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Dispatch to incoming freshmen legislators: Ask 'Why not California?'

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Dec. 3, 2008

Freshmen:  Welcome to the hub of policy for the 7th largest country in the world.  We don't envy your position, given the mess that has been left to you by so many previous classes, but you have an opportunity to make economic growth a catalyst of your tenure in the State Capitol.  Specifically, your determination can make California a beacon for the high wage and middle class jobs that produce goods in today's exceedingly competitive marketplace.  As you proceed in your new endeavor, think of long term empowerment for California so this state will never again have to consider the deep cuts and other revenue enhancements that, undoubtedly, you'll be forced to ponder for short term fixes.

Over the past few years, this state has seen incremental declines in California manufacturing investments.  A little here, a little there has amounted to the loss of over 440,000 high wage jobs since 2001.  Why didn't Intel keep their wafer fabrication plant in California?  Why did Exxel Outdoors go to Alabama when it decided to move back to the US from China?  Why did Buck Knives move an entire operation to Idaho from California?  Why did a Toyota car seat supplier site a facility in Indiana over California?  Why did Tesla initially decide to build in New Mexico?  Notice it's not only about companies moving out of California but also of ones that never got here.   And these are only the big ones.  There are many more smaller undocumented shifts of capital and salary to other less expensive regions.

In other words, "Why not California?"  We'll attempt to answer these questions in the coming sessions by sending you periodic pieces to your offices (and blogging here at MPowered).  We'll highlight these companies' decisions, their economic footprints and their vast supplier networks that California could have profited from.  While these missives will be important, they are only meant to prove a point and not to dwell on the past.   The bigger point is what California should look like in five years.  Will we lose another 440,000 manufacturing jobs?  Will we gain the same amount?  A large part of that question lies in your hands over the next two years.  We understand you'll have requests from all directions.  But every single Californian benefits from manufacturing growth because of massive investments, large job multipliers, premium benefits, increased revenue to the state, and more.  

Let's do this.  Let's make things.  Let's make green things.  Let's train our workforce.  Let's research, develop, manufacture and fix things.  Let's lead the world.   And with a beacon of open arms in our policy decisions, we can empower our state and our workforce to blaze a double-lane trail of innovative products made with our hands and economic activity created by our ambition.

A while back, our Board of Directors congregated to discuss what affects them most, and the words "stay true" were part of one empassioned plea to regain California's manufacturing leadership.  But too many company representatives said their most expensive facilities were here in the state.  That trend must change.

We hope you'll count on us in 2009 for the support to make informed decisions on policies that send signals to the world that this state's economy, government and working families want manufacturing to prosper.



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