Government Officials Seek to Help Local Business Compete

Debbie Stabenow outlined a plan to help local businesses in Michigan. Her plan focuses on helping connect qualified employees to good jobs and helping businesses remain competitive against foreign companies, such as the Chinese.

She intends to help businesses by working in Washington to close loopholes that allow foreign companies to dump counterfeit or artificially low-priced products in our marketplace. She is also fighting for trade practices that open markets for U.S. produces. China is one of the biggest violators but not the only one. Stabenow intends to work with the Trump Administration to solve these trade issues with foreign powers.

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Among their many worries, Michigan businesses are concerned about finding workers with the skills they need, said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

“Even in a retail situation, just matching the right employees — people with some financial literacy background and so on (with jobs),” she said, ” … that is the No. 1 thing.”

But she said Michigan-based stores and businesses are also worried about competing with online competitors and Stabenow said she is worried about protecting them from unfair competition from overseas, making sure there is adequate funding for new job creation, and pushing laws to stop companies that move overseas from being able to write-off losses associated with that.

“On the bigger picture, I want to see folks buying local,” she said during a Monday visit to Kalamazoo. “I certainly want to see: The federal government buying American products with American tax dollars; closing more loopholes that take jobs overseas; and getting tough with other countries that cheat on our trade laws, with China at the top.”

She described China as the biggest cheater in terms of counterfeiting U.S. products and manipulating currency rates. Here on April 10, she also bashed them for dumping cheap steel made in China on the world market and negatively impacting the U.S. market.

“They are the grand champion of cheaters on the global stages, in terms of stealing products and patents and devaluing their currency so when they sell to us, the price is cheaper,” she said.

Stabenow said she has heard nothing that indicates Trump addressed those problems when he met this past weekend with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

She said a three-part American Jobs Agenda, which she is set to formally introduce Tuesday in Detroit and other stops across Michigan, will “close loopholes that send jobs overseas and hold countries like China accountable for unfair trade practices.”

It includes:

-The Make It In America Act — Legislation that was introduced last week that which would create stricter guidelines and make it more difficult for federal agencies to use waivers to get around Buy American requirements.

-The Bring Jobs Home Act — Rules that Stabenow has been pushing since 2012 that would close a tax loophole that rewards companies for moving jobs abroad, according to literature provided by the senator. Section 162 of the U.S. Tax Code allows companies to deduct the cost of moving their businesses to other countries when filing their taxes.

-Stronger Trade Enforcement — The senator says she is trying to lead the effort to strengthen enforcement against companies that manipulate their currency, which she said has cost the U.S. up to 5 million jobs.

In the meantime, Stabenow said, “I’m optimistic when I talk to small business people who love what they’re doing and they know they’re providing a service or quality products for the community.”

On Monday in downtown Kalamazoo she visited Petals & Postings card and gift shop, Invitations By Design, Old Peninsula Brewpub & Restaurant, and Gazelle Sports.

“The major thing that I wanted to assert is the need for mid-sized cities like Kalamazoo to have investment in their core, central areas,” Gazelle Sports owner Chris Lampen-Crowell said of his opportunity to bend Stabenow’s ear.

He said such cities need to see creative financing methods developed to support their needs.

“Continue to support the kind of block grants and things that creatively provide the financing to get development in core cities,” he urged.

Gazelle Sports, which sells running shoes, athletic apparel and all things related to that, is a destination point for runners. It has five locations in Michigan (Kalamazoo, Holland, Grand Rapids, Northville and Birmingham) and employs about 180 people.

“I’m all about Michigan,” Stabenow said.

Asked about working with Trump, who has said he will penalize American businesses that relocate overseas and aggressively try to protect American jobs, Stabenow indicated that is encouraging, but she said she has not have any real conversations on those issues with the new administration.

“If this White House wants to do things to help Michigan, I’m all in,” she said. “If they propose things that are bad for Michigan. I’m going to say ‘No’ very loudly. So if this president wants to continue to support low-cost access to capital to small businesses to get going and be able to expand, I think that’s terrific. If the president wants to work on ways to support more job training, career training … I’m all for that.”

debbie stabenow

Speaking of problems she said people have shared with her during an ongoing statewide tour of small businesses that she started about 18 months ago, she said handling workers with drug problems is also a major concern. Opioid addiction among workers is a rising problem for business people, she said.

“In the U.P. what I heard was workers (about the need for qualified workers), but it was also handling people with drug problems,” she said. “Opioids is a huge issue in rural communities. I was talking to a very, very successful and long-time restaurant and it was the first thing they said — figuring out how to deal with the opioid epidemic.”

To help combat drug abuse, she said she supports funding for school-based health clinics and additional mental health treatment. But she said both are being proposed for huge cuts.

“But what they were saying is they need even more of that,” she said of small business people and what they need to address workplace drug problems. “If they have an employee who wants to get help, there’s no place to get help.”

A Democrat who is in her 16th year in the U.S. Senate, Stabenow said she plans to run again when her term expires in 2018. She said she believes her seniority in the Senate is an asset to the people of Michigan. She is a senior member of the Finance Committee, and is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

She said that despite the partisan politics that most recently saw Democrats dig in and Republicans to try to block the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, she said she is working hard to get things done in the areas in which she is focused.

Congress has been out of session since late last week and is expected to return in two weeks.