Jackson Mich Keep It Made In America Town Hall An Energized Event

Dave Johnson

Yesterday I was in Jackson Michigan to attend the 2010 “Keep It Made In America” Town Hall Tour meeting. It was a very well-attended event, and everyone I spoke with seemed energized because someone is out there talking about what they consider an important issue, and thought that manufacturing is vitally important to the country, for jobs, and so we can pay our bills.

Jackson

Jackson, for your information, makes a claim to be the city where the Republican Party was founded in 1854. One thing is for sure, it was a very, very, very different party then.

I last visited Jackson three years ago. The downtown was dreary, and I remember walking around trying to find a place to buy a sandwich, giving up and ending up at a dreary fast-food place outside of town. Like Flint, things appear to be changing. In Flint is has been public/private government/business partnerships that has helped revive the downtown and the area. The University of Michigan has opened a Flint campus right downtown and you can feel the difference. I’m moving fast on this road trip so I didn’t have time to investigate what is behind the different feeling in Jackson. But I had trouble getting to flint because I kept passing all these highway construction zones with ARRA (stimulus) signs. The official U-3 unemployment rate is down to 12.8% from 15.2 earlier this year.

The Town Hall

The meeting was in the Commonwealth Community Center, downtown. The large room was full, approx 275-300 attendees. I asked around and things were getting started and people were getting seated and it was a diverse audience politically, including some Tea Party supporters. Everyone I spoke with seemed energized because someone is out there talking about what they consider an important issue, and thought that manufacturing is vitally important to the country, for jobs, and so we can pay our bills. A recent poll found that 74% of tea party supporters want government strategy for manufacturing

The format was speakers, a brief PowerPoint presentation, buffet dinner and a panel on manufacturing featuring local business, labor and others. Following is a brief summary trying to catch the essence of what some of the speakers said.

Jackson’s Mayor Karen Dunigan gave a very short welcoming talk, saying “Every day politicians speak about jobs, and yet we are still losing jobs.”

Next, Lansing Michigan’s Mayor and candidate for Governor Virg Bernero spoke, saying that when they say we are done with manufacturing, that it is a thing of the past, they are saying we are done with America being a great country. You can’t just have consumption, you have to make things. It isn’t gross domestic consumption, it is gross domestic product, with “product” being a key word.

Congressman Mark Schauer, MI-7, “Cash for Clunkers invested in auto industry, got our steel plant to reopen, 3 shifts of workers now here in Jackson, we need to do more of that, fight for jobs in Michigan,” and he had a debate in an hour gotta go. “We need to make decisions about educating our workforce, trade, make sure our dollars are not stimulating jobs in China… We were the arsenal of democracy, and China is spending twice what we are spending on renewable energy technology.”

The Panel

  • Sharon Collins, local restaurant owner: The Pickle Barrel Deli
  • Mark Gaffney, President Michigan AFL-CIO
  • Amanda Proctor, Exec Director, Shop Rat Foundation
  • Bill Rayl, Jackson Area Manufacturers Association, also on the Council of the National Association of Manufacturers
  • Moderator: Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing

From notes:

The Shop Rat Foundation offers hands-on skilled trade education to kids, creating the next generation of proud skilled workers and citizens (shop rats).

Rayl: The federal government needs to step up in this country and realize that the gloves are off on the global playing field, it’s not a playing field it’s a war field, they’re cleaning up, free trade is one thing fair trade is another. We need government to help us out, to fight these trade practices.

We need to be able to go out there and compete. We want ot do it. China has a big market for us when we can play fair but they hamstring us, one hand tied behind our back, Chinese government is fighting us all the time.

Scott: There may be difference between business and labor on a lot of issues but on American manufacturing there is very little disagreement, especially on holding China actable, R&D tax credit, there is a lot of support for doing all of it.

Rayl: Manufacturing is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s an American issue, we can make anything you throw at us, we have great skilled workers out there, companies that want to keep those people in good paying jobs, give health care and all that stuff, but we can’t do it if we can’t compete on an even playing field.

Gaffney: A trade agreement that lets a company just pack up a factory and move it to another country just because wages are lower, leaving behind a devastated community and unemployment, is just bad policy.
As the country tries to get out of bad economic times hopefully the people in Washington figure out that manufacturing is the way to help. IF there aren’t good-paying jobs for people to go back to, what are we going to do?

Amanda:
Q) Filling a need, do you think what we have now with our high schools and Community Colleges is enough?
A) Definitely some great programs out there. Lot of great but definitely not enough, we’re trying to push, we need to focus on education more than we are. A lot of people don’t think it’s not worth the time to train a 6th grader, don’t think that far back, but I want to stress you’ve got to get them young, get them interested, without middle and high school programs going on anymore kids don’t know about trade skills, they’re afraid of tools, but get them doing that, they are more confident, they will go out get a job or go on to vocational schools.

Manufacturing In Michigan

I guess I don’t have to tell you that Michigan is known for automobiles. But manufacturing in Michigan was wiped out in the 2000-2008 period. There were 897,100 people working in manufacturing in Michigan in 2000. There are 466,400 people working in manufacturing in Michigan now.

Other Jackson Town Hall Resources

MLive.com covered Virg Bernero speaking at the rally.

Steve Capozolla was live-blogging Jackson’s town hall event last night.

A local radio station has posted some audio from the event here.

Details of the Keep It Made In America Town Hall Tour

And this: American Made Shopper had a display at the meeting. They only sell items that are Made In America.

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