To a degree that surprised us, small business owners were front and center at the Republican National Convention  in Tampa, Fla. Tuesday night.
As we reported last week, the phrase “yes we did build it ” has become a small-business rallying cry. Some business owners have been waging protests following President Barack Obama’s comments  last month on the campaign trail suggesting that the government, not entrepreneurs, had built their businesses. The President quickly jumped in to do damage control by claiming his remarks were taken out of context, but by then the phrase had taken on a life of its own.
The convention built on the business owners’ sentiment with the theme “We Built It.”
Here are some of the “small business” highlights:
- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whose parents were Indian immigrants, said “My parents started a business out of the living room of their home, and 30+ years later it was a multimillion dollar company. But there wasn’t a single day it was easy. *** Don’t tell me that my parents didn’t build their business.”
- Denny Sollmann, owner of Sollmann Electric Company, an Ohio small business said in a taped presentation “… you have no idea how we here in Midwestern Ohio have to try to run a small business from daylight ’til night.”
- “People, not government, create jobs,” said Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who claimed his state’s reforms have already gone a long way to helping small businesses thrive, improving employment and the general economic climate.
Interestingly, taxation wasn’t the main issue brought up by the business owners. Instead, regulatory burdens, fiscal responsibility, governmental obstacles and the struggles of starting a business were more often mentioned.
- Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who spoke about the red tape and regulations that small businesses face, is a small business owner along with her husband. Together they started a landscaping and snowplowing business. “We are no different from most families who take risks starting their own business. *** We had to make it work.”
- She introduced Jack Gilchrist (pictured above) of New Hampshire, a small business owner who employs 40 people. The business was built by his father about whom she said “and yes, he did build it.” Gilchrist addressed the floor in person, saying “small business needs a leader.”
- Said the owner of Sakata Farms in Colorado in a video presentation: “The statement… that we as a small business did not make it on our own .. is completely nonsense. My name is Bob Sakata and my family and my employees built this.”
There were a few lighter moments, too. While a news commentator was speaking from the convention floor, a woman business owner behind him held up a small whiteboard on which she had written an impromptu ad for her business: “PatrioticJewelry.com I built this, Mr. Pres!”
The coverage of the major television networks and cable news channels tended to underplay the small-business focus. They often cut to commercials or commentators when business owners spoke. C-SPAN has comprehensive video coverage , in case you want to catch more of the small business sentiment.