Thursday, May 1, 2003

Chandler champions home-grown businesses

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

DUNNVILLE - Ben Chandler Wednesday toured a big business in a small place - the third-generation family-owned Tarter Gate Co. in southern Casey County - and said it was "the sort of business this state ought to be celebrating."

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate said the state's economic development strategy should be more attuned to homegrown entrepreneurs.

"I don't think we spend enough time promoting companies just like this," Chandler said in an interview. "They're not going to leave. The only jobs I think you can ultimately count on are jobs you produce at home."

Tarter Gate, founded in 1945 as a sawmill making wood farm gates, now has 600 employees turning out steel gates and more than 300 other farm products. It has a "tube mill" that turns flat ribbons of steel into welded tubes and a major paint plant - both of which are undergoing multimillion-dollar expansions.

The company is frequently a stop for political candidates. A Republican gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher, visited Monday.

Don Tarter, one of the current owners, complained to Chandler about tax breaks and other inducements given to entice out-of-state companies that don't stay long.

Chandler said he sympathized. "The state needs to be keying on companies that are likely to stay here," he said. "This state is spending a whole lot of incentives, a whole lot of money to bring people in here."

Elsewhere in the campaign:

• Democrat Bruce Lunsford, who has been swapping attacks on television with Chandler, took his rolling campaign office - the "Fed Up Express" - into Anderson County.

• Democrat Jody Richards was on morning radio in Morehead, then went to Greenup to campaign at a senior citizens' center.

• Republican Rebecca Jackson campaigned in Lexington and met with the Lexington Herald-Leader editorial board.

• On Tuesday, a judge in Frankfort ruled that absentee ballots cast for Fletcher and his former running mate, Hunter Bates, will count for Fletcher and new running mate Steve Pence.

Franklin County Circuit Judge William L. Graham said in a brief hearing that the law bears "a strong presumption" that people should not be disenfranchised, "particularly people who have gone to the trouble of casting their votes."

Secretary of State John Y. Brown III, the state's top election official, asked Graham for a ruling. Fletcher had to find a new running mate after Bates was declared ineligible.

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