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Romney camp features Tampa govt. contractors who say they don't need... government

TAMPA -- Two local business owners the Mitt Romney campaign tapped on Wednesday to speak out against President Barack Obama and government interference couldn't have been more contradictory choices to speak out on the topic.

The point of the 11 a.m. news conference was to stress that small business owners succeed because of their own grit and determination and don't need government to do it. It's part of a Romney campaign line of attack that's tring to capitalize on comments Obama made in July 13 speech. Obama was talking about how even the most successful business owners didn't do it completely alone, that they were helped by others, including those in government.

The Romney campaign is using a snippet of the speech to suggest that Obama is instead saying that government is solely responsible for the success of private busines owners. That's not so. Obama isn't anywhere close to saying that. But in TV ads, that's the point Romney is making.

And it appears to be working. The line of attack spread Wednesday to 24 events in swing states across the country, from Columbus, Oh., to Palm Beach and Raleigh, N.C. In Tampa, the campaign spotlighted Rebecca Smith, owner of the construction company A.D. Morgan Corp., and Lou Ramos, owner of Value Enterprise Solutions, an information technology company.

"None at all," Ramos said, when asked what role government have fed into their success.

"I was asked the other day on whether I feel government doesn't support small business," Smith said. "And I think the answer is resounding. Not only does (Obama) seem not to understand business, and he doesn't seem to want to accord the business leadership with the credit of making the choice to lead and risk in starting a business, I would go one step further and say that our president seems to oppose the success of small business."

One problem with having Ramos and Smith, both registered Republicans, as speakers on this topic: they both said they didn't see the entire Obama speech that they find so personally insulting. Ramos said he later read the complete trancript, but couldn't remember from where he got it. Smith acknowledged she saw only news reports of the speech, either on NBC or FoxNews.

But the other, more puzzling problem the two have for this particular Romney message is that rather than wanting to get out of the way of big government, Smith and Ramos have embraced it and benefitted from it greatly. They just won't admit it.

The A.D. Morgan Corporation employs 50 people and has annual revenues of about $80 million, according to its website. The company lists more than 130 projects and developments. Impressive, no doubt. But the list is nearly all government projects. (One of the few not to be: the Poynter Institute for Media Studies). From the Sumter County jail expansion, Woodlawn Elementary School, the library at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, interior sign at James Haley Veterans Hospital, the Plant City Courthouse, a Florida Department of Transportation weigh station, the projects that have made A.D. Morgan the success it is have been government, big and small, state and local.

Smith didn't see that as a contradiction to her message that government didn't help her.

"We're not going to have an opportunity in the private sector, they have a tendency to use lump sum, low bid," Smith said, explaining how government bids work. "So by virtue of what it is that we do, we go to the client base that purchases construction services that way."

And by client, she means government. So doesn't she benefit from government spending because of her business model?

"So are you saying that if the government purchases anything from Microsoft, Microsoft would be nothing but for the government?" she said. Of course, government and the private sector bought Microsoft products, making it the success that it was. With her business model, it's almost exclusively public projects.

Asked again about her heavily reliance on government work, Smith got all post-modern.

"We're all government," she said.

As for Ramos, his company's Facebook page describes Value Enterprise Solutions as "providing value added service/education to businesses, local government, federal government, Department of Defense, and industry contract organizations."

So his company also gets government work, just like Smith's. His company's website also describes it as a "minority/service disabled veteran owned small disadvantaged business." That's a designation that's not recognized in the private sector. but with the federal government, that designation affords companies a special status so they can be the sole bidder on a project.

Asked if he was getting government assistance in this case, Ramos said the website is wrong. He doesn't have that status, although he's been trying to get it. In the Air Force for 24 years, Ramos dismissed the role it played in providing him the training and expertise to run his business today.

"It wasn't handed to me," Ramos said. "I worked my butt off. My military experience taught me integrity. But that didn't come from the government."

--- Michael Van Sickler, Tampa Bay Times

Comments

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Nick Hentoff

This is a lost argument. Anyone who has run a small business will not buy the argument that the Government is responsible for their success. The fact that someone learned to read in public school, or learned a trade in the military, or even has a government contract, does not take away from the fact that individual initiative, hard work, and personal sacrifice are the main ingrediants of a successful small business.

Thomas

Thats about a 232 hit combo! Get after that straw-man, Mitt!

Katelesley

I don't support Romney or Obama ... but ... come on, if my neighbor buys from me, they support me, literally. If the Gov. buys from you ... they are supporting you. Are they doing the work for you ... no. Obviously. No one is trying to take credit for your hard work. What is being said is no one goes it alone. People, products and even Government have an influence on your business. Good or bad. If you didn't hear Obama and the Full context of his thoughts and statements ... you are a FOOL. Acting and speaking about something you are only privy to by hearsay ... ignorant. Is this how you decide who to vote for? If my REP. cannot fully understand or outright lies to the public ... he is not my man. But neither is Obama ...

Andy

I think the issue of whether these small businesses make money directly from the government is beside the point, and it's a weak argument. I wish news sites would stop making a big deal over it, as I'm sure Romney can find some other small businesses with no government contracts, and then where do we stand on this discussion? Beside, harping on this issue just makes you sound anti-capitalist: I'm sure these businesses provide a valuable service or product to the government in exchange for any money the receive.

I think the theme of Obama's speech was to challenge the Republican/Tea Party argument that we need lower taxes, less government investment, and less regulation. The specific point Obama was trying to make was that each of us has benefited, and continues to benefit, from past government investments, and the network effects those investments have created. This includes tangible items such as public schools and universities, the interstate highway system, and the internet; and intangibles such as the societal and financial stability brought about through laws and regulation.

kafantaris

"Take care of your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves."
Or, "take care of the country and your reelection will take care of itself."
The wisdom of this was missed by the President's handlers who also misjudged the savvy of the independent voters. Why else would they have bombarded them with dumbed down TV ads?
Somebody should have told them that these folks are sitting on the fence for a reason, and it is not a lack of foresight.
Indeed, it takes more foresight to figure out things yourself than to merely follow one herd or the other. And deciding the things you care about does take time.
Yet, independent voters also need help. Though they do not blame the President for all of the country's problems, or expect him to solve them overnight, they do expect him to stay on the task day by day.
Yes, honest effort is what they want, but they are not seeing it lately. Perhaps this is because the President's handlers are too worried about losing their jobs to let him do his. But he is the President and he should get them all out of his way to focus on running our country.
Besides, keeping his nose on the grindstone might be the best way to convince the independents that he should get more time to finish out the job.

vfeinstein

One needn't have government contracts to say that government supports small business - to think this is just silly. The underlying issue that people are missing is that yes, small business owners achieved success through hard work however, without small business loans (SBA), roads, sidewalks, bridges, tax breaks, etc., etc., etc., small business relies on government for a whole host of benefits that support them.

Cherry-picking what the president said does a lot more damage to those doing the cherry picking than to those whose statement is taken completely out of context ... the strawman is burning ...

nitpicker

By the way, it's likely that the 24-year Air Force veteran is a retiree, who not only gets a few thousand a month in government retirement checks, but also gets health insurance for $400 a year. Lots of people don't have nearly free health insurance like that and, therefore, can't risk starting their own businesses, because they need the benefits provided by an employer. Also, he qualified for special SBA loans for servicemembers (though whether he used them is unknown). Oh. And roads. And the Internet. And...

jjcomet

" The fact that someone learned to read in public school, or learned a trade in the military, or even has a government contract, does not take away from the fact that individual initiative, hard work, and personal sacrifice are the main ingrediants of a successful small business."

And who said that it does? Not the President, as you'd know if you heard or read the full text of his address. And, please. If a business does virtually ALL of it's work on government contracts, how can you possibly deny that business owes much of it's success to the government. Did you not see Ms. Smith's remark, ""We're not going to have an opportunity in the private sector, they have a tendency to use lump sum, low bid." By her own admission she runs a company that would have no chance of success if it had to work with private firms. In other words, if it weren't for government spending, her company wouldn't exist. How much more dependent on government can you get?

Julie Garner

The problem with Romney's entire argument is that it is built on a knowing falsehood. He knows that Obama was saying the roads and infrastructure that the government built and the teachers the government employs all benefit business. He said this while acknowledging the individual effort and accomplishment of the business owner. This would be a no-brainer statement except for the fact that today's GOP has taken Reagan's "government is the problem" declaration and fed it steroids. Romney is being completely disingenous by making this the centerpiece of his ads. It's false and he knows it. People who believe it are flaunting their ignorance because they obviously did not hear or read the entire context of Obama's statement.

Kareline A. Duverge

This is all very interesting as I found this post, researching a company that is trying to charge me $500 to advertise directly to federal government without having to bid or obtain my classifications. They also offer to help me obtain the certifications I need in order to procure government contracts or get on a GSA Schedule. I have to say that I am finding it very difficult and challenging to obtain information as a woman, minority, socially and economically disadvantaged business on funding, procurements, management etc. I will continue to do my research in hopes that I find clarity and guidance.

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