California experienced just under one percent manufacturing employment growth in 2011 with the addition of 11,500 jobs. But the state still suffers from the loss of more than a third of its manufacturing base since 2001, leaving us with 1.2 million manufacturing jobs down from almost 2 million.
In 2012 and beyond, California manufacturing workers and employers want one thing — a fighting chance.
On the 2011 legislative front, the California Manufacturers & Technology Association’s legislative vote record reveals that our focus on workforce development and education has given some legislators a chance to rank higher on our scorecard. Fully 39 percent of the state legislature had vote records of 50 percent or better this year. In 2010 only 27 percent of our legislators had records above 50 percent.
We can attribute the 2011 improvement to a regulatory reform and analysis bill (SB 617) that gained bipartisan support, a career technical education bill (AB 1330) that might help close the skills gap slightly over time, and a few important legislative defeats.
Over the long term, and with some work, the half dozen positive manufacturing bills that passed will improve the manufacturing environment in California. While lawmakers seem willing to take small steps on issues that could help in the future, they have fallen woefully short where game-changing improvements are required right now. Despite record unemployment rates, it seems we still have a long way to go before manufacturing will get more than token support at the legislature.
And we need much more than token support. New laws such as the 33 percent renewable power mandate, a still evolving cap-and-trade carbon program, a developing “green chemistry” regulatory process, a Bisphenol-A ban, the yet-to-be-resolved meal and rest regulations, and many other California-only mandates continue to keep new manufacturing investment from flowing into our much less competitive state.
There is a reason that our 2011 regulatory survey showed that 91 percent of the manufacturing respondents said they would not start a business here if they didn’t already operate in California. It is costly and it’s unpredictable beyond any six-month period.
California manufacturers and their employees are some of the best in the world. They deserve a growing acknowledgement of their importance and the sector’s tremendous spillover effects in the economy. There will be no losers if California manufacturing grows and outpaces the country. Everyone will win, including companies that make green products. The best and brightest minds are already here. Our factories already have the highest level of energy efficiency. Our state just needs to partner with manufacturing for growth, not stand in the way and impede it.
In 2011, CMTA held a Summit with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, labor, employers and investors and proposed a Vision to grow the state’s economy and jobs, with manufacturing as a critical piece of our recovery. There was universal agreement that California can be a magnet for manufacturing with a welcoming business climate and that the high wage and high job multiplier sector is the key to our recovery. What’s wrong with a commitment to making California the best place in the country to manufacturer and attract new investment ? Nothing.
In 2012, let’s see if the state of California can increase the drumbeat for a sector that offers hard working Californians everything they need — a fighting chance (and a better-than-50% manufacturing vote record from their legislator).