Here is my latest column...
Recently, the Wall Street Journal described how truck manufacturer Oshkosh Corporation was awarded a $1 billion defense contract to build a Humvee-like vehicle for use by troops in Afghanistan. The article gives an overview of how the Wisconsin-based company landed such a huge government contract and its impact on the labor market in the Fox Valley.
I, for one, could not be happier for Oshkosh Truck, the city, and the entire valley. This contact alone is expected to create 500 to 600 new jobs; great news for a city with an unemployment rate hovering around 8 percent.
Undoubtedly, it’s a great story, but could it have been better? Should it have been?
Oshkosh Truck had been preparing for the possibility of landing this contact for months. Engineers had been working around the clock to ensure its design, and its bid for the work, would best its competitors. As a private sector company it had to be prepared for anything, have an answer for any question, a solution for any problem or complication.
Their hard work paid off when Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the sole contact that could ultimately be worth upwards of $12 billion. The contract was so big in fact, the company’s Wisconsin facility could not handle all of the workload. In addition to hiring hundreds of people here, the company recalled over 500 laid-off employees in Pennsylvania. Terrific news for people in the Keystone State, but could those jobs have been created here?
If Governor Doyle thought more like the people at Oshkosh Truck, being prepared for anything, expecting the unexpected, he would have done something, anything to keep those jobs in Wisconsin in the months leading up to the contract announcement?
The Governor’s lack of a plan has once again hurt Wisconsin. If he would have thought of the folks in Janesville the story of Oshkosh Truck may have been even better. He should have been prepared to offer tax cuts, credits, exemptions, anything to put our citizens back to work and encourage Oshkosh Truck to retool the Janesville GM plant to help build the new vehicle.
Governor Doyle isn’t leading the gang that couldn’t shoot straight; he’s leading the gang that won’t shoot. Retaining and creating jobs is more than putting on a show, sending a letter or making one phone call to a CEO when the newspaper reports the tale of yet another company leaving Wisconsin. The tale of economic development is; if it’s in the paper it’s already too late.
When Thomas Industries left Sheboygan for Louisiana, the Governor said he personally called the company. That’s not going to cut it. The cost of doing business in Louisiana was less than Wisconsin. The company could save millions in labor costs by relocating. The decision to move was a no brainier from the business side.
Ultimately that’s the side of the equation the Governor Doyle doesn’t get. He doesn’t understand it, it’s outside of his comfort zone and that’s why he refuses to engage with the business community.
Right now we need a Governor that understands business and what it takes to create real jobs. 1,200 people lost their jobs when the Janesville General Motors plant closed. The city has an unemployment rate of 13.2%. Do you think Janesville could use a Governor that knows how to create real jobs?
I believe we lost a real opportunity to put Wisconsinites back to work on a large scale. The question about Jim Doyle now becomes: will he be ready the next time?