Senate Hearing Focuses on Struggling Manufacturing Sector
LEWISTON, ME - U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe on Thursday focused on the struggling manufacturing sector as she convened the first field hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Responding to Maine's loss of manufacturing jobs, including the loss of 17,300 jobs between July 2000 and June 2003, Snowe, R-Maine, chose to hold the hearing at Lewiston City Hall to hear from Mainers.
"No industry has witnessed a more profound erosion of jobs than U.S. manufacturers, and that is why I have chosen to focus this first field hearing on strengthening this vital sector," she said.
Witnesses included officials from the commerce and treasury departments, as well as seven Maine small business leaders.
Snowe, who is chairwoman of the committee, emphasized that the hearing is part of a larger effort she is undertaking to ensure adequate focus on manufacturers and small businesses to assist the economy.
She noted that small businesses make up 98 percent of manufacturing enterprises and employ 12 million people.
Snowe said she is considering a range of initiatives to stop the decline of manufacturing, including expanding Small Business Administration programs and working with the Bush Administration to curtail unfair trade practices that harm U.S. manufacturers.
Photo by Russ Dillingham/Lewiston Sun Journal
One of the witnesses, Bruce W. Pulkkinen, owner of Windham Millwork, Inc., told Snowe that it's nearly impossible to grow a business when 50 percent of his profit goes to pay federal, state and local taxes.
"We have nothing left with which to modernize, expand, provide training, or support sales growth," said Pulkkinen, whose company employs 70 people.
He said he'd like to see something done about runaway health care, insurance and litigation costs. He'd also like to see more tax credits and tax relief and a greater effort at leveling the playing field with trading partners.
"We need to ensure that our exporters are taxed fairly relative to international competitors. And we need to protect our proprietary technology and eliminate illegal knock-offs," he said.