The American Jobs Project is a national, interdisciplinary research-based initiative. Its team includes more than 50 student researchers with a broad range of expertise, including law, business, engineering, and public policy. It has an ongoing relationships with hundreds of on-the-ground stakeholders and are actively collaborating with university partners and industry allies.
A Letter from the American Jobs Project
It’s no secret that America’s middle class is in crisis; indeed, “the hollowing out of the middle class” has become a well-worn phrase, causing politicians to rail, bloggers to rage, and citizens to reel. Polls consistently reveal that jobs and the economy are at or near the top of citizen concerns. Over the last few decades, the loss of middle-income jobs in America has been due largely to the global shift in manufacturing (“tradable jobs”) to emerging economies. Of the millions of jobs lost during the recession, most were good paying, middle-class jobs. Unfortunately, many of the jobs created during the recovery have been in low-skill, low-paying occupations.
These trends are not going to reverse themselves. Leadership is needed, but the gridlocked U.S. Congress has failed in recent years to adopt robust policies to stoke middle-class jobs in America. In President George W. Bush’s autobiography, Decision Points, the former president recounts a conversation he had with the then-President of China, Hu Jintao. “What keeps you up at night?” President Bush asked President Hu as an ice-breaker. As we can easily guess, what kept President Bush up at night was worry about terrorism. Hu Jintao’s response was telling: what kept him up at night was “creating 25 million new jobs a year” for his people. Is it possible to create good-paying American jobs in today’s global economy? And what if the solutions did not involve Congress at all? What if there were creative middle-class job creation strategies being developed and tested in the laboratories of democracy — the states and cities?
The American Jobs Project seeks to answer these questions and provide a research-based roadmap for action for state and local leaders who are kept up at night trying to figure out how to create jobs for the people they serve. Our quest starts with identifying the biggest market opportunity of our era: the global demand for advanced energy solutions. That demand — whether borne out of a need for diverse, reliable and clean power or to achieve energy independence from unstable regimes — creates “the mother of all markets” for local U.S. businesses to build and sell those solutions.
The American Jobs Project is about finding ways to make our states the answer to this question. If countries across the globe, including the U.S., are seeking technical products and solutions for our growing energy needs, how can U.S. businesses take advantage of this demand and build products locally that can be exported to the world? And how can we equip U.S. residents with the skills those businesses need to build their advanced energy products?
It is true that the U.S. will not likely be able to attract back the traditional manufacturing jobs of the past; those jobs are gone — either to low-wage countries or to automation—and we have to accept the fact that they are not coming back.
But our research shows that with innovative policies and a smart focus on industrial clusters, states can become hubs of innovation and job creation in specific advanced industries that soar with a state’s strengths. The American Jobs Project gives policymakers the tools to create good-paying jobs in their states. We propose innovative solutions built upon extensive research and tailored to each state. Many are best practices, some are new, and all are centered upon a state’s business ecosystem. These solutions are written with an eye towards streamlining bureaucracy and are seasoned with the principles of competition, local control and fewer regulations. If these recommendations are adopted, the beneficiaries will be those hard-working Americans looking for the dignity of a good-paying job.
The following is from the Executive Summary of the recent AJP report.
The American Jobs Project was borne of two tough problems: loss of middle-class jobs in America and Congressional paralysis. It seeks to address these problems by taking advantage of one of the biggest market opportunities of our era—the advanced energy sector—and to do so at the state, not the federal level. Policymakers who leverage the unique strategic advantages of their state to grow localized clusters of interconnected companies and institutions are poised to create quality jobs.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is well positioned to benefit from the growing demand for advanced energy given the state’s skilled labor force, world-class universities and research facilities, and strength in manufacturing and engineering. The state is already home to many advanced energy businesses that employ over 65,000 Virginians. Opportunities to leverage this momentum to further serve growing regional, national, and global markets offer real benefits for Virginia’s economy and high-paying jobs for the Commonwealth’s residents. Extensive research and more than 40 interviews with local stakeholders and experts have resulted in identifying two economic clusters showing particular promise: offshore wind and carbon fiber.
However, several barriers prevent Virginia’s advanced energy industries and their supply chains from reaching their full potential. Virginia must address these roadblocks to grow the state’s advanced energy clusters and realize economic gains. To take full advantage of these opportunities, Virginia’s policymakers can enact policies to increase demand for offshore wind and carbon fiber technology and to help the Commonwealth’s businesses grow, innovate, and out-compete regional, national, and global competitors. This project serves as a research-based roadmap for state and local leaders who seek to develop smart policies focused on leveraging the Commonwealth’s resources to create high skill, good-paying jobs. The number of jobs created is highly dependent on action taken by state and local policy makers. With concerted effort at the state and local level, more businesses that sell advanced energy products and services will take root in the Commonwealth. Employees in the advanced energy sector will spend their earnings in the local economy at grocery stores and restaurants, and those local establishments will need to hire more employees to satisfy demand. This creates a multiplier effect throughout Virginia’s economy, where a single dollar spent in a community circulates through local businesses and their employees numerous times.