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James Fouts Headshot

Job Creation Is Top Priority

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As mayor of Michigan's third largest city in population since 2007, I have made it one of my top priorities to create new jobs in our community.

One of my first actions as mayor was to encourage the purchase of American-made products by city residents and city employees.

That's why in all of my State of City addresses and other speeches, I promoted my 'Buy American' campaign, and I printed (at my cost) bumper stickers that said 'Buy American Products. They Are Better and Safer.'

My message was that buying American created American jobs.

The response was overwhelming. I received a large number of letters, emails and phone calls supporting my campaign from all over the country. And the media coverage on buying American was national, even international.

I even convinced our city unions to include 'Buy American' incentives in our contracts. And I bought a new American-made vehicle and 'showed it off' at a 'Buy American Rally' for American auto workers at city hall.

Did my campaign create jobs? Of course, that's impossible to determine, but the message is clear that outsourcing jobs to countries like China, India, and Mexico is un-American. I call buying American 'economic patriotism.'

Another job-producing strategy involves the new business development actions we have taken.

During the past few years, the City of Warren retained 13,831 jobs by meeting with businesses and offering tax incentives.

During the past year, 2,148 jobs have been created as the result of new businesses or the expansions of existing businesses. Of the nine businesses that have expanded or started as new businesses, tax incentives for six have been granted.

These projects, for the most part, were initiated by a team of individuals from the City of Warren, the County of Macomb and the State of Michigan.

The City of Warren's economic development representatives also attend frequent meetings with businesses on a regular basis to assist whenever possible. We also sponsor a city-wide mailing to businesses informing them of tax incentives, and we offer the Mayor's Office's help in cutting bureaucratic red tape in the city.

I have also directed our city's Communication Department to initiate a strategy to help local businesses. With that goal in mind, we have begun a 'Buy Local' campaign and used the city's magazine, Newsbeat, to publicize local businesses. Photo pages of strip shopping centers, large shopping centers and restaurants along main thoroughfares have been highlighted in Newsbeat, mailed to 55,000 addresses in the city.

When new businesses open or expand in the city, they are given publicity in Newsbeat or on TV Warren, the city's cable TV station.

These job-producing and job-encouraging strategies have created a business-friendly environment in our city.

My 31 years of experience in government has convinced me that local governments must take a pro-active approach to keep local businesses and encourage new business development whose revenues help to pay for city services. (In Warren, businesses pay 50 percent of the property taxes collected by the city and all of the business personal property taxes on equipment.)

This deep recession we are experiencing nationwide should be a wake-up call to local government leaders that businesses have to feel they have a 'friend' in city hall.