Weekly Feature

2017-04-19 / Editorials

‘Buy American’ program needs Albany’s support

DAVID F. SHERMAN
Managing Editor

Every once in a while, I receive a press packet or news release that makes so much sense, it’s a wonder that it’s even up for debate. This is one of those instances.

A recent survey by Alliance for American Manufacturing shows that 80 percent of New York state voters support the New York State Buy American Act. This measure, proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would ensure good construction and manufacturing jobs, according to a release from the alliance.

The alliance was founded in 2007 by leading domestic manufacturers and the United Steelworkers, North America’s largest industrial union, with a simple mission: strengthen American manufacturing through smart public policies, according to its website.

The group reports that New York state has lost more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001. That loss expands to local businesses that lose customers, suppliers that lose business and local governments that see tax revenue slide away – taking with it the ability to fund essential programs.

“State government has contributed to the problem by using our tax dollars to purchase foreign-made goods and materials in state procurement,” a release adds. “Now we have an opportunity to change that with a ‘Buy American’ proposal that requires all state agencies and public authorities to purchase products made in the USA for contracts and procurements over $100,000.”

Of course, there are two sides to every story. Government has no place in telling businesses how to operate. Yet there will always be mandates, regulations and rules of the road. It’s unavoidable.

The alliance offers an alternate opinion gathered during the survey process. Eleven percent of those surveyed were in favor of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, no matter the source. That’s dangerous.

“With state and local governments facing huge deficits, with taxes too high, and with education and public safety already being cut, large infrastructure projects should be built by the lowest bidder, regardless of where the low bidder is getting their products from, so we can make the most efficient use of our tax dollars,” it reported.

Reminds me of the old adage, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

It will be challenging to enact new regulations while trying to grow the economy. In speaking to the Detroit Economic Club in February, Jay Timmons, National Association of Manufacturers president and CEO, said he is optimistic about the outlook of the Trump administration. “When it comes to our top priorities on issues like regulatory reform, tax reform and infrastructure investment, we have a lot of common ground with the Trump administration and the new Congress,” Timmons said. “There are more jobs just waiting to be created if we can get those things done.”

Timmons noted that manufacturing contributes an estimated $2.17 trillion to the U.S. economy each year.

NAM also points out that for every dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to the economy. In addition, for every one worker in manufacturing, there are another four employees hired elsewhere.

That’s why it is critical to keep the manufacturing employment foundation rock-solid. Ensuring that American materials and products are used in taxpayer-funded projects is one of the best means to accomplish that.

“We already have the most skilled workers in the world; we should be investing in them, not sending our jobs overseas,” stated the alliance.

New York state lawmakers should enact this legislation as we ramp up the process of repairing infrastructure and enhancing transportation.

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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