From: Richard Gold
We are 100 days into the new administration, and no one stands to lose more than our hometown. At risk are our flat state and local taxes, our property values, our municipal assets and our quality of life.
The flywheel for local prosperity is continued economic development that provides the tax base for us to enjoy fully the charms of our hometown — good schools, parks, a growing downtown, places to worship, a sense of community.
This comes from businesses moving here and reinvesting, and the jobs they create — populated not only by native Hoosiers, but folks from far and wide. When businesses locate here and their employees live here, we are able to spread the cost of education and public services across a broader base. More jobs also drive a stronger retail environment and improved home values.
Much of our growth is attributable to three factors, all profoundly at risk. The first is the ability to export. Bartholomew County, thanks to many of our higher-paying manufacturing jobs, is a huge exporter of product — diesel engines and automobile components, for example. The global market these employers enjoy and the local jobs they create are at risk. Every trade pact is under assault from the new administration. Not only will this kill jobs here, it will raise the price of foreign goods.
The second factor is our ability to provide a capable workforce for factories here. We have been challenged for some time in being able to meet this need. Fortunately we have enjoyed a net addition of immigrant labor to help attract and keep employers. These employees pay their share of taxes, as do the employers. No immigrant labor means fewer factories and fewer jobs for all.
The third factor has been our ability locally to attract the best and brightest engineering talent. This talent comes from all over, and it is their know-how and innovation that drive market success. The administration’s squeeze on H1B visas chokes the likes of Cummins, LHP and Faurecia because we don’t produce enough top flight American-born engineers.
The economic future belongs, as always, to the providers of innovation — whether it is new products, more efficient ways of doing work or finding unmet market needs. The future is not created by building tall walls and isolationism. Like water running downhill, commodity products always seek the lowest cost of production, labor included. No amount of wall building will change this. Water just doesn’t run uphill.
A simple example of innovation locally is the ability to produce excellent diesel engines that have met increasingly stringent emission standards worldwide and taken market share from those who could not. And Columbus has benefited mightily.
Our future is based on better, broader and earlier education, and attracting the innovators of the future, not in investing billions in misguided walls — physical or legal. This is one more reason to be a welcoming community.
Thankfully, local leadership understands this. But more than ever Washington presents a tall hill to climb.