Before leaving Rainbow Florist, Cardin bought a bouquet of flowers for his wife.

Down the street, Cardin talked to Laurel Meat Market owner Bill Miles.

"You have the right niche with the community, and they know that," Cardin told Miles, noting "it's the smaller companies that find the innovative ways."

Miles, who has run the Meat Market for 42 years, said business is "decent" but the store's not making much money.


Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

"Last year was pretty tough," he said.

Back on the bus, when asked about what he took away from talking to Zook and Miles, Cardin said: "They're having a tough time. It's not easy in this environment. People are spending less and competition is very tough."

Cardin said the federal government can help by ensuring tax policies and business regulations are considerate of small businesses, and that there is fair pricing for energy and other things the companies need to operate.

"We've got to make it more profitable for small businesses," he said.

In addition, he said the Small Business Administration "has to be more aggressive" in making it easier for businesses to get financing.

Cardin's final stop was the former Laurel Mall, whose front parking deck has been demolished into concrete pieces. Inside a trailer at the demolition site, Cardin viewed plans for the new Towne Centre at Laurel.

"Route 1 and the whole area is going to be impacted in a very positive way," he said.

After Cardin left, Moe said he was thankful for Cardin's visit.

"It really does send a signal that he cares about local government and local business," he said.

Added Frush: "It's nice to have a federal official come in to our community and understand how important those businesses are to our community."