U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, from Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, was the guest speaker at the Zachary Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Lunch and Learn networking event March 31 at the Americana YMCA.

“America is a neat country. People look to America as being the most successful in terms of work ethic,” Graves said. “But I’m concerned about the future of the United States. I think we’re deviating from the principles that made us successful.” Graves spoke on issues concerning offshore energy production, clean air and ozone standards, recreational fishing, maritime concerns, the petrochemical industry and ports development.

“These are the foundations of Louisiana’s economy but they’re being challenged at times,” said Graves, who serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. “Both committees represent policy priorities that are important to south Louisiana — safe and efficient transportation, flood control, hurricane protection, maritime commerce, coastal restoration, ports development and energy production.”

The congressman, who also is vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, spoke about the nation approaching a national debt of $18 trillion.

“We’re really going to handicap future generations,” Graves said. “We shouldn’t be investing in things that are not working.”

Graves said he plans on working on the national debt and policies that help local economies and small businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” said Graves, who made note of Pres Kennedy’s testimony before Congress on March 30.

Kennedy, president and CEO of the Bank of Zachary and treasurer of the Independent Community Bankers of America, testified at a Senate Small Business Committee field hearing in Baton Rouge on how excessive regulation is harming small businesses.

Kennedy said federal regulations are restricting community bank loans to small businesses.

“The exponential growth of regulation in recent years is suffocating community banks and their ability to serve their small-business customers,” said Kennedy. “The good news is that there are readily available legislative solutions to this pending crisis. ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity platform of legislative recommendations will provide meaningful relief for community banks and allow them to do what they do best — serving and growing their communities.”

Kennedy repeated ICBA’s call for lawmakers to support continued small business lending by advancing legislation with provisions of ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity, including the Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory (CLEAR) Relief Act of 2015, the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act and the Privacy Notice Modernization Act of 2015.

Graves said he didn’t take the job as Congressman to become part of the institution or part of the status quo.

“I really want to do this; I love south Louisiana,” said Graves. “I’m not an expert on everything, but I have worked in many industries. I want people to call me with ideas. I’ll be relentless in ensuring your voices are heard.”