Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman returned to the state for the first time since announcing his candidacy Wednesday, touring a scientific testing facility hoping to highlight economic growth in Utah despite the recession.
“I’m convinced that there’s capital in the marketplace,” Huntsman said. “I am convinced there are innovations and new ideas and technologies.”
Nelson Laboratories was selected as a stop for the Huntsman campaign because of its relationship with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Despite the recession, the company has seen a steady increase in annual sales.
“What we lack in the marketplace is any sense of confidence, any sense of predictability,” Huntsman said, adding the marketplace needs someone who can “restore hope.”
Huntsman and his wife toured the facility, where test services are provided for medical device, pharmaceutical and tissue companies. The company boasts more than 4,000 clients in 56 countries.
“Despite the economy, there are ways to grow,” said John Bolinder, Nelson Laboratories CFO. “We’re continuing to thrive, even in this economy.”
Following the tour, Huntsman shook hands with Nelson Laboratory employees, many with campaign signs to support the former governor.
“He was our governor,” said Brent Torgensen, 64, from Murray. “He did a great job as a governor, and he has our values.”
Huntsman’s visit to Utah also included a private finance luncheon and speaking at a real estate conference in Park City.
Huntsman faces a number of obstacles as he continues his recently launched campaign. A recent Gallup poll finds he is recognized by only 34 percent of Republicans, an increase since his formal announcement, but his positive intensity score which tracks a candidates likability, has actually gone down.
Still, Huntsman did not seem concerned. The former governor answered questions about his “three-state strategy” to win the Republican primary, where he will focus on campaigning in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. He noted that New Hampshire likes “margin of error candidates” and said the key to winning Florida is winning over the 1-4 corridor, a stretch of the state between Tampa and Daytona where voters often vote less along party lines than other regions of the state. Huntsman, whose campaign is headquartered in Orlando, added that candidates who can win Florida can win the general election.