Thursday, June 29, 2006

 

Honda: Taft explanation of decision indicts him and GOP

Talk about trying to polish a turd! Taft's response to Honda's decision to build its new plant in Indiana and not Ohio left us speechless, as does the press's apparent willingness to treat the Governor's comments seriously.
Ohio may have been a victim of its own success in failing to lure a sixth Honda plant, state officials and automotive industry experts say.

Gov. Bob Taft and his economic development chief, Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson, put their best spin on the news Wednesday, pointing out that Honda officials themselves estimate that 1,000 jobs and $100 million in investment will be generated among Ohio firms supplying parts to the new plant.

"We think there will be a huge investment as Honda suppliers (in Ohio) ramp up," Taft said.
And the AP chimes in:
Ohio's strong success with Honda may be the reason why the automaker's new plant will be built in Indiana.

Taft said Honda's decision was based in part on its concern that an Ohio location would draw workers from its suppliers in the state.
Let's break this down a little bit. Now we don't know everything that Honda officials said yesterday, but their corporate press release said this:
We believe the great state of Indiana has what we need to continue this success -- an outstanding community of people, excellent transportation systems, and the necessary infrastructure to support industry. It is an ideal location in the Midwest both for our network of parts suppliers and as a central location for all of our customers across the country.
That's seems to be surprisingly straightforward. Honda requirements, in REVERSE order, were:
5. central location in relation to all U.S. customers
4. proximity to parts suppliers
3. a supportive infrastructure
2. an excellent transportation system
1. an outstanding workforce (community) pool
How did Ohio stack up? He're our report card:
5. central location - A
4. supplier proximity - A
3. infrastructure - C (based on such things as unreliable utilities, poor support for higher education, lack of strategy for state economic investments, spotty health care networks, lack of master public/private partnership planning and weak support for cross-cultural activities and ex-pat integration)
2. transportation system - B (based on insufficient dedicated state funds, insufficient state/county highway planning and coordination, and insufficient maintenance/quality control)
We can quibble over the specific grades, but based on requirements #2-#5, Ohio seems to be pretty much tied with Indiana.

The real backbreaker for the Buckeye state was requirement #1, the "outstanding community of people." What does that mean? It's diplomatic business-speak for having a sufficient number of skilled employees.

By "employees" we ALL employees. Not just blue collar workers but also middle and upper level mangers.

By "skilled" we mean a highly educated workforce that is being produced by an educational system that receives strong supported and investment by state and local leaders (both governmental and non-governmental). Further, "skilled" means that employees experienced in (or at least exposed to) working in teams and trained in high-performance workplace techniques such as Just In Time production, Kanban processes, and Total Quality Management methods. Finally, "skilled" means having the support of academic institutions who provide ongoing research, analysis and training around potentional continuous-improvement solutions.

And while Honda may have delivered the bad news to Ohio as pleasantly as they could, Taft/Johnson know precisely that these skilled workforce issues put the kibosh on the deal and doomed the state's proposal. Honda, indeed, was deeply concerned that operating a new plant in Ohio would "draw workers away from Ohio suppliers." Honda is only holding up a mirror to Ohio's political leadership and telling them to take a cold, hard look at the state's embarassing educational deficiencies.

That is why it is so absurd for the Republicans to try to put a positive spin on this mess - and why it is so appalling that the press is apparently willing to let them get a way with this.

It wasn't taxes. It wasn't labor laws. It wasn't fear of the UAW. It wasn't concern about the Democrats. Honda was simply indicting Taft and the other GOP leaders for failing to invest in Ohio's most valuable resource: It's people.

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