Monday, September 28, 2009
Chart Source Data: Virginia Employment Commission
At the Marrow - Landes debate on September 24 in Waynesboro, the issue of anemic job growth in the 25th district was raised. From 1996 to 2008, Total Job Growth -- for all public and private jobs grew a modest 16% (or 1.3% per year) in Augusta County, and but the change in Total Jobs was actually a loss of 4% for Waynesboro over this 12 year period.
More troubling -- Waynesboro and Augusta County have seen a dramatic loss of Manufacturing Jobs during Steve Landes tenure from 1996 to 2008. Manufacturing Jobs fell by a stunning 51% in Waynesboro and was also down 9% in Augusta County. We are rapidly losing our highest pay and benefits jobs in Waynesboro and Augusta County. It's not just hourly workers, but highly desirable skilled technician, and engineering jobs are gone. In the last decade, several local chapters of the various professional engineering organizations folded due to declines in membership from the halcyon days of the 1960's to 1980's.
No one in the local or national industrial sector was immune to the pressures of globalization in the last two decades -- simply put, lower skill and low technology operations have been out-sourced to other low wage regions of the world. Higher technology, custom engineered products, rapid time-to-market, and many safety-regulated industries are doing well -- thank you very much. This is the result of basic industrial economics. No new news here.
The glaring disconnect in strategic thinking displayed by Delegate Landes, last Thursday, was evident in his stated belief that his notable economic development support of SME (Small to Medium size Enterprises) manufacturing was adequate to offset the steady decline in Large Manufacturing employment. Sorry Mr. Landes -- it it was, and still is, Not Nearly Enough.
SRI is nice, but not a GE or DuPont.
What our area has lacked is strong leadership in bringing in the next generation of major manufacturers. As the old line plants -- DuPont, General Electric, Westinghouse/Synder General/McQuay were hitting their obsolescence limits, based on older technology platforms -- our local community leaders failed to look and think outside of the box (See Augusta County Toyota Fail). Contrary to the rumors... there is still a vibrant manufacturing sector in the USA, we just failed to do the hard work and put the right economic development effort in place, to sustain industrial development in our area.
To lay this blame solely at the feet of Steve Landes is obviously unfair and disproportionate. Mr. Landes is a symptom of the problem not the cause. Steve seems like a basically nice guy and certainly understands the issues and concerns of small business folks. But that's also his weakness. He is a self-admitted plodder. A "work horse". He has had a bit of a free ride in the last 13 years -- as long as he supported the local small biz agenda and big biz lobbyists in Richmond on issues that served their interest -- the gravy train of PAC money kept chugging along. Meanwhile the middle-class folks back here in the Valley were getting squeezed out of making a good living at a major manufacturing plant. Goodbye DuPont, see you later General Electric/Genicom.
One wonders how many more Governor's Economic Development grants would have come our way in the last decade -- if Mr. Landes hadn't been such a "rank and file" good soldier for the Va GOP and instead ... truly represented the economic interests of all his constituents in our wonderful part of the Shenandoah Valley. Who knows how many great companies overlooked our area -- not to move off-shore, but just down the road to North Carolina or Tennessee, just because we didn't field a team of leaders to get the job done.
Greg Marrow said it best with that funny Albert Einstein quote,
Continuing to do the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result, is a sign of insanity.
On November 3rd, let's hope sane voters -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents -- put some new leaders on the economic development job. Then we might reasonably expect some new and more favorable results.