While everyone was listening to the predictable speeches at the DNC in Charlotte, Lori Montgomery of the WaPo cleverly snuck off to a successful Siemen’s factory where they manufacture the big gas turbines that will power new electric plants here and abroad.
I suspect you’d learn a lot more at this factory about the combination of public policy and private initiative needed to create good jobs on our shores than you would down the street at the convention center.
Ask Siemens executives why they placed their bet on Charlotte and they talk about public investments such as the state-funded rail spur that runs through their facility and the city’s international airport, which recently added a fourth runway using $132 million in federal funds.
They talk about the Export-Import Bank, an independent federal agency that in January approved a $638 million loan to finance the sale of turbines to Saudi Arabia, helping Siemens beat bids from companies in Germany, South Korea and Japan.
And they talk about the quality of the workforce in Charlotte, where local leaders are retooling the public education system to churn out the engineers and skilled technicians needed to operate one of the most efficient gas-turbine plants in the world.
“A lot of things that were offshored in the past were offshored because of lower-cost labor, but that’s no longer the most important factor,” said Eric Spiegel, president and chief executive of Siemens’s U.S. subsidiary. “The reasons you bring a plant like this to the United States are higher-skilled labor, access to the world’s best research and development, and good, sound infrastructure. All those things together make the U.S. a good place to invest.”
Because journalists these days are obligated to do “he said, she said” the piece goes into the ways both D’s and R’s don’t get it. But the above paragraphs clearly speak of a role for government that is precluded by the budgets of Romney and Ryan.
In fact, as the piece points out, House Republicans have tried to “kill the Export-Import bank” and their budget spends a third less than that of the President on education and training. In a classic example of the kind of public-private partnerships that must characterize the future of our job market, a local community college “added a mechatronics program aimed at producing a stream of technical workers. Duke Energy helped finance an energy program within the engineering school at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, to which Siemens contributed $4 million.”
There is no room for such initiatives in the R’s austerity budgets that leave nothing for such investment after they’ve enacted trickle down tax cuts partially offset with large spending cuts in the very areas that fund these sorts of programs. Even the President’s budget reduced this type of spending—“non-defense discretionary”—as a share of the economy down to levels that may not go far enough into this public-private space.
But certainly, the example of this Siemen’s plant underscores a critical role for government in keeping this kind of production here and providing firms with the public goods, including an educated workforce, they need to compete.
If you’re paying attention to the conventions, that, IMHO, is what you should be listening for.