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Remarks at STIHL 'Make It In America' event, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at STIHL 'Make It In America' event, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Thank you Senator Warner. Thank you Fred and all the folks here at STIHL. I just toured the facility, which was really interesting.

But someone told me that I would get the chance to meet STIHL’s lumberjack team that was on ESPN a while ago. I was hoping to get some tips for the chainsaw competition. (Maybe next time).

It’s great to be here at STIHL’s hub in the U.S. The company started back in 1974 with just a small warehouse on the west edge of this city and now covers nearly two million square feet, including the expansion that is creating 50 more jobs. That’s great news.

This is a fitting backdrop to talk about American manufacturing and how we can increase the level of business investment across the U.S. in the same way that STIHL is increasing their investment here in Virginia Beach.

After losing manufacturing jobs for over three decades in this country, since the end of the recession we've seen a different trend. Of the 4.6 million new jobs that have been added over the past 30 months, over half-a-million have been in manufacturing. These are good jobs that pay well with good benefits–they provide economic security for families here in Virginia Beach and across the country.

Today, STIHL is only one of many global companies making the decision to invest more here in the U.S. In my travels both at home and abroad, I frequently ask CEOs and business owners where they are thinking of making their next investment. I’m hearing more and more of them say that the U.S. is where they have to be.

In fact, foreign direct investment–FDI–into the U.S. has jumped from $144 billion in 2009 to $227 billion last year. One-fifth of all of the FDI flows coming out of other countries–comes right here to our shores.

Right now, there are many compelling reasons for CEOs–both here and abroad–to invest here, expand here, or bring jobs back to the U.S.

  • Some cite strong U.S. domestic energy production and our long-term energy outlook;
  • Others say that our financial sector is better repaired and has found a stronger footing than elsewhere;
  • Some point to the unsettled issues in Europe and the slowdown in growth in Asia;
  • Some say it’s due to our strong universities, our R&D base, our supply chains, or the productivity of our workforce;
  • Still others cite our intellectual property protections, or our stable legal and regulatory environment;
  • And, of course, the U.S. continues to have the largest consumer-driven economy in the world.

For this company, the reasons to invest in Virginia Beach have remained compelling over the years.

  • STIHL wanted to be here because America is home to their strongest consumer base.
  • STIHL knew that nearby infrastructure–the port–is a crucial way for them to transport goods.
  • And STIHL knew that Virginia Beach has a built-in skilled and productive workforce–including hundreds of America’s most dedicated workers, our veterans.  Do we have some veterans here today?  Let’s give them a hand.

To me, it’s no surprise that STIHL considers this plant to be the model for its other facilities around the world. And we need to do everything we can to replicate success stories like this.

First, the president has called on Congress to end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and–instead–give relief to companies that bring jobs back. That’s common sense. It’s something we should all be able to agree on.

Beyond that, we’re taking a lead role at the Commerce Department with SelectUSA, a new program at Commerce, which the president launched last year. Traditionally, our commercial services officers have been focused on helping U.S. firms export to foreign markets.

But now those officers stationed abroad are gaining a new skill. They’re helping foreign investors who want information about how to invest in the U.S., and who want to link up with local and state economic development leaders to get the deals done.

We just finished training the officers who are stationed in the top 25 markets where 90 percent of America’s FDI comes from.

But we can’t stop there. The reason I’m so pleased to be here today is to announce a major new initiative called “Make it in America.”  Make it in America will give communities the help they need to attract business investments.

The core of this new effort is the Make it in America Challenge. The Departments of Commerce and Labor are teaming up to find communities that are poised to attract a major investment, but just need a little more help to get the deal done.

  • Maybe the city needs a better road to an industrial site.
  • Maybe manufacturers looking to relocate are asking for better information and technical assistance.
  • Maybe local workers need a tailored training program to fill a particular skills gap.  

Communities and regions across America can write a proposal describing the additional help they need to land new investment… and we'll select the best proposals to fund.  We will evaluate a community’s potential to use these tools and resources to promote insourcing… to attract FDI… and most importantly, to create good jobs.

All in all, we plan to give up to 15 awards totaling $40 million through this Challenge. 

Overall, we’re trying to do everything we can to give businesses both here and abroad every possible reason to believe that the smart choice is to Make it in America.  Or, as we like to say at the Department of Commerce, we want American firms to build it here and sell it everywhere. These efforts are crucial because we know that when a company builds a new factory here, the likelihood of jobs staying here long-term is very high. And that means a stronger middle class for generations to come.

So let’s take full advantage of this moment.

  • Let’s help businesses find the right model to make their next investment in America.
  • Let’s make sure that the world’s business leaders–both here and abroad–know that there has never been a better time to invest in the United States.
  • And let’s continue to celebrate the success stories like we have here at STIHL where they’ve made that very decision. 

Thank you all for being here, and thanks again to STIHL.