s congressional campaign.

“We need to have a Congress that will sit down and figure out why it’s not working as well as we wanted,” Hoyer said. “We need a functional Congress to fix it and that’s why we need Cain in the Congress to work on it.”

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