Rick Platt: Economy can benefit from tax reform

Federal tax reform is buzzing on Capitol Hill. The shape it takes is still to be seen, but one thing is clear for Ohioans. Reform that benefits U.S. manufacturing is reform that will benefit all of Ohio’s economy.

With the U.S. continuing to lead the world in manufacturing production and our GDP competitors seeing a decline in working-age population, the opportunity to grow manufacturing in the U.S. is strong right now. Demographics tell the story. Japan and Germany are experiencing population decline. China is now seeing decline in population among the working age. These declines translate into rising costs and the need to shift production elsewhere. The U.S. is the only one of its GDP competitors not facing this issue.

Experts have said that the Midwest and Ohio are poised to take advantage of that growth and outpace the rest of the U.S. in GDP growth. Logistical, workforce, and energy factors are leaning increasingly in favor of the Heartland.

Licking County really is a microcosm of these trends. We’ve been bullish on manufacturing and focused on growing jobs that impact our economic base.

From my position working on the front lines of industrial development, I see our strongest manufacturers are those which have an international perspective and seek to compete globally. Plus, international companies are, increasingly, looking at investment in the U.S. More than half of project inquiries to Port Authority sites are from foreign companies. They are getting the message: Make it here to sell it here.

However, export-driven U.S. companies are paying taxes both in the U.S. and abroad. Their foreign competitors often do not. U.S. companies are punished. It’s as if there was a penalty for “Made in America” products.

Leveling the playing field with fair trade and fair tax policies should be a part of tax reform. A new analysis from the Tax Foundation shows that the “Brady Blueprint” tax reform proposal would create more than 64,000 new full time jobs in the state of Ohio alone, while also adding around $4,600 to the after-tax income of the average Ohio family.

The American Made Coalition is an advocate for tax reform that includes some notable members with a strong Ohio presence. Boeing, GE, and United Technologies are a part of an aerospace supply chain in Ohio that supports more than 2% of our state's Gross Domestic Product. Ohio is Boeing’s #1 supplier state. Licking County is home to Boeing’s largest presence in Ohio. Thus, Ohioans’ jobs, more than those of any other state, are dependent on the success of exports by Boeing and GE.

World economics have swung in our favor. Places like Licking County are poised to accept capital investment. Ohio has an opportunity to grow its manufacturing base. Now’s the time. Good policy can take our economy from good to great.

Rick Platt is the President and CEO of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority. He is a manufacturing advocate with three decades of experience on industrial development issues.