On Jobs and the Economy
We know that the backbone of our economy is small businesses, including businesses that employ fewer than 25 people. Those businesses range from agriculture to small industry to tourism. A strong economy is a diverse economy, and a diverse economy creates the range of jobs we need.
We can create dependable jobs with family supporting wages by supporting small businesses and small business entrepreneurs. My experience with Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority proves we can do that. We can do that with smart legislation that relates to northern industries and businesses.
Some examples of the practical solutions that can bring jobs – family supporting jobs that last – to our region:
- Department of Commerce programs targeting businesses with 24 or fewer employees (Commerce’s current programs focus on businesses with 25 or more employees, leaving out most Northwoods businesses).
- Programs to support small but growing and aspiring businesses, not just businesses already at Commerce wage and benefit levels.
- Engage our colleges, universities and technical schools to help us understand the future directions including trends and technological advances for a 21st century economy. Historically, education is the key to growing economies and the key to improving incomes of workers.
- Establish a forest products business institute up north to study and assist with long-range solutions to support our forest industries.
- National Forest contracts favorable to local, small operators.
- Support transportation up north. We need transit solutions to support a growing economy in the 74th District. This District doesn’t have a square inch of interstate, and has no scheduled air, bus or rail services. That limits our citizens and limits our business climate.
- Continued strong support for collective bargaining and supporting the integrity of workers seeking family supporting wages.
- Support our growing local agriculture and local food networks. They create jobs and a healthier food system.
Mining and the Environment
Any mining operation in Wisconsin must undergo the intensive scrutiny of many entities, including the state and its agencies, the Bad River Tribe and its agencies, and the federal government and its agencies. All communities and constituents must be involved. The environmental health of the region cannot be compromised, and I have gone on record saying so. I strongly support the regulatory processes and agencies of our government, including the Tribes, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources in respect to mining and protection of our shared lands and waters.
I have stated that zero-tolerance for environmental degradation and responsible extractions of minerals are not automatically mutually exclusive. Wisconsin is a leader in environmental protection and responsible use of resources. Strict laws are in place for the exact purpose of feasibility studies as proposed by the Cline Group, the corporate entity owning the mineral rights to the Penokee-Gogebic iron range in southern Ashland County.
I also believe that this position does not automatically preclude investigations of mining’s potential. The Cline group has the right to investigate that potential in the Penokees. What I am for is absolute environmental protection. If mining technology can meet our highest standard, then let us be open-minded.
I understand the fears expressed by some that mining, especially open-pit mining in the Penokee Mountains, will permanently harm the environment – the hills and waterways we dearly treasure. We must never let our guard down when corporate interests threaten to overwhelm other interests, and when the understandable lure of good jobs fools us into short-cuts when it comes to protecting the environment. Our opponent and the Republican Party believe that jobs trump the environment. and that government should act to cut regulation and fast-track mining. I believe that state government must first protect our shared resources and support the regulatory process.
Finally, our area does need jobs, and I know that. I strongly believe in jobs with family-supporting wages. I also know that a diverse economy is the strongest economy and that we cannot be tempted by “silver bullet” solutions, finding the one thing that will fix our employment challenges. A diversified mix of economic drivers is what we must seek and create.