White House Town Hall a Bust for Some EntrepreneursJeremy Quittner
Franz Hofmeister, president and CEO of 70-person Quaker Bakery Brands, traveled all the way from Appleton, Wis., to attend President Obama’s first Town Hall meeting on March 26 at the White House. He figured that as one of only 100 small business owners, teachers, nurses and community leaders invited to the East Room, he’d have a chance to commend the President on his plans for energy independence, but also to ask him some of the burning questions he had on his mind about his small business. These included concerns about health care for his employees, the capital gains tax, and a proposed increase in personal income tax for those making more than $250,000 annually.
But no such luck.
“There would be a question and then an answer, and no opportunity for follow-up and a dialogue,” says Hofmeister, who adds: “There was not really a chance for interchange.”
Some 64,000 people tuned in to the event via the Web and submitted about 90,000 questions. Hofmeister says the President, whom he found sincere and engaged, had time to answer only about 10 people during the hour-and-a-half exchange. Still, “most of the questions were softballs,” Hofmeister says.