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Nick Joe Rahall II: A three-pronged formula can create immediate jobs

Oct. 21, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

The American Dream, that of leaving our children better off than our own generation, needs a job creation jump start in the next Congress, using the tried-and-true formula of increased investment in infrastructure, education and innovation. I want to keep putting these three tools, along with the seniority southern West Virginia has invested in me, to work for West Virginians.

If we want to create immediate jobs, building our transportation infrastructure will be key. U.S. Federal Highway Administration officials tell us that every billion dollars we make in federal transportation investments creates or sustains 34,779 jobs. As the top Democrat of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I know we can build the strongest foundations of infrastructure for jobs and families' futures when Democrats and Republicans work together. For many years, our committee motto was "there are no Republican bridges, no Democrat bridges. There are only America's bridges." That's a proven lesson from which the entire Congress could learn.

This summer, Congress was able to pass and the President sign a two year-plus transportation law, one vastly improved from the bill that had been initially introduced. This law gives state planners and companies some breathing room to plan for infrastructure improvements. It also gives Congress time to write a more robust, longer-range bill, putting more West Virginians to work.

No one has to convince us of the tremendous benefits a modern transportation system provides, starting with good old-fashioned roads. Protecting transportation formulas that return to us $2.18 cents for every dollar West Virginians pay at the gas pump will be one of my top priorities as we work toward a new bill. West Virginia and states which have challenging topographies, requiring higher construction costs, deserve the same opportunity efficient highways and transit systems can yield for families and regional economies. While this formula routinely comes under attack, I am proud to say I have been able to defend it to serve our state. After all, we have more work to do locally on Routes, 2, 10 and 35 and the I-73/74 Tolsia Highway.

The dynamics of the world economy are tied to technology, particularly developing computer technology. Education truly is a big part of the answer to technology's demands and job creation. As I have been sharing at high school commencements, if graduates want to be a well paid auto mechanic these days, they better tackle some college courses. The new Ford 150 truck alone has 21 computers on board.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Deloitte, surveying manufacturers for the Manufacturing Institute, found almost 600,000 jobs unfilled. Skills training would help fill those jobs. No institution is more in tune with providing that training than Marshall University's Robert C. Byrd Institute for Flexible Manufacturing.

With its cutting edge resources, like its 3D printer, RCBI introduces companies to the latest innovations that our manufacturers can put to work putting West Virginians to work. As a tool, additive manufacturing, allows efficient prototype development and helps level the playing field for our manufacturers so they can compete more effectively in the global marketplace.

Advances in innovations, like these, are why I worked to make Marshall, along with Concord University, a U.S. EDA University center. It partners federal job creating investment funding of $500,000 with the academic research, training and development resources of our two higher education institutions. This grant is designed to help manufacturers as well as other businesses, budding entrepreneurs, job hunters and workers.

Building on the EDA grant, I brought another grant opportunity to the universities which then sought and were awarded one of 13 nationwide jobs accelerator grants. This grant included an expanded host of federal agencies at the table with EDA -- namely USDA Rural Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission yielding a $717,000 federal investment.

Coal, steel and rail are still anchors in our economy, but as technology on the one hand pushes workers out the door in those industries, innovation can open an even wider door welcoming workers in.

These are the types of jobs initiatives we can continue to build in the next session of Congress. I ask for your support.

Nick Joe Rahall II, a resident of Beckley, is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 3rd District of West Virginia.

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