ST. GEORGE – The St. George Chamber of Commerce invited an address by Gov. Gary Herbert at their weekly luncheon Tuesday. Among other things reflecting the state-of-the-state, Herbert was expected to reflect on the Gallup poll declaring Utah the best state to live in, and the Forbes article The Best Places For Business And Careers.
Members of the community, local political leaders, and business owners were in attendance. Although it is a politically volatile time of year, organizers of the luncheon and representatives of Herbert agreed the address would emphasize economics and business, not politics.
Herbert focused on capitalism, free enterprise, population growth and how it all impacts the residents of the St. George area. Statistics regarding unemployment, food stamps, and other government assistance are coming down, Herbert said, and attributes that to the ingenuity and hard work of the residents.
“We are literally doing more with less,” Herbert said. “I am pleased to tell you Utah is doing well economically. You will see a lot of growth.”
Herbert covered economic securities Utah has in place, such as the “rainy day fund,” which he said is at $275 million and is expected to continue growing.
The luncheon finished off with a Q-and-A session in which the governor touched on the topics of public lands, the future university status of Dixie State College, and how energy issues are having a large affect on Utah residents and land owners.
Although Herbert received a lot of support from the crowd, the timing and his political presence gained the attention of representatives from other parties. Particularly, citizens affiliated with the Democratic Party felt their candidate and party were under-represented or slighted by the Chamber. Dorothy Engelman, Washington County Democratic Party Chair, said that despite the Chamber’s position that Herbert is invited to speak to the Chamber annually, the invitation was extended to him in June and his choice to come in October, two weeks before the election, was to her thinking by design and inappropriate without equal time given his Democratic opponent, Peter Cooke.
The Chamber, on inquiry, told St. George News that the governor had not been invited to campaign and would not be allowed to disseminate campaign materials. It invited gubernatorial candidate Cooke to address a Chamber luncheon next week although it did not appear that Cooke’s schedule would permit him to do so. Engelman said that the invitation was given on too short notice given the election season.
Engelman was among those present at the Chamber luncheon Tuesday. “He talked about being governor of the state that is doing wonderfully,” she said. “He didn’t talk about the things that were at the bottom of the list. And that’s to be expected from someone who is campaigning. I would agree that it was a nonpolitical speech 96 percent.”
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