March 1, 2016

Grains of Salt (v6): Dues Not Deals

Regular readers know that I'm not a huge fan of giving away tax dollars to corporations or organizations that don't need them. Or maybe, I should say, to those who shouldn't need them.

And so, naturally, I'm intrigued by an article I saw in Sunday's paper about MACNY, the Manufacturer's Association of Central N, and a couple of state senators, David Valesky and Jeffrey Klein, both members of the Independent Democratic Conference. The pols have proposed that MACNY "administer a centralized apprenticeship program for local factories."

You see, our manufacturing employees are getting old - average age is 56, according to MACNY's President, Randy Wolken. They're probably tired, too, I'd guess - most manufacturing jobs are not as easy as say, my desk job - and it makes sense that we need to have replacements at the ready as these folks start to age out of the workforce.

Wolken also noted that
With the $500,000, if it's added to the state budget, MACNY could run a central apprenticeship program that would reduce costs and administrative red tape for all local manufacturers. Much of the state money would pay for administrative costs involved in running the program. 
MACNY's website shows they have more than 330 member firms. Not all of them are manufacturers, but there are a lot of notable regional companies, many with global reputations, such as Welch Allyn, SRC, Lockheed Martin, Corning Inc, Tessy Plastics, and Par Technology among them. And, certainly, there are lots of smaller companies and likely some start ups who have signed on for the benefits of membership, which include networking, governmental affairs, shared purchasing services, and yes, training opportunities and consulting services.

MACNY's reach extends far outside the Central New York Area. This is important, I think, when we talk about coughing up $500,000 to help train employees. They are not a little trade group for Syracuse and Onondaga County - they're a trade group for everyone, from Rochester to Albany, from Watertown to Binghamton and Elmira. Do they really need half a million in taxpayer dollars to organize a training program, particularly when much of the money, by their own admission, is for administrative costs??

Our economy is such that, in many places, we don't build things anymore: we pour things. That's right: instead of opening companies that make things, we open coffee shops, places which tend to pay less than a good manufacturing job would pay. I mean, there are over 40 Dunkin' Donuts alone within 10 miles of me. We have a fairly new one, completely drive through, built in the shadows of the I-81 interchange with 690 East.

This one may very well come down whenever we decide what we're going to do with the interstate, which makes me question whether the group that built the tiny little DD has designs on a government payout of their own down the road. But I digress.

Folks say that part of the reason we have high unemployment and that we don't build things anymore is that factories cannot find skilled people to hire, and so jobs - good paying jobs, ones that might pay as much as tomorrow's minimum wage - go unfilled. If the jobs could be filled, we're told, we could grow our economy, and we could stabilize our population base, and we could support all of those coffee chains that dot the landscape, and make it possible for small businesses and start ups to grow, and, well, you get the picture.

But again -- does an organization with MACNY's membership and reach really need half a million in taxpayer dollars, no matter how pure their motives and how valuable the services that would be offered if the money was there?

Throw in one more point mentioned in the press coverage of this initiative, and my thinking becomes more clear:
The two (senators) were surrounded by officials from local labor unions and the MACNY who support the concept...
Use your dues, folks- not taxpayer dollars - to support your members and their training needs.