Just after January 1, I read a speech given by Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. In this speech, given to members of the Council of Manufacturing Associations, of which AICC is a member, Timmons lauded the legislative advances made by the manufacturing sector in 2019, a year fraught more with high political drama than forward progress. He cited, in particular, the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal with China, and lesser-known developments such as rule changes at the Environmental Protection Agency and the repeal of certain taxes on health care and medical devices. In a year in which no one expected anything positive to be accomplished in Congress, Timmons said 2019 was “not a bad year.”
As 2020 ushered in the start of a new decade, the impeachment of President Donald Trump and what appeared to be an imminent conflict in the Middle East fostered even greater political angst. Then, as the year progressed, even these faded into the background as we now have arrived at the height of the 2020 election cycle. Here is where Timmons expresses his greatest concern: In the 2020 elections, he said, “our very economic system could be on the ballot.”
I share Timmons’ concern. My company is located in a decidedly red state, so I bring a certain political perspective. Regardless of your persuasion, however, are we not as business owners shocked by the casual acceptance of a potentially socialistic form of government and economic system? Certain candidates talking about free college, free health care, and income inequality, aided and abetted by a compliant media, have given some gullible, uneducated voters serious doubts about the benefits of our free enterprise economy. To me, this is why the stakes in the 2020 elections are so high.
What is the answer? Again, I take a page from the Timmons speech, in which he calls on all manufacturers “to engage the men and women in our industries in the political process.” Understanding that no employer can tell employees how to vote, an employer can certainly instruct employees on government policies that matter so they have the ability to hold candidates—regardless of political party—accountable.
Here at Oklahoma Interpak, we have taken steps to invite local politicians in to speak to employees about how local can affect our business. Even something as mundane as a sewer line—which I’m trying to get installed out to our plant—can have consequences on our company’s success: Either I’ll pay the $300,000 to have it done, or we can influence the city to do it because our business park has grown up from former farmland. Plus, several other businesses could now benefit from the sewer line. So I’ve asked a local city councilman who’s running for mayor to come in and speak to our employees about it—he’s looking for votes—and getting our folks engaged in this way could save us $300,000 of expense that I believe the city should rightly take on.
I see a parallel with our upcoming national elections. It’s our job as business owners to encourage our employees to vote and engage in the political process, but to do so from an informed and educated perspective, regardless of their political affiliation.
I hope you will join me in this cause. For information on manufacturing policy positions, go to www.nam.org/.
Eric Elgin is owner of Oklahoma Interpak and Chair of AICC’s Government Affairs Subcommittee. He can be reached at 918-687-1681 or email@example.com