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Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao Outlines Job Creation Beliefs

Sept. 25,2012

Robyn L. Minor

Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said government has a critical role to play in job creation.

The role, however, is not actually to create jobs, but rather to provide an environment in which jobs can be created, she said. Her description of that environment sounded much like the line often espoused by her husband, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Chao, who served as Labor secretary from 2001-09 under President George W. Bush, was the keynote speaker Monday at the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce Business and Industry Appreciation Banquet at the Carroll Knicely Conference Center.

Chao said governments should offer lower taxes, have fewer government regulations, exercise fiscal discipline and seek energy independence.

Chao commended the more than 460 business and industry leaders who were gathered at the event, citing small businesses as the major creator of new jobs.

"I wish more people understood how hard it is to start a business," she said, noting that the majority fail within five years.

"Unfortunately, the economic times are not very good," Chao said.

Chao said the nation's unemployment rate is above 8 percent for the 43rd month. She acknowledged that the jobless rate released this month dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent, "but that's because of the workers who have dropped out,"

Chao said.

The government estimates that 40 percent of those on unemployment have been out of work for 27 weeks, she said.

"There are probably many more beyond that, but they aren't measured," she said.

Chao said the effective unemployment rate, counting those who have given up looking for work, is likely closer to 15 percent.

Warren County's most recent unemployment number in July stood at 7.6 percent, and overall the region appears to have made it through the recession better than most of areas of the country, chamber Chairman D. Gaines Penn said this morning.

Penn cited a recent University of Louisville study that showed that Warren County, above all other Kentucky counties, created the most private sector jobs from 2001 to 2010. On Monday, Gov. Steve Beshear cited the same survey that said 7,506 public sector jobs were created during that time frame. Beshear also noted the chamber's regional approach to economic development.

"I think that aggressive approach to economic development on a regional basis has played a role in faring better," Penn said.

To improve the economy, Chao said she is a great "proponent of increased trade ... we can't isolate ourselves."

The banquet itself focused on those companies that "traded" outside Kentucky, not necessarily outside the country. Targeted businesses, as the chamber calls them, are those companies that do more than 50 percent of their business outside the state, thus bringing in new dollars to the local economy, rather than redistributing dollars that are already here.

The John B. Holland Business of the Year Award went to a company with significant ties outside the area.

Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products LLC, a joint venture of Kobe Steel Ltd., Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Toyota Tsusho Corp., has been in Warren County since 2005. One of 11 Kobe Steel subsidiaries in the United States, the Bowling Green location is the only U.S. facility that forges aluminum suspension products for the automotive industry.

The plant currently has 200 full-time employees and has invested nearly $100 million in the facility since opening its doors. Since 2011, Kobe has added more than 50 employees to its payroll. The chamber previously recognized the company as Industry of the Year in 2008.

In accepting the award, company representative Masanobu Iwata joked that the banner denoting the 2008 award was still hanging in the company's lobby.

Someone asked him why it was still there.

"I told them 'I was waiting for another one,' " he said. "I just didn't know it would come so soon."

-- The chamber handed out multiple awards Monday. For the full list, visit bgdailynews.com or look in Wednesday's Business section.

Source: (c)2012 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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