I have consistently held that re-energizing our economy is job one. It is crucial that we begin to restore confidence in our future so that businesses, large and small, begin to again invest in their futures—in innovation, in hiring and in training new employees.
This past week, during my first trip home to the Tenth District after being sworn in as its Congressman, I had the opportunity to visit and tour nine local businesses, meeting their owners and employees, learning in some detail about the opportunities and challenges that they face and discussing how Congress can have a positive impact to help them prosper and grow.
If I have one important takeaway from my visits, it’s that the Tenth District is home to many wonderful businesses employing many capable people. At every company I visited, I saw enthusiasm, I sensed optimism and I learned about the diversity of opportunity here in Illinois. I have no doubt that our district is poised to help lead our nation’s economic recovery.
But I also heard frustration about what is happening in Washington.
From family businesses such as C-Line Products and Ludlow Manufacturing, to large corporations such as Walgreens and Underwriters Laboratories, some common themes emerged: we need Congress to stop fighting and start working together; we need more skilled technical workers; and incentives for companies to invest in their businesses and their people make a difference.
Ludlow Manufacturing, a metal fabricator based in Gurnee, is a family-owned business with 100 percent of their operations based in the Tenth District. They have experienced rapid growth and are excited about continued expansion, but one of the major concerns is the lack of technicians and engineers to operate sophisticated machinery. They’re so eager for new, skilled employees that they’ve reached out to local high schools to generate interest in the profession and even mentioned considering conducting most of the training in-house.
I heard the same concern from Knuth Machine Tools—a global metalworking equipment manufacturer with its North American headquarters here in Lincolnshire. With installations throughout the country, they simply can’t keep pace with the demand for technicians.
It is companies like these that have established the Tenth District’s long history as a national leader in manufacturing, and in order to keep that tradition alive, it’s critical that the opportunities to learn the necessary skills exist.
For both Connexion, an electrical products distributor in Buffalo Grove, and Schumacher Electric, a battery charger manufacturer in Mount Prospect, uncertainty in Washington poses a serious obstacle. Several of the companies I visited told me that without knowing when or which regulations will go into effect, without knowing how taxes will be structured or whether various compromises will be reached, decision making becomes more difficult and investments can be delayed or deferred.
Congress simply has to stop kicking the can down the road for two, or six or twelve months—successful businesses don’t make investment decisions with six-month horizons; they plan for three, or five or even ten years. In order for these employers to have the confidence to invest in new technologies and take on new workers, we must bring longer-term thinking to the policy decisions we make in Congress.
By the end of the tour, it was clear that these businesses are excited to have their roots in the Tenth District and are confident in their abilities, but frustrated by inaction in Washington. These businesses want to stay here, to grow and succeed here. They’re not asking for special favors, just fairness and constructive action from elected officials. And I think that’s a request worth getting behind.