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What I'd Tell Obama

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Washington, DC, May 18, 2012 | comments

Tonko: What I’d tell Obama

Rep. Paul Tonko writes about the region’s challenges and what he’d like to say to the president, with whom he’s traveling about Air Force One today.

Nothing is more humbling than earning the trust of the constituents of the 21st Congressional District of New York to represent our region in the halls of Congress. But one thing does come close – having the opportunity to join with the President of the United States as he visits our region to showcase the awesome array of talent, intellect, work ethic and cutting edge innovation that has recently been highlighted by the Brookings Institute, TechAmerica Foundation, the Economist, Forbes Magazine, ABC World News and CBS Evening News, just to name a few.

While President Obama will be visiting the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at Albany, a location that has and will continue to grow tremendously due to its leadership and mission, the visit is about more than just one site or one concept: it’s about the entire Capital Region.

We are a people with a rare combination of a pioneering spirit, a work ethic second to none and individual drive and grit. Nestled between a Great Ocean and the Great Lakes, ours is a home to the Erie Canal, the westward movement on the rail lines and the epicenter of invention and innovation in the Electric City.

But we are also home to a necklace of mill towns. Many of these mills, such as those in my hometown of Amsterdam, have since closed their doors, shipped some jobs overseas or laid off workers. I should know, I’ve seen it happen in my lifetime.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be the end of the story – in fact, it’s not. For far too long, public policy has ignored the agriculture, manufacturing and science sectors of the economy and focused all its effort on the service sector, specifically the financial service sector.

We know how that focus has turned out – with 8.2 million Americans out of work and a painfully long and difficult recession, the worst since the Great Depression. And the economy is not entirely out of it yet, but we are headed in the right direction.

And today, when President Obama visits the Capital Region, he will share a vision for continuing that growth, promoting policies that create jobs and partnering with the private sector so that we can once again see those precious three words on the products we buy: “Made in America.”

President Obama has called for the doubling of tax deductions for high-tech manufacturers that make their products in America. He has advocated for help financing a new plant, equipment or training new workers for factories that want to relocate to communities there were hard hit when a previous factory left town. And he has called for training high skill workers to fill the open positions available right now in science and technology based companies.

Today, if I get an opportunity to speak with President Obama aboard Air Force One, I will tell him I stand with him ready to fight for American made goods by American workers. I will tell him we must continue to expand opportunity and stop shrinking the middle class. And I will tell him the best way to reduce the deficit is to put Americans back to work.

Most importantly, though, I will welcome him to the Capital Region, on behalf of all those who live, work and make this area our home. I’m certain that for the third time in as many years, President Obama will like what he sees and America will continue to be well-served by the innovative example we set and the pioneer foundation we created for job growth right here in upstate New York.

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