"Job one in this country is to create jobs for the American people and I will," said Mitt Romney, who visited Carbon County Saturday morning on the second day of his "Believe In America: Every Town Counts Bus Tour."
Romney, the presumed Republican candidate for president, spoke to an overflowing crowd of more than 1,000 visitors and news media during his stop at the Weatherly Casting and Machine Company in Weatherly. The company, which also has a location in Hazleton, employs about 115 people.
"When a presidential candidate comes to your community, it's an honor," said Weatherly Mayor Tom Connors.
Prior to his speech, Romney toured the plant and talked to a number of workers with company President Mike Leib.
During his speech, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, discussed various national topics, ranging from the growth of small business, economy and the need for more jobs, comparing his visions for the country with those of President Barack Obama.
"Growing the economy is the key to a better America," Romney said.
"I know the president wants to talk about the economy a little. Last time around on his campaign, his slogan was hope and change," said Romney. "Now I'm thinking he will want to change it to 'hoping to change the subject'."
Romney, who was joined by his wife and other family members, added, "He doesn't want to talk about the economy like I want to talk about the economy. I want to get America working again. I want to create more jobs for Americans because I know if we have more good jobs and more employers starting and opening their doors and competing to hire good workers. Then eventually more homes will have paychecks coming in to them and also there will be more competition for workers and their wages will go up, and salaries will go up, and people will have more money to take home."
Suggesting that Obama may have been better equipped as president had he started on a "lower level" of government, such as a state governor, Romney said, "I think it helps to have been in business before you actually start to run something in government."
During his address Romney stated that Obama recently described the public sector as doing "fine." Romney rebutted, "Millions are out of work or looking for jobs, and millions more are "vastly underemployed."
Discussing income levels, Romney stated, "And then people look at their paychecks and realize for the last three and a half years the median income for America has dropped by 10 percent."
"We've had foreclosures across the country in record numbers. No, Mr. President, the private sector is not doing just fine."
Talking about health care, Romney added that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (unofficially called ObamaCare), is hindering businesses from growing. Romney promised to "get rid of" the health care act on his first day as president.
"I believe in what's above the ground and what's below the ground," said Romney as he criticized Obama for supporting only green energy sources, instead of coal and natural gas. "I want to use our oil, our natural gas, coal as well as our renewable resources as well.
"I not only believe the best days are ahead of us, I happen to believe that the patriotic spirit of Americans – our love of liberty, personal liberty, economic liberty, political liberty that love of liberty makes us a unique nation," said Romney. "This is about saving America, keeping it strong, making sure the world can look at us as a beacon of hope and a shining city on the hill and we're going to do it together."
Prior to Romney's entrance, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11), former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Leib talked to the crowd.
"I have a few questions for you" Pawlenty told the crowd. "Have you had enough of runaway federal government spending? Have you had enough of a president who thinks the private sector economy is doing fine? Have you had enough of a president presiding over the lowest rate of business formation in the last 30 years? Weatherly, have you had enough of Barack Obama?"
Barletta thanked Leib for holding the event and said, "It's not that often that we have the opportunity to be here and listen to the next president of the United States."
Barry and Ann Gangwer of Weatherly expressed their appreciation to Romney for paying attention to small towns, such as Weatherly, adding that his tour will provide him with a first-hand look at America.
Recalling when JFK came through Tamaqua, Ann, a Tamaqua native, said, "It was amazing that a presumed presidential candidate stopped in our little great town of Weatherly."
"Good thing that he is visiting small towns," Lou Mastrowddi, 30-year resident of Weatherly, said, adding that big cities have different types of problems than small towns. "It provides him a better feel of what people want."
State Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-122), pointed out that this was Carbon County's first top tier presidential candidate visit.
"He (Romney) is concerned about small town America and is willing to listen, not just talk," said Heffley.
"This was a good day for our town," said Brian O'Donnell of Weatherly. "Romney gave a great speech and I hope he makes big changes – especially regarding jobs and manufacturing regulations."
Don Weston, Weatherly fire chief, who personally spoke to Romney, said he told Romney, "Don't forget about us (emergency responders). Talking about the need for better benefits for volunteers."
Weston added that Pennsylvania has the highest amount of volunteer emergency responders"
During and after the visit, about a dozen protestors could be seen outside the Weatherly Casting and Machine Company, holding pro-Obama signs.
Not taking either side and recalling Weatherly's rich industrial heritage, Weatherly resident Jim Lakata, simply stated, "We need more jobs."
Following the Weatherly visit, the tour made stops in Quakertown in Bucks County; and Cornwall in Lebanon County.
Romney's six-state bus tour began Friday in New Hampshire and will end tomorrow in Michigan.