CMTA sponsors bill to create strategy for manufacturing

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, April 7, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

For decades, the driving engine of California’s economy has been manufacturing.  Fueled by the state’s research, technological and intellectual resources, California has grown to employ more workers in manufacturing than any other state. However, manufacturing employment in the state significantly declined during the economic downturn from 2001 to 2004. These jobs are not coming back in great numbers. Instead of adding manufacturing jobs that are the pathway to the middle class for under-educated workers, California is growing service sector jobs with much lower average wages and less opportunity for advancement. The difference in average wages between declining sectors ($53,250) and growing sectors ($38,693) is dramatic. More than half the jobs lost in the declining sectors were manufacturing. (A Growing Divide: The State of Working California 2005, California Budget Project, September 2005).

Twenty five years ago, the twin challenges of foreign competition and domestic industrial obsolescence prompted then-Governor Jerry Brown to create the California Commission for Industrial Innovation (Exec. Order #B-91-81), which was subsequently made permanent by SB 888 (Al Alquist, D-Santa Clara) (Government Code Sec. 12095).  The Commission, made up of representatives from the public sector, business, labor, and academia, issued a final report with fifty policy recommendations to put California back on top. (Winning Technologies: A New Industrial Strategy for California and the Nation, 1982).

When the Commission began its’ work, the next wave was computers and information technology – today it is biotech, nanotechnology and advanced "lean" manufacturing of all types.  No appointments have been made to the Commission in recent years, yet its’ core mission is relevant today – to ensure that California captures the high-wage employment and new investments that will be made in cutting-edge, new technology manufacturing.

Existing agencies and commissions do not have the directive to focus attention on this important area of our economy. For this reason, CMTA is sponsoring AB 2860 (Ted Lieu, D-Torrance) to revive the Commission and give it an updated mission. We shouldn’t delay – manufacturers have growing opportunities to outsource operations, expand in other regions, or even move offshore. These decisions are commonly made years ahead of the time that jobs actually "leave" the state, but the handwriting is on the wall.  We should not stand by and let high-wage manufacturing jobs go without a fight, or without even noticing until it’s too late.

A hearing on this bill is set for April 18 in the Assembly Jobs, Economic Development & the Economy Committee. Contact Dorothy Rothrock at drothrock@cmta.net or call 916-498-3319 to add your name to the list of bill supporters.
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