Experience has taught many businessmen to distrust two statements.One is, “The check is in the mail.” The other–madesolicitously by a government agency–is, “We are here to helpyou.” Late payers can be dunned; overzealous government can onlybe tolerated until more rational heads prevail. Who can forget OSHA inthe early ’70s? There are many who feel that the best thing government cando–besides recognizing that it is limited in what it can do–is to givebusiness all the tax breaks and regulatory relief possible.
Businessbest understands business problems. Recently, however, one regional government body has initiated anaction (not legislation) designed to help industry helpitself–specifically, the machine-tool industry. Interestingly, thisgroup, made up of private-sector experts, reads like a list ofWho’s Who in the machine-tool industry. It all started with the Council of Great Lakes Governors,originally formed to achieve common environmental and economicdevelopment goals for the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Economic goals include industrialrevitalization, reduced unemployment, and expansion of export marketsfor industries of those states.
Initially, the Council resolved that an intergovernmental andpublic/private reinvestment strategy be developed to enhance thecompetitive positions of such industries as autos, auto parts, steel,and machine tools. The resolution on reinvestment stresses the need forstates to help regional industries and to seek enactment of federalpolicies to enhance states’ efforts. A more specific resolution was later proposed by Ohio’sGovernor Richard F Celeste, resulting in the creation of the Great LakesGovernors’ Commission on the Machine Tool Industry.
The decisionto focus on the machine-tool industry was made because machine toolsform the base for all subsequent industrial production; the industry isvital to national defense; and about 60 percent of US metalworkingmachinery plants are located in the Great Lakes region. After studying the current state of the machine-tool industry fromthe standpoints of technology, capital formation, foreign trade, and thework force, the commission’s final report has been issued. Itcontains several specific recommendations to: boost joint technologyresearch; use new financial devices to aid industry; seek federal grant,contract, and research dollars; end unfair foreign trade; and help thework force by improving educational training programs. A number of the proposals offer promise, such as those suggestingnew ways to finance investment in machine tools, and ways to encourageexports to Communist-bloc countries, where a large potential marketexists. Here is a case where government asked, “How can wehelp?” The answer will depend on active participation by theindustry involved. We will keep you posted.
For more information onthe Commission’s report, circle E19.