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U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer touted business networking at a “business 2 business” luncheon Tuesday.

“Nine innings of networking,” Hoyer said, repeating the slogan of the event, held at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. “Nine innings of networking is not enough. That’s what this is about. Networking is a constant process.”

Hoyer stepped into the political realm as well, praising presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama for bailing out the auto industry, and condemning Republican congressmen for dragging their feet on raising the federal debt ceiling last year. The threat of default destabilized the economy by lowering businesses’ confidence, he said.

“We took this country to the brink of default. The most credit-worthy nation in the world was downgraded by one of the rating agencies. That does not give confidence to small, medium or large businesses. That does not give confidence to consumers. That does not give confidence to investors. That does not give confidence to the international community,” Hoyer said.

America should look to small businesses for new jobs, said Marie C. Johns, deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Banks are more willing to lend money to small businesses, and businesses are increasingly looking to expand, not just to survive, Johns said. But not everyone has the same access to credit.

“People are no longer looking for loans to barely keep their business afloat. People are looking for loans to grow, to buy that next piece of equipment to bring on new employees. However, it wouldn’t be fair if I just focused on that part of the picture. We all know there are gaps in the credit market,” she said, including “women of color,” women-owned businesses and veteran-owned businesses.

In an interview after his speech, Hoyer said the federal government should come up with tax increases and spending cuts to fund programs for small businesses, including perhaps an expansion of the SBA’s lending program, which includes loan guarantees. Stabilizing the federal budget would reassure business owners, leading to economic growth, he said.

“One of the reasons businesses aren’t growing is they don’t have confidence that the economy is going to be stable,” Hoyer said.

A trend in the 1990s toward outsourcing manufacturing and other jobs to low-wage countries is reversing as transportation costs and overseas salaries climb, Hoyer and Johns said, and new laws also could encourage American businesses to have products made here.

There is a proposal “that there ought to be a tax consequence for businesses who earn revenue here [but are] supporting jobs elsewhere. But it’s up to Congress to act and that’s what’s frustrating,” Johns said.

At least one successful businessman in the room got his start with the help of an SBA loan. Eric Franklin, president and chief executive of Erimax, an information technology company, said aspiring entrepreneurs don’t know how much help is available from the government.

“I think the biggest problem is the business owner [in general] doesn’t know the resources that are out there,” he said.

After nine years, Erimax just “graduated” from the SBA 8(a) program for business development, Franklin said.

“A big issue, I think, is people who need the help don’t know where to go and get it and don’t know how to access help they need and that’s an awful thing,” said Franklin, who also is chairman of the Southern Maryland Workforce Investment Board, which seeks to help jobseekers find work and improve their skills.

In the trenchesThe luncheon was part of the Southern Maryland Job Fair, which one of the organizers said was intended to help unemployed professionals seek work by bringing potential employers together in one room.

“I thought, where have I gotten the many talented people that I have [as clients]? What’s my best source? What I realized is that the majority of the people that we have are from job fairs. … I thought that the job fair would be a great way for me to get to know the most people who would be looking for talent, and so the job fair would bring those people to the people who are looking for a place to put their talent,” said Eleanor Nelson, executive director of the Job Match Re-employment Project, one of the fair sponsors.

To get her clients started hobnobbing with bigwigs, she had them volunteer at the job fair, wearing yellow shirts emblazoned with the “nine innings” slogan.

Patrick Peyton, wearing a blue dress shirt and tie under his T-shirt, had a conversation during the luncheon he thought might end in a job offer. The re-employment project taught him to reinvent himself to find work in a new field, he said.

“I was talking to [an acquaintance] while I was in the lunch line about how I have, throughout my life, gotten jobs through virtue of the fact that they were going to be available. I owned a company and was CEO of a large printing company that we sold in 2010. Of course, there were [information technology] people there just as good as I was, and that meant my job there was over. It was, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t know how to get a job,’” said Peyton, a North Beach resident.

Mary Ann Scott of La Plata has been undergoing the same process, but said she had had only a few “nibbles” in trying to resume her own career in printing. She most recently worked for the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ printing department, but was laid off a year ago.

She also is working on her own reinvention, Scott said, including studying Web design.

“It’s about taking the skills that you have and applying them in not just the same field that you have been in, but transferring that set of skills” to something new, Scott said.