At a Yonkers manufacturing plant Feb. 1, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill that she believes will bring the manufacturing industry back to New York state and the country.
Gillibrand, who was at POP Displays L.L.C., a retail display manufacturer at 555 Tuckahoe Road, is the author of the Made in America Manufacturing Act, a federal funding competition that encourages states and regional private-public partnerships to design and implement strategies to spur growth.
Congress would award up to $20 million in competitive funding for each statewide or regional manufacturing hub.
New York’s manufacturing industry has been hit hard, with more than 123,000 jobs lost since 2005. In the Hudson Valley, 11,530 manufacturing jobs were lost between 2005 and 2010, with more than 4,000 in Westchester.
“It’s time to see ‘Made in America’ again, starting right here in New York,” Gillibrand said. “I believe New York’s great manufacturing communities are well positioned to compete for funding that would help carry out their innovative ideas to spark more growth.”
Gillibrand called New York’s manufacturing sector the backbone of the state economy, but it has been hurt by years of misguided economic policies, she said.
“We have to act to reverse this trend,” said Gillibrand. “I see the potential in New York state to lead the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing can power us through the 21st century.”
The bill would create a program that awards states and regions with funding to support local manufacturers through low-interest loans to build new facilities and upgrade equipment. According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report, the lack of available capital to manufacturers has restricted the ability of many small manufactures to grow and compete.
The federal investment could also help leverage matching funds from the private sector and other non-federal sources.
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the lower Hudson Valley, will co-sponsor the bill in the House of Representatives.
Funding would also go toward job training and vocational educational programs that partner businesses with colleges, local workforce centers and other skill providers.
“Six-hundred thousand jobs went unfilled (in 2011) because of a lack of qualified candidates,” said Gillibrand. “That’s a huge number. It’s a shame.”
Applicants would be required to form a partnership featuring members of county and municipal governments, along with small and large manufacturers, labor organizations, higher education institutions, workforce training centers and chambers of commerce to develop a strategy to expand opportunities for manufacturing.
The Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of Labor would evaluate applicants’ plans. Priority would be given to proposals that commit private sector and state or county and/or municipal matching funds and contributions on a one-on-one basis.
Gillibrand’s press conference was held the same day unemployment numbers came out, with the national unemployment rate increasing from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent.
“We need to do better,” Gillibrand said. “The federal government can help make the playing field stronger.”
The senator was joined by other elected officials and business leaders who praised the bill, including Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.
“We believe we have a workforce eager to take advantage of this,” said Spano. “This could create thousands of jobs and growth in the economy and community.”
Marsha Gordon, CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, said that the legislation was groundbreaking and it has the support of New York’s business community.
“Leadership creates jobs,” said Gordon. “This legislation is so important to manufacturing, but would also create ripple effects throughout the economy.”
Gillibrand noted that for every $1 invested into the economy, it produces a return of investment of $1.34.
“This could be a huge economic engine,” said Gillibrand.
Similar funding streams already exist in New York through county and city Industrial Development Agencies and Empire State Development. Gillibrand said her bill adds and compliments the bills already out there.
Later that day, Gillibrand touted the bill at the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center in Newburgh.