Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval addressed a Hispanic small-business conference Wednesday at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas, where he outlined his economic development plan and said government should act more like a business and be "focused on the right things -- that either support your activities or get out of your way."
More than 100 people, many of them small-business owners, attended the four-hour event, which included a business expo and a small-business panel including Jovita Carranza, former deputy administrator of the Small Business Association; Roger Campos, president of the Minority Business Roundtable; and Rene Cantu Jr. of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce.
Sandoval closed the conference with a 30-minute speech that touted his new economic development plan, which set a goal for businesses to generate 50,000 new jobs by 2014 and will establish regional development authorities that will report to the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
"For years politicians have said that small business is the engine that drives our economy," the governor said. "It sounds somewhat trite, but it also has the added benefit or value of being true."
As one of his first orders of business, Sandoval requested a review of all state regulations to eliminate those that are duplicative or overly burdensome.
"In January of this year, I was pleased to announce that over 650 regulations will be repealed as a result of this effort," Sandoval said. "Another 1100 will be modified and modernized to help businesses in this state."
Those comments were met with loud applause as many small-business owners in attendance complained of excessive regulations.
Jose Echeverria, who opened a janitorial equipment repair business one year ago, said he had obtain multiple licenses to work in the various municipalities in Southern Nevada.
Adrian Cano, who owns a website design business, agreed there was too much red tape.
"It takes a lot of research to just figure out what type of company you should register as," Cano, 28, said. "There is not much help out there for tracking down loans or which companies that offer small business loans are good. They need a lot more help for navigating the system. When you go online to the secretary of state's site, they should have an option to chat with a person who can answer questions."
Sandoval said many people close to him question his decision to run for governor at a time when Nevada's economy was one of the hardest hit during the recession, but he embraced the challenge. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, 12.3 percent.
"If Nevada were a stock, I'd by it now," the governor said. "I mean that. We are moving in the right direction in every sector."
The center-right advocacy group Hispanic Leadership Network organized the event, dubbed a "small-business invitational," and Executive Director Jennifer Korn described the organization in her opening remarks as an advocacy action group "focused on engaging Hispanics in the public debate about center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government and individual empowerment."
The panel discussion, which included questions from the audience, pointed to language barriers, access to information and the ability to raise capital as key concerns for Hispanic businesses.
Hispanic-owned firms increased by nearly 44 percent between 2002 and 2007 to 2.3 million, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2007 Survey of Business Owners.
Sandoval, in comments after his speech, said he hopes that the federal health care law is overturned because, in part, it will have "dramatic impact on the state of Nevada," increasing health care costs and Medicare rolls. Panel moderator Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of American Forum -- a parent organization for the Hispanic Leadership Network -- also disparaged the law multiple times.
Democratic National Committee Hispanic Caucus Vice-Chair Andres Ramirez, who attended the event, said, as of now, any talk of increased costs is "speculation" and that it's not necessarily true that small businesses would suffer. He noted there are tax breaks for businesses to help allay the costs, and the program has already helped more people access care.
Ramirez praised Sandoval's efforts to streamline regulations and champion certain sectors for growth, policies similar to ones that President Barack Obama has advocated for on the federal level, he pointed out.
Sandoval commented that Nevada is frequently at the bottom of rankings, in education for example, but that Nevada also routinely scores high in terms of business-friendly policies.
"I'm working very closely with my cabinet to make Nevada the most business-friendly state in the country," Sandoval said.
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