Greenville -- Candidates for governor shared their plans for helping small businesses and creating jobs during a forum in front of local business leaders Monday night.

Three Republicans -- U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Attorney General Henry McMaster and state Rep. Nikki Haley -- joined Democratic state Sen. Robert Ford and independent candidate Patricia Ann Lewis at the Carolina First Center.

McMaster said South Carolina currently doesn't have an economic development strategy but needs one led by the governor.

The attorney general said he would make the tourism-promoting function of the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism a separate Cabinet agency reporting directly to the governor.

He also would cut the state's 10.5 percent tax rate on industrial properties as a part of a plan to make South Carolina "the most business-friendly state in the United States."

Barrett said he would push to drill for natural gas off the South Carolina coast, which he said could generate 2,200 jobs and $250 million a year for the state. He also would champion the development of more nuclear reactors and appoint people with business experience to boards and commissions.

"We need a governor who goes to bed at night and wakes up every day thinking how he's going to bring jobs and economic growth to South Carolina," Barrett said.

Haley said she would eliminate the income tax for small businesses and champion a tort reform plan such as that adopted in Texas. She also would consider incentives to bring low-cost air service to all parts of the state.

Ford, of Charleston, promoted the main plank of his campaign, bringing back the video poker industry and taxing it heavily to create a new source of revenue for state government.

"I'm still looking for resources from these other candidates and not pipe dreams," he said.

Lewis said creating jobs wasn't a proper role for government. Small businesses make us strong and proud, she said, and "taxes are what have created a good deal of problems for all of us."

In one exchange, McMaster took issue with a television ad run by Haley that labels him a "career politician," saying he was a prosecutor, not a politician.

Barrett spoke against third parties that "come into South Carolina and tell us what to do," a reference to an out-of-state advocacy group running an ad against him.

Three others running for governor -- Republican Andre Bauer and Democrats Vincent Sheheen and Jim Rex -- didn't attend Monday night's event.