ERIE - Former President George W. Bush last night played messenger for his father, former President George H.W. Bush, delivering a greeting to one of Pennsylvania's most famous faces.

It's not often that a member of the Bush family sees Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, a noted Republican who supported the campaign of the elder Bush, the nation's 41st president.

In front of about 1,600 people at a dinner in Erie, the younger Bush said he had been reminded by his dad to "give my old buddy my best. . . . Forty-one sends his best to No. 1 in the heart of Penn State fans."

The country's 43d president has made just a few public appearances since leaving office in January, though his speech last night at a dinner of the Manufacturer and Business Association touched on familiar themes in reviewing his time in the White House.

But he started his hour-long appearance by talking about his father, who celebrated his 85th birthday last weekend by parachute-jumping out of an airplane.

"So this weekend I had an amazing experience: I watched an 85-year-old jump out of an airplane, and it wasn't about to crash," Bush said, snickering while the crowd laughed.

Bush took questions, which were sent by e-mail to the association and read by a moderator. The friendly business audience cheered his answer to a question about what could be done to keep the manufacturing sector vibrant.

Without hesitation, Bush answered low regulations, no frivolous lawsuits, and expansion of export markets. He also said there should be more emphasis on research and development tax credits.

As in other stops, Bush said he would not criticize President Obama.

A Bush spokesman declined would not say how much Bush had been paid for the appearance.