San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 16th, 2012
Commentary: Power to recover rests in manufacturing

Editors’ Note: Texas House Speaker Joe Straus delivered the keynote address at the Texas Manufacturers Summit, which concluded yesterday in San Marcos. The event was sponsored by the Texas Manufacturers Association and San Marcos Manufacturers Association.

GUEST COMMENTARY by JOE STRAUS

The foundation for Texas’ future may well be found on the floor of our state’s factories and manufacturing facilities. As we look for ways to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, our manufacturing sector is poised to be the catalyst that drives our economy forward.

Texas is the next great frontier, attracting businesses and families to a land that offers opportunity, rewards innovation and boasts the natural resources — its people and its business climate — to generate great results. But even states with the strongest economic foundation were hit hard by recent economic tumult. While deficits in Washington have been spiraling out of control, in Texas, we dealt with our largest budgetary shortfall on record. Lawmakers made tough choices to rein in spending and balance our budget while addressing critical needs.

Fortunately, Texas sales tax collections have been on the rise for 20 straight months, indicating overall growth in our economy. But too many Texans are still searching for jobs. To rebound and build an enduring foundation for economic renewal and revitalization, we must focus on rebuilding our manufacturing sector.

Texas is America’s No. 1 exporter of manufactured goods, and Texas manufacturing contributes about 13 percent of the gross state product. The industry employs more than 838,000 Texans who earn on average 34 percent more than the rest of the state’s workforce.

Manufacturing jobs are among the best our state has to offer. That’s why we must look for ways to spur growth and encourage this sector to make the smart investments and expansions that will put more Texans to work. That’s why I’ve made manufacturing a priority in the Legislature, asking every House committee to study how we can strengthen the industry and increase capacity statewide.

One of the fastest ways to expand manufacturing in America is to stop federal obstructionism of energy exploration — especially on federal lands and in federal waters. Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale offers a hint of the economic potential tied to energy development. New technologies have opened up this massive field of oil and natural gas, and jobs are being created and mineral royalties are being invested in the economy. If we tap our full energy potential, we will be less dependent on foreign oil while creating manufacturing jobs at home — a win for our economy and national security.

But President Barack Obama doesn’t see it at that way. His opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline provides ample evidence that politics trumps good policy, and his decision will prevent the creation of 20,000 American jobs, including manufacturing jobs in Texas. We can’t sit back and wait for Washington to act. We must come together and create new strategies and avenues to build Texas’ manufacturing sector.

Next session will require lawmakers to again make tough choices to balance our budget and establish priorities for the years ahead. We must remember that for Texas to succeed, our manufacturing sector must grow. To do so we must continue to focus on low taxes, affordable and reliable energy, efficient transportation, robust infrastructure, and a well-educated, skilled workforce.

Joe Straus is speaker of the Texas House.

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