TAMPA — Four years ago, Thomie Holloway voted for President Barack Obama. She was optimistic about her new business manufacturing portable storage units and hopeful that his policies would help her prosper.
In this election, she's voting for Mitt Romney.
"Governor Romney knows about small businesses,'' she said. "All Obama does is give a cursory overview of his plans. I have $6 million in orders ready to go, but I can't get the funding.''
Holloway was in Tampa on Friday to hear Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speak at a private roundtable discussion on entrepreneurship at the University of South Florida. As a small business owner, she said, his plans make fiscal sense.
Ryan visited USF to tour the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator and meet with small business owners and students from the school's Center for Entrepreneurship. The incubator works with about 30 start-up businesses to provide office space, equipment, mentoring, staffing and other services they need to succeed and grow. USF has had 98 patents issued this year and 650 overall.
"This is the engine of economic opportunity,'' said Ryan, praising the center's success in taking ideas and bringing them to the marketplace. "But we're having some issues right now. The economy isn't growing anywhere near what it should be. We're very worried that more and more people are slipping further behind.''
Helping entrepreneurs requires going back to the basics, he said. He outlined three main requirements for expanding the economy: lowering the tax rate, curbing the debt crisis and reducing government regulations.
Ryan criticized the Obama administration for the country's anemic 1.3 percent annual growth. If elected, he said, Romney could grow the economy 4 percent a year and create 12 million jobs.
The Obama campaign has credited the president with creating 4.5 million jobs, a better track record than his predecessor, former President George W. Bush. Obama has said reducing the nation's debt can't happen without asking for more from the wealthy. Messages left with the Obama press office were not returned.
One of the panelists, home builder Carlos Beruff, said overlapping regulations at the local, state and federal levels make it nearly impossible for an entrepreneur to enter the business. He got started 28 years ago using $12,000 from his IRA but can't imagine trying to do that today.
"We shouldn't make it so difficult for people to get into our business,'' he said. "We're building homes, not nuclear power plants.''
Michael Fountain, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, said whoever gets elected needs to focus on the needs and challenges facing emerging businesses because "without (that support), there's no growth.'' Ryan's visit to USF proves that their efforts are making an impact on job creation and economic development, he said.