In a series of town-hall-style meetings held Monday across the Triangle, the region's business executives gave the Obama administration frank advice about what needs to be done to jumpstart the country's sputtering economy.
The responses, which ranged from gentle encouragement to outright criticism, reflected the growing frustration with an economic recovery that has created too few jobs.
At a meeting at DuPont's research and development facility in Research Triangle Park, the focus was on the state's manufacturing sector.
Several attendees expressed frustration with the region's biopharmaceutical firms' relationship with the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates and approves medicine for commercial markets.
"We often get new questions from the FDA after three years of interaction," said Ronald Hill, vice president at Pioneer Surgical, a Michigan company with a marketing division in Raleigh. "It's a very cumbersome process."
Perry Genova, CEO of Oncoscope in Durham, said in his experience, federal regulators treat applicants as "guilty until we prove ourselves innocent."
At Durham's American Tobacco Campus, the discussion was about entrepreneurs and what both the government and the private sector can do to support them.
"You will never have a clearer line to the president," Austan Goolsbee, chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, told the local executives.
Goolsbee was joined by some of corporate America's biggest names, including former AOL CEO Steve Case, Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Many of the issues raised were gripes that are frequently made about the Triangle's entrepreneurial scene: That it is difficult for companies to raise early-stage venture capital. That the process of transferring promising technology from universities to the private sector could be streamlined.
The government needs to make sure it is backing technologies that work and that also address a large and viable market, said Bill Brown, a co-founder of Palmer Labs and 8 Rivers Capital, and a Duke law professor. Too often, Brown said, the government is interested in spending money quickly as opposed to wisely.
The comments didn't all focus on what government is doing wrong or could be doing better.
Victor Lytvinenko, who founded Raleigh Denim with his wife Sarah, said the couple got its initial capital through a $10,000 loan from the Small Business Administration. The two make jeans out of a downtown Raleigh storefront.
Lytvinenko still talks once a month with SBA officials. "In our case it's working - what the government is doing and what the private sector is doing," he said.
Stephen Wiehe, CEO of Cary software company SciQuest, usually skips events such as Monday's roundtable discussion. But after attending, he complimented the administration on the efforts that are now being made to find solutions.
"But I don't think there is one or two big things you can do," he said. "I think it is a thousand little ideas, not one big, bold idea."
Some of those little things are already being done in the Triangle, argued Joe Davy, 22, an entrepreneur who founded the Durham software company EvoApp.
"I think this area has great talent and has seen a meteoric rise, which has led to dog-and-pony shows like this being held here," he said.
"To be perfectly frank, if we weren't doing something right, people wouldn't be coming here to see what we're doing right."
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