Citizen-Times: McHenry talks jobs with Millennial generation

By Dale Neal

Asheville is different from most cities in his district, and indeed across most of North Carolina, said U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry.

“If you live in Asehville you’re by and large happier than people elsewhere. You chose to be here. I don’t hear the grumbling that your job transferred you here,” McHenry told a group of younger voters Wednesday.

But finding a good job here and improving the local economy worried the Millennials that engaged their congressman in conversation.

Stephanie Rerych graduated from UNC Asheville with a degree in psychology, She’s passed her stockbroker’s exam, and hopes to become a financial planner someday, but she’s waiting tables at Carrabba’s.

Evan McIntosh graduated from Appalachian State and landed a job as investment counselor at BB&T. He’d like to become an entrepreneur but worries about finding the capital. “I’ve done better than many of my friends, but there’s a struggle bridging the gab between a job out of college and a lifelong professional career.”

McHenry was elected to Congress at age 29. Now 38, with gray sprinkled in his hair and expecting his first child, the Lake Norman Republican wanted to check in with the concerns of a younger generation.

After a visit Wednesday morning to the Evergreen Charter School and a stop at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College’s Institute for Craft Beverage, the Lake Norman Republican sat down for a roundtable talk with young adults.

Digital privacy, crowd-sourced funding for rising entrepreneurs, wealth inequality came up in the free-wheeling conversation in the boardroom of McGuire, Wood and Bissette law firm in downtown Asheville.

Politics may be turning off too many younger voters with too heavy an emphasis on a handful of polarizing social issues, said Matt Hoagland, first vice chairman of the N.C. Young Republicans, who works as a recruiter for the multifamily construction industry.

“For our generation, being gay is about as interesting as being left-handed.

His generation may be more libertarian as socially moderate and fiscally conservative. “Balance the books, limit the government, and what you do in your personal life should be between you and your God,” Hoagland said.

But too often politicians play to the angry soundbites that fuel talk shows on Fox News or MSNBC, McHenry said. “That’s a deep problem in our politics.”

“I spend a lot of my time on Capital Hill, helping small business raise money. When I come to Buncombe County, it’s talking to craft brewers about getting investment for their business. I’m not in Pack Square, talking about social issues.”

McHenry pointed to his sponsorship of a bipartisan Jobs Act Bill to permit more crowd-sourced fund-raising for start-ups and entrepreneurs. That bill passed 416-6 in the House, and was signed into law by President Obama last year, but the Securities Exchange Commission still has to rewrite the regulations.

Streamlining government regulation could help more businesses succeed and help middle-class families earn more, McHenry argued.

Afterwards, McHenry said he was impressed by the range of the conversation and the concerns of the younger generation. “Twentysomethings are very independently minded, not just in politics but in their approach to life. They want to see government effective in what it does, but limited in its reach. They want to see results.”

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