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Forethought: Waging wars

Editorial | February 1, 2016 | By:

Last week’s blizzard was officially the fourth most powerful snowstorm to hit the Northeast in more than 60 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). On Jan. 20, NASA and NOAA reported their analyses that Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1880, with 15 of the 16 warmest years occurring in the past 35 years. On Feb. 1, the Iowa caucuses will send the 2016 presidential campaigns (and advertising) into high gear.

And what sends the stock market plunging? Lower oil prices.

Wall Street is always happiest when productivity is high and employment is low. We’re told that it is small business that is the backbone of the U.S. economy and the generator of most new jobs and product innovations—yet most of our financial structure is built around and focused on big business. For much of the 20th century, companies that made the most money also employed the most people. In the 21st century, that pattern seems to be changing, which may be great for people who own stock in these companies but not so much for most of the middle class.

The specialty fabrics industry, among others that make products as well as money, faces a real shortage of skilled labor. After the Great Recession’s years of high unemployment and underemployment, the creation of full-time jobs with adequate wages is critical; but economic experts are telling us that the trend is towards freelance “gigs” and self-employment, and that Generation Z (1996— ), the electronic age now coming into the workforce, may fully embody these new paradigms in employment.

The federal government, state governments and agencies, communities, industry, schools and groups like The Makers Coalition (a team of businesses and nonprofits working to create training programs in the cut-and-sew industries, supported by IFAI) are all working to support that necessary skilled labor force, and to provide the jobs to accommodate those workers. For this to succeed, those jobs will have to pay decent wages and offer decent benefits. If you have experiences and opinions you’d like to share with other readers on the subjects of small business, big business and “full” employment, I’d very much like to hear from you.

One final meteorological note: despite widespread news reports that Minnesotans face blizzards in shirtsleeves and spend much of our winters outside gleefully throwing hot water into the air and watching it freeze, most of us watched the storm reports with heartfelt sympathy.

We escaped last weekend’s storm here, but it’s not even February yet as I write this. Next week it could be my alley with three feet of snow on it and no plows in sight. So for those of you that got dumped on—here’s to a nice, gentle, early spring for all of us, to make it easy to get to work.

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