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Chantilly, Va. -- Newt Gingrich kicked off the ProDealer Industry Summit last night with a wide-ranging talk that covered education, geopolitics, the economy and American culture. Although Gingrich is a strong believer in the strength of the U.S. economy -- “We’re still the best system in the world for attracting capital,” he said -- the former Speaker of the House criticized Washington legislators and members of the executive branch for ignoring warning signs at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, being indifferent to the declining educational standards of U.S. high schools and stunting the growth of small businesses by passing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Gingrich also shared his thoughts on the bailout bill, which the U.S. Senate was deliberating just a few miles to the East. “[It’s] pathetic and undesirable but better than having the market crash,” Gingrich said. He added that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson “ought to resign. He’s a disaster.”
Attendees of the three-day conference, sponsored by the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association (NLBMDA) and Home Channel News, asked Gingrich questions about the Georgian conflict, the Bush presidency and the emergence of China as a world power. They also posed for photos with the frequent TV political commentator.
The NLBMDA annual leadership dinner and awards dinner, also held last night, witnessed a changing of the guard as Harold Baalmaan, outgoing chairman of the NLBMDA, spoke of a tumultuous year “[where] we were forced to look inward and re-evaluate our goals and our purpose.” Incoming chairman Paul Hylbert stressed the need for LBM dealers to get involved in legislative and regulatory issues, at both the state and federal level.
“The future and success of this organization depends upon … what you do. We need you to be intensely involved so this industry has a strong voice,” Hylbert said.
The conference, held at the Westfields Marriott, continues today with a golf tournament benefiting the City of Hope and the HCN ProDealer of the Year awards dinner.