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Made In America: States And Businesses Can Restore American Manufacturing

Posted: 07/23/2012 3:11 pm

At a time when all eyes seem directed at Washington for job creation solutions, businesses and state governments have been quietly taking the lead. Instead of waiting for a one-size-fits-all federal solution, they're working together to pursue a comprehensive strategy for job creation that focuses on putting aside our differences and working together to create jobs in America.

Our efforts start with bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States. The U.S. has lost more than 50,000 manufacturing facilities in the last decade and a half. We invent products here, but send the production jobs to Asia. The cycle adds to our trade deficit and speeds the disintegration of manufacturing, which has been the backbone of the American economy since the industrial revolution. The decline of manufacturing has wide repercussions beyond finances; it affects our communities, our education system, our national security and our global standing. When we fail to make things, we're losing more than jobs. We're losing a piece of our American identity.

Some have given up on American industry, saying manufacturing jobs are not coming back. Business leaders beg to differ, evidenced by growing efforts at reshoring and a recommitment to the "Made in America" label. And Mississippi, among other states, is leading the way. Since 2004, an aggressive job-creation agenda has brought higher skilled, higher paying jobs to Mississippi. The result: Employment is higher now than it was before Hurricane Katrina and per capita income increased 34 percent over the last eight years.

These successes stem from state and local governments and business leaders accepting that the renaissance of American manufacturing won't happen overnight, and resolving to bring the restoration about by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. There is no magic pill from Washington. Job creation is driven by the growth of small businesses and real gains can be made when entrepreneurs collaborate with their state and local governments to develop innovative solutions.

As a Virginia businessman and a former Mississippi governor, we are proud of our success story. We have been able to slow the rapid loss of manufacturing jobs in one hard-hit part of the country because of a jobs-before-politics philosophy exemplified in our unlikely partnership: a Democratic businessman who purchased an award-winning, advanced Chinese car company and moved it to America, and a Republican governor who fought hard to bring manufacturing jobs to his state. As the former chairs of the Democratic and Republican national committees, we've had plenty to disagree about over the years. But we found common ground in creating new jobs. Jobs should not be a partisan, political issue.

Now two years later, GreenTech Automotive's first manufacturing facility in Horn Lake, Miss., is creating hundreds of new jobs and supporting thousands more. Furthermore, these jobs are built for the future, providing next-generation solutions to America's energy needs by manufacturing all-electric, zero emission passenger vehicles.

In addition to these new jobs, GreenTech Automotive is shipping Made in America vehicles around the world and proving that America remains the world's best place for manufacturing quality products. We're not content to stop here. For example, similar efforts are underway to restore jobs in Virginia, where we are exploring repurposing a shuttered facility to produce wood pellets for export into the growing European biomass market.

Long-established automakers including Toyota and Nissan have come to Mississippi in the last decade, creating some ten thousand jobs. Advanced manufacturers from General Electric Aviation and EADS' American Eurocopter in aerospace, the Russian steel giant Severstal, truck maker PACCAR and several alternative energy manufacturers have taken advantage of the state's quality workforce and business-friendly environment. They join Chevron's largest North American refinery and Huntington-Ingalls shipyard in proving manufacturing has a future not only in Mississippi, but also America.

Our Mississippi and Virginia-based GreenTech Automotive offers an example of how states and businesses can work together to get the job done. To continue this growth in other parts of the country, state governments need to recognize their role, not in being the source of jobs, but in fostering an environment conducive to job creation. They must level the playing field for competition; implement smarter tax policies that promote growth rather than punish success; invest in worker training; and promote innovation as well as the manufacturing required to make the products that result. Businesses, too, must commit to American manufacturing. They will find the risks are few. The U.S. is still home to the world's best workers and technology.

We have begun to accomplish great things in a state committed to creating a business-friendly environment by putting aside our differences and embracing Made in America as both a corporate goal and a deeply held value. Other states and other businesses should do the same.

 
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