Some significant challenges are affecting New York manufacturing businesses arising from political debates in Washington, and Conservative versus Liberal ideology appears to be at the forefront of the clash. Here are two examples to consider:
On June 30, the US Export-Import (“Ex-Im”) Bank charter lapsed due to congressional inaction. This is problematic for New York’s resurgent manufacturing sector because of the pressure put on large companies to seek stable sources of funding for projects. If the US, in effect, unilaterally disarms by closing our Bank while 60 other countries keep theirs, suppliers to manufacturers like GE and Boeing will be ignored as foreign banks require investment in foreign suppliers as a condition of the deal. There is talk that Congress might be able to reinstate the Bank when it returns from recess in September, but businesses hate uncertainty and are likely unwilling to wait. Even if Congress decides to reinstate the Bank this fall, it may be too late to stop contracts from being entered into during the summer and jobs being lost all across New York.
The above situation is mostly caused by a small group of Republicans in the House. On the other hand, some Democrats are aggressively pushing an equally unrealistic goal called the “Fight for 15”. Giving unskilled laborers massive raises will place small manufacturers at a terrible disadvantage in attracting people to manufacturing jobs which they are already struggling mightily to fill. The only current advantage manufacturing jobs seem to have is they pay pretty well – you don’t need to wait 6 years to get a $15/hour salary. If that differential disappears, industry will suffer here in New York.
This one-two punch could leave New York’s economy as one with lots of fast food workers and few technicians, and that is hardly a recipe for success in sustaining a stable, well-balanced economy.
Any Ex-Im Bank “revival” is now tied to the Senate’s six-year Highway Bill that will be taken up in the House in September. Highway appropriations have been operating on “stop-gap” extensions since a 2 year Map Plan was enacted in 2012, which was the first “longer term” bill since 2005. Federal highway bills can be very contentious because of the amount of dollars involved as well as territorial clashes often causing disagreements over where the money should be spent.
Washington dysfunction has affected the entire nation’s transportation infrastructure by not passing a long-term plan. Short term funding extensions do not allow state and local planners to implement needed projects. Even bus stops for our local Putnam Moves system are held up pending the funding that should be part of the federal long-term goal of enhancing mass transportation. September will bring some interesting news from Washington for sure!
Also, minimum wage increases in the fast food industry may ultimately result in fewer jobs in that sector. Some such businesses are using automated kiosks (which can be voice activated) for ordering, and may automate the delivery of orders to customers. Businesses large and small are looking for “work ready” employees, and offer “entry level” employment to train and test the new worker in so-called “soft skills” – punctuality, common courtesy, patience with customers and fellow employees, following orders. Lower wage jobs often allow flexibility for scheduling other activities such as the pursuit of more education and/or preparation and gaining experience for other occupations. Ultimately, entry level jobs should be considered a stepping stone to greater opportunities, training the work force to meet the needs of the 21st century.
– Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce