Around the States

Remembering David Olson

By | Around the States, Presidents Blog | No Comments
David Olson, President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

David Olson, President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

Manufacturers lost a great leader. Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President David Olson will be missed greatly by manufacturers, his fellow NAM Board Members and many more across the country.

David left us after a life not long enough, but long enough for joy and love and laughter and good times – and long enough to leave a lasting footprint on the business community, his state and his country.

He inspired all of us and will be remembered by the countless individuals whose lives he made better. David always had colorful stories to tell, laughs to laugh, words to write, legislators to buttonhole, lobbies to walk and battles to fight. He passionately led the business community in Minnesota for decades with great optimism and strong faith. As a champion for economic growth, he provided pragmatic solutions that transcended party politics.

What most of us remember best is not specifically what David did or said, but how he did it – as a unique, wonderful, patriotic and highly intelligent human being. He connected with each of us in some unusual way to get a job done. Through his words and actions, he made us proud and proud to know him.

He was the epitome of hardworking Minnesotan values and a leader among his peers. I was fortunate enough to count him as my friend.

In an industry that seems to grow more homogenized every day, David had very much his own voice. His lifetime of dedication serves as a monument to the exemplary man he was.  His integrity and hard work will encourage those who knew him and will continue to benefit those who make Minnesota their home for years to come.  Among the best things David has left behind is his shining example.

An Opportunity for Manufacturers and Exporters in the Pacific Northwest

By | Around the States, Energy, Infrastructure | No Comments

A big debate on energy exports is playing out in the Pacific Northwest. Passions are running high on both sides, no doubt fueled in part by meticulously brewed cups of java.

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons recently waded into the debate. In remarks to business community leaders in Portland and later in Seattle, he made a strong case in support of building the infrastructure necessary to move goods and commodities, such as coal and natural gas, to markets abroad. He said:

Building, modernizing and expanding export terminals makes sense. In a still sluggish economy, expansion will create over 10,000 jobs in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the entire manufacturing economy in America. Expansion means more private investment in export infrastructure—not just for commodities like coal and liquefied natural gas—but for agriculture and manufactured products. It’s a winning proposition.

Currently, plans to modernize export terminals in Washington and Oregon are  effectively on hold. Approval of these projects takes the consent of seemingly every level of government, giving opponents plenty of opportunities to stall. All the while, the Pacific Northwest is missing out on the increased economic activity the export terminals would make possible.

The debate over energy exports isn’t isolated to the Pacific Northwest. Similar debates are taking place across the country, particularly on the issue of natural gas exports. The United States has abundant supplies of natural gas, which are now being developed thanks to advancements in hydraulic fracturing. By exporting energy, whether coal or natural gas, the United States can enhance its global economic leadership, boost economic growth and create high-wage jobs.

“Other growing global economies need energy,” Timmons remarked during his trip to the Pacific Northwest. “Why shouldn’t it be from America?”

Records Fell at Wisconsin’s Brat Fest

By | America's Business, Around the States, Report from America | No Comments

Pastrami may be the “most sensual of the salted, cured meats,” but sausage is definitely the most versatile. It’s great at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It can be the centerpiece of a meal or it can spice up an otherwise ordinary dish. Sausage is great on the grill during a backyard barbecue, or it can highlight that overpriced charcuterie plate at the bistro down the street. I am hungry just thinking about it.

America may not have created sausages, but I’d argue no country does it better than we do today—and one of our leading lights is Johnsonville. From humble origins at a Sheboygan County butcher shop decades ago, Johnsonville now hawks its tubesteaks around the world.

But even though it has conquered the U.S. market and is rapidly expanding globally, the company is not resting on its laurels. It’s introducing new products, testing new flavors—and of course, crafting the WORLD’S LONGEST BRAT.

Last week, Johnsonville unleashed a monster 54 foot, 10 inch brat at the World’s Largest Brat Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. The lengthy link bettered the previous world record by more than two feet.

After marveling at the feat, Brat Festers were able to enjoy the sausage, which was cut into more manageable portions. Proceeds went to charity.

Will 2012 Be Another Big Year for Shale?

By | Around the States, Energy | One Comment

On the energy front, one of the biggest stories of 2011 was the development of shale gas.  And, if the current trends continue, it will likely be the story of 2012 as well.

The Wall Street Journal reports,

The boom in low-cost natural gas obtained from shale is driving investment in plants that use gas for fuel or as a raw material, setting off a race by states to attract such factories and the jobs they create.

Recently, natural gas prices have plummeted.  “Because electric utilities often burn gas,” the Journal notes, “that price drop has helped bring down average electricity costs.

That’s a big deal for manufacturers, which consume one-third of the energy produced in this country. Lower energy prices make manufacturers more competitive and help offset other areas where manufacturers in the country are at a disadvantage compared to our competitors.

The shale boom’s impact on manufacturing was highlighted in a recent report completed by PricewaterhouseCoopers and released jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers.

The report shows that shale development means more investment in our economy, lower energy prices and one million more jobs by 2025.

NAM Board Chair Addresses Iowa Manufacturers

By | Around the States, General | No Comments

NAM Board Chair Mary Andringa addresses the Iowa Association of Business and Industry on October 18.

NAM Board Chair (and President and CEO of the Vermeer Corporation) Mary Andringa addressed the Iowa Association of Business and Industry yesterday in Des Moines.  Shopfloor hears that the turnout was impressive.

Andringa spoke about the role of manufacturing in Iowa, as well as the importance of the NAM in advancing manufacturing in this country.  You can see highlights of the presentation here.

And, of course, no presentation on manufacturing is complete without a mention of A Manufacturing  Renaissance: Four Goals for Economic Growth, the NAM’s blueprint for economic recovery.

Former Senator on EPA’s New Power Plant Regs

By | Around the States, Energy, Regulations | No Comments

Over the weekend, former Missouri Senator Kit Bond wrote in the Southeast Missourian about the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires power plants to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.  (News coverage of the new rule here and here.)

Senator Bond writes that this new regulation will have a serious impact on coal-fired power plants:

Every time an American family turns on a light switch, heats a home in winter or air conditions that home in the summer, that family will pay higher utility bills. Workers who depend on coal-fired plants for paychecks will face unemployment when plants are closed. Rural communities that depend on tax revenue from utilities to fund schools will struggle to keep doors open for students when coal-fired facilities are shut down due to the cost of complying with EPA’s regulatory onslaught. And farmers and businesses — from the local pharmacy to drugstore — will face higher energy prices, making it more difficult to stay in business — let alone create jobs.

Senator Bond notes that, together with the Utility MACT regulations, this new rule will cost jobs. He writes,

Recent analysis from the National Economic Research Associates shows that by 2020 the cost of just two of the coming onslaught of regulations the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules — will be the loss of 1.4 million jobs and an averageutility bill increase, of 11.5 percent — and in some cases, more than 20 percent.

For more about the EPA’s regulatory agenda, be sure the visit the NAM’s No New Regs site.

President Obama to Visit Factory in Iowa Today

By | Around the States | No Comments

This afternoon President Obama will be touring and speaking at Alcoa Davenport Works in Bettendorf, Iowa. The President is expected to continue to speak about the importance of manufacturing to our nation’s economy.

Politico reports on today’s event:

The all-important political state of Iowa will host President Obama on Tuesday as he goes to Bettendorf to tour a factory and talk about manufacturing and the economy. “Manufacturing serves as the backbone of communities across our country and the continued revitalization of the manufacturing sector is critical to America’s success as we compete in a 21st century global economy,” the White House noted in guidance to reporters.

Interesting Consensus in Texas

By | Around the States, Briefly Legal | No Comments

Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed legislation intended to deter frivolous lawsuits–so-called loser pays legislation.

Usually, this kind of thing gets trial lawyers riled up, and this occasion was no different.  The Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog reports,

Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a pro-business group, hailed the measure, saying in a statement that it was “bitterly opposed by the Texas Trial Lawyer Association until the last minutes of deliberation.”

But what about those last minutes of deliberation?  It turns out that the final bill received the support of both the legal reform group and the trial lawyers.  The Texas Lawyer explains,

Groups that previously fought on opposing sides — Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, among others — lined up in support of Committee Substitute House Bill 274….

Speaking in interviews before the Senate passed the bill, Mike Gallagher, past president of Texas Trial Lawyers Association and Alan Waldrop, outside counsel for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, shared their views on the committee substitute.

“It’s obviously much better than the House version,” said Gallagher, who said he participated in “heated negotiations” over the substitute bill. He said he thought the Senate would not pass loser pays without trial lawyers’ input.

It’s not often you see those two groups joining hands.  Nevertheless, tort reformers seem optimistic.  See here for example.  And here’s a more tempered view of an earlier, less watered down version of the bill.

Governors Push for FTA Approval

By | America's Business, Around the States, Economy, Trade | No Comments

This week the Senate Finance Committee holds two hearings on pending free trade agreements (FTAs).  Tomorrow, the committee will consider the Panama FTA, and Thursday the committee will turn to the South Korea agreement.

Ahead of those hearings, 25 governors have written congressional leaders urging them to pass the Colombia, Panama, and Korea FTAs.  The bipartisan group writes,

As the chief executives of our respective states and territories, we appreciate how important international trade and investment are to the economic vitality of our jurisdictions, presenting important opportunities for workers, and enhancing our overall competitiveness.  Export-related jobs pay better than non-exporting industries and, with nearly 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the U.S., exports have been the focus of increased job growth in recent years.

These trade agreements have been awaiting congressional approval since 2007 (and 2006 for the Colombia deal).

Read the whole letter here.