Staying competitive: Deficit-reduction plan needed to spur investment, group says

Staying competitive: Deficit-reduction plan needed to spur investment, group says

June 21st, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Machinist Brian Higdon works on a turbine component on a horizontal lathe Monday at the Chattanooga Alstom plant.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

COMPETITIVENESS MEETING

  • Bill Booher, Council on Competitiveness

  • Margaret Brooks, CA Technologies

  • Tim Brown, Alstom

  • Chuck Cantrell, UTC

  • John Cohen, Alstom

  • Lulu Copeland, Chattanooga State

  • Wayne Cropp, Enterprise Center

  • Kimberly Dalton, Tennessee American Water

  • Terry Denniston, UTC

  • Denis DesRosiers, ITC Holdings

  • Khoi Do, Underwriters Laboratories

  • Jayesh Doshi, eSpin Technologies

  • Jim Frierson, Chattanooga Green Committee

  • Jeffrey Gaynor, American Resilience Consulting

  • Pierre Gauthier, Alstom

  • Jim Hall, Hall & Associates

  • Randy Hatcher, MAU Workforce Solutions

  • Mark Hartline, Shaw Industries

  • Don Jackson, Volkswagen

  • Bill James, JPods

  • Lawrence Jones, Alstom

  • Dale Langley, US Xpress

  • Henry Lodge, Lodge Manufacturing

  • Michael Kirkland, DuPont

  • Christa Mannarino, UTC

  • Jack McDougle, Council on Competitiveness

  • Brandon Miller, Hoenigsberg & Duevel Corp.

  • Bruce Moffat, Alstom

  • Mary Ollie Newman, UTC

  • Philip Oldham, UTC

  • Jim Philips, NanoMech

  • Robert Philips, Chattanooga Technology Council

  • Michele Pleso, Alstom

  • Blake Poole, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

  • Jeff Prater, IBM

  • Tim Spires, Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association

  • Ellen Struck, UL Environment

  • William Sutton, UTC

  • Terry Urbanek, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters

  • David Wade, EPB

  • Deborah Wince-Smith, Council on Competitiveness

The head of a key national business group said here Monday that a bipartisan plan on the massive U.S. budget deficit is needed to help ensure future investment in the nation's infrastructure.

"If we don't [control government deficit spending], in a very near term, 90 percent of our entire fiscal resources will be used for the debt and entitlements and not for any of the investments we need to create the future," said Deborah Wince-Smith, chief executive of the Council on Competitiveness.

Alstom and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are hosting a meeting of about 40 Chattanooga-area business and education leaders this week with the Council. The group is a nonpartisan, nongovernmental collection of CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders working to ensure U.S. prosperity.

The meeting is one of a series the Council is having across the country to help prepare a manufacturing strategy for President Barack Obama, Congress and the private sector at a summit in December in Washington.

"The core issue is that we cannot maintain our economy and national security leadership if we do not make things," Wince-Smith said.

Today, the group will discuss underlying physical, transportation, cyber and human infrastructure issues, she said.

Will Sutton, dean of UTC's College of Engineering and Computer Science, cited Chattanooga's public and private partnerships during a time of budget cutbacks. "The university's strategy is all about partnerships," he said.

Pierre L. Gauthier, CEO of Alstom's U.S. and Canada operations, said it's vital to invest in infrastructure.

"You have to be careful where you make the cutbacks," he said.

Gauthier said Chattanooga's infrastructure is one reason it recently decided to build and open a $300 million plant in Chattanooga.

He said Alstom continues to power up hiring at its factory that opened last year and is on plan to hit 350 workers by 2013. Gauthier said the plant, designed to make steam and gas turbines along with components for the nuclear power industry, has hired more than 200 people so far.

Wince-Smith said Alstom's new plant is one of the most advanced both in technology and work force.

"It's very symbolic for us to be here," she said.

Gauthier said Alstom is doing a lot of work rehabbing power units and may be about two years away from "some newer business."

He said a lot of work is being done to ensure nuclear power plant safety in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

"That work is ongoing," Gauthier said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.