DENVER — Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign, looking to keep the focus of the presidential campaign on the economy even as Romney travels abroad, held 18 events in 12 swing states across the country Monday where local business owners took umbrage with President Obama’s statement earlier this month that, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”
The event in Colorado, a critical swing state come November, took place in Colorado Springs at Angler’s Covey, a fly-fishing retailer and tour operator that was met with a lot of government “red tape” when it moved to its current location six years ago — a seemingly perfect fit for a campaign looking to portray President Obama’s administration as anti-business.
“We’ve got a group of business people here – including myself – who really take offense to the idea that government builds businesses,” said Dave Leinweber, the owner of Angler’s Covey, at Monday morning’s press event. “We create the jobs. We’ve doubled our work force here because of our hard work, not because of some program or anything like that. We’ve just worked hard.”
But, in an interview with FOX31 Denver, Leinweber also acknowledged that, as much as he was frustrated by government regulation, he was only able to finance his business’s expansion to a new, larger location with a loan backed by a government program that enabled him to get a small business loan.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) loan enabled Angler’s Covey to leave its old 2,500 square foot home and build a new 6,500 square foot facility along Highway 24 adjacent to two casting ponds right outside its front door where customers can cast and compare rods before buying.
“I got the loan from Chase Bank, but I do appreciate the government standing behind that loan so that Chase and other banks are more willing to invest in businesses,” Leinweber told FOX31 Denver. “But I still had to come up with 20 percent and go into debt on this just to make my business happen.”
SBA loans are made through banks, credit unions and other lenders who partner with the SBA. The SBA provides a government-backed guarantee on part of the loan, but the borrower is responsible if they default.
For two weeks now, the Romney campaign has been attacking Obama over his poorly-worded remark, taking a statement about the need, in the president’s view, for the wealthy to pay more in taxes, and portraying it out of context as a Freudian slip by a president who’s truly hostile to entrepreneurs and free-market principles.
On Monday, Leinweber was one of five local business owners who the campaign asked to speak at its “We Did Build That” event; and another similar event is scheduled Tuesday in Denver.
One of the other business owners bashing Obama at Monday’s press conference was Steve Kanatzar, the owner of The Airplane Restaurant — it, too, received a $218,000 SBA loan in December 2010 that was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Leinweber, in spite of his reliance on the SBA loan and his acknowledgment that the reality of entrepreneurship is hardly as black and white as either presidential campaign is aiming to make it seem, was a willing mouthpiece for the Romney campaign’s attack du jour — that government, and particularly this president, are stifling economic growth — because, for the most part, he believes it.
“The SBA loan is the only thing that the government has done that’s actually helped me,” Leinweber said. “I’m not saying we don’t need government. We do. We just don’t need the government in our face, always coming around and finding things that are wrong with our business.”
Leinweber said he made the decision to expand his business to the new location in 2003 but wasn’t able to move forward with the project until 2005.
“It was two years of bureaucracy,” he said. “It took us six months just to convince the government that the trees on the new property were an asset to our business and that we didn’t have to cut them down.
“There are people who come around and tell me I need permission to pick weeds. It’s stuff like that.”