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Tiffany Montgomery
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PM Tenore of RVCA meets with Obama at the White House

By Tiffany Montgomery
March 30, 2009 5:43 AM

The Obama administration invited RVCA founder and CEO PM "Pat" Tenore and several other small business owners to the White House this month to hear the President discuss his plans to help small businesses. Pat answered some questions for me about the visit and what it was like to meet Obama.

Who contacted you to come to the White House?

I was contacted by an executive member of President Obama's staff. He called me, and at first I thought it was a joke. He then followed the phone call with an email. Once I saw the email with a .gov address I thought maybe this could be real. After I figured out it wasn't a joke, I booked a flight and I was off to D.C.

What was the experience like to be there?

Obama gives you the feeling that everyone matters and has a voice. For a random person from Costa Mesa to get the opportunity to meet the President inside the White House, it made me feel like change is coming. It gives me a very positive outlook on the future.

What did you think of the president's plan?

It seems like the administration is trying to implement a lot of initiatives to help small business. As a small business owner I appreciate that the administration is paying attention to small businesses and recognizing that everyone is important.

What was the President like in person?

The President seemed authentic and connected to the problems and concerns of everyone in the group. Ever since I was a kid I felt alienated from government and politics. The experience made me feel that Obama is genuinely in tune with everyone.

Was it hard to get into the White House - lots of security?

The security is probably exactly like someone would expect at the White House. A lot of military, police and secret service. Although is was a bit intimidating, the people were very friendly. There were two check points. ... In a way, very similar to going through the security line at an airport.

President ObamaDid you share any concerns, issues about this industry with the White House?

The format for the meeting really didn't provide an opportunity to ask any questions or share concerns.

I had a few things that I wanted to accomplish during my visit to the White House. There is a painting there of President Obama that was painted by David Choe, and I really wanted to take a picture of it. I asked if I could, but was told that the painting was in a different Wing, and I didn't have security access to go there.

I also wanted to get President Obama to throw a shaka and get a photo with him. When it was my turn to meet the President, I gave my camera to someone to take our picture. I now have an amazing picture of President Obama and my right arm - no shaka. The camera guy blew the picture. However, I was able to get some great interior photos of the White House.

Will you send the President some RVCA clothes?

The thought did cross my mind, but I was told not to bring any gifts. It would have loved to have brought him some trunks. I am sure he would have put them to good use body surfing at Sandy Beach.

Did you talk to him about surfing at all? 

He asked me how Kelly Slater did in the Australia leg of the tour and I told him not so good but he is still the best ever and current world champion. No, I just shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure to meet him.

The President's small business plan

After hearing back from Pat, I checked the White House blog for more details about the session he attended. RVCA was one of 67 small businesses and non-profits that attended.

A lot of details of the meeting got lost in the uproar that day over the $65 million in bonuses paid to some AIG executives, and President Obama spent the beginning of the meeting calling for the government to block the payments.

Here are some highlights of his small business relief acts and proposals:

  • Authorized the Small Business Administration to guarantee up to 90 percent of loans and elminate fees for borrowers and lenders.
  • Gave tax cuts for small business in the stimulus plan signed into law in mid-February.
  • Gave tax incentives for small business investments in the stimulus plan.
  • Authorized the Treasury Department to purchase up to $15 billion in SBA loans to free up the secondary credit market and increase liquidity at community banks.
  • Proposed in budget to reduce capital gains taxes on small business to zero.
  • Proposed tax credits for small businesses that offer health care coverage to employees.

 

 


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