Study: Cicilline’s manufacturing proposal has ‘great promise’August 14th, 2012 at 2:12 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
Congressman David Cicilline’s proposed legislation to help manufacturers faces dim prospects on Capitol Hill so long as Republicans control the House. But his ideas are winning praise from the Brookings Institution.
The proposal would give manufacturers federally funded Make It In America Block Grants to retool and upgrade their facilities as well as create local Make It In America Partnership Boards made up of government and business leaders to advise companies. Brookings fellow John Hudak thinks the ideas have “great promise.”
“David Cicilline’s idea for the creation of a manufacturing-centered Block Grant Program is solid and deserves greater attention from political and policy communities,” he writes in a new study. “At the same time, there are politically viable alternatives that can be implemented in the short term that offer this proposal a chance at helping manufacturers.”
Hudak praised Cicilline’s plan for proposing to decentralize control of the block grants by allowing state and local governments to decide which firms receive them, and also said the public-private partnership boards could become crucial sources of support for companies in the manufacturing sector, which has been shrinking nationwide and particularly in the Providence area.
However, Hudak said Cicilline’s legislation overemphasizes the role of providing direct federal assistance instead of seeking ways “to coordinate and stimulate local capital markets.” He suggested that Cicilline might attract Republican support and get the bill passed by turning the federal grants into low-interest loans.
Hudak also says President Obama’s commerce secretary should use an existing federal program – the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership – to pilot a version of Cicilline’s program in three to five states and test whether it could succeed.
If it does, he writes, “Rather than a minority party congressman pushing legislation that creates a new, unproven program, the process can begin with the appropriations mark for the Department of Commerce – a more feasible pathway.”
Details aside, Hudak supports the focus by Cicilline and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on helping manufacturers. “Something must be done to aid this struggling sector, and the status quo – inaction or limited action – is untenable and has serious consequences for the economic health of the nation,” he writes.
Cicilline told WPRI.com he’s “delighted” that Brookings is highlighting the signature legislative initiative of his first term in Congress.
“Rhode Islanders and men and women across our country want their representatives to put aside partisan differences and do what it takes to get our economy back on the right track,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to fight for this and other proposals that will reinvigorate manufacturing, help create jobs, and get Rhode Island moving again.”
Brookings recently created a new John Hazen White Jr. Forum on Public Policy to study manufacturing after receiving a gift to endow it from the prominent Cranston industrialist and Taco Inc. CEO.
A July 12 kickoff forum featured a number of speakers with Rhode Island ties, including Cicilline, former R.I. Economic Policy Council executive director Rob Atkinson and former Brown University professor Darrell West, who is now director of the Brookings arm that conducted the Cicilline study.
• Related: Study: Rhode Island leads the US in manufacturing job losses (March 20)