Tuesday, November 16

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! In Search of Cooperative Creationism

Who is responsible for job creation? According to the voters a couple of weeks back, the Republican Party, as they seated quite a few of them in Congress, state houses and governor's mansions. But not with carte blanche as they are expecting the changing of the guard to lead to an improved economy and jobs, jobs, jobs. Clearly the voters are still skeptical according to a Rasmussen poll earlier this month.

But here's what I think. We are all responsible for job creation to some extent. Those of us who are innovators can create a job for ourselves and perhaps some others (of course, if what we have to offer is of value to others). For instance, businesses with 1 to 4 employees are the most stable employment group and fairly resistant to recent economic downturns and second most resistant are employers with 500 to 999 employees. Maybe we should encourage the growth of these scales of businesses?

The government can do some things more easily than private industry. Like pump money into areas where there is likely to be future demand (what the private sector used to call research and development, when it was the right thing to do) and to invest in transportation/delivery infrastructure. The government can also provide incentives through tax abatement (though, in the long run is a zero sum gain, particularly when businesses pursue greener pastures).

The private sector can work cooperatively and pump money into creating jobs locally that will spur demand for services and goods. They can do this with the profits that they value so highly. Profits are like a savings account and can be used to dig a company out of a ditch or to spur growth when opportunities arise.

An important question that not too many people asked during the mid-term skirmishes is why aren't the government and the private sector doing what they can do TOGETHER? The simple answer is like the Hatfields and McCoys, they don't like each other much or said differently, they have different agendas. A more complex answer is that the private sector doesn't change fundamentally in terms of how it operates, but the government is a revolving door of policy-changers and bureaucrats who are in the position to try and make these policies work. This doesn't give either a license to fingerpoint and lay blame, but it is easier than working to a common end.

Occasionally things work between public and private interests. I think about places like Newton, Iowa that have successfully changed their ways of doing business because of dependency on a single employer--you remember Maytag, don't you? Now they have diversified around wind and alternative energy businesses. This was made possible both by local inducements, but also by federal and state inducements. This type of job creation is a win/win proposition.

Is it perfect? No, some of the companies creating the jobs are not wholly American companies. TPI, a wind energy company has about 300 of 2500 worldwide workers in Newton, as well as plants in China and Mexico (and also, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Ohio). Could the work be done in the US, absolutely, but the cost of doing business is seen as the obstacle. Also, this means slogging huge trucks in for the coasts and Mexico for assembly of these giant wind generators. Isn't this another place where tax dollars could be used, to support the creation of jobs that increase localized jobs and reduce transportation costs (and the accompanying effects on the environment)?

Maybe the mantra should be how do we increase opportunities for new technology or even refining old ones, reduce the impact on the environment, and put people back to work. It seems that by wishing for jobs to be made is not, pardon the pun, getting the job done. Maybe the lessons of Newton can be applied in other areas that are not in crisis mode and resources in the area can be brought together so that jobs can be sustained.

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