Romney stops in Bedford Heights to discuss manufacturing


Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at American Spring Wire in Bedford Heights on Sept. 26. Photo courtesy of Bill Bryan.

Grant Engle

While Kent State was awaiting the arrival of President Barack Obama, the man who is challenging him for the presidency was 25 miles away chatting with business owners about the challenges they have faced over the past four years.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney hosted a round table discussion with seven northeast Ohio business owners at the American Spring Wire plant in Bedford Heights Wednesday afternoon.

The Republican presidential nominee talked about outsourcing, medical benefits and the ingenuity of Americans in a discussion that lasted nearly an hour.

The business owners on stage and a few members of the audience expressed concern to Romney over Obama’s economic record during his presidency.

“The message you’re hearing is what I hear all over the country from people in the business world,” Romney said. “They don’t believe the policies over the last four years lead them to decide to invest more in America.”

The first three business owners to ask Romney questions were CEOs or founders of companies with less than 300 employees each.

Romney pointed to government regulations and the cost of medical insurance under the president’s health care plan – often referred to as “Obamacare” – as inhibitors to small businesses.

“One thing we’re going to have to do if we want to get small businesses hiring again is repeal Obamacare and replace it with real reform,” Romney said.

The former governor of Massachusetts also said he plans to reduce tax rates on small business.

While answering a question from the audience, Romney said the president’s policies have stunted the growth of the economy and pushed more manufacturing jobs overseas.

“What he [Obama] has done has made it harder for entrepreneurs and businesses to make a decision to create more jobs,” Romney said. “That’s why we need to take a different direction.”

Diane Champion, the president of steel fabrication plant in the Cleveland area, was one of the business owners who joined Romney on stage for the discussion.

The manufacturer – A.H. Marty Co. – has been in her family for more than 100 years. She said her company was on an upswing right before the economic downturn in 2008.

Champion said the problem lies in a lack of skilled laborers, such as welders or electricians. She also said parents need to stress the spirit of competition to their children.

“I don’t believe capitalism should be demonized in today’s world,” Champion said. “Skilled labor can make the money that a college-educated person can’t because of the way of the economy is.”

The round table discussion also featured Mike Rowe, host of the television show “Dirty Jobs.” Romney said Rowe was not there to endorse any particular candidate, but he was there as a friend and an invited guest.

Rowe said he wrote a letter to Romney and other politicians about his concerns over the economy and blue-collar jobs, and that prompted the invitation.

The television host said American families need to reconnect to the values that made blue-collar jobs important.

“We can’t just talk about opportunity, and we can’t just talk about training,” Rowe said. “The conversation needs to start at the kitchen table with moms, dads and kids.”

The Romney supporters at the discussion seemed to have come from all over northeast Ohio. Mentions of Stark, Lorain, Portage and Cuyahoga counties each drew loud applause and cheers from the audience.

Renee Claycomb, a Romney supporter that came from Port Clinton to see the discussion, said she identifies with the Republican Party because she is a staunch supporter of the Constitution and free enterprise.

“I believe in self-reliance,” Claycomb said. “I don’t believe in a government that gives handouts to people.”

When the discussion ended, Romney told his supporters that his campaign had work to do, but he left them with words of encouragement.

“We’re taking back this country,” Romney said. “We’re going to make it strong again, we’re going to rebuild our economy and we’re going to keep our military the strongest on Earth.”

Contact Grant Engle at [email protected].