Charlie Crist holds business roundtable on Florida economy
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07/14/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

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Governor Charlie Crist toured a printing factory in Clearwater today before holding a roundtable discussion with business leaders. Crist, who is competing for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, promised businesses that government would “stay out of their way.”

Governor Crist toured the factory of BIC Graphic USA, a division of the multinational company that makes pens and disposable lighters. Their central Pinellas factory, which Crist called a “well kept secret,” produces custom-imprinted promotional products. According to the Governor, the economy is the “number one issue” facing the state.

“I think everybody understands that. And I mentioned to these business leaders that yesterday I had the chance to hold a similar meeting in Orlando with EA Sports and some of the digital companies that have really blossomed in Florida, predominantly in Central Florida. And I just think it’s important in order to stay in touch with small business, which is really the backbone of our economy, to make sure that we continue to have an opportunity for government to stay out of their way or be helpful in whatever way that we might be able to.”

Crist met with leaders of local businesses such as Raymond James Financial and Valpak Direct Marketing Systems. The governor says there are indications the economy is improving.

“It’s invaluable for me to have this kind of interaction with business leaders throughout the state, because without good employers we don’t have employees. And without that opportunity, we don’t have jobs, and it’s all about jobs. While the economy continues to struggle, there are some signs that there may be some improvement. What I want to do is make sure that we stay on the front edge of it and do everything that we can from a Tallahassee perspective to help these great entrepreneurs and risk-takers continue to succeed so that our people have opportunity. That’s what it’s all about for me.”

But some of the business leaders questioned Crist’s implication that the economy will get better soon. One suggested that newspapers are being overly optimistic about how soon a recovery will occur. Another reminded the governor that the state’s official unemployment rate – more than ten percent and climbing - is an underestimate because it does not include employees who have been forced to take unpaid furloughs, reduced hours, or have given up looking for work. Ever the optimist, Crist reminded the business leaders that Florida is in better shape than some other states. “Fortunately, [in Florida] we have a great relationship with our Legislative branch.”

Crist was asked whether he would like to see the Senate confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the next Supreme Court Justice. But the Republican Senatorial candidate refused to commit on Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee.

“I’m interested to watch the hearings. I think they had a good first day of them yesterday. … Maybe by [Thursday] I’ll have formed a good opinion.”

BIC Graphic USA

Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, Inc.

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