Among his remarks to the conservative business group, the powerful four-term Republican member of the House Financial Services Committee blamed new federal regulations for the sluggish economy, particularly those related to the Dodd–Frank "Wall Street Reform Act" passed by congress last year and President Barack Obama's health care reform plan.
McHenry criticized both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, for spending that he said was excessive.
To get the economy back on track, he said he favored: tax breaks, a simplification of the tax code, regulatory reform and improvements to education, such as focusing classrooms on practical training.
"We should be making sure education systems and training systems are the best in the world," he said, without offering many details on how he proposes to do that. "When we talk about inequality of wages, what we're really talking about is an inequality of skills."
Making the country more competitive internationally with rising countries like China and India should be the No. 1 priority, he said.
Closer to home, he sarcastically referred to the controversy surrounding the General Assembly's decision to place much of Asheville in the 10th District, which mostly encompasses Piedmont areas that have little in common with the mountains, culturally or economically.
"The one thing Gaston County and Buncombe County have in common is that they're both in the 10th District now," he said, garnering a few laughs.
He told Xpress that it wasn't his choice. However, earlier this year Politico reported that he was North Carolina's congressional point person on the redistricting plans.
"I respect Asheville and I respect Buncombe County. It is the economic heart of Western North Carolina," he told attendees, who included Asheville City Council member Esther Manheimer and Buncombe Statehouse Rep. Tim Moffitt.
He also cited the area's "unique cultural identity," joking that including Asheville "quadrupled the number of vegetarian restaurants in my district."
"That's OK. I went and tried Laughing Seed and I was reassured, because it tasted so good that I decided it couldn't really be healthy for me," he added.
In terms of how he differs with Rep. Heath Shuler — a former professional football player who represents the 11th District that encompassed Asheville before the redistricting — he kept it lighthearted.
After picking on himself for his height (he's about 5 feet 6 inches tall), and joking that he might be hard to see behind the podium, he said: "As you can tell, Heath Shuler and I don't have one thing in common: size, or perhaps athletic prowess."
Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy recently announced that she's considering running against McHenry for congress next year.
According to the Carolina Public Press, "McHenry was the top recipient in the House of contributions from finance and credit companies, with that sector giving him $63,000 so far for the 2012 election cycle."
Here's a video of McHenry speaking at the event:
Here's audio of Rep. McHenry's entire remarks, including Q&A from attendees, broken in to three parts:
Photos of the event by Max Cooper:
Dispatches from @jakefrankel and @mvwilliams via Twitter as the event unfolded:
• Headed soon to check out the CIBO lunch, where Rep. Patrick McHenry will be speaking http: //t.co/ONHgadw3
• The Xpress crew just met Rep. Patrick McHenry at the cIBO lunch #avlgov
• McHenry said he reads Xpress, immediately apologized to us for having to cover him, said "I didn't pick the new district."
• It's a who's who of media + politicos here eating a lunch of bbq, Moffitt, Meinheimer, WLOS, ACT. McHenry making the rounds
• This is his first public appearance in Asheville since redistricting put the city in his district (10)
• Rep McHenry is talking with CIBO members, working the room with notepad in hand at luncheon at Magnolias
• Other media at the CIBO power lunch: WLOS TV, WCQS ' David hurand, C-Times John Boyle, J North, old news hound Calvin Allen ...
• McHenry begins public address with a joke about his own height, asks if folks "can see me over the podium." (he's about 5'6
• First off, rep McHenry jokes about his height, noting that he & Rep Shuler don't have size in common http: //t.co/v137is1R
• McHenry: Gaston and Buncombe have one thing in common: we're both in the 10th district
• Rep McHenry: we need certainty & simplification in the tax code; says new, large number of regulations hurt biz
• Rep McHenry says wage disparity today is about skills
• Rep McHenry says he respects Asheville, Buncombe County - Econ engine of WNC, unique character
• McHenry says he respects Buncombe and Avl's "unique" culture, says he saw Sister Bad Habit and thinks Laughing Seed is "delicious"
• Q&A time w/ Rep McHenry. Says unemployment about 12%, jokes that his "legitimate" career before politics was real estate, hard hit
• McHenry faults both Obama and George W. for too much spending, says biggest problem in gov is too much regulation.
• Rep McHenry complained about Dodd-Frank law; local realtor Mike Butram asks if congress working to repeal it. 1 he'd like to repeal
• Fixing FannieMae, FreddieMac is real issue, Rep McHenry replies to question about repealing DoddFrank
• McHenry picks on Perry for forgetting what 3 fed depts he wants to close in last night's GOP Pres debate
• Rep McHenry: small biz has been net job creator last 12 months; Fortune 500 companies have been net job cutters
• McHenry: what's gonna pull us out of tough economy is small business sector growth more than fortune 500 companies
• Crucial need for rural high speed broadband, says #avl biz woman. Rep McHenry says he doesn't see more $ coming
• Question: what can be done to improve telecommunications (high speed Internet) infrastructure to rural areas?
• McHenry: it's a crucial need but I don't know where the money will come from
• Dwight Buckner ("token liberal in the room") asks what Gastonia, Avl have in common economy wise ...
• McHenry: Avl is an aberration of highly educated individuals in WNC. It's the center of economic activity.
• Rep McHenry says in common; loss of manufacturing and need for high tech education; Avl is center of economic energy in region
• McHenry: In Raleigh, the state ends at I77. It's a real problem for WNC
• Other commonality w/ Gastonia: in Raleigh, state ends west of I-77; need share of infrastructure improvements here in WNC
• McHenry sarcastically says "from the editorials, it seems like y'all are very happy to have me."
• Asked about his family, history, Rep McHenry says he was 8 feet tall when started in politics, which wears you down
• McHenry is working the room like a standup comic, jokes that his economist Italian/Irish wife bosses/teaches him a lot.
• Rep mcHenry says wife is economist ( just married last year), he was in real estate, no children yet but "hopes that will happen"
• McHenry: There's no easy answer to get out of this tough economy
• Rep McHenry thanks CIBO members for having him, says he'll work to bring small biz oops to district
• McHenry finishes up: I want to bring a lot of resources to the area and help you.