SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The course to Congress crisscrossed the Spa City on Thursday with U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy and challenger Chris Gibson each making public appearances two months before Election Day.
Murphy, D-Glens Falls, joined U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. at the Lake Avenue firehouse Thursday morning to announcement that the city had won a $663,000 federal award that will allow the department to hire back seven firefighter positions lost to budget cuts earlier this year.
Murphy's Republican challenger Chris Gibson, a retired Army colonel from Kinderhook, made an early afternoon appearance at the Saratoga Race Course on a day that was designated by the New York Racing Association to pay tribute to the nation's active duty armed forces and veterans.
Gibson said while he is in support of a measure that will return firefighters to their positions in public safety, the federal award, which covers a two-year period is merely "a temporary fix," Gibson said, and what truly is needed is "structural change."
Last week, Murphy and Gibson staged their first, and thus far, only debate.
Gibson said he was hoping to debate Murphy in each of the 20th Congressional District's 10 counties.
"When we get together, it's the voter who wins," Gibson said.
"I'm sure that we'll have more debates," Murphy responded late Thursday afternoon, prior to holding a roundtable discussion with local and national business leaders at City Hall. There was no specific date given as to when, or where, the next debate may be staged.
The roundtable discussion included U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, and a dozen representatives of the banking, tourism, and business community.
The talks focused on the importance of small business driving the economy.
"We wouldn't have been able to start our business without the SBA," said Larry Levitas, whose Broadway yogurt shop, Plum Dandy, opened its doors in June and is operated by his son, Philip.
Levitas said an SBA loan contributed about $175,000 to the shop's opening.
Murphy said small businesses like Plum Dandy account for 60 to 80 percent of new jobs, which will lead to the path of economic recovery.
"We could have done it on the cheap, but if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right," Levitas said.
While Levitas said the SBA loan process went smoothly for him, others voiced a different concern, citing burdensome paperwork and a slow approval process.
"I think it's good for the decision makers to hear it straight from the horse's mouth," said Kent Tarkleson, who owns an indoor recreational golf club named Tark's, on the city's west side. Tarkleson said he eventually secured funding for his business project privately, but added that Thursday's roundtable was an encouraging step forward for decision makers to take steps to make the process more user-friendly.
On behalf of the SBA, Mills said she was interested in hearing from small business owners and potential business owners regardless of their experiences in order to learn what is working and to work to solve any potential problems that may exist.
"This is how I know what is going on and then I take this information back," she said.