In the course of a two-hour meeting last week about important and legitimate community needs, the word “job” was never uttered.
That's why employment data mentioned here a few weeks ago bears repeating: In October of 2007, the number of jobs in Sonoma County, the employment center of the North Bay, peaked at 200,200. In March, there were 172,400. That means the county has nearly 28,000 fewer jobs today than in 2007 – more than three times what were lost in the tech bust.
That is 28,000 consumers without a paycheck to spend; 28,000 fewer desks to fill, 28,000 few taxpayers, 28,000 fewer donors to nonprofits and 28,000 reasons why the focus of public policy makers should be 100 percent on jobs. It's almost surreal that it is not.
Fortunately, a leading statewide business group, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, and, increasingly, local business groups, are making jobs a priority.
Through its "2 million jobs" campaign, the association has taken aim at California's regulatory morass.
It notes, for instance, that from 2007 to 2009, California ranks last among the 25 most populous states in manufacturing growth.
During that period, the association notes, only 3.7 new or expanded manufacturing facilities were created in California per 1 million people compared with 24.5 in Texas and 30.4 across the U.S.
On its website, www.calrecovery.biz, the campaign notes:
California was once the center of the aerospace industry. Now, every major aerospace company is headquartered somewhere else.
California once had a dozen auto manufacturing plants. Now it has none.
California’s manufacturing base has eroded 32 percent since 2001 – a loss of more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs that paid, on average, $20,000 a year more than service jobs.
The loss of these jobs has cost California nearly $75 billion a year in lost wages and $5 billion annually in lost tax revenue – money, the association notes, that could have helped pay for schools, infrastructure and other services.
California’s unemployment rate is one of America’s highest.
China built its Shanghai maglev train in 30 months. California has spent more than 20 years trying to build a high-speed train – and still hasn’t turned one shovelful of dirt.
One reads almost incessantly about a national recovery, and it appears there is the start of one, with companies and industries with an international exposure doing especially well. The budding recovery is testimony to the resilience of American business.
Nonetheless, few business people who toil daily in the trenches believe any meaningful recovery can occur until people are back at work. Virtually every forecast says that will take time, perhaps two years.
That's too long.
The "2 million jobs" campaign is aimed at 2020. But the tide could be turned today with the right policies and leadership. The manufacturers association would like nothing better.
Between its statewide campaign and ongoing discussions among business leaders in the North Bay about a variety of efforts to spur job growth, perhaps lawmakers will finally get the message.