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America’s governors are taking the lead in bringing jobs to their states

Scott Pattison
Executive Director and CEO of the National Governors Association

This is an opinion piece by Scott Pattison, CEO and executive director of the National Governors Association. He appeared at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit.

The midterm elections will bring significant changes in Washington and the nation’s statehouses. Amid a time of transition, the National Governors Association (NGA) remains steadfast in helping governors achieve the goals with which voters have entrusted them, including creating a workforce equipped for long-term success.

The recent election exacerbated divisions in Washington, raising real questions about the ability of national leaders to forge compromises in the public interest. As a result, Americans are looking to their state capitals for leadership on important issues, such as programs that support reskilling and upskilling, innovation, and economic growth. Fortunately, NGA Chair and Montana Governor Steve Bullock has introduced an initiative, Good Jobs for All Americans, to help provide solutions.

American workers are buffeted by profound economic, social, and technological change, which is compelling them to work in new and different ways. These transformations carry the potential to enhance productivity and drive economic growth for generations, but as we grasp the opportunities in front of us, we also must ensure that no one is left behind.

Good Jobs for All Americans focuses on three goals: creating a skilled workforce, offering mid-career employees a meaningful second act, and reinvigorating rural communities facing difficult educational, infrastructure, and population challenges. With sustained investments in on-the-job training and apprenticeships, governors are making direct connections between businesses and skilled labor that offer a chance at prosperity for all.

America’s governors are seeking investment from around the world because they understand that Americans benefit from international trading relationships. In fact, U.S. exports support an estimated 11.5 million jobs across every state and territory. Governors have historically been the best marketers for their states, and they continue negotiating unique partnerships to bring foreign investment and economic development home.

That’s where NGA’s Global Program comes in. Launched last March, NGA Global equips governors for the world stage. The mission is to partner with world leaders to take on tough issues, such as energy, supply chain, agriculture, and investment – all with the goal of enhancing states’ global competitiveness.

We’re providing a formal platform for transnational dialogue. U.S. states face many of the same issues as other countries, often at an equal scale, so governors and their constituents benefit from sharing ideas and best practices with leaders abroad.

For instance, when NGA Global hosted a large Australian delegation earlier this year, governors and premiers shared their experiences and insights regarding their similar infrastructure challenges. When we held a North American Summit welcoming representatives from Canada and Mexico, we discussed the skills gap affecting the whole region. And when Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo joined us for our Winter Meeting, we joined forces with ideas about how Africa and the U.S. can collaborate to bring economic benefits to both continents.

Right now, the global community is seeking out U.S. governors for continuity and certainty as our internal political dynamics shift. Operating within the bounds of federally created trade agreements, governors are working to maintain critical ties that bind countries together and result in important gains for American workers.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is a perfect example. He has attracted Indian company Infosys to build a technology hub at the former Indianapolis International Airport site. The deal also will bring workforce development and retraining programs through a partnership with Purdue University.

Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada is teaming up with Poland on geothermal technology. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey gained entry to the E.U. market for her local businesses by way of Romania. And Governor Jay Inslee learned about electrifying Washington State’s ferries from officials in Norway.

These are just a handful of examples. Comparable efforts with counterparts in Asia-Pacific, Africa, and South America are advancing states’ interests in markets worldwide, and not only for commercial purposes. California Governor Jerry Brown, for example, organized a Global Climate Action Summit to address the urgent issue of climate justice.

Even as we’re hearing about U.S.-China trade differences, governors are engaging in vital exchanges with Chinese businesses and providing feedback to U.S. officials. For example, Governor Kim Reynolds has been advocating for Iowa’s farmers, while Governor Matt Bevin enticed a Chinese-owned company to reopen a 500-employee, Western Kentucky paper mill.

Efforts by governors to forge enduring cross-border relationships help underscore the immense value of the United States as a trading partner, a key message as diplomats work out fair bilateral and multilateral trade pacts. This is among the advantages of America’s unique federalist system, which puts national and state governments on equal footing with separate spheres of authority.

Newly elected governors are readying themselves to join the stalwarts highlighted here in pursuing ambitious and innovative projects and initiatives, both at home and abroad, that make good on their promises to constituents. NGA, which has served as the only bipartisan membership association of the nation’s governors since 1908, will continue to prepare, connect, and support them.

 

Scott Pattison is CEO and executive director of the National Governors Association.