DENVER — Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi told a group of female business owners in Denver Tuesday that she wanted to listen, not talk, about problems in the economy.
She got an earful.
A panel of female businesswomen in fields from engineering to child care laid out broad concerns in a panel with Pelosi and Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver. The women laid out a gloomy picture of the current business climate — and said they fear Congress isn't doing much to help.
Diana Gadison, owner of Denver child-care provider Early Success Academy, said confusing regulations scare many away from owning their own businesses.
"It's very difficult when you're a little person to go down to the city offices and try to maneuver the processes," Gadison said.
Trying to navigate different rules laid out by federal, state and local governments wrap folks up "till you are so confused that you say, 'Forget it. I don't want to do this,'" she said to applause from about 200 invited guests in a forum at the Metropolitan State College of Denver.
Several other business owners laid out similar complaints. They don't like regulation. They need more help figuring out the system. Some called on Congress to address why more women aren't leading large corporations.
Pelosi took notes through most of the hour-long forum. After, she told the business owners that she understands their concerns, but urged optimism despite the frustratingly long recession.
"We're still trying to dig out of it, but our country is one of optimism and hope," Pelosi said.
She told the women that Democrats in Congress would push this fall for measures to boost manufacturing.
"We want to stop the erosion of our manufacturing base in this country," she said. "You'll be hearing more about that."
DeGette said Democrats are working on streamlining business regulation. But she told the crowd that "the devil's in the details" and that Democrats want to "make sure we don't eliminate regulations that protect health and well-being in the name of streamlining things."
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Pelosi's visit came as Democratic President Barack Obama signaled Tuesday that he would unroll a new jobs plan next week, a plan that could include tax incentives to employers who expand their payrolls.
In Denver, Pelosi and DeGette acknowledged the public dismal view of Congress but said progress would be made.
"No one should be surprised if the American people have some disillusionment with how things have gone in Washington, D.C.," Pelosi said. "I think we have to just make a much better connection, prove our sincerity. ... It's going to take some convincing."