Experience has taught many businessmen to distrust two statements.
One is, “The check is in the mail.” The other–made
solicitously by a government agency–is, “We are here to help
you.” Late payers can be dunned; overzealous government can only
be tolerated until more rational heads prevail. Who can forget OSHA in
the early ’70s?
There are many who feel that the best thing government can
do–besides recognizing that it is limited in what it can do–is to give
business all the tax breaks and regulatory relief possible. Business
best understands business problems.
Recently, however, one regional government body has initiated an
action (not legislation) designed to help industry help
itself–specifically, the machine-tool industry. Interestingly, this
group, made up of private-sector experts, reads like a list of
Who’s Who in the machine-tool industry.
It all started with the Council of Great Lakes Governors,
originally formed to achieve common environmental and economic
development goals for the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Economic goals include industrial
revitalization, reduced unemployment, and expansion of export markets
for industries of those states.
Initially, the Council resolved that an intergovernmental and
public/private reinvestment strategy be developed to enhance the
competitive positions of such industries as autos, auto parts, steel,
and machine tools. The resolution on reinvestment stresses the need for
states to help regional industries and to seek enactment of federal
policies to enhance states’ efforts.
A more specific resolution was later proposed by Ohio’s
Governor Richard F Celeste, resulting in the creation of the Great Lakes
Governors’ Commission on the Machine Tool Industry. The decision
to focus on the machine-tool industry was made because machine tools
form the base for all subsequent industrial production; the industry is
vital to national defense; and about 60 percent of US metalworking
machinery plants are located in the Great Lakes region.
After studying the current state of the machine-tool industry from
the standpoints of technology, capital formation, foreign trade, and the
work force, the commission’s final report has been issued. It
contains several specific recommendations to: boost joint technology
research; use new financial devices to aid industry; seek federal grant,
contract, and research dollars; end unfair foreign trade; and help the
work force by improving educational training programs.
A number of the proposals offer promise, such as those suggesting
new ways to finance investment in machine tools, and ways to encourage
exports to Communist-bloc countries, where a large potential market
exists. Here is a case where government asked, “How can we
help?” The answer will depend on active participation by the
industry involved. We will keep you posted. For more information on
the Commission’s report, circle E19.