COSTA MESA, Calif. - Sitting before a newly unveiled campaign sign bearing the slogan, "We did build it!" presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a group of 10 local business leaders that as a former business executive, he is more able than a career politician to understand their efforts to prosper amid federal regulations and policies.
"I happen to think that for people who have spent their entire livelihood working in government, they sometimes don't appreciate just how hard it is to start a business, grow a business, maintain a business so that you can maintain employees and pay them better wages and better benefits," Romney told the group sitting around a square table in a warehouse at Endural LLC, a company which manufactures plastic containers.
People who have spent their entire careers in government aren't likely to comprehend the intricacies of starting and maintaining a business, he said.
"I hear it time and again, people say as you did, that they think business is the enemy or that business is getting a free ride. And there's a sense that some of you are bad guys. I see you as the good guys," he said. "You're employing people and hiring people. I want to see you do better, because I want more people having good wages and better benefits and that's kind of the purpose of the whole thing."
The local business leaders told Romney about their experiences running small businesses, and they offered advice on how he could foster a stronger environment for businesses to thrive, including lifting taxes they said were burdensome and developing a way to make it easier for their companies to comply with the requirements of President Obama's healthcare plan.
But while the group complained that the government has failed to properly aid businesses, some in the group said they run companies that depend upon the government for business, including a husband and wife duo, who said they are kept awake at night by the worry of sequestration as their business, Ace Clearwater, manufactures parts for federal and defense projects, and the CEO of a wire manufacturing company which receives many federal contracts.
As the event wound down, Romney accused the president of prioritizing fundraising over meeting with his jobs council, breaking the unofficial three-day pause his campaign took on knocking the president at public events in the wake of the shootings in Aurora, Colo.
"Why won't he meet with his jobs council?" Romney asked the group. "These are some of the largest employers in the country. They have perspectives on what it would take for them to hire people and why it is they decide to build a facility outside the country instead of doing what you've done growing inside this country. The president needs to spend time with the jobs council. I guess in the last six months he's done 109 fundraisers. He found time for that. I would suggest between the fundraisers, get together with jobs council and learn from people who are working hard to create jobs."
"I will continue to listen to you personally but also people in your same enterprises to see how we can make Washington an ally, a support to entrepreneurs and innovators of all kinds, because I want to see more good jobs for the poor in this country, for middle income individuals in this country. We need folks to get better jobs. And until we do, we're going to face one story after the other about how things are getting worse. We need to take advantage of the extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit in this country and support those who are entrepreneurs," Romney added.
Romney had seven fundraisers scheduled during his two-day swing through California, which started Sunday, and the campaign has said it expected to raise a total of $10 million. Three of the fundraisers are in the San Francisco Bay area and four are in Southern California.
At a fundraiser in Irvine, Calif., this morning, Romney paid respect to the victims of the Aurora, Colo., shooting and praised Americans for the concern they have shown for the community shaken by the tragedy.
"Over the weekend, we watched with heavy hearts as we saw the families of victims and the many losses that were associated with the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. There will be a natural reaction to say what can be done about it? How can we prevent this? What can government do?" Romney said to the more than 300 donors at the Irvine fundraiser.
"This morning I received some thoughts from a friend and he made a point I thought was pretty compelling. He said, 'What can we do as people?' We oftentimes, when there is a crisis or some kind of concern, look to say what can government do? But the reality is, what can we as people do?," Romney said. "Our heritage as a nation is when there are people problems, people respond to them and people solve them, and so at a time like this we're inclined to look elsewhere but perhaps we should say how can we make a difference in the lives of people around us?
"Obviously we're not going to be able to go to … Aurora, Colorado, rather, and salve the wounds of those who have been injured so severely, but we can look around us in our own communities, and if there is someone that we know who can't find work right now, having them in your home for dinner and just finding out what's going on in their life might make a difference," he said. "If someone is unemployed and doesn't quite know what to do in the day, finding someone in the neighborhood whose home needs some help and going over and just doing something for them for free. That kind of a classical American thing."