Canton, Ohio Town Hall: We Can Make It, Build It, Grow It Here

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The Canton, Ohio “Keep It Made In America” Town Hall meeting was at the Kent State University Stark Campus this evening. Lieutenant Governor and Senate candidate Lee Fisher spoke. His opponent, Rob Portman, (U. S. Trade Representative under George W. Bush) was also invited to speak to this meeting discussing how to recover the 2.4 million manufacturing jobs that were lost to China in the Bush years, but had other commitments and was unable to attend.
The crowd was welcomed by Stark County Commissioner Steven Meeks, who let us know that “Stark State College is creating curriculum that addresses needs of unemployed, and is growing 30% every year. Just announced a $2.1 million grant plus $8 million from Stark State, creating a Wind Energy Research and Development Center to test wind turbines.” This partnership will train employees but will also bring wind energy business to the area.
After Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing introduced the organization and explained the town hall, Congressman John Boccieri, OH-16 spoke, saying, “We can make it, build it, grow it here.” Later, “I thought the Chamber of commerce was supposed to protect jobs in the US not in Beijing. I fail to see how they believe that this is good policy for our country.”
Next up was Senate candidate, Lt. Gov Lee Fisher. (Summarized from notes):
“Do we go back to the same people who gave tax breaks to large companies to send our jobs out of the country? To treaties that allowed these countries to dump cheap, unsafe unhealthy products, endanger our health and our economic health, put people out of work and companies out of business and industries vanished?
People think it’s OK the steel workers are upset, the auto workers are upset. It isn’t. The key is to build alliances that go beyond steel, let’s talk about technology. The guy who founded Intel, Andy Grove, wrote recently that he no longer believes that free trade is the right way to go. In 1975 when first personal computer was invented, 125,000 people employed in the US. Today 125,000 are employed. This is the same but in Asia 1.5 million are employed in this business.
This is not just steel, glass auto, textiles, electronics, this is about solar panels, advanced batteries, wind turbines. We need to wake up the rest of America, you already get it that’s why you’re here, but the key to our victory is waking up the rest of American before it’s too late.
Interestingly, Fisher is running against Rob Portman, U. S. Trade Representative under George W. Bush. Portman was also invited to speak to this town hall discussing how to start recovering the 2.4 million manufacturing jobs that were lost to China in the Bush years but had other commitments and was unable to attend.
The Panel
Canton’s town hall panel of local experts was Scott Paul of AAM moderating, with,
* Dave McCall District 1 Director for the United Steelworkers
* Athony Denoi, Plant Manager ATI Alegheny Ludlum (Stainless steel, other specialty steels)
* Max Blachman – Office of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown
From notes:
Blachman – Sen Brown elected 92 to Congress, fighting for American manufacturing and workers ever since. Ran for Senate said let’s make Ohio the Silicon Valley of manufacturing. Sen Brown had an op-ed in yesterday’s NY Times. (Note – a good read , it starts out, “TEN years ago this fall the Senate sold out American manufacturing.”)
Steps to take – enforce trade laws, China created tremendous and unfair imbalance
McCall – We need a manufacturing policy. Level playing field. China currency. VAT – every country has a VAT except us. A company that makes something in India pays 20% tax, but when you ship the government gives the tax back, so companies in other countries get as much as a 20% break and China gets that break on top of currency manipulation and other schemes so that’s now 60%. … Just try to get 1 pound of steel into China, you can’t. You can’t sell there, they are exporting their unemployment to us. … Why has this been going on for a decade, decade and a half? Because a whole lot of people have very short term thinking, don’t care, want to make their dollars now, want to get out. … It’s time to give some protections to our American companies. They need to be profitable, so it is fair and balanced for companies and steelworkers as well.
DeNoi – We are in business because of specialty steel that goes into special places like nuke reactors, transformers. To make good steel you need: Good equipment good people know how to make it. China doesn’t have #3, intellectual property, if we lose that China can make it. Silicon Steel, best grade, now China says they can do. It’s part of their energy strategy, for China to make their own. Titanium, we know how to make and others do not. Give us a level playing field we can compete globally. I keep on hearing industrial policy, it is a strategy, they are looking 5 10 20 years down the line. Has to be more than policy, has to be a serious strategy for long term/
McCall – on IP rights, I remember a guy testified before the China commission some years ago, who produced roof tiles for all KFC places in US. KFC got a contact from Chinese government to build 100 KFC stores in China. This guy, family business, invested in new technology, 40 employees. Business was good. KFC got this contract, the first load of shingles he sent got locked up on the dock and the government wouldn’t release it to be built on those restaurants until he gave them the formula and processes, KFC said we got to have these shingles, so he had to give up property rights. Now a company in China produces all those shingles, he is out of business.
Q from audience: “How do we get consumers to understand and support Buy American?”
McCall – Look what happens when we fight back. Cooper Tire built a plant in China, China said for 5 years you must export. So they have a price advantage, dump the tires here. So we filed a trade case and won, they put on a tariff, now they are dumping in Europe but not in US, so in Ohio now Cooper plant hires, 100 new jobs.
Q: “What is the government and manufacturers going to do to help put people 55 and older forced into retirement, back to work?”
Blachman – Sen Brown SECTOR act, labor grants to communities, allow labor an business and Community College or other anchor institution to come together with workforce investment board to fashion a curriculum to train for available jobs in new industries, fuel cells, advanced batteries, like what is happening at Stark Research Center on this campus. One-stop services often do not provide those specific skills needed to succeed in these industries.
This passed the House, Senate filibustered
DeNoi – challenge is to get a good educated workforce out there, we try to hire, give them tests, it is hard to get the skill set needed to work in steel. They have to have computer skills, math skills, problem-solving skills, we are having a difficult time finding it so we hire mature workers in this area because of that.
Paul – if you see a factory on TV it’s an action setting, abandoned factory, rusted chains coming from the ceiling, fire coming out of the floor and a dead bodies is thrown from the second floor, that’s what people see when they see factories. Now is clean, highly technological, exciting, and you have an opportunity
Q: “What three things if you could talk to the President.”
1) Level playing field
2) Long term strategy
3) Buy American
Silverware, it is not made here anymore. Gas grills.
So this was the last Town Hall I will be attending. There are more on the schedule and they are GREAT, and you learn a lot. Take a look at the schedule and see if you can make it to one. And I am sure there will be another round coming.
I will be thinking for a while and then writing a wrap-up post that take a bigger-picture look at what I learned this last week. So check back.
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