Should we build Apples or should we harvest them?
By Bob Wise
Cogan Owens Cogan LLC
Bob Wise is a senior project manager at Portland-based Cogan Owens Cogan, LLC. This is the first post in a series on import substitution.
Apple’s new iPhones and iPads are not made in Oregon or made in America. The production process is global and so complex it can apparently only be handled by Asian production and supply chains. A story by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, in the New York Times details the challenge faced by the United States and Oregon in the global economy.
The trends in U.S. manufacturing jobs are not promising. As Adam Davidson notes in the most recent issue of the Atlantic, “In the 10 years ending in 2009, [U.S.] factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years; roughly one out of every three manufacturing jobs — about 6 million in total — disappeared.”
What to do? Where can good sustainable jobs come from?
Gov. John Kitzhaber and other public officials are rightly focused on increasing exports of Oregon made goods and services – the “traded sector." Increasing exports is also a top priority of the Obama Administration. As explained in the NY Times article, this strategy can only go so far until we reach increasingly steep stairs of high labor costs, health and safety standards, long supply chains, inability to scale, unskilled labor and unwillingness to work 12 hour days for six or seven days a week and live in dormitories .
There is a simple and obvious strategy to supplement our current focus exports — import substitution. At its simplest, import substitution replaces spending on imported goods and services for those made locally. This is not a radical idea but will require economic development thinking where we tend our own garden.
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