The Other Washington

Dispatches from D.C.: Seattle Business Leaders Meet with Obama Officials

Among the invitees was Molly Moon Neitzel. She rehashes the experience.

By Anne Larkin February 15, 2012

French toast ice cream sandwiches, anyone?

Last week the mayor’s office sent a handful of Seattle business leaders to the other Washington to meet with members of the Obama administration. The four-hour confab was part of an initiative in which representatives from several American cities are brought in to discuss economic policies and job creation.

Repping Seattle were marquee businesses like Microsoft and Boeing alongside smaller companies such as Cupcake Royale and Molly Moon’s.

We caught up with Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of the eponymous ice cream company, to learn about the experience—and of course, what she ate.

SM: So there were only Seattle businesses at the meeting?

MMN: Right. [The administration] has been inviting different business owners from various cities on different days. It was nice because we were able to talk specifically about Seattle’s economy and job creation with some of the smartest people in the country. We spoke with Obama’s chief economist and he gave us a great presentation.

SM: How many Seattle business owners where there?

MMN: You know, I’m not sure. I think maybe 15 or 20. I was the smallest business.

SM: Did the views differ between small business owners like yourself and larger businesses?

MMN: One of the themes from everyone was access to capital. Even with perfect credit and great numbers for years, everyone is having a hard time getting access to capital from banks. Congress and the Obama administration have done some interesting things through the Small Business Administration, but either we don’t know how to access that capital or the money that they pushed through community banks isn’t being doled out. It was good for the administration to hear, and I think they’ve been hearing it from the various business leaders that have been attending these meetings—that it’s still hard to get loans. And it’s a little ridiculous.

SM: Was there anyone you met that was particularly interesting?

MMN: I was really impressed with the economist who spoke to us, Mark Doms, and the facilitator of the meeting, Ari Matusiak—he was pretty incredible. I was just struck by how smart everyone was. These are incredible minds, and they did a lot of listening as well as a lot of telling us what they’re doing. I also felt valued, like they really wanted to know what Seattle business owners are thinking.

SM: Had you been in the White House before?

MMN: I had been on a tour, but I’d never been to a meeting. It was all business though. We were hoping for a visit from the president, and I heard that he was in the building, but he didn’t make his way into our meeting.

SM: But now you can claim having been in the same building as the president! Any good meals in DC?

MMN: You know, the food in DC is terrible! But I did have a good dinner at an Italian restaurant called Posto.

SM: What’d you have at Posto?

MMN: The appetizer was a warm La Tur cheese with roasted peppers, scallions, and black olives. The entree was the fish special, a creamy, delicious potato and carrot gratin. For dessert, a blood orange panna cotta.

SM: Any good snacks at the meeting?

MMN: There were no snacks provided! Look at those government dollars at work.

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