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December 9, 2016

Will Jobs 'Make America Great Again?'

  The Hastings Banner

He may be the most unpopular president to ever take office when he’s sworn in Jan. 20, but give Donald Trump credit for perhaps being the only winning candidate to make good on campaign promises even before he formally arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Trump’s stunning election was no doubt due to voters who felt he was the only candidate who could deliver on promises he made during the campaign. When the country learned of his deal to save what was announced as more than 1,000 jobs at Carrier Corporation of Indiana, it may have won Americans over to his side who had not even voted for him Nov. 8.

Many in the media raised concerns about Trump’s campaign boasts that he would use his negotiating skills to save or bring more jobs back to America. Many even question the viability of the Carrier deal, given that Trump put Indiana taxpayers on the hook for $7 million in tax incentives to save what’s now listed as 800 jobs rather than the full 1,000. United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, is still moving forward with plans to close a factory in Huntington, Ind., and ship its 700 jobs to Mexico.

However the dust settles, whether this is the first example of Trump’s upward distribution of wealth to millionaire business people or if it’s a typically shrewd negotiating move to make the holidays joyous for some 800 families in Indianapolis, Trump is proving he’s touched the nerve of millions of Americans who’ve been concerned for years about “good-paying jobs” continuing to vanish from the landscape.

That’s why so many Democratic voters who turned on their own party and millions more who hadn’t voted in years came out to support the candidate they felt could negotiate better trade deals and convince more American companies to stay here rather than move their jobs offshore.

With Trump’s economic background, he understands that if we expect to compete in a global market, pay down the national debt and focus on upgrading our nation’s infrastructure, we need to fuel our industrial complex — with jobs and economic expansion. It’s a focus this country has needed for the past four presidential administrations, both Republican and Democrat.

Prior to the 1980s, companies focused on building up strong and highly competitive workforce, but since we’ve entered the global marketplace, many of the ground rules for doing business have been changed. American workers ask for and expect to receive is higher wages and more benefits from their companies. However, those were the days when they didn’t need to consider their company’s ability to remain competitive on the world stage. Now, American industries have to compete with overseas companies that pay lower wages, offer fewer benefits and are not saddled with regulations that drive up the cost of manufacturing in this country.

Today, companies also must deal with the new American consumer, who demands cheaper products, investors who require higher returns, and home communities that offer little support. While American companies are in the middle of a cut-throat battle to compete, they have to keep an eye on the vice that continues to tighten on them. It’s understandable that, to survive, companies are looking for ways to cut costs by investing in high-tech manufacturing that requires fewer people. The price, however, comes with the damage it’s doing to our economy.

At the annual Barry County Economic Success Summit in Hastings last week, Jim Robey, director of the regional economic planning at Kalamazoo’s Upjohn Institute, addressed this issue by noting its two-sided nature.

“What we see is a lot of investment in capital and human capital, but not a lot of investment in facilities,” Robey said. “Productivity will continue to increase due to smarter employees using smarter machines. The result will be slower job growth across the board.

That’s why Trump’s message resonated with voters — they’re sick and tired of losing their jobs to overseas companies with little or no concern from Washington, D.C.

“The greatest force for change is a job,” Ron Kitchens of Southwest Michigan First added during last week’s summit. Those were powerful but enlightening words for me because they reminded me of a similar conundrum 100 years ago.

When industrialist Emil Tyden was drawn to Hastings, he told local leaders at the time that a community providing jobs for its citizens will grow and prosper. Tyden understood the economic benefits derived from industrial growth, so he concentrated on building up an industrial complex, much of which is still alive today. Companies like Consolidated Press (E.W. Bliss, now Bliss Clearing Niagara or just BCN), Tyden Seal, Hastings Manufacturing Company and Viking Sprinkler put jobs and life into this community. Tyden also used his vast knowledge and business sense to support several other local companies that ended up contributing to the economic stability of our community. That’s why Trump’s message resonated with voters.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor, the labor force participation rate has declined under the current administration. In fact, it’s stuck at a rate we haven’t experienced since 1978. Just last month, over 4,000 more U.S. manufacturing jobs joined the more than 301,000 that have been shipped overseas in the past eight years.

Even though President Obama’s favorability numbers continue to hover at over 50 percent, national media representatives feel the support comes from his ability to speak to large numbers of Americans. The business numbers don’t lie, however.

According to the Institute for Policy Innovation, even though the unemployment rate has gone from 7.8 percent to just under 0.05 percent, the labor participation rate also dropped — from 65.7 to 62.8 percent, a level not seen since March 1978. Meanwhile, the gross domestic product growth has nearly stalled.

“From 1790 to 2000, U.S. real GDP growth averaged 3.79 percent,” said software entrepreneur and businessmen Louis Woodhill, a frequent contributor to Forbes magazine. He said he expects final figures to show that 2015 will have been the 10th consecutive year that real GDP growth came in at under 3 percent.

Woodhill’s study also indicates that, during the Obama years, the number of Americans below the poverty line grew to over 3.5 percent, with real median household income decreasing by 2.3 percent. Plus, Americans on food stamps went from 33 million to over 46 million, a 39.5 percent increase. Home ownership also has gone down by 5.6 percent in the past eight years, and the national debt increased from just over $10 trillion to over $19.9 trillion and is still growing.

So what’s the answer? We need more jobs to fuel our economy, our national security, our global standing and our nation’s future. Watching another company like Carrier move jobs overseas robs America of jobs it needs to spark the economy and reduce the national debt. The formula is simple: companies are looking for a strong labor force, access to capital and a reduction in unnecessary regulations. They need someone to create the road map to get there.

During his campaign, Trump was speaking to a growing number of frustrated voters who, in the end, answered his question, “What do you have to lose?”

So, even though some question Trump’s deal with Carrier, it’s what voters wanted and expected when they supported a man about whom they had some reservations. Few of those reservations, however, had anything to do with his ability to make the kind of deals that just may “make America great again.”

Fred Jacobs, CEO, J-Ad Graphics Inc.


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