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NC Business Owners Upset Over Obama Comment “You Didn’t Build That”

Photo: Telegram.

By Lois Alley, The Raleigh Telegram

RALEIGH – Many business owners across the nation are upset over recent comments made by President Barack Obama that if they had started a business, “they didn’t build that.”

At a speech in Roanoke, Virginia this week, the President told supporters that they didn’t get to where they are today without help from the government.

“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” he said. “You didn’t get there on your own.”

“Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive,” he added. “Somebody invested in roads and bridges.”

The last part of his speech has raised quite a few eyebrows among people who have owned their own business, particularly in an economic time when it’s hard to make ends meet and people are working longer hours just to keep their doors open.

“If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that,” he said.  “Somebody else made that happen.”

Although the comments were not widely reported in traditional media, they have been thoroughly discussed in online media and on more conservative channels such as radio talk shows, quite a bit. 

Radio host Jason Lewis commented in a recent broadcast that the topic kept resurfacing among his listeners and was discussed several times on his radio show throughout the week.  He said he felt the message sent by the administration is clear. 

“They like business so long as you depend on the government,” he said.  “But they don’t like you doing things on your own.”

Lewis commented that starting up your own business is “the epitome of risk” and that there is no safety net for those who bet everything on launching their own business.  He also added that business owners pay taxes, which pays for the government infrastructure and questioned why taxpayers should be made to feel like they owe the government that they helped pay for in the first place.

Republicans in the state have been quick to point out the comments by President Obama.  In a press conference in Raleigh, several party political figures commented on his statements.

“I think it reflects both an insult to every small business owner, but also an ignorance on the part of our President,” said Kieran Shanahan, a private attorney in Raleigh and a former US attorney who has been a GOP party leader.  “It reflects how unqualified he is to lead us to an economic recovery.”

In North Carolina, some business owners have found the comments by the President to underestimate what it takes to start a business.

One business owner in Raleigh on Glenwood Avenue who wished to remain anonymous for fear of angering Raleigh officials has told the Telegram that in fact he felt the opposite of what President Obama said is true — he has been able to succeed despite interference from the government.

As an example, the businessman quoted an incident where he was expanding his operations to a new building and was told by two City of Raleigh officials two conflicting statements regarding the fire sprinkler system requirements in his new building.  The resulting confusion cost him thousands of dollars, he said. 

“We try to work with the city to abide by the law, but if they don’t even know what the law is, how can we know?” he asked.

He commented that it’s obvious the President has never had to run his own business and had to deal with “city hall.”

Other business owners took a more public approach to protest President Obama’s comments.

Snoopy’s Hot Dogs, a local hot dog and burger chain, has put up a sign on its location on Wake Forest Road with a message for the President: “Mr. Obama, I did create this business. — Steve Webb.”

Steve Webb started the business and posted the sign to protest the statements, which have been repeated over the world after someone sent  out a photo through Twitter on the Internet.

During a recent visit to that location, some hot dog customers didn’t seem to know what the quote was about as they had not heard the President’s comments to business owners.  Others knew about the sign and comments and had even made a special trip there to support Snoopy’s.

“I came all the way over here just to buy a hot dog and show my support,” said one Raleigh man who would only identify himself as a local business owner.  “I didn’t have nobody help me with my business and I thought his [President Obama's] comments were ridiculous.”

At the press conference organized by the North Carolina GOP, some other business owners made their displeasure with the “you didn’t build tht” comment well known.

“When we started our business, we did not hang a sign up and wait for the business to come to us,” said Harold Hoffmeier,” founder of All About Garage Doors.  “The Obama administration has not helped our business in any shape or form.”

His wife echoed those thoughts and said that she was currently doing the work of two people because she was concerned about the economy and didn’t want to hire anyone until things get better.

“We really do need to hire two people…but I’m afraid to and so, I’ll do two people’s job until the election,” said Susan Hoffmeier.


“We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently…We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more …

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president – because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.” ::

Article Posted: Friday, July 20th, 2012.

16 Responses to NC Business Owners Upset Over Obama Comment “You Didn’t Build That”

  1. Hawt Dawg

    July 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    But did you build the building, pave the parking area, install the power and water, maintain the street out front, hire the police and fire to protect, etc.???

  2. Business Owner

    July 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Hawt Dawg: I don’t remember police officers, fire fighters, road pavers, or bureaucrats there helping me when I was working until 3am out in the show night after night at my business and had to go back at work at 6am. I do remember filing my taxes to help pay their salaries though.

    He is essentially telling me that I need to kiss the butt of government and thank them for my ability to work 80 hours a week to generate jobs and an income for my family? Don’t p*** down my back and tell me it’s raining.

    I made the mistake of voting for him the first time. I won’t make that same mistake again.

  3. Kev03

    July 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Time and again, people take parts of a story and find ways to be offended by it instead of listening to the whole message. Very simply put, Obama’s point of reason was to say business owners needed the help of other people such as family, friends, loan officers, real estate agents, etc to help develop there business. He did not imply business owners didn’t run their businesses on their own, but to start it and for it to become successful, you had to rely on many different people. Marketing, management, paying taxes to keep the building.

    Instead of taking one statement in its literal sense, review the whole message. This country was not founded or became the richest by one or two individuals. It took millions to advance to where we are. And those same small business owners will also be looking for government to give them subsidies and write-offs to help pay their employees, provide insurance, etc. People love to be mad about nothing!

  4. Hawt Dawg

    July 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I know you don’t remember them, b/c they did their jobs before you even got there. The point is that you may have built your own business, but there are a lot of other things/people/services out there that made the building of it possible. Some of those were paid for with EVERYONE’s tax dollars (including mine). Nothing exists in a vacuum, including your restaurant.

  5. Cuz

    July 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    I guess you could also say that the US government needs to thank France every day for everything that they are able to do, because France helped us gain independence from the British.

    If you go back far enough, you could probably also say that France needs to thank the Romans for many of their institutions and ideas.

    And of course, the Romans got many of their ideas from the Greeks, who helped invent democracy and other important concepts.

    And technically, the Greeks would not have been able to prosper without being able to successfully get fish from the Mediterranean Sea to feed their families.

    So, really, when we get right down to it, business owners need to be thanking the fish in the Mediterranean Sea, right?

    I guess my point is that everything is inter-related so you could come up with a construct saying that everything we do is somehow dependent on perch in the Meditteranean Sea or something ridiculous like that.

    But for a politician who receives his pay from hard working people to say that I need to give the government credit for my idea to start a business, the loans that I took out at the bank, the long nights working late, and the suffering and toll it took on my family is a complete and utter insult to me.

    Only an idiot speechwriter who’s never run a business before would give that speech to the President and then wonder why people don’t take offense to it.

  6. Apalled

    July 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    You astonish me, Business Owner. Of course hard work is inevitable. For anyone who succeeds. If you really think Obama believes that you’re not someone who built your own business by working long hours, then you are as dumb as this post makes you sound (granted, Obama sounded rather dumb himself for not phrasing things the way he would have preferred, but being a smart person you should know what he means). You obviously have been listening to too much Rush Limbaugh or whatever right wing idiot pontificates in your market. I too am a business owner, and I created my business. That being said, I did not do it alone, except for the part in which I profit and call my own.
    You probably have a food supply company, that brings the food you sell on roads you did not build, not to mention the customers you serve to who get to your business via those same roads (although you did help to pay for it). A FB page (that uses the internet) you use to promote your business (believe it or not, you did very little to build that). This kind of list goes on and on. It is governments place to do these kinds of things that in turn help people like us succeed.
    30+ years of CONservative economics from both Democrats and Republicans have failed our country. If you really think that Romney’s plan will work (more Bush era economics) then go ahead and vote for him. If you think Obama’s economic plan should finally be given a chance (hmm, over 20 jobs bills have been held up by Republicans in the last 4 years- many are tax cuts for small businesses) then give him the support he needs, both in terms of reelection and a congress and senate that is filibuster proof. I hear someone who voted for Obama and then did nothing to help him fight a powerfully entrenched political machine, and now wonders why he had so much trouble. It takes more than just a vote, it takes real support and fighting the fight once your man or the other gets into office.

    Good day to you!

  7. Another business owner

    July 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    These remarks are deeply offensive to those of us who have risked everything to create businesses. Yes, the government provides a common infrastructure. But it offers that to all of us – whether we create businesses or not. Obama minimizes the hard work and utter leap of faith required to start a business. He suggests that our success is ultimately due to the government, thus justifying his efforts to take more of what we earn. I believe these comments represent a fundamental lack of understanding on his part of the enormous role small businesses play in creating employment. Small business is the backbone of the US economy. I’ve created four, two of them publicly traded with one employing over a thousand people. I don’t expect Obama to thank me. I’m fine contributing whatever portion of my income will go to paying for bridges and highways, policemen and teachers. However, I see a rapidly increasing number of able-bodied people going on “disability” and others looking for two years’ of unemployment. Where do those funds come from? From businesses like mine, of course. Tax me to death for elderly widows and blind people, but I’m sick and tired of the entitlement mentality nurtured by Obama and his ilk.

  8. Business Owner

    July 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Well “Appalled,” I am not a Rush Limbaugh guy so be careful what you label people before you know them. I guess you didn’t hear me before, so you should know that

    +I voted for President Obama in 2008
    +I even attended his inauguration
    +I am still offended by his comments and won’t be voting for him again

    He had a Democratically controlled Congress for half of his office, so your argument that Congress is to blame is incorrect. Yes, I vote for Democrats and I believe they’re also part of the problem by running up huge debts that somebody has to pay for at some point. Republicans increased our debt through two different wars overseas. We can’t afford all of this on the backs of the American people. Why doesn’t anyone in Washington get that?

    The President has had four years to do something about the economy and it still is in the crapper. If he was running a business, then it would be out of business by now. I could give a crap less if he did this or did that. He didn’t fix it and that’s the bottom line. People are scared of losing their jobs, if they even have one.

    I think we can agree on one thing that you mentioned in your comment. It was really dumb of the president to say what he said, just like when he said the “private sector is doing fine.” Does anyone in this administration vet this stuff before he says it?

    At what point do you hold him accountable for his actions? Quit blaming voters for “not doing enough” to support him. You want me to thank the government and hold me responsible at the same time when it fails. I refuse.

  9. Kev03

    July 20, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    @ Business Owner. I think the parts you call on to say Obama “didn’t fix”, you should also consider what could have been had he not have taken the actions that he did. The country was headed towards probably the biggest Great Depression of any US era. The President had to take action to prevent our banks from crashing, the auto industry from crashing, healthcare from crashing, all of millions of people’s retirement funds from being completely swiped. No, the economy is not where we want it to be, but you also have had a group of people who have been on a sabotage mission well before he took office. Republicans have gone as far to literally state their goal was to get Obama out in his first term. They’ve refused to compromise with the Democratic party and it shows it the actions they’ve made…all the way up to a ridiculous contempt charge on Holder. If they couldn’t remove Obama by impeachment, then remove his people in power?

    We have people in this country who care the least about the economy and the people. They are deliberately choosing not to create jobs but you see, slowly but surely, an economy on the brink of disaster, recovering. Compare our country to the rest of the world. We are par for the course with what they are doing as well.

    I think we all know, that one statement didn’t deter you from no longer voting for Obama in 2012, but Romney is offering nothing more than the same rhetoric of the past. That rhetoric that created this. Obama didn’t create these problems. They were presented to him the moment he stepped in office. Bush, on the other hand, dealt with the WTC attack mainly. He didn’t address or establish a way to continue to build on jobs. Not necessarily his fault as no one saw the financial crises coming. But, like any catastrophe, you have to make decisions that people don’t like. It could’ve been a whole lot worse. Remember McCain wanted to stay on the same initiative as Bush. More war. We no longer have that same financial burden. We now have to get people jobs that they lost because of something that happened before Obama…and I think he’s doing everything in his power to make that happen…despite the blatant disrepect and disregard from the Republican party. Yet, you haven’t said your small business went bankrupt or closed because of Obama.

  10. WorkingAmerican

    July 22, 2012 at 12:33 am

    A business owner that gets help from other people is an employer of those services. You either do it yourself or pay someone else. That’s the work – labor or $$ – it’s not for free. The moron in the WH never did a damn thing himself. He’s the perfect example of affirmative action run amok. Why isn’t he declaring that HE has too much money & giving it all away? He’s the biggest fraud – he’s been reared in foreign countries, he CAN’T get top secret clearance due to his affiliations & history & the morons in this country voted him in. We are turning this country is a welfare country. Anyone that defends him is usually looking for some handout or just proud of his background. He NEVER had a real job. All those that didn’t vote for him would gladly live amongst ourselves & give you the other half of the country. You know damn well that you wouldn’t want to live there with the blood-sucking leeches.

  11. Rick Kloete

    July 22, 2012 at 10:27 am

    The President’s “off script” & now infamous words…”If you built a business,..that…you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen”…. would be similar to me saying to a college graduate that “You didn’t earn that diploma! Your professors, and parents, and the government who built the institution made that happen.”

    How ridiculous. All of the above created the “environment” for my education and the earning of the diploma, but the “STUDENT” made it happen by attending class, studying and taking the test, not to mention paying the tuition.

    Anyone who agrees with what the President said, should go back and read Democratic President John F. Kennedy’s speech again, where he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country”!!!

    I know what….take a risk, maybe a loan, start a business, hire people, create jobs, pay your taxes, and that way we can all enjoy the fire & police protection, schools & education, and bridges & infrastructure, & national defense that we all need to live in peace. That’s what you can do for your country.

    Imagine if we all did this? I know this, we wouldn’t have a record $15 Trillion dollar deficit if we all did.

  12. Kathy

    July 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    The man needs to take the comment down because Romney misquoted Obama and twisted what he said to fit GOP agenda to smear Obama no matter what. Obama said that someone who starts a business did not do it alone because he or she had help…from teachers that taught them, their parents that made them achieve, banks who loaned them money, those who supported them and not to mention countless city officials and city services that helped them. No one starts a business alone…with no help…That is what Obama said…he did not say no one can achieve starting a business Wow what idiots Romney and his fellow GOP-ers are.

  13. dml219

    July 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Here’s the deal, those roads and infrastructure would be there whether someone “utilized” them or not to build their own business. But the small business or medium business owner went way beyond to invest their time and money to build their business, grow it, and employ people who have added to the tax base. Many businesses aren’t even brick and mortar, many are internet based, with the infrastructure paid for by businesses. By the way, the streets and infrastructure was built by taxpayers, many of whom are the small business owners. So Obama’s comments truly reflect a person who has never worked to accomplish anything in his life. He is the one who has relied on everyone else to get where he is and not on personal accomplishments. Until he actually puts in 100 hour weeks, sacrifices everything to build something, he will never understand the free market or opportunities this country has to offer. Very scary that he is our president.

  14. Cathy M Casper

    July 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I have made a list of all your websites and businesses. I will never give you an inch of business because you are all obviously so stupid you do do deserve to exist as a business. Snoopy’s, really? You think you can do to a hot dog what I cannot do in my kitchen? A totally stupid piece of meat? means nothing in the food chain and I am suppose to support you? Really? Man, are you stupid. I have listed all of your businesses and am publicizing them. If you are so stupid that you support Romney, then, you are stupid enough to be turned out on their ears. Get a real job. Find a real way to connect to the public. You haven’t found it yet because you are too stupid to realize, it is the public who makes you successful and you have so stupidly insulted the public. Wow, how stupid. you and romoney.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Part of this comment was deleted as it contained curse words.

  15. Kathy in Indiana

    July 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I would like to remind Mr.Business Owner two things. Obama’s words were taken out of text. If you had listened to the whole speech, and not how FOX is spewing it, you would realize that what he said doesn’t jel with what you posted. Second , Obama’s Democratic control is a myth. Al Franken wasn’t seated for several months and Kennedy was off the floor dying….again, another misinformation being fed to you by FOX. If you want to get mad, tell FOX to stop lying and report the correct information. Either that, or tell them to take the News out of their logo. By the way, you’re anger is now on the web and twitter along with links to your fb page, your web site and your phone number. Good luck with your sign and your hate.

  16. jlp75

    July 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Well remember this Steve, while you are free to express your opinions, we are free to not buy your hot dogs if we do not agree with them. As a business owner you should want to appeal to all customers not just ones you agree with. Taking the President’s words out of context and perpetuating this misguided attack are in poor taste and disrespectful. No one is doubting that you worked hard to build your business, however other factors also contributed to your success. You can consider me a once happy customer who will never again frequent your establishment. Perhaps in the future you will think twice about the messages your business displays and use your advertising space to promote your business, not use it as a vehicle for petty political attacks. A question for you to ponder since you built the business “all by yourself”. Without customers how successful will your business be? You can take the next hot dog I was going to buy and stick where the sun don’t shine. Hopefully for you more people don’t agree with me.