Archive for Manufacturing

Jun
17

Netroots 11, Day 1

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Some blogger posing on the street with swag, plus Barry Kendall and Sara Robinson in background. (Photo by Marta Evry.)

UPDATED below.

Reunions Thursday with a lot of familiar faces. More than anything else, this is a community. Besides seeing friends from the northeast and the left coast, Pam Spaulding (Pam’s House Blend) and several others from North Carolina are here.

Netroots is about networking. Meeting Scott Paul from the Alliance for American Manufacturing at last year’s conference help set in motion the jobs town hall AAM put on in Asheville last October.

Raven Brooks reported 2400-2500 in attendance at the Thursday keynote. Female bloggers from Zimbabwe and Pakistan spoke of using their blogs to be heard in cultures where they otherwise would not. Howard Dean urged the crowd to better communicate “a greater vision of what we’re trying to accomplish.” Russ Feingold spoke on pushing back in the face of the Citizens United decision, noting “Speech doesn’t corrupt. Money corrupts. And money isn’t speech.” Like Dean, he urged the crowd to push hard on Democrats, and cautioned that a Democratic Party that cozies up to big-money donors risks becoming “corporate lite.”

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Jun
15

The Damage Done

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TimesUnion.com:

“The North Carolina House voted early Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue’s historic veto of the state government budget for the next two years, completing the key step needed for the Republican majority to cancel her objections and enact the plan.”
[...]
“It clears the path for the Republican-penned bill to be enacted later Wednesday, despite Perdue’s repeated and forceful objections.

She says it would deliver “generational damage” to public education and other services that residents rely upon…”
[...]
“The override vote came hours before members of the North Carolina Association of Educators, a strong critic of the GOP budget plan were expected in Raleigh to hold a rally and bring pennies. They are symbolic of the temporary penny sales tax increase they say would preserve positions if the GOP extended the tax, which they didn’t.”

Mar
07

Monday Reading and Viewing

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President Obama’s re-election organization to set up in the first four primary states. “We can’t cede the playing field. We can’t just play general election. So we’re going to have to organize on the ground in early states.”

The United States of America ranks 1st in military spending. 1st in GDP. 10th in per capita GDP. 17th in childhood poverty. 42nd for income inequality. 1st in % of GDP spent on health care. 24th in practicing physicians per 1,000 people. 47th in infant mortality. 47th in life expectancy at birth. – dKos

Michael Moore’s speech in Wisconsin:
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Jan
06

No Flat Land Redux

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Former Bristol-Myers Squibb factory - Morrisville, NC


When talking about our area’s problem in recruiting new manufacturing, one of the excuses I hear repeatedly for why WNC’s efforts are not as successful as we would like is “no flat land.” Prospective buyers often find raw land — “greenfield sites” — more desirable and less trouble, and those are hard to come by in the mountains.

That’s not an obstacle. That’s an opportunity.

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Categories : Economy, Local, Manufacturing
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Jan
05

What Industrial Policy?

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Over at Daily Kos last weekend brooklynbadboy was back with more from his trip to Germany. His conclusion: America needs an industrial policy.

There is a simple reason why Germany manufactures so many high-end goods, from the best watches to the finest grand pianos, all the way up to Porsches and highly complicated precision instruments: it is the policy of the German government.

Well, it isn’t exactly a policy. It is more of a framework. Germany’s method of creating wealth is straightforward: 1. Produce a highly educated workforce. 2. Have that workforce create and make advanced, precision things for high wages. 3. Export the things at a high price and then re-invest that money back into item 1. This is why Germany is the Number 2 exporter in the world despite having only 27 percent of America’s population and only 6 percent of Number 1 exporter China. The Germans realize they cannot beat either China or India based on cost. Advanced nations can’t compete on cost. America could bust all the unions, get rid of the minimum wage, eliminate all social benefits and taxation and we would still lose jobs to low-wage nations. Germany decided to avoid going down the same path of downward spiral among its middle class that we are in. Instead, they invest in their people and in research.

The problem, he observes, is that not only doesn’t America have an industrial policy, it doesn’t want one.
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Categories : Economy, Manufacturing
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Jan
04

The Challenge Of Our Time

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California’s Senate president pro tem, Darrell Steinberg (D- Sacramento) writes in the Los Angeles Times:

There is no question the challenge of our time is jobs. The unemployment rate in California stands at 12.4%. But the more important numbers are these: Unemployment for Californians without a high school diploma is 19.2%; for those with a high school degree, 15.6%; for those with an associate’s (2-year college) degree, 9.1%; for those with a bachelor’s degree, 6.4%.

And 1 of every 5 high school students will drop out before receiving a diploma. For African American and Latino students, the numbers are more stark, with 2 out of every 5 dropping out.

These numbers lay bare the reality that if we are going to get serious about jobs in this state, we must get serious about the direct relationship between jobs and education. We need to align public education with the jobs that will exist in a knowledge-intensive, innovation economy.

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Categories : Economy, Manufacturing
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Dec
29

Homecoming Job Fair 2010

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In a sign that the local economy is finally picking up steam, three times as many local manufacturers on Tuesday attended the 5th Annual Homecoming Job Fair at Biltmore Square Mall as last year. Although the crowd seemed thinner than usual, about 2,000 job seekers attended. Mountain Xpress quotes Ray Elingburg of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

“The sense is that locally, in the Asheville, Buncombe, and Henderson areas, the economy is getting better,” said Elingburg, citing statistics that show unemployment in the area is hovering at 7.2 percent compared to 9.8 percent state-wide.

“There are a lot of employers here looking to fill jobs, where last year they were looking just to make a showing – being here as a moral boast – but they weren’t really hiring,” explained Ellie Waters, a counselor at the JobLink Career Center.

In an informal survey, local manufacturers were upbeat. And they are hiring again.

Nypro is pleased that the state “stepped up” and helped its Avery’s Creek facility land the $83 million expansion that will make injectable insulin pens for Novo Nordisk. The representative from Crane-Resistoflex in Marion reported that it his firm never slowed down had its largest-ever order last year: from China.

Continental Automotive Systems believes its new contracts with Ford mean business looks steady for the next couple of years. AVL Technologies is still setting up its new shop in Woodfin, having relocated from the River Arts District. But with a large share of the mobile satellite antenna/positioner market and thousands of its products in use with the U.S. military, their work appears stable.

General Electric Aviation’s representative believes their business is trending up. Finding the right talent is still a challenge, however. There are plenty of experienced tool and die makers in the area, but what GE really needs is more CNC programmers. A representative from another manufacturer echoed that sentiment.

“I can train you to operate the machine in a week, but what we need are people who can take the drawings, set up and program the machine.” Not enough experienced workers want to invest the time to acquire that higher-level skill, he said.

Friends thought Robbie and Carolyn Johannessen were crazy last spring when they made plans to open their own business in a down economy. Now, just as the economy seems poised to rebound, they are hiring for their new precision parts manufacturing facility opening in Candler next month. Advanced Manufacturing Solutions has orders and equipment, but so far no power for its 8,800 sq. ft. facility. After jumping through the usual series of local permitting hoops, they are still trying to find the right officials to help make that happen.

Categories : Economy, Manufacturing
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Dec
06

Der Gründungszuschuß, Bitte

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Over at Daily Kos, brooklynbadboy says, “Republicans, of course, hate this. To them, a big government, heavily unionized, social democracy like Germany is supposed to be the poster child for the wrong way to do things.” He points to this column about the German economy by Harold Meyerson [emphasis mine]:

It’s quite a turnabout for an economy that American and British bankers and economists derided for years as the sick man of Europe. German banks, they insisted, were too cautious and locally focused, while the German economy needed to slim down its manufacturing sector and beef up finance.

Wisely, the Germans declined the advice. Manufacturing still accounts for nearly a quarter of the German economy; it is just 11 percent of the British and U.S. economies (one reason the United States and Britain are struggling to boost their exports). Nor have German firms been slashing wages and off-shoring – the American way of keeping competitive – to maintain profits.

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Categories : Economy, Manufacturing
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Nov
09

Short Cuts

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Some people just can’t resist trying to improve things. Two recent encounters point out the pitfalls in trying to impose order on disorderly humans.

Before the election, I bumped into friends at the grocery store. One asked about instant runoff voting: pick your first, second and third choices from a raft of judicial candidates.

It’s too complicated, she said.

Somebody thinks it will save money on runoffs and be more efficient, I explained.

Well, she answered, whoever thought that up doesn’t understand how real people think. (About one-third of election-day voters in our county skipped those races. The Early Voting breakdown from the BOE is still pending.)

After Heath Shuler’s reelection victory on November 2, I headed for the Renaissance Hotel bar with friend who works on the Hill. We were discussing how to attract private capital for rebuilding manufacturing in western North Carolina when a self-described fiscal conservative butted in to talk about communists on the left.

I guess some pejoratives are just timeless. The Berlin Wall fell twenty years ago, pal, and you guys can’t get your heads out of the last century. Seen Shanghai lately? Not even the communists are communists.

“I’m a blogger,” I told him. “I attend a couple of annual conventions where I hang out with some of the people you’d consider communists. And I don’t know anybody who fits that description.”

Trust me, dinner conversation at such affairs doesn’t turn on how workers should control the means of production. I heard Lou Jacobi in my head reworking classic Jewish joke. By Rush Limbaugh, they’re communists. By Glenn Beck, they’re communists. And by you, they’re communists. But by a communist, they’re no communists!

Fiscal Conservative turned to the judges races. People should do the work to investigate candidates’ backgrounds and legal philosophy in the nonpartisan judicial races, he insisted. But instead, the local Democratic Party just furnishes voters with slate cards that just identify the Democratic judges.

He was right. It is not ideal. But it’s how busy people vote. Their decision process is less linear. They take shortcuts.

The quad at our local university exhibits a nice linear pattern of sidewalks — some architect’s idea of formal design and aesthetic appeal. But the grass exhibits worn paths where real people actually walk. Formal design doesn’t necessarily mesh with how people really behave. Smart people from both ends of the political continuum miss that. People vote for candidates they identify with. They take shortcuts.

Eventually, Fiscal Conservative asked one of those gotcha question meant to separate the capitalists from the commies: Which was better at creating jobs, government or the private sector? The question wasn’t just an accusation, but about somebody’s idea of efficiency.

Indeed, the Soviets thought it would be more efficient to collectivize farms and develop 5-year plans for production. Instead of wasting resources on making a dozen models of cars, there should be one model, etc. The attempt satisfied somebody’s need to perfect mankind, but it met with less than ideal results.

Among many capitalists, on the other hand, there’s this assumption that something is not worth doing (and maybe vaguely subversive) unless somebody, preferably them, is making a buck off it. To them, not-for-profit is the very definition of socialism. I mean, why use low-paid G.I.s for traditional military chores like logistical support and warehouse and facilities management when for-profit civilian contractors can do it at a much higher markup to taxpayers? The dogma that the private sector is always “better” at creating jobs is a noble-sounding, Chamber of Commerce conceit. Lipstick on the old for-profit pig.

The proper response to “Which is better at creating jobs, government or the private sector?” is something like: “Which is better for hammering nails, a brick or a stapler?” Every organization does some things better than others. Neither a brick nor a stapler is good for driving nails. Each has its use. In a pinch, you might use either to drive nails, but it’s not what they are for.

Just like the private sector, the government, and jobs. That’s what makes Fiscal Conservative’s question pointless except as a political litmus test. Neither one is designed for creating jobs. If they do, it’s merely incidental. Businesses – corporations, at the very least – are organized to generate profit first and foremost. If they can do that without hiring anyone, they will. Or without producing anything useful at all, for that matter. Ask Goldman Sachs.

But some people insist that the world be black or white. When Fiscal Conservative insisted that government cannot create jobs, I pointed out that the defense industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers in private-sector jobs paid for with tax dollars. That didn’t count, he said. (Somehow, I think it counts to defense workers.)

“Why doesn’t it count?” I asked. Fiscal Conservative couldn’t say.

Oct
16

The Big Dog Returns

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A telephone message from the Buncombe County Democratic Party just announced that President Bill Clinton will be in Asheville this coming Thursday, October 21, for a rally in support of Rep. Heath Shuler and other Democratic candidates.  The rally will be held at City-County Plaza and begins at 12:30 p.m. More details as they become available.

Don’t forget the Keep It Made In America town hall event that same night (Thursday evening) in Asheville. Next year, economic forecasters predict that America will lose its #1 global ranking in manufacturing for the first time in 110 years. Help us drive manufacturing jobs to the center of the public agenda. The Alliance for American Manufacturing is sponsoring this free, nonpartisan town hall/dinner event at the Venue (at 21 N. Market St., across from Magnolia’s). Registration is at 5 p.m., with dinner at 5:30 p.m. This event is open to the public. RSVP, please. CALL 866-365-2203 (Please specify the city of your event.), email rsvp@aamfg.org, or visit their Facebook page.