Mayors urge Washington to "Keep America Moving"
This piece was compiled by the Alliance for American Manufacturing's (AAM) Lauren Donia, Daniel Lee, Sara Sharp, and Leigh Raup.
On Tuesday, the new "Mayors for America" campaign and the Mayors Automotive Coalition (MAC) launched a “Keep America Moving” agenda at a day-long conference in Washington, DC. ‘Keep America Moving’ is an effort to “boost infrastructure, manufacturing and jobs.” The conference hosted several panels that included mayors from Michigan and Indiana as well as business and labor groups interested in the Buy Local/American Manufacturing movement.
For those who could not attend the conference, here are a few takeaways:
Keep America Moving Roundtable
This panel joined two mayors with two issue experts to discuss the need for investment in American manufacturing.
- Mayor Virg Bernero of Lansing, MI said, “What made this country great was the great GDP that we had. Not being a nation of consumers but producers and we produced prolifically. We can’t simply survive as a nation of consumers, we must once again make things.”
- Elliott Laws, of RACER trust (a group tasked with cleaning up and rejuvenating former GM locations), explained to attendees that RACER works with communities to determine their visions for the future. Laws explained that some cities know what they want to do and have an history of accomplishment, others have so many people out of work that recovery will be difficult.
- Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), assured the group that reasons for optimism exist – manufacturing capacity is almost where it was pre-recession, the U.S. is in a strong hiring period, and this may be the first year since 1998 to see more factories open than close.
Panel on U.S. Infrastructure Investment
This panel discussed a number of important issues including the effect of inadequate infrastructure on local economies and the expense of maintaining existing infrastructure.
- Jason Clark, executive director of the Business Development Corporation for Greater Massena (NY), discussed the potential effect infrastructure development could have on upstate New York’s ability to attract manufacturing operations to small towns. Clark estimated that the successful construction of an I-98 East/West corridor in New York, an interstate highway connecting I-81 and I-87, could result in the infusion of over 20,000 jobs in upstate New York over the long-term
- Casey Dinges, senior managing director at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), spoke about the deterioration of U.S. infrastructure on a national scale. Based on ASCE infrastructure reports, the U.S. is only investing about half of what it should be on maintaining and repairing infrastructure.
- Geoff Anderson, president & CEO of Smart Growth America, emphasized the need to focus on using American tax dollars to fix the infrastructure that is already in place before the U.S. can invest in new projects.
- Speakers mentioned a few key actions that local governments can take to encourage strategic infrastructure investment: Anderson and Clark stressed the need for communities to work together to develop common goals and to prioritize high impact infrastructure projects that will encourage manufacturing investment on a regional scale. Dinges encouraged communities to reach out to their local ASCE branches as a source of information on regional infrastructure needs.
Federal Forum on American Jobs
This panel brought together DC politicians to discuss a federal role in revitalizing America’s manufacturing communities. Each panelist was asked to present their ideas on the state and direction of manufacturing in the United States.
- Mathy Stanislaus (Assistant Administrator for the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response), Jane Oates (Assistant Secretary of the Employment and Training Administration), and Jay Williams (Executive Director of the federal Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers) all stressed the importance of investing in job training. All three panelists made it clear that without a federally assisted job re-skilling process, manufacturing in America cannot improve.
- Oates commented on how to avert layoffs in the manufacturing industry. She wants to help American companies expand their selling bases. Too many American companies are either only exporting to one country, or not exporting at all.
- Dr. David Danielson (Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) said the top priority for U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing should be clean energy. Prices on clean energy products are falling, and there will be a battle in the next 10 years to control the manufacturing of these goods. We should be focused on advanced manufacturing and innovative technologies, and that the federal government should open up a strategic dialogue to discuss the different ways the U.S. can lead this new industry.
- All panelists agreed that in order to revitalize American manufacturing, the federal government needs to actively support the industry’s workers.
Panel on Buying Local/American
This panel discussed the “Mayors for America” campaign and its plans to promote American jobs and manufacturing through local governments.
- The Mayor’s for America campaign’s pledge states they will “work with local governments and stakeholders to voice our support for national policies that strengthen U.S. manufacturing and productivity” as well as “develop local partnerships to create export training policies and transportation hubs to assist small American companies increase the export of their products.”
- Mayor Virg Bernero, of Lansing, MI stated that there are plenty of mayors wo don’t take the time to look at the implications of where they place their investments. They have many choices, but when it comes to a local credit union or a big Wall Street bank, the consequence of choosing the latter option could be detrimental to community banking and main street business.
- Bernero also talked about how aside from the pledges that local governments can make through the campaign, any individual could make a pledge to begin to buy local/American. He felt the individual pledge was a way to promote communities to take action.
- Kevin Hinkley, mayor of Wixom, MI, suggested a troubling future scenario: what if the U.S. had to go to war with China, and we had to call them and ask them for replacement parts.
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