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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, December 01, 2016 8:45 am

Carrier jobs deal should be just the beginning

The president-elect and vice president-elect’s announcement that Carrier will preserve about 1,000 Indianapolis jobs that were going to be "off-shored" to Mexico seems to be news that Hoosiers across the political spectrum can applaud.

In the campaign, Donald Trump pledged to stand up for American workers generally and for the victims of Carrier’s planned move in particular. He and Mike Pence appear to have done just that.

Exactly how they persuaded the heating and air conditioning company to rethink its plan to close its Indianapolis plant isn’t yet clear. So it’s too early to know whether Trump and Pence will be able to use the same strategies to persuade other companies to stay or return home.

Under what is known of the deal at this point, some 400 Carrier employees in Indianapolis would still lose their jobs. So far, there is no indication that the deal will save 700 jobs at United Technologies Electronic Controls, the Huntington plant owned by Carrier’s parent company. It appears those job still are slated to move to Monterrey, Mexico, beginning next year.

And there are other off-shoring nightmares in the pipeline. This summer, CTS Elkhart, a century-old automotive company, announced its plans to relocate 230 jobs to Mexico. In November, Milwaukee-based Rexnord Corp., revealed plans to close its Indianapolis plant and move its 300 jobs south of the border.

Tuesday’s announcement is welcome news to Carrier workers and their families and a victory for Trump. It fulfills a specific campaign pledge and hopefully is part of a broader strategy to address the offshoring problem.

Did Trump’s threat during the campaign to slap a 35 percent tariff on incoming goods produced by expatriate U.S. companies persuade Carrier’s leaders to reconsider? Was it the realization by United Technologies of Hartford, Conn., Carrier’s and UTEC’s parent company, that it isn’t smart politics for a company that holds almost $6 billion in government contracts to be defying an incoming presidential administration? Or did Pence offer a basket of state incentives that outweighed the $65 million a year the company estimated it would save by hiring Mexican workers to do the work that had been done by Hoosiers at a fraction of their hourly pay?

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, who has been fighting against the Carrier/UTEC exit for months, said Wednesday he welcomed the news but acknowledged he had no details on how Trump seems to have saved the bulk of the Carrier jobs. In a letter to Trump, Donnelly offered to "build on the momentum" of this week’s announcement by working with the president-elect to put federal measures in place to discourage other companies from leaving the country in order to increase their profits.

Such measures, which Donnelly first proposed in May, include preventing companies from expensing off-shore moving costs, making off-shoring a factor to be considered when federal contracts are awarded or renewed, and clawing back tax incentives that such companies have enjoyed.

Again, this week’s announcement is good news for many Hoosier workers who faced a very uncertain future. Even better news would be if this victory becomes the start of a comprehensive effort to save and protect American jobs. Trump, Pence and Democrats like Donnelly could work together to prevent the Carrier/UTEC moves of the future, bring back some of the expatriate companies, and perhaps save even more of the Hoosier jobs still slated to be shipped away. Along the way, that kind of bipartisan behavior might heal some other wounds, too.