GOP’s ‘We Built It’ Speaker Didn’t Build It

Cheryl Valenzuala is a scheduled speaker at the Republican National Convention. She’s also the proud owner of a business that started in her garage. She, and her husband Eli, started their upholstery company in order to pay for their child’s autism treatments, and it has grown into a company that makes baseball umpires’ vests and vests for the Israeli military. The company currently employs at least forty workers and brings in about 4.5 million dollars yearly in revenue.

Their story is, no doubt, an incredible and heartfelt story of human achievement. Doubtless, based on the Republican stance, they built their business completely on their own. We’ll leave out the normal tax benefits such as roads, for now. Yet, starting out in a garage, no doubt they were able to achieve greatness on their own.

Or not. As seen on National Small Business Weektheir success was made anything but on their own:

For First State Manufacturing, Inc., the dream began in 1998 with a man, a woman, and a sewing machine in yes, you guessed it, a garage in Milford, Del. Today, that dream has become First State Manufacturing (FSM), a thriving business employing more than 40 technicians working in a new 66,000 square-foot facility funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Small Business Administration 504 loan.


Eli Valenzuela learned the upholstery trade from a correspondence course he took in the Army; he applied what he learned while working at Dover Air Force Base upholstering enormous C-5 Galaxy airlifters. With help from SCORE and the Delaware Small Business Development Center, Eli and his wife Cheryl composed a business plan, and opened FSM in their garage. With an initial $20,000 SBA-guaranteed loan they secured larger contracts and also became certified in SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program.

In 2001 FSM was ready to grow again, with a $96,500 SBA-guaranteed loan to modernize and expand inventory. After the 9/11 tragedy and its economic fallout, FSM obtained a $65,800 SBA disaster loan to maintain their business and employees until revenues returned. FSM revenue doubled from 2007 to 2010, increasing from $2.2 million annual revenue to $4.5 million.

This isn’t the first time that the Republicans have flaunted a “We Built This” business owner that didn’t build it, as Huffington Post reports:

This is not the first time that an entrepreneur tapped by the Romney campaign to espouse its “We Built It” message turned out to have relied on the government for help with their business.

Dennis Sollmann, the owner of Sollmann Electric Company, who appeared in a Romney web ad criticizing the president for his “you didn’t build that” line, did millions of dollars worth of work for the government. In addition, Jack Gilchrist, the owner of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating, who starred in another Romney ad, received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds, as well as sub-contracts in 2008 from the U.S. Navy.

Eliseo and Cheryl’s business was built on millions of dollars of government–public–loan money. Once again, this shows President Barack Obama’s comments on July 13 to be absolutely correct, even when disrespectfully taken out of context and made controversial. Nobody has built their business completely on their own. Instead of using that as a partisan attack, let’s take it how it was meant by Obama: We need each other. And we need to work together.

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