By John Sweeney
Republican 7th Congressional candidate Tom Rice says government is preventing American businesses from thriving and told business people in the Pee Dee he'd work to change that.
The current chairman of the Horry County Council and GOP nominee for the newly created congressional district toured the Pee Dee on Monday, including a stop at Nucor Bar Mill Group where he went on a tour of the companies Darlington facilities and discussed what concerns face management there.
Rice learned about the steel making process up close and stopped to speak with employees amid the sparks, flame and ash of the plant.
Vice President and general manager K. Rex Query concurred with Rice's economic message, telling the candidate that over burdening regulations from at federal level have prevented Nucor from achieving the economic growth they would like.
"It's not about creating an environment conducive with creating success," Query said of current government policy. "We've got to create an environment that is conducive for jobs to be created."
While Query and others said the company has lagged in production, Nucor has made progress over the past several years. Management said the Darlington location has not laid off a single employee since the 2008 financial crisis and announced in February the expanding of its bar steel manufacturing operations.
But executives said they are experiencing a growing problem with trade regulations, specifically in regards to their Chinese competitors.
Members of the Darlington management team said China continues to manipulate it currency, making Chinese products appear cheaper than American made, giving the Asian power an unfair advantage in the global market place.
Query, and others, told Rice such practices were violations of international free trade agreements but that the federal government seems unwilling to act, resulting in economic hardship for companies like Nucor.
"We're ceding our (economic) place in the world," Query said.
That's a comment Rice said he's hearing from businessmen and women across the newly formed Congressional district.
"It's gotten insane, to the point where we force people to move their jobs overseas. We force them and then we're surprised when they do. We run the cost up so high in terms of regulations and taxes that they have to go overseas and then we complain that they've outsourced. It's insane," Rice said.
Monday's visit to Nucor wasn't just about promoting the local GOP campaign, but also that of presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Rice told one group of Nucor workers at the end of the tour to "think Rice and Romney" come November, saying President Barack Obama and many members of Congress have failed to lead on the important issues of the day.
"I think we suffer from a huge lack of leadership," Rice said. "When you see people arguing over whether or not we should have a nationwide tax cut for three months versus one year, you know things have gotten kind of out of hand."
Query joked with Rice after the congressional hopeful spoke with a small group in the company's break room, saying while he was saying all the right things the company would hold Rice to his word if he makes it to Washington, D.C.
"You're a part of the team now," Query said. "We won't lay you off if you help the team."
Rice also made stops in Florence on Monday at the Florence Rotary Club and for a meet and greet in Lamar.