ST. GEORGE — Good character and the ability to speak with civility to one’s opponents are some of the qualities that make a great leader in business or politics, Mitt Romney said in a speech Wednesday in St. George.
Romney was a keynote speaker at the breakfast for the 2018 Business Summit. Owners and representatives of businesses from across Southern Utah attended the summit at the Dixie Center, which included a full day of talks and classes on developing business.
What Romney hopes to do for business, economy
Being a person of character is the kind of senator Romney said he hopes to become if he’s elected. Romney said the biggest reason he’s running to become senator is to help Utahns, communities, businesses and the economy, but private businesses can often do more to help than the government can.
“Every dollar I get to spend for education or caring for poor only has value if that dollar represents a good or service produced in the private sector. You employ people, you provide capital necessary for us to care for one another, so I salute thee.”
Keeping the federal government out of the hair of private businesses is one way to help the private sector, he said. Some of the ways he said he can help support businesses is keeping taxes and energy rates low.
Utah has a booming economy, but one of the biggest economic problems that remains is stopping “the export of our kids,” Romney said. While many counties in Utah are growing, other counties, especially rural counties, see the next generation of potential workers leaving the state.
One of Romney’s biggest goals if he’s elected is to tackle the national debt. The best way to start is to look at changing Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
Romney said he supports drug testing and work requirements for Medicaid, allowing people with lower income to have higher Social Security benefits and raising the age that people receive benefits.
“We’re certainly not going to change (Social Security) for people who are currently retired or for people who are getting near retirement. But for the young people coming along, we have to tell them what the new promise is, and the new promise is you’re not going to retire at 65 or 67; you’re going to have to be a couple of years older.”
Romney also talked about how he learned to work with his political opponents when he served as governor of Massachusetts by never attacking them, which is a quality he hopes to bring to the U.S. Senate.
“Democrats love America, just like Republicans love America, and we can find common ground and still keep to our principles.”
Though Mike Kennedy, the Utah state legislator running against Romney in the Senate race, was not at the business summit, he also spoke to St. George News Wednesday about his vision for supporting business and the economy.
One of the biggest hurdles to a strong and healthy private sector is the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Kennedy said. If he’s elected, he’d seek to finally end Obamacare for good.
“The good people of Utah are strengthening business on their own. The federal government and the state government in some instances as well needs to back off. That’s how we help businesses.”
Like Romney, Kennedy also said he’d support low taxes and low energy rates to support businesses, and the problem of young people leaving rural areas of the state is something that is important to him.
“In these rural counties, we have a great capacity to expand tourism and let people know why they should stay. When there are more opportunities here, they’re far less likely to move out.”
Romney’s history in business
Romney used examples of successful businesspeople he has known and mentioned his own businesses he managed before he took up politics in 1999.
“When we were in business, we were highly successful. People say, ‘Gosh, you’re a firm group, you’ve made enormous returns for your investors.’ And I attribute that to having a good team, people of character, focusing on the right things and also extraordinarily good luck.”
Sometimes, things don’t go the way they were planned, said Romney, who ran two unsuccessful campaigns for president in 2008 and 2012.
He talked about his experience investing in a startup in the late 1980s called Presidential Airways, which was the main airline out of Washington Dulles International Airport until Continental and United Airlines started flying out of Washington, D.C. After one year, the company and its investors like Romney lost millions of dollars.
“I happen to believe when you boil it all down, there are people who time and time again, whether they have good luck or bad luck, end up being successful,” Romney said. “They do so by being people of character.”
Shayne Durrant, who was attending the summit for Yesco Outdoor Media, said he has previously been on the fence about supporting Romney, but after hearing him speak, Durrant said he thinks Romney would do a good job representing Utah in the Senate.
“From an economic standpoint, he will do a really good job,” Durrant said. “He is a man of character with a ton of experience, and I think he’d do well.”
Immediately after Romney finished his speech, he rushed off to catch a plane as attendees at the summit gave him a standing ovation. Gov. Gary Herbert is slated to be the keynote speaker at the summit during the evening.
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