Saying President Barack Obama was "out of ideas" and "out of excuses," GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney Tuesday hailed a partnership between suburban businesses and Harper College in Palatine as an example of moving the economy forward.
At a campaign stop at Acme Industries in Elk Grove Village, a precision parts manufacturer that has added 80 jobs in 18 months, Romney pledged that -- if elected -- he would see to it that more companies like Acme would prosper.
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Romney said the American middle class is struggling under Obama.
"If we were to re-elect him, you'd see more chronic underemployment, continuing wage decline ... and, of course, an economy on the verge of economic crisis," he said.
Acme employees appeared to appreciate what they heard.
"I like what he's saying," said Acme machine operator Jose Montoya. "He seems committed to doing what he outlined today."
Acme was selected by the Romney campaign team just last Friday, Vice President for Marketing and Sales Bob Clifford said.
"We came up on the radar screen when their advance team was taking a look at businesses (in the area)," said Clifford, of Lake Bluff.
Clifford said the company was visited by the Romney campaign Friday afternoon and again on Saturday, so the Secret Service could "check things out."
Clifford described the company, which has two Elk Grove locations, as a "good local success story."
"We've been very fortunate," Clifford said. "We've worked hard to try to diversify our business, to work under as many markets as possible."
Throughout his 10:30 a.m. stop, Romney used the Elk Grove Village business to strategically strike at Obama on his home turf on issues of small business and the economy.
Frequently during his speech, Romney referenced Harper College in Palatine, which has teamed up with Acme and other local manufacturing partners that have agreed to provide future students with paid industry internships.
He promised an end to a culture of dependency, vowing to "put the work back in welfare."
Acme CEO Warren Young described the former Massachusetts governor as "someone who has a successful track record as a capitalist."
But the event also had some lighter moments, as Romney joked with the crowd about Acme -- whose fictional namesake is a popular fixture in "Looney Tunes" cartoons -- selling products to road runners and coyotes.
Following the Acme event, Romney departed for two private Chicago fundraisers -- a manufacturers round-table at Harry Caray's restaurant and a reception at Maggiano's. Tickets for those events ranged from $5,000 to $75,000. At Harry Caray's, Romney, according to reports, asked Caray's widow, Dutchie, how Cubs President Theo Epstein -- a recruit from the Boston Red Sox -- was working out.
The Chicago area has increasingly become a fundraising town for GOP candidates because of its business stature and its large number of wealthy residents who have Republican ties. So far this election cycle, Romney has brought in almost $5 million from the state -- close on the heels of 2008 GOP presidential contender John McCain's $6 million Illinois total. Both, however, are a far cry from the $27 million Obama has raised in this cycle.
For the Elk Grove stop, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford -- also chair of Romney's Illinois campaign -- provided tickets to interested attendees via his website. Others were able to obtain tickets with the help of Acme.
Some Acme employees learned of the visit just by happenstance during their shifts.
"It started as rumors, and yesterday my supervisor told me he'd be here," Montoya said.
Following Romney's speech, Montoya flashed his iPhone, noting he had "a little piece of history" for his 2-year-old son.