U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, discussed his ideas for growing manufacturing jobs and increasing competitiveness during a roundtable discussion Friday with members of the local manufacturing and business community.
Guthrie discussed his recently-filed REBUILD Act with the group, which met at Stupp Bridge Co. in Bowling Green.
REBUILD stands for the Reducing Employer Burdens, Unleashing Innovation and Labor Development Act.
The bill is a “top 10 list” of policies for stimulating the manufacturing industry with elements that include investing in training programs that will match skills needed by industry, expediting the process for comprehensive tax reform, expanding offshore oil and gas production and limiting action from the Environmental Protection Agency that would negatively affect the economy.
It would also repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” and in its place establish a framework for consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines.
Guthrie told the group that he has long had an interest in manufacturing because of his family background. His father worked for Ford, and Guthrie’s family owns Trace Die Cast.
He said it’s important for government to get out of the way of businesses but also make sure that people have the skills to operate in a new manufacturing environment.
The act tells a complete story of what he believes needs to happen to grow the manufacturing industry, but it’s unlikely that it will be passed through Congress in that complete form, Guthrie said after the meeting.
“In the end I think what will happen is that pieces of this bill will move forward,” he said.
Guthrie told the group that the stories of their experiences can help show the need for the act.
Rodney Kirtley, executive director of the Barren River Area Development District, said one of the barriers to filling manufacturing jobs in the region has been extensions of unemployment benefits, which keeps some people out of the workforce.
“Then they get out of the habit of working,” Kirtley said.
Ron Bunch, president of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, said the existing workforce system isn’t doing a good job of matching up people and jobs.
“Somebody’s got to look at what happened over time that we’ve got these positions open and not the talent to match up,” he said.
Robert Teixeira, general manager at Magna, said after the meeting that one of the biggest challenges his business faces is finding workers with the skills needed such as tool and die making and robotics.
When the company located in Bowling Green it imported workers with the appropriate skills from Canada – where the company is based – and from other states, but many didn’t stay in those positions for long “because this is not home,” he said.
Magna pays for its team members to go to school to get specific skills, but now the company is seeing those workers take higher paying jobs at other places, Teixeira said.
He said he thinks Guthrie’s bill might help his industry because it might provide more money for training workers.
The business can’t continue to pay to train workers who leave for other jobs, Teixeira said.