U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, is doing his best to shine a positive light on the future of manufacturing in his district.
Since officially becoming Chautauqua County's congressman in January, Reed has brought Cummins Inc. officials to Washington, D.C., to participate in a manufacturing caucus. He recently visited the Manufacturer's Association of the Southern Tier to see the organization's workforce development programs. And, Reed has positioned himself on the natural gas and manufacturing caucuses in Congress.
That was the easy part. Now, it's time to get down to brass tacks.
Near the end of a conference call on Monday, Reed was asked how the state can bring in manufacturing despite its nearly universal standing as a state that is incredibly unfriendly to business.
"So, it is an obstacle, and I wish more in Albany would work harder to change that reputational effect," Reed said in response.
A few weeks ago, we said business needs to be more proactive in helping train the workforce it needs; something area business leaders are working on through MAST and the ongoing Rotary Club of Jamestown Employability Summit. They recognize a local problem that is holding their enterprise back and are working to fix it.
There are bigger issues involved that need attention from the state and federal governments. It will take real work from all who want to see the Southern Tier to bring new manufacturing jobs to the area.
Businesses have a certain set of needs that need to be fulfilled. Wishes and pretty words aren't among them. Their needs are more concrete - lower state, county, city and school taxes; cheap power costs; much less regulation; a workforce that can handle their job demands and, if a suitable building can't be found that doesn't require massive renovation, shovel-ready sites to keep their overhead down.
Things like site creation and assembly can be done locally, but there isn't money left in local budgets for infrastructure work after paying for employee salaries and benefits. It is nearly impossible to decrease the costs of municipal employees under the current system in New York state. They also are the biggest drivers of local taxes. Workforce training is largely dictated by what is taught in public schools, which is mandated by the state through initiatives like the Common Core State Standards. The myriad of business regulations that flummox job creators are state and federal issues. Power costs are likewise largely influenced by the environmental wishes of the president and governor.
Fix those problems and manufacturers will be much more likely to locate in Chautauqua County. The ones that are here already will surely be more secure and profitable.
That's something worth spotlighting.