DENVER — Polls show the U.S. presidential race is very close in the swing state of Colorado, a western state that has more than doubled in population in the past 40 years, with the expansion of energy, transportation and high-tech industries, as well as Rocky Mountain tourism.
But Colorado's economy is now struggling and the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent, making the economy the central issue in this year's election. As do many other voters in Colorado, business owners differ as to which candidate offers the best plan for recovery.
At Codi Manufacturing's plant in Golden, Colorado, 23 workers make equipment parts.
Owner and manager Jared Jones says he would like to hire more people, but his costs keep going up.
"Every time we hear about a new regulation or something we have to adhere to, it drives the cost of our business up," said Jones.
Codi makes conveyance systems used in food processing plants and has customers in Latin America, Africa and China. Jones says higher taxes threaten this export industry.
"There is no motivation for an individual to take the risk, to lay all their assets on the line to make additional money and then just have the government come and take it away from them," he said.
He believes the president's health care reform law will drive up costs for his business. "The health care system does need a reform, but forcing a government-issued health care and having us pay for it is definitely not the solution we need," said Jones.
Jones favors the Republican Party and believes candidate Mitt Romney would restart America's economic engine.
But owners of smaller businesses, like Maria Empanada in Lakewood, often take a different view.
This bakery is owned and operated by Lorena Cantarovici, an immigrant from Argentina, who favors President Obama partly for sentimental reasons.
"Under his presidency I became a citizen and I was able to open the doors of my business," said Cantarovici.
She says she got help from the Small Business Administration and other government programs.
"I am able to create jobs and work to expand my company, buying machinery, buying equipment," she said.
Cantarovici says Democratic plans to raise taxes are fine with her, as long as they target those already making a lot of money.
She says higher taxes for her small, but growing business would be harmful. "Increasing taxes will be hard on me, it will hurt me a lot, and that means I would have to cut other things, probably I would have to cut an employee," she said.
A recent University of Colorado study showed some increase in business confidence statewide, but also concern among business leaders that divisions created by election year politics could be harmful.
To spur economic growth, whoever wins the November election will have to inspire confidence in owners of both large and small businesses to expand operations and create more jobs.