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Ryan's Hometown And The Route Back To Prosperity

Stocks in this article: GM WHR

"It wasn't for lack of effort," said state Sen. Tim Cullen, a Janesville Democrat who praised Ryan's quiet efforts. "Paul was doing all this work and he told me about it, but he never put a press release out about it."

With the presidential campaign entering its final three months, neither Romney nor Obama will be that subtle as they hammer away at the issue of jobs. Obama has twice visited Newton, Iowa, since taking office; the city of 16,000 was devastated by the closure of a Whirlpool Corp. plant that employed 4,000. Romney has often focused on North Carolina, where cuts at the state's furniture manufacturers are among the 500,000 jobs lost there during the recession.

Janesville is making the same slow recovery that's typical elsewhere. City manager Eric Levitt said the city has added 1,000 jobs in the past 18 months, usually 50-to-100 at a time at existing employers. To foster that comeback, the city hasn't picked the Republican or the Democratic approach, but is using elements of both.

From the GOP: Streamlined permitting and tax cuts have aided in recruitment of new companies, including a medical technology company attracted by a tax break that could be worth as much as $9 million. The manufacturer of isotopes expects to open a new $24 million facility and employ 160 people in high-wage jobs by 2016.

From Democrats: Federal money for retraining assistance is filling classrooms at local vocational schools and colleges. At Blackhawk Technical College, welding programs that run from dawn until midnight six days a week are packed. That's helping address what city officials see as their biggest challenge: a mismatch between companies' expectations and the skills of those looking for work.

At the Harley-Davidson dealership, Sinks said he'd like the next president to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses and try to discourage large U.S. companies from outsourcing jobs and manufacturing overseas. But when asked what's allowed him to rebuild his staff to the 50 he employed before GM shut down, he cites a renewed focus on excellent customer service, a new loyalty program and the overall improvement, however slow, in the nation's economy.

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