NEW BRITAIN ‚Äď For Steve Obsitnik, Connecticut‚Äôs 2018 gubernatorial race is all about the state‚Äôs economy and business practices.
‚ÄúWe have 42 colleges and trade schools in Connecticut and we have 24 Fortune 1,000 companies that are still here, like the Stanley Black & Deckers,‚ÄĚ the Republican candidate for governor told reporters in New Britain on Wednesday. ‚ÄúWe have the bones, we just don‚Äôt have the right leadership. We don‚Äôt have a leader who understands what it takes for businesses to be successful.‚ÄĚ
As many candidates are doing ahead of the Aug. 14 primary, Obsitnik has been touring the state to speak to prospective voters and spread his message. On Wednesday, Obsitnik and his campaign‚Äôs RV headed to Little Poland to enjoy some of New Britain‚Äôs Polish cuisine and businesses.
Sitting in Euro Plate Polish Restaurant on Broad Street, Obsitnik talked about his plans for business in the state and how he would streamline government. On some subjects, Obsitnik differed from both his Republican and Democratic competition: the candidate is against tolls and the recently approved toll study, and thinks eliminating the income tax is unrealistic. Obsitnik said he‚Äôs identified $3.5 billion in inefficiencies in state government that could be cut.
But the candidate also agrees with many of his counterparts: Connecticut‚Äôs economy is on a downward slope and many people are struggling.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been led by political takers for 40 years,‚ÄĚ Obsitnik said. ‚ÄúThings keep getting worse ‚Äď you always lose and they always win.‚ÄĚ
Like a few of his Republican opponents for governor, Obsitnik has touted his business acumen during his campaign. After his time in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear submarine officer, Obsitnik became an entrepreneur and businessman. The candidate worked with many technology-based companies in multiple capacities ‚Äď Obsitnik was an advisor at SRI International, the company that helped develop the voice-recognition software now known as SIRI.
‚ÄúWe need innovative companies like SIRI, we need to reinforce our manufacturing base, which is in our rich history, and you have to have a governor who doesn‚Äôt put businesses in a headlock like Dan Malloy. You need a governor who‚Äôs going to hug your customers, who‚Äôs going to hug the businesses of Connecticut and understand what they need to get, as I say, the cholesterol out of the system,‚ÄĚ Obsitnik said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs too much cholesterol to start a business, we need to get rid of a lot of the regulations and make it more simple so that people can take risks and open a small business.‚ÄĚ
Obsitnik also founded Quintel Technology, a tech company that manufactures ‚Äėsmart‚Äô antennas for companies like AT&T and Verizon. When creating Quintel, Obsitnik tried bringing the business to Connecticut before having to turn elsewhere. Obsitnik said there are too many layers of bureaucracy that get in the way of running a business in the state.
‚ÄúI tried to go up to Hartford and explain what I was doing, and they really just didn‚Äôt understand what I needed,‚ÄĚ Obsitnik said of Quintel.
Eventually, Obsitnik settled his company in Rochester, New York.
‚ÄúIt was the closest I could get to here, where there were applied research universities could partner with, there were people that I could hire, a lot of them, and there were other manufacturers there that built similar products,‚ÄĚ Obsitnik said. ‚ÄúI saw firsthand what it took to make that business successful.‚ÄĚ
Creating jobs and welcoming new businesses to the state is Obsitnik‚Äôs focus, he said. The candidate has a five-step plan to create 300,000 jobs over an eight year period posted on his campaign website. Specifically, Obsitnik said industries like advanced manufacturing, finance, insurance and health care delivery can see growth if given opportunity.
‚ÄúOf everyone running, no one has the perspective I have as a local kid, son of an immigrant, a military veteran and a job maker. No one has that; no one feels what has happened to this state to the degree that I feel,‚ÄĚ Obsitnik said. ‚ÄúThe most important number isn‚Äôt the deficit, the most important number is 100 people a day move out of Connecticut, and that just tears me apart.‚ÄĚ
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.