By Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) - 01/06/10 12:38 AM EST
We should be more proactive about finding new jobs for these communities. I believe we can do more to motivate businesses to bring high-paying, high technology jobs to the United States, and part of that will require more investment in our technology infrastructure.
This measure would provide an additional tool for states or communities to use as they develop a strategy to attract business, because it is clear that even a modest incentive could help tip the balance for those companies choosing between a domestic and a foreign location for new technology jobs.
In fact, when factoring in costs such as transportation, administrative overhead, and differences in worker productivity, the cost differential between locating jobs in the U.S. versus overseas averages around $12,000. In some instances, that cost differential is even lower: One study from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that the cost differential between a typical factory job in the U.S. and one in China was a mere $7,000. In low-cost areas such as America’s rural communities and smaller cities, the amount could be as low as $5,000 per job.
My legislation offsets this job location differential by providing firms with up to $10,000 in the form of a below-market-rate forgivable loan for each high-paying manufacturing and IT job they locate here in the United States. While this amount of money, by itself, is obviously not large enough to incent a company to build a brand-new facility, it is substantial enough to supplement a state’s overall economic development efforts that increasingly are necessary to help develop a productive workforce.
The creation of good information technology and advanced manufacturing jobs will, in turn, generate income and sales tax revenues for state governments. This modest job location incentive would make many more parts of the United States attractive to technology firms and the jobs that they bring.
In order for this measure to be most successful, we also must continue our efforts in improving broadband access throughout the country, especially to our most rural areas. Access to broadband not only makes communities more attractive to potential employers, it also can help provide potential employees the skills they need to compete and succeed.
A successful broadband policy should include helping a community prepare itself for success in these new high-tech jobs through workforce training and other economic development efforts.
The Federal Communications Commission has already begun implementing its National Broadband Plan, which will help communities approach broadband as an economic development tool in the same way we did in Virginia. However, more can be done at the federal, state, and local level to ensure our communities take the most advantage of these programs.
First, the federal government should continue to consult with states and localities when crafting and implementing broadband policy. In May 2009, the FCC’s Rural Broadband Service Report suggested that federal agencies improve the coordination of their broadband efforts. It also encouraged a coordinated system that would have the ability to address multiple community needs, leverage public-private partnerships, lower deployment costs and promote competition.
Given the unique perspective state and local governments have in implementing community-oriented, sustainable projects, the federal government should seek their input, as the FCC has done in several of its National Broadband Plan workshops. It is critically important that this dialogue continue so that states and localities have input to make federal broadband policies successful.
Second, we must also put the focus on the endgame in national broadband policy. Providing a broadband connection is only one component of making broadband a key part of a successful economic development strategy. We must also do more to see that access is spread throughout the community, especially to those who cannot afford it.
I recently co-sponsored the Broadband Opportunity and Affordability Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) that would create a two-year pilot program to help pay for broadband service for low-income households. Programs like these would give people of all income levels the opportunity to learn and practice the technology skills that will enhance their attractiveness to potential employers.
These federal broadband initiatives, in conjunction with jobs legislation I will propose, will help our state governments attract the types of high-paying, high technology jobs we need in our struggling communities.
These initiatives can only succeed if all levels of government work together to focus on implementing broadband technology and innovation legislation to bring high-paying technology jobs here. If we are to maintain our national record of innovation and economic success, we must provide all Americans with the opportunity to show how attractive they are to such employers.
Warner serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.