Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A New Economy for Puget Sound (Nov 2009)

Letter to the Editor (Nov 11, 2009)

Taking Jon Talton’s advice one step further

Economic worries top regional and national concerns, as Jon Talton noted [“Our future economic strength depends on adding value,” Business, Nov. 8].

Top companies like Boeing and Microsoft seek to make the quick buck by selling out local constituencies in favor of cheaper labor elsewhere. Talton, as usual, offers us his sage advice: Keep the Puget Sound a competitive region by fostering innovation, education and a high quality of life. Keep one step ahead of the race to the bottom.

But can we really prosper if we accept the main tenets of the neoliberal model of free trade? If cheaper labor is always available elsewhere, are our jobs safe when companies can just pick up and go? And anyway, what future does the neoliberal model have in a world of diminishing trade and higher energy prices due to global warming and oil depletion?

What if instead we try to make the Puget Sound region a center of quality and stable employment by developing new economic models that tie companies to their roots. What if, at the same time, we tried to foster a new regional economy that puts us at the forefront of ecological sustainability.

We can do this by offering incentives to local companies to use regional products. We can explore new ownership models where workers and unions get a seat at the table, and a stake in the company. Our credit unions, an alternative to large distant banks, with help from local government, could be used to provide the needed seed capital.

With a new mayor promising green jobs, we have the opportunity to make Seattle an innovator not just of new products but of new ways of doing business. A robust and resilient local economy could make us secure and prosperous and less dependent on the fickle and devious attitudes of multinational corporations.

— Colin Wright, Seattle

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