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Santorum, Tollgrade executives share ideas

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2002

By and large, businesses want government to stay out of the way of their mission to provide jobs for workers and profits for stakeholders.

But it helps to have a sympathetic ear, like that given to a dozen area business leaders Friday by Sen. Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Santorum visited Tollgrade Communications Inc. in Cheswick on Friday to address an employee gathering, followed by a round-table session with the executives, who peppered him with requests to grease their relationships with the federal government.

Charles Thomas, chief executive of O'Hara Township-based Solid State Measurements, said his company could benefit from reduced regulations on doing business in China. Ed Engler, CEO of Pittsburgh-based information technology consulting firm Summa Technologies, said the venture capital environment must be enhanced to encourage investment in new technologies. And Thomas Beckley, CEO of start-up analog circuit designer Neolinear Inc., pushed for more efficient handling of immigration issues for employees with critical knowledge in his industry.

"Good employees are hard to find," Beckley said.

Santorum first addressed the predicament of his host, Tollgrade, which has seen its revenues fall over the past 18 months as the telecommunications sector has suffered a meltdown. Santorum said he is urging Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to revamp sections of the 1996 telecommunications legislation that was supposed to foster competition through deregulation and introduce faster and more-reliable communications networks.

"It's an important thing for our economy to expand broadband (high-speed communications)," Santorum said. "The '96 legislation was Congress trying to pick winners and losers, which is not an efficient way to open up markets to competition."

Tollgrade has suffered as capital expenditures by the Baby Bells for its line testing equipment have been deferred quarter after quarter.

Robert Kampmeinert, chief executive of investment banking firm Parker/Hunter Inc., cautioned that recent corporate scandals could lead to overregulation of capital markets, stifling investment.

Santorum responded that the business community needs to do a better job telling its story of job creation and innovation to make people's lives better.

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