Policy Issues and Opportunities
A Position Statement of the Center For Community Action
We are at a critical moment as rural areas of our state are reeling from unprecedented job losses due to NAFTA-style trade agreements and other effects of globalization. Within Robeson County alone, over 10,000 manufacturing jobs have departed over the past ten years. NAFTA was signed into law 10 years ago, promising trade-related prosperity as new markets were opened to a variety of industries and businesses. In their rush to promote free trade and new markets, national and state governments paid little attention to the impact of free trade legislation on vulnerable local businesses in rural markets -- including agricultural and textile products, furniture and other light manufacturing that had been the mainstays of rural economies.
The policy impact of our Jobs for the Future project is potentially far-reaching. There is a growing body of research and knowledge demonstrating that rural areas have been systematically neglected as “free trade” zones are widened and new rounds of global trade negotiations proposed. Moreover, many of the proposed ‘solutions’ to rural jobs losses, including huge tax abatements to lure manufacturing plants to rural areas, are little more than quick and face-saving fixes. As the US government considers major expansion in NAFTA-related trade agreements, State government officials, media outlets, policy advocates, and ordinary citizens from Iowa and Arkansas to Mississippi and North Carolina are insisting that prior neglect of rural economies must be addressed first.
The policy recommendations that CCA will take to Washington on March 30, 2004 and then refine and advocate over the coming two years will help ensure that rural communities are involved in future trade negotiations, that relief is available to minimize some of the most devastating impacts of massive jobs losses, and that support for sustainable, small business development takes precedence over massive tax incentives for major manufacturing interests.
We believe that our proposed policy work and advocacy will do much to raise the profile of rural economies in regional and national debates deliberations about national and global trade policy. The organization and implementation of proposed policy and development solutions that will create a more sustainable, locally-owned and operated economic system will create major structural change in the economy of Robeson County. “Incubate, not just import” will be a key policy and development theme in the proposals and negotiations with federal and state officials.
As far as we know, this is the first time that such a strategy to address unfair trade policy has been undertaken by one of the rural counties most impacted by job loss in the U.S. Hopefully, the project will provide a model and inspiration for other counties and the foundation for more widespread organization of impacted communities across rural N.C., the South, and the nation. There is also potential for us to plan and host state and national meetings on rural job loss here in Robeson County as a way to: (1) further increase visibility of the issue here; (2) benefit from the utilization of additional state and national resource and technical assistance provideers; and (3) generate additional revenues for the county’s economy through meetings and conferences held here.
CCA’s Jobs For the Future Project and Sustainable Communities Program proposes both policy and development remedies to widespread, economic exclusion and neglect. Policy remedies include:
- federal trade law policy change that
- assists communities negatively impacted by significant job loss in economic reconstruction and sustainable small business development
- improves existing policies in order to achieve more balanced and just trade agreements and systems
- state economic development policy changes that shift priorities from absentee-owned, industrial recruitment to locally owned, small business development
- changes in state social policy that impose inequitable financial burdens on poor, rural counties, including support for equitable state funding of public schools and state matching funding for Medicaid payments
- local economic development policy that balances small business development with industrial recruitment as strategies for economic recovery and reconstruction
Development remedies include:
- research and reports on the economic and social impact of job loss will be used for development and policy leverage to acquire grants and loans for small business development
- the acquisition of major, public and private funding for small business development
- increased organization of existing and emerging entrepreneurs and small business owners
- extensive technical assistance training with new and existing small business developers and entrepreneurs provided by local, state, and national TA providers
For more information on the Jobs for the Future Projecct, contact:
The Center For Community Action