09/04/12 — Lieutenant governor candidate visits

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Lieutenant governor candidate visits

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 4, 2012 1:46 PM

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Dan Forest

As he travels on his third statewide tour of the year, Dan Forest, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, is campaigning in support of innovation.

But, he says, innovation is not something that government creates, it comes from allowing small businesses and local communities the room to adjust to their needs.

Forest, who was in Wayne County on Wednesday as part of his self-described economic development listening tour, stopped by the News-Argus offices after visiting Precision Plumbing on Fedelon Trail.

While there, he said, he talked with the ownership about the challenges facing small businesses. One thing he was impressed with, though, he said, was the company's commitment to innovation as it works to convert its fleet of vehicles from gasoline powered to natural gas -- something they discussed the cost-effectiveness of doing for the state's fleet of vehicles.

"That's the kind of innovation that normally comes from small businesses," Forest said. "That doesn't come from government."

But, he continued, he knows that just because something works in Wayne County doesn't mean it will work elsewhere in North Carolina -- another thing he has learned on his current swing through 67 counties leading up to the November election.

"It's different everywhere," he said. "Every county has its own unique needs."

In some, he said, people are simply focused on job creation, while in others, the focus is on agricultural issues or infrastructure.

But, he continued, one thing that remains constant is the need to improve the state's business climate through tax and regulatory reform.

The second need, he said, is to focus on education.

"Depending on what rankings you look at, we're either 41st or 27th in the nation in K-12 education, so we have some challenges on our hands," Forest said.

The way to meet those challenges, though, he said, is not through an education system so tightly controlled by state government, it's by allowing local school systems the freedom to make changes and create competition.

"And that competition is really what drives innovation," he said.

One example of that, he said, is the Highland School of Technology, a magnet school in Gaston County that focuses on technology and has a 100 percent graduation rate.

"They know what they're doing will have an impact on their future, and creating that kind of opportunity for our kids is important," Forest said. "That's real education for the 21st century.

The goal, he said, should be to tailor education to what individual students actually need and can use -- not just churning out standardized students.

"That's when I believe you'll see an explosion in our education system, and in job creation in North Carolina," Forest said. "They go hand in hand."

And that, he explained, is why he is running for lieutenant governor, who sits on the state Board of Education, the N.C. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Board and the N.C. Board of Community Colleges.

As an architect and a small businessman, he feels he has a unique set of skills to bring to lieutenant governor.

"I think we need a more business-minded approach to government. I think we need more people to come out of business and into government," he said. "(Architects) are visionaries and planners, creative problem-solvers and consensus builders. I think those are qualities that are much-needed in our government today.

"I think lieutenant governor is a great jumping-in point for somebody with a business background."

And that, he said, is the biggest -- and the key -- difference between him and his opponent, Democrat Linda Coleman.

"My opponent is a lifelong bureaucrat. I'm not saying that in a derogatory fashion, but she has spent her whole life working for the government. Is that what we want? More business as usual?"