Growing Florida's Economy
Last week I had the privilege of traveling our great state, driving hundreds of miles and meeting with people from Orlando, Tampa, Sarasota, Naples, West Palm Beach, and Miami. We talked about the economy, what can be done to protect Florida's jobs, and ways we can create new opportunities for those looking for a new or better job.
For Florida to compete in the global market, we need to be on the forefront in creating new, knowledge based jobs. The key to attracting these jobs is good infrastructure, low taxes, a first class college and university system, and fair and predictable regulation. With that job creating environment, we can continue to target and attract technology jobs, which are high paying and often times grow and attract new ventures.
Last week I visited the Haynes Corporation Manufacturing Facility in Naples, Florida. I was joined by high-tech industry leaders, as well as Collier County Economic Development Council members to discuss tech-sector growth in Florida. I also visited WellDyne's Lakeland facility, which opened an office in September of 2008 and will bring close to 700 high-tech jobs to Polk County by early 2011. WellDyne uses advanced robotic technologies to fill over 35 million prescriptions each year by mail order. These companies are great examples of businesses that have successfully used new technology and helped to diversify Florida's economy.
Increasing export opportunities for small businesses in Florida is another way we can promote economic growth. I visited Chip Supply Inc, a semiconductor die and specialized packaging company in Orlando. Chip Supply, a small business with fewer than 200 employees, is a world leader in computer chip distribution and is a great example of how exports can benefit and grow a business. The entrepreneurial spirit of this company has created jobs, opportunities, and a better way of life in our communities.
Government should do all it can to encourage and promote this kind of economic activity. That is why I introduced the Export Promotion Act, which would provide small businesses with the knowledge and resources necessary to find new international customers.
Forums on National Debt
I believe Washington spending is out of control and the size of our debt proves it. I had the chance to hear from constituents regarding their concern with our nation's increasing debt during town-hall meetings in Orlando and Tampa. During these open forums, we discussed possible solutions to America's long term budget challenges. I was joined by budget experts from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Concord Coalition to discuss the magnitude and range of realistic solutions for our nation's debt problem.
We have a responsibility to the American people to rein in spending and ensure that every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely, not wastefully. Now is the time to make the difficult decisions, not somewhere down the road after we've passed along the burden to our children.
Promoting Democracy in Latin America
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with a number of Colombian and Venezuelan community leaders in the Miami area. I was honored to be joined by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami). We discussed our support for the ratification of a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.
We also spoke about the situation in Venezuela. I continue to be troubled by the on-going reports of Venezuela harboring narco-terrorists inside the country. Chavez's next moves will be key to tell us whether he is prepared to reverse course, stop harassment of his democratically-governed neighbors, and move toward democracy. Unity between community members here sends a clear message to Venezuelans that Chavez's behavior is unacceptable and that the Venezuelan people want strong ties with Colombia. I think it's long past due for the OAS members to take appropriate and decisive action to enforce the Democratic Charter on Venezuela. In addition, I am disappointed with the State Department's failure to fully address Venezuela's support for terrorist activities despite the growing evidence. In the Department's annual report on terrorism, Venezuela kept their status as "not fully cooperating" with U.S. antiterrorism efforts. There is mounting evidence to justify placing Venezuela on the state sponsor of terror list.
During my time in Miami, I also had the privilege to sit down with Ariel Sigler Amaya, a former political prisoner held in Cuba by the Castro regime. Mr. Amaya was arrested as a dissident in 2003. His only crime was speaking out against the Cuban regime. Due to deplorable conditions in prison, his health deteriorated. He was recently released from prison and is being treated at Jackson's Rehabilitation Hospital in Miami.
The years Ariel Sigler Amaya lost while in Castro's prison cannot be recovered. Sadly, his story of suffering inhumane treatment and conditions at the hands of the Castro regime is all too familiar. This should serve as further evidence that the U.S. should not make any more concessions to the Castro regime without its demonstrable commitment to respect internationally recognized human rights. Ariel's experience serves as testament to the heroism of the Cuban community and their fight for freedom and democracy on the island.
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General Mattis Assumes Command of CENTCOM
The U.S. Senate recently confirmed Marine Gen. James Mattis to be the next commander of Central Command. He officially began serving in this capacity this past Wednesday.
I believe General Mattis is well qualified for this command and CENTCOM will be well served by his leadership. Mattis has had a distinguished career as a marine officer and has been widely praised for his role as joint forces commander. He will work well with General Petraeus and is a wise choice to succeed him as CENTCOM commander. I was pleased to welcome him to Florida at a reception where he assumed his command.
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