WHEELING - Newt Gingrich believes quality universities and hospitals - as well as close proximity to Pittsburgh International Airport - should allow the Ohio Valley's economy to grow over the next 20 years.
"Sooner or later, when you figure out the right marketing, the Panhandle is going to be where smart people live who don't want to waste their life finding their way through Pittsburgh," he said during his Friday speech before about 1,200 guests at Wheeling's recently-reopened Capitol Theatre.
Gingrich, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995-99, was a Republican representing Georgia's Sixth Congressional District. The Government Policy Research Center at West Liberty University sponsored Gingrich's appearance through grants provided by the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia and BB&T.
(Photos by Scott McCloskey)
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich prepares to autograph copies of his novel, “To Try Men’s Souls,” for Laura Andini, right, and Saun Capehart, center, Friday at the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling.
Citing the attributes of West Liberty and Wheeling Jesuit University, as well as those of Wheeling Hospital and Ohio Valley Medical Center, Gingrich said there is strong potential for growth in the Wheeling area.
"If you talk together about the intellectual capabilities you have in these two universities, the capabilities of all the medical staff you have in these two hospitals, the potential you have being this close to the Pittsburgh airport - you suddenly get a whole new story about quality of life, economic opportunity, raising your kids in a safe area with good people and strong values. And you might be shocked 10 years from now how many folks have decided to come here, rather than live in more expensive, more heavily populated and ultimately not as morally strong, places," he said.
"You have the potential to become very attractive and very intriguing to entrepreneurs from all over the world," Gingrich added.
In order to achieve the economic growth of which he speaks, however, Gingrich said Americans must work to reverse current political trends.
"We have become a country whose litigation, regulation and taxation is crippling us. ... We have to rethink litigation, regulation, taxation, education, health, energy and infrastructure," he said.
Gingrich urged his audience to follow five basic principles every day:
"Dream big. Think in a positive way over the next 20 or 30 years in this region," he said. "One of the things I would urge you to think about is to build, almost, a science study group that just looks around, sits on the Internet and just scans for ideas and starts looking for entrepreneurs - and tries to figure out how to take some of these old buildings and tries to turn them into entrepreneurial spaces."
In terms of working hard, the former speaker cited golf champion Tiger Woods and professional football star Brett Favre as examples of those who give their best each and every day.
"I know that Brett focuses and he practices in a disciplined way all the time in order to be in good enough shape to continue to have the longest record of consecutive starts in the history of the NFL," Gingrich said of the former Green Bay Packers and current Minnesota Vikings quarterback.
As for learning every day, Gingrich said Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey informed him of Wheeling's unique history concerning the American Revolutionary War.
"He (Fahey) was pointing out to me that Fort Henry here was the last place to have a skirmish in the American Revolutionary War because word has not gotten this far west that they had signed a peace treaty," said Gingrich.
As for his "most important governmental slogan for the next 20 years," Gingrich said Americans should remember that "two plus two equals four."
"If the government tells you 'two plus two equals five' they are lying to you," he said.
"America is about your right to dream. The dream requires you to take risk," Gingrich added.
Gingrich is chairman of the Gingrich Group, a communications and consulting firm with offices in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. He serves as general chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future, is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and is an honorary chairman of the NanoBusiness Alliance. He is also a news and political analyst for the Fox News Channel.
In 1995, Time magazine selected Gingrich as its "Man of the Year."