Opinion: Power to Recover Rests in Manufacturing
Key Sector Can Drive Texas, U.S. Forward
The following opinion-editorial is authored by Joe Straus, Texas House Speaker who served as a keynote speaker at the Texas Association of Manufacturers' Summit held on Feb. 14-15, 2012 in San Marcos, Texas:
AUSTIN, TEXAS (Feb. 20, 2012)--The foundation for Texas' future may well be found on the floor of our state's factories and manufacturing facilities. As we look for ways to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth, our manufacturing sector is poised to be the catalyst that drives our economy forward.
Texas is the next, great frontier, attracting businesses and families to a land that offers opportunity, rewards innovation and boasts the natural resources – both in its people and its business climate – to generate great results. But even states with the strongest economic foundation were hit hard by recent economic tumult. While deficits in Washington have been spiraling out of control, in Texas, we dealt with our largest budgetary shortfall on record. Lawmakers made tough, but necessary, choices to rein in spending and balance our budget while addressing critical needs.
Fortunately, Texas sales tax collections have been on the rise for 20 straight months, indicating overall growth in our economy. But too many Texans are still searching for jobs. To rebound and build an enduring foundation for economic renewal and revitalization, we must focus on rebuilding our manufacturing sector.
Texas is America’s number one exporter of manufactured goods and Texas manufacturing contributes about 13 percent of the Gross State Product in Texas. The industry employs more than 838,000 Texans who earn on average 34 percent more than the rest of the Texas workforce.
Manufacturing jobs are among the best our state has to offer. That’s why we must look for ways to spur growth and encourage this sector to make the smart investments and expansions that will put more Texans to work. That’s why I’ve made manufacturing a priority in the Texas Legislature, asking every House Committee to study how we can strengthen the industry and increase capacity statewide.
One of the fastest ways to expand manufacturing in America is to stop federal obstructionism when it comes to energy exploration – especially on federal lands and in federal waters. The Eagle Ford Shale in Texas offers a hint of the economic potential tied to energy development. New technologies have opened up this massive field of oil and natural gas and jobs are being created and mineral royalties are being invested in the economy as a result. If we tap our full energy potential, we will be less dependent on foreign oil while creating manufacturing jobs at home—a clear win for our economy and our national security.
But President Obama doesn’t see it at that way. His opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline provides ample evidence that politics trumps good policy, and his decision will prevent the creation of 20,000 American jobs, including important manufacturing jobs in Texas. Clearly, we can’t sit back and wait for Washington to act, which is why we must come together and create new strategies and avenues to build Texas’ manufacturing sector. That’s exactly what we did this week, when I joined Texas manufacturers at the 2012 Manufacturers Summit as they gathered to examine the tremendous challenges and opportunities that exist.
Next session will require lawmakers to again make tough choices to balance our budget and establish clear priorities for the years ahead. In the midst of this work, we must remember that for Texas to succeed, our manufacturing sector must grow. To do so we must continue to focus on low taxes, affordable and reliable energy, efficient transportation, robust infrastructure, and a well-educated, skilled workforce.
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Joe Straus is Speaker of the Texas House.
Op-ed Statistical Sources:
2. National Association of Manufacturers
Media contact for Texas Association of Manufacturers: Gretchen Fox, (512) 694-4326.
The Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM) represents over 400 large and small companies from every manufacturing sector, employing more than 940,000 Texans with an average compensation of $79,000 a year (the highest in the private sector). Texas Association of Manufacturers is online at www.manufacturetexas.org. Join TAM on Facebook.com/TXManufacturers.