Talk about timing. On the first day of the Washington State Workforce and Economic Development Conference Boeing shunned its long-time home in Seattle to announce it would expand production of its 787 in South Carolina. The next morning, Jeff Finkle of the International Economic Development Council tried to put a positive spin on it - at least there's still some manufacturing taking place in the U.S. I don't think a lot of people in Spokane were buying it.
Finkle also said he didn't think Congress ultimately will pass bills creating tax credits for job creation to address the economic downturn. The administration, he said, is more focused right now on not digging the deficit hole any deeper.
Linda Lawson of the National Governors Association offered a different view. She said she's been in meetings at the Treasury and at the White House domestic policy office where the possibility of large WPA-style public works projects to get Americans back to work have been discussed.
In case you're keeping count, I've been advocating this since early 2007 when the problems of unemployment, underemployment and wages not keeping up with the cost of living were already clear. My new New Deal would include investments in putting people back rebuilding our education and health care systems, alongside investments in physical infrastructure. Data and analysis from Washington's own chief economist suggests that jobs are the key to the economic recovery, so I hope Finkle has it wrong.
Later in the day I went to a workshop on jobs in the health sector where I learned
- Medical technology is creating new jobs, but it's also making others like medical record clerk obsolete
- Health care careers aren't for everyone - don't encourage people to go into health care just because that's where the jobs are right now
- Washington state has done an exemplary job of creating articulation agreements allowing people to work up nursing career ladder from licensed practical nurse to associates degree in nursing to bachelor's degree and beyond
My big takeaways on ARRA from Heather Moss in Governor Gregoire's office:
- Efforts to stabilize the economy are either building the plane as we fly it, or trying to put a pig through a python, depending on who you ask
- The 2011-13 state budget is looking pretty dismal (surprise!)
- Wisconsin and Alaska are doing a notably good job of tracking ARRA grant opportunities on their state recovery act websites - a good resource for everyone nationally
Finally, I have to give a big personal shout-out to David Harrison, who was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Workforce and Economic Best Practices. Well deserved!
And, as the Washington Secretary of Health Mary Selecky reminded us in the closing ceremony: If you get sick, stay home!