Small Business Owner: Gov. Scott Killed, Not Increased Jobs

Then candidate Rick Scott delivers a "stump speech" at Tampa Steel and Supply in July 2010.
Then candidate Rick Scott delivers a "stump speech" at Tampa Steel and Supply in July 2010.
TAMPA (2011-8-30) -

A little more than year ago, the office at Tampa Steel and Supply was packed with TV cameramen, reporters, then candidate Rick Scott and several of his advisers. It was the backdrop for Scott's successful run for governor and spotlighted his campaign slogan: "Let's get to work."

Tampa Steel co-owner Bruce Goldman said he didn’t invite the candidate, but was happy to host the event.

“He asked and we said sure come on in,” Goldman said. “I wanted to see what he had to say, what his plans were, what he was intending to do.”

Gov. Scott has been in office only eight months. Some might say that is not enough time to measure what he’s done, but not Goldman.

“One of the biggest things that really upset me and turned me against him was when he turned down the high speed rail and gave all that money back,” Goldman said slowly shaking his head in disbelief. “You know he talked jobs, jobs, jobs and then he took all those jobs away from the construction industry. There would have been so much more work, so much more money coming in from the Tampa Orlando corridor and that just really hurt us.”

It’s not that the small steel supply company thought it would get a big contract with the high-speed rail. But, the company was counting on snagging smaller side jobs according to Tampa Steel general manager Bill Curnutte.

“We’re not going to be supplying the major steel for that, but we’re going to be the ones that small businesses are going to, be the ones supplying the people that need the maintenance on the equipment,” Curnutte said. “You know its trickle down and without that large big project you don’t have that trickle down.”

Instead, it’s been the trickle of small customers that has kept the band-saw running at Tampa Steel.

“Somebody wants to come in and buy one foot of round bar, one foot of pipe, we’ll sell it to them,” Goldman said.
“There’s nothing too small,” Curnutte added. “We used to call them shade-tree welders, guys who doing it as a hobby come in here and buy stuff. They can’t do it at the big guys there’s no way they’d allow it. That’s the niche, it’s service and you deal with everyone.”

Last year at the time of Scott’s visit, the Tampa Steel and Supply had just laid off three workers – going from 14 to 11. Since then, they’ve had to let one more go.

“Previously, we never laid anybody off,” Goldman said. “We took every cost cutting measure we could, cutting inventory just to keep the doors open to stay in business.”

Tampa Steel also cut back on vehicle maintenance, eliminated worker overtime and added a few new items on its website. There’s little left that they can do to spur growth.

Gov. Scot’s policy to kick-start business growth is to cut regulations. However, that isn’t helping Tampa Steel according to Curnutte.

“There are no regulations that limit our growth,” Curnutte said. “It’s mostly just the amount of money that comes in our door. What we can sell is what limits our growth, what we can sell it for.”

For Goldman, growth would mean hiring back the four workers he’s had to lay off. And now, he doesn’t trust Gov. Scott to help with that.

“I lost all my confidence in him and I don’t see where he’s made any difference at least in the construction industry over the past year,” Goldman said.

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