By Steven R. Rathje
With all the talk about the possibility of a casino in Linn County, and the assumed benefits that some say would accompany such a venture, I thought it just as interesting to learn of the proven benefits of embracing the world’s 10th-largest economy: U.S. manufacturing.
After all, if jobs and the economy are the reasoning behind supporting a casino, as is depicted in proponents’ marketing strategy, shouldn’t we at least consider all of our alternatives, and the benefits/consequences of each, before stepping into the voting booth?
One doesn’t have to be that old to remember the former industrial might of our city, and the many factories and manufacturing facilities that dotted our landscape that no longer exist. Sure there were companies that moved in to replace them, but few even came close to employing the thousands employed by the others before moving on or closing their doors. For example; Cedar Rapids lost Linkbelt (FMC), Harnischfeger (P&H), Goss and Square D, to name a few. When these companies moved on, they not only took thousands of jobs with them, they adversely affected the lives and livelihoods of the people who remained here.
Perhaps we should reflect and determine that which will ultimately keep our manufacturing industry alive and well right here, while also enticing others to return or relocate. Then, rather than taking it for granted, embrace it always. Consider:
The United States is the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing 18.2 percent of all global manufactured products, with China coming in second with 17.6 percent. Thus, manufacturing provided by U.S. companies produces $1.8 trillion of value each year, or 12.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. For every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.48 is added to the economy.
Nearly 12 million Americans (or 9 percent of the workforce) are directly employed in manufacturing, which supports 17.2 million jobs all across the country, equating to about one in six private-sector jobs. In 2011, the average U.S. manufacturing employee earned $77,060 in wages and benefits, compared to $60,168 for the average worker in all industries.
Which offers more in terms of jobs and economic stability to our community, a casino or embracing the 10th-largest economy in the world? It is not my intention to lead any particular direction regarding a casino here. Moreover, I want to draw attention to what many rely upon for daily needs, and that’s jobs — good-paying jobs. Let’s think long and hard before making our choices at the ballot box.Steven R. Rathje of Cedar Rapids is founder/CEO of International Procurement Services Inc. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org