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Posted: February 01, 2012

Former HP chief took on Senate campaign in California

Carly Fiorina to deliver keynote address at ACG-Denver conference in March

Mike Cote

 

Carly Fiorina didn't wait too long to work on her second act. After leaving Hewlett-Packard in 2005, the first woman to run a Fortune 20 company took on another big challenge: running for U.S. Senate. While campaigning in 2010, the Republican challenger to incumbent Democrat and ultimate victor Barbara Boxer faced personal hardship but continued her political fight.

Fiorina will deliver the keynote address at ACG-Denver's Rocky Mountain Corporate Growth Conference, capping the March 13-14 gathering at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center. In an exclusive interview with ColoradoBiz, she talked about her personal struggles on the campaign trail and her recipe for restoring the economy.

I loved running for office. I loved it because it's challenging, and I like a challenge. You meet so many fantastic people that you wouldn't have had a chance to meet. I think it matters hugely that we bring new people into the political process. I think it matters hugely that we have people who understand how the economy actually works making decisions about things that will impact the economy. Would I do it again? Sure, given the right opportunity.

Losing a child is a tragedy you never get over. You learn to live with it. It makes you very grateful for the gift of life for yourself and for others. Cancer was a very, very tough passage. It's tough physically, emotionally and spiritually, as any cancer survivor will tell you. But I've come to know in my life that all tough passages have blessings. They truly do. The blessings of cancer were many. My family is stronger. My faith is stronger. You have an intimate bond with other people who have gone through or who are going through cancer. And many of those are incredibly inspiring people.
I look back at my first day campaigning bald, and I think, wow. People thought of it as such a statement at the time. And I really didn't. I was just bald and sick of wearing a wig. You can look back on the pictures, and I can see why it was shocking to some people.

We have to do some fundamental things to restart economic growth. The single most damning statistic of our current economic situation is that there are fewer small businesses starting and more small businesses failing. That's a big problem because small business is really the engine of growth in our economy. And they create most of the jobs.

We have to reform the tax code. It's one thing for a company like HP to spend tens of millions of dollars a year on accountants and lawyers to get through a 10,000-page tax code. It's another thing for a small business to do it. Tax rates are too high, competitively speaking. But beyond that it's so complicated that small businesses are just getting choked by it.

We have to go through absolutely every single regulation on the books and eliminate every single one of them that harms small businesses. And there are probably millions of them. It's one thing for a big business with big lobbying money to influence the system, to have regulations help them or not harm them. Small businesses don't have that option. Every time a regulation gets puts on the books, it creates a cost and another burden of complexity for small business. I'm not saying that some regulations aren't required. But when you're telling a small dairy farmer in California that is he going to run afoul of global warming regulations if he has more than a hundred cattle, we've gone too far.

We have to restore the entrepreneurial foundation of this nation. Starting a little business is how most people get started on the American dream. It's how most immigrants get started. It's how most women get started. They open their business in their kitchen. It's how most minorities get started. It's how I got started.
To open a small business means taking a risk. We have made it so burdensome to take risks that people simply aren't. We need to restore the culture where we say to people "Dream big; take a risk; take a chance."

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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