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By Senator Mark Warner
Two-and-a-half years after this deep recession brought our nation’s economy to the brink, we still are in the middle of a painfully slow recovery.
We do not have time to waste playing the blame game about the policy decisions, business practices and consumer choices that got us to this point. The fact is, new job creation remains frustratingly slow, and many Virginia families continue to struggle to make ends meet.
I believe the best way we can reassure American businesses and encourage them to make new investments and hire new employees is to agree on a long-range, bipartisan plan that eliminates our budget deficits and puts our country’s fiscal house in order. We must act now to substantially reduce our $14 trillion national debt.
That’s why I continue to work with a growing coalition of senators from both sides of the political aisle to tackle our deficits and debt in a rational way. I’ve been working on these issues in a bipartisan way for more than a year now, and we’re close – very close – to putting forward a comprehensive plan.
In the meantime, however, I believe there are several targeted, focused steps we can take that will jump-start private-sector investment and hiring. That’s why I have partnered with Northern Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf in a series of actions that we call The America Recruits Act of 2011.
Our proposals will encourage the creation of new manufacturing jobs here in America, strengthen worker training and industry certification programs, and take action to encourage and expand U.S. exports.
We create a competitive grant program that allows states to provide up to $5,000 in forgivable loans to employers for each new manufacturing job they create. The new jobs must be located in a rural or economically distressed areas, and these loans will be forgiven if employers maintain the jobs for at least five years.
America’s competitors for solid, good-paying manufacturing jobs are nations like India, China and Korea. These countries have consistently offered generous federal incentives to help them win the worldwide competition for new jobs. But we believe this modest new tool could help ‘tip the balance’ as U.S. states and localities craft their own economic development incentives to help employers decide where in the world to build new factories and hire new workers.
We pay for this new incentive through existing federal funds, and the program should quickly pay for itself. Economic development models show that each new manufacturing or IT job usually spins-off more than four additional new jobs in a community among suppliers and service providers. That means the 20,000 jobs potentially created through our $100 million program actually could result in more than 80,000 American jobs.
In addition, our legislation requires the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Education and Labor to work more closely together to develop stronger training and education programs for targeted jobs available at specific local businesses.
We will strengthen those programs that provide an industry-recognized credential for workers in the advanced manufacturing and information technology industries. While an industry-recognized certificate is not a guarantee of a job, it does tell a potential employer that the applicant has met a basic level of technical training and skill to perform specific jobs.
Finally, the bipartisan Warner/Wolf jobs package encourages small and medium-sized companies to increase their export capacity.
Exports already support over a third of our manufacturing jobs, so it is clear our success in manufacturing depends on our ability to export. And since an estimated 95% of the world’s customers live outside of the United States, we ignore these overseas markets at our peril.
To be sure, none of these initiatives should be considered a game-changer or a silver bullet as we work together to encourage new hiring and investment. But taken together, Rep. Wolf and I believe our bipartisan legislation will help to re-focus the United States so it will be a much smarter competitor in the global economy.
With the bipartisan America Recruits Act of 2011, Congressman Wolf and I have committed to work together -- across the aisle and on both sides of Capitol Hill -- to responsibly strengthen our nation’s economic recovery and boost our country’s future competitiveness.
We cannot afford to wait. Our international competitors certainly aren’t.