Lessons from Alabama

Fellow Alabamian Quin Hillyer says that Trump should pay attention to what’s happening in Alabama if he wants to help American workers. Forbes.com rated Mobile America’s top mid-sized city for manufacturing growth in 2015, and the growth has come from foreign companies:

With 4,200 employees, Austal Shipyards is the area’s largest manufacturer. Its corporate home is Australia. At Brookley Field, where Trump’s private jet landed for his 2015 rally, VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering, whose parent company is Singapore Technologies Engineering, employs 1,500 in Alabama and hundreds more in the Florida panhandle. Also at Brookley, Airbus planes are now rolling off the assembly line as the European corporation quickly ramps up to employing 1,000 full-time workers in the area. In the northern edge of Mobile County, two steel plants employ, respectively, 1,600 and 1,000 American workers. AM/NS Calvert is a joint venture of companies from Luxembourg and Japan, operating a plant originally built and operated by the German corporation ThyssenKrupp as part of an operation in which U.S. workers use raw materials from Brazil. The other steel plant is run by Outokumpu Stainless USA, a division of a company from Finland.

It’s happening all over the state: “the foreign automakers Mercedez-Benz, Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai operate large manufacturing centers. Wage growth in Mobile County is up 18.5 percent in five years, in an area where the cost of living remains remarkably low.” Alabama “has strong right-to-work laws, comparatively light regulatory burdens, and extraordinarily low property taxes.”

Hillyer observes that “the experience of coastal Alabama shows that trade and cross-national industrial investment works both ways. U.S. workers benefit tremendously from the ability of corporations to let market pressures determine where best to build, operate, and manufacture.” And he warns, “If a president goes too far in dissuading American companies from foreign investments, he risks a backlash from foreign businesses that otherwise would be willing to move production to the United States.”

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