PHOTOS: Rick Scott discusses Arizona immigration law in Naples

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Naples businessman Rick Scott talks with members of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce at the chamber offices Wednesday morning in Naples. Lexey Swall/Staff

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Republican gubernatorial candidate and Naples businessman Rick Scott talks with members of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce at the chamber offices Wednesday morning in Naples. Lexey Swall/Staff

Elections 2010 Page:

— Alan Lilley spent his morning at the Naples Greater Chamber of Commerce for the second week in a row.

Lilley said he had been on the fence about who to vote for in the Aug. 24 Republican gubernatorial primary, but after hearing both candidates – Attorney General Bill McCollum and Naples businessman Rick Scott – he was leaning toward Scott.

“It’s swayed me,” Lilley said, referring to a 30-minute meet-and-greet Wednesday at the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.

The appearance was one of just a few public appearances Scott has made in the Naples area, and the first-time candidate spent the majority of his time introducing himself to the standing-room-only audience.

Scott touted his business background, telling audience members that he started his career as an owner of two Kansas City, Mo., doughnut shops and eventually went on to be the founder of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain.

Columbia/HCA formerly owned two hospitals in Lee County – Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center and Gulf Coast Hospital.

But Wednesday morning wasn’t just about letting voters get to know Scott; he also touched on several issues important to his campaign, including the economy.

Scott last week released his seven-step plan to boost Florida’s economy. That plan calls for zero-based budgeting with spending limits for agencies, a reduction in government spending and regulatory reform.

The plan, Scott said, also puts a focus on job growth.

“We have to get the economy growing again,” he said.

Scott on Wednesday said it was his hope that Florida would become the “Silicon Valley of the East Coast.”

“We can be the No. 1 state for job creation,” Scott said.

Creating jobs may mean veering from the state’s traditionally tourism and agriculture-based economy, but Scott said communities need to make decisions about diversifying the economy to ensure they’ll receive a return on the investment.

Scott also said Wednesday he supported the Arizona immigration bill, which is set to go into effect Thursday. Scott said he “believes in the rule of law” and that if an illegal immigrant is stopped for a crime his or her immigration status should be checked.

“We have to control our borders,” Scott said. “(Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer) is forcing people to secure the borders.”

Scott’s business background and conservative platform are what drew Janet Howard, owner of Directors Choice LLC, to Scott. Howard said she “appreciated everything he says.”

“I think it’s very interesting,” she said.

Howard isn’t the only one who was interested in hearing Scott. More than 50 people showed up for Wednesday’s event, significantly more people than who attended a similar event last week featuring McCollum.

The large number of people supporting Scott is encouraging to Wayne Mullican, a long-time friend of the Scott family. Mullican said he was pleased with the turnout and felt confident voters would get behind him come August.

“I think he’s (coming) at a time when people are tired of big government,” Mullican said. “It’s amazing the magic he brings. He’s obviously creating a draw and giving a message that people want to hear.”

MORE DAILY NEWS COVERAGE ON RICK SCOTT

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