LISBON -- U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson made a stop at three businesses in the Mahoning Valley on Friday, including Ohio Pet Foods in Lisbon.
A third generation business, which makes pet foods including the Blackwood brand, the company has been expanding despite the recent economic issues across the country.
"We're reaching out to small business owners," Johnson said after his tour Friday. "Our focus is on creating jobs and who knows better about creating jobs than small business owners."
Johnson said the purpose of his visit was to talk to those running the business about what challenges they are facing. On Friday he said he heard a lot about small businesses struggling to deal with the healthcare mandates and looking for access to capital to invest for expansion.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act 2012, Johnson explained is actually six pieces of legislation meant to break down the barriers and open up opportunities for growth. The Republican driven legislation passed in the House of Representatives this week by a 390-3 margin. Part of the programs limit some of the red tape that hampers business activity and aids in helping small businesses find funding sources.
Recent new trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea have opened those countries up to allow for America to increase exports to those areas.
"Small businesses are poised and ready to grow," Johnson said, adding at the same time they are struggling due to the costs of gas and healthcare. "We in the government need to help them grow but not by growing the size of government."
Matt Gulliver, the third generation running Ohio Pet Foods, said his business has just added two large expansions, including operations and warehouse space. The business has also added 20 or more jobs in the past four years.
While the economy may be tough, Gulliver said people still take care of their pets, who they consider a member of the their family. He was happy to host Johnson's visit, noting growing business allows for job growth, which in turn stimulates the local economy.
"It's a positive circle," Gulliver said.
Johnson's tour of the area also included DDi Corporation in North Jackson and the Pregnancy Health Center in Boardman.