Ryan learns about USF, Entrepreneurship
Published: Saturday, October 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 00:10
USF saw one more person who wanted to learn Friday — vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan.
Ryan, who toured USF’s Technology incubator and met with students, faculty and small business owners from nationally-ranked Center for Entrepreneurship between a campaign rally in Naples and a Bikers for Romney ride in Daytona, did not use his two-hour visit to make plugs for Mitt Romney’s campaign or deride President Barack Obama.
Instead, he said, he wanted to learn.
“I didn’t come here to be political,” he said in a green and gold decked Gibbons Alumni Center. “ ... What I’d like to learn is what are the good ideas for helping small businesses and companies. The Center for Entrepreneurship is a perfect name for what we need in this country to get people out of a life of unemployment and on to a life of self-sufficiency and upward mobility to give people ideas and hopes and dreams.”
Ryan listened intently, vigorously nodding his head and stroking his face, as students and new entrepreneurs shared their struggles.
“I’m really diving in there and I’m learning,” Chaz Bruggemann, a senior majoring in business who has started a real estate business, said. “It’s hard. It’s like I’m Wile E. Coyote on a rocket and I’m just hoping I clear the canyons.
Ryan cracked a smile for one of the few times in the afternoon, and commended Bruggemann for her work, one of many times he was full of praise for USF.
“You’re creating job creators,” Ryan said the roundtable of students and business owners, surrounded by television cameras. “That’s fantastic. You’re getting these ideas hatched, so you stop the brain drain.”
Many alumni and current students came to hear Ryan speak, hoping to hear more about how government could help them.
Greg Ross-Munro, a USF alumnus who co-founded Teburu, a centralized hub many local restaurants use to organize online orders, said many of the issues he faces aren’t the issues addressed by the campaigns.
“I think both (campaigns) focus a lot on it, but when they say small business, they mean people with 100 employees and $10 million worth of revenue,” he said. “They’re not talking about start-ups. No one really talks about helping the real little guys.”
Audrey Buttice, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical and biomedical engineering who co-founded Superheroes Training Network, a program to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in elementary education, said she hoped to hear from the candidates how they could help people like her.
“We’re young and we’re just getting out of school and we’re starting a new business,” she said. “I feel now more than ever, we’re going to be impacted by the elections.”
After listening to stories and struggles, Ryan shared his thoughts on the No. 11-ranked Center for Entrepreneurship.
“What’s exciting about what you’re doing here is that this is the engine of opportunity here in America,” he said. “This is getting an idea, bringing it to market place, taking a risk and then seeing how to create jobs ... This spirit is really the backbone of the dynamic economy that we’ve always enjoyed in America.”
Ryan elaborated on details for economic growth in the country, citing a need for better “seed corn” investments expected to yield higher profits in the future and to raise the current rate of job growth from 1.3 percent to 4 percent.
Student Body President Brian Goff said he was impressed with Ryan’s grasp on details, something as an undecided voter, he is looking for from both campaigns.
“When George and I ran for our positions we knew what we were going to do, but we also knew how we were going to do it,” he said. “That’s what I’m really listening in for ... (Ryan’s answers are) more detailed than I’ve heard from the campaign in the past. I think that’s crucial we have that and that we’re not running on promises, but on ideas and hows.”
College of Business Dean Moez Limayem said he was pleased with Ryan’s visit, which USF was given notice of about 48 hours prior, according to media and public affairs coordinator Adam Freeman.
“This was not about the campaign or one party or the other,” Limayem said. “It was really about USF. I’m so happy the Congressman respected that. I thought it was excellent.”
Michael Fountain, director for the Center for Entrepreneurship, said he hopes government will continue to focus on the struggles of budding entrepreneurs.
“We do a lot of great research here,” he said. “The challenge is from moving it out of the labs.”
Limayem said he hopes the focus will translate into government’s interest in higher education.
“I hope the message there is, ‘Please invest in education,’” he said. “This is the best return on investment that you can ever make. Why? Because when you invest in our students, we can create the jobs and we can facilitate the jobs.”