George Allen EXCLUSIVE op-ed: Support US manufacturing jobs
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Virginia is headquarters to 37 Fortune 1,000 firms, and we proudly boast one of the nation’s most educated workforces, with nearly 1 out of every 3 adults holding a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree. Virginia is poised for growth and prosperity.

Like many states across the country, manufacturing is at risk because of hindering tax, regulatory and trade policy considerations and an unsettling trade deficit when we know 95% of the world’s consumers are outside of the United States.

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While serving as governor and in the U.S. Senate, I worked to promote tax and regulatory reform, workforce training, to improve manufacturing competitiveness and to enforce trade policies specifically against violations that harmed semiconductor, furniture and steel manufacturers.

These issues aren’t new; these threats have been chipping away at jobs and local economies for years. Every morning U.S. manufacturers wake up 20 percent behind their international competition due to the high taxes and regulatory costs of federal policy, and that does not include labor costs.

The fate of our modern manufacturing base has not been sealed. Last year, Virginia exported more than $15 billion in manufactured goods. We produce everything from steel beams, wood flooring and trucks to semiconductors, robots and rocket engines. And we are preparing our manufacturing workforce for the future with strong occupational and technical training programs designed to meet manufacturers’ needs through 23 regional community colleges.

Lower natural gas prices due to the innovation of fracking for shale gas has made manufacturing of plastics, composites, metals, chemicals, fertilizer, tires, glass and forestry products much more competitive in the U.S.

We need our global trade policy to defend what our manufacturers have worked to build, and support them as they expand and grow to meet new market challenges — challenges that are real and fair and defined by simple supply and demand market principles. It is imperative that our government works to enforce adherence to trade agreements and rules.

In a global economy where a rules based system is important for manufacturing competitiveness, it makes sense to examine the question of whether the U.S. government continues to treat China as a non-market economy. This issue is one that current and future Administrations will ultimately need to address through serious, thoughtful discussion with industry.

The Congress needs to reform our business tax code to make U.S. manufacturers more competitive internationally. We must rethink the red tape of regulatory burdens which annually cost manufacturers in the U.S. $19,564 per employee and, more onerously for small manufacturers at almost $35,000 per employee whose costs are not mitigated by economies of scale.

For the more than 230,000 manufacturing employees in Virginia, let’s send a message that we are on their side, we are fighting for their jobs and their families, and that we understand the value of their contribution to our economy. We do this by pursuing trade and economic policies that send this important message: We want manufacturers in America competing to win now and in the future.

Allen is the former Governor and U.S. Senator for the Commonwealth of Virginia.


 

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